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Title: Warrior Gap - A Story of the Sioux Outbreak of '68.
Author: King, Charles, 1844-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Libraries.)



                              Warrior Gap

                 A Story of the Sioux Outbreak of '68.

                   BY GENERAL CHARLES KING, U. S. A.

AUTHOR OF "Fort Frayne," "An Army Wife," "Trumpeter Fred," "Found in the
Philippines," "A Wounded Name," "Noble Blood and a West Point Parallel,"
"A Garrison Tangle," etc., etc.



    THE HOBART COMPANY,
    New York City.

    Copyrighted 1898, by
    F. Tennyson Neely.

    Copyrighted, 1901, by
    The Hobart Company.



WARRIOR GAP.



1.


Riding at ease in the lazy afternoon sunshine a single troop of cavalry
was threading its way in long column of twos through the bold and
beautiful foothills of the Big Horn. Behind them, glinting in the
slanting rays, Cloud Peak, snow clad still although it was late in May,
towered above the pine-crested summits of the range. To the right and
left of the winding trail bare shoulders of bluff, covered only by the
dense carpet of bunch grass, jutted out into the comparative level of
the eastward plain. A clear, cold, sparkling stream, on whose banks the
little command had halted for a noontide rest, went rollicking away
northeastward, and many a veteran trooper looked longingly, even
regretfully, after it, and then cast a gloomy glance over the barren and
desolate stretch ahead. Far as the eye could reach in that direction the
earth waves heaved and rolled in unrelieved monotony to the very sky
line, save where here and there along the slopes black herds or
scattered dots of buffalo were grazing unvexed by hunters red or white,
for this was thirty years ago, when, in countless thousands, the bison
covered the westward prairies, and there were officers who forbade their
senseless slaughter to make food only for the worthless, prowling
coyotes. No wonder the trooper hated to leave the foothills of the
mountains, with the cold, clear trout streams and the bracing air, to
take to long days' marching over dull waste and treeless prairie,
covered only by sage brush, rent and torn by dry ravines, shadeless,
springless, almost waterless, save where in unwholesome hollows dull
pools of stagnant water still held out against the sun, or, further
still southeast among the "breaks" of the many forks of the South
Cheyenne, on the sandy flats men dug for water for their suffering
horses, yet shrank from drinking it themselves lest their lips should
crack and bleed through the shriveling touch of the alkali.

Barely two years a commissioned officer, the young lieutenant at the
head of column rode buoyantly along, caring little for the landscape,
since with every traversed mile he found himself just that much nearer
home. Twenty-five summers, counting this one coming, had rolled over his
curly head, and each one had seemed brighter, happier than the last, all
but the one he spent as a hard-worked "plebe" at the military academy.
His graduation summer two years previous was a glory to him, as well as
to a pretty sister, young and enthusiastic enough to think a brother in
the regulars, just out of West Point, something to be made much of, and
Jessie Dean had lost no opportunity of spoiling her soldier or of
wearying her school friends through telling of his manifold perfections.
He was a manly, stalwart, handsome fellow as young graduates go, and old
ones wish they might go over again. He was a fond and not too teasing
kind of brother. He wasn't the brightest fellow in the class by thirty
odd, and had barely scraped through one or two of his examinations, but
Jessie proudly pointed to the fact that much more than half the class
had "scraped off" entirely, and therefore that those who succeeded in
getting through at all were paragons, especially Brother Marshall. But
girls at that school had brothers of their own, girls who had never seen
West Point or had the cadet fever, and were not impressed with young
officers as painted by so indulgent a sister. Most of the girls had
tired of Jessie's talks, and some had told her so, but there was one who
had been sympathetic from the start--a far Western, friendless sort of
girl she was when first she entered school, uncouthly dressed,
wretchedly homesick and anything but companionable, and yet Jessie
Dean's kind heart had warmed to this friendless waif and she became her
champion, her ally, and later, much to her genuine surprise, almost her
idol. It presently transpired that "the Pappoose," as the girls
nicknamed her because it was learned that she had been rocked in an
Indian cradle and had long worn moccasins instead of shoes (which
accounted for her feet being so much finer in their shape than those of
her fellows), was quick and intelligent beyond her years, that, though
apparently hopelessly behind in all their studies at the start, and
provoking ridicule and sneers during the many weeks of her loneliness
and home-longing, she suddenly began settling to her work with grim
determination, surprising her teachers and amazing her mates by the vim
and originality of her methods, and, before the end of the year,
climbing for the laurels with a mental strength and agility that put
other efforts to the blush. Then came weeks of bliss spent with a doting
father at Niagara, the seashore and the Point--a dear old dad as ill at
ease in Eastern circles as his daughter had been at first at school,
until he found himself welcomed with open arms to the officers'
mess-rooms at the Point, for John Folsom was as noted a frontiersman as
ever trod the plains, a man old officers of the cavalry and infantry
knew and honored as "a square trader" in the Indian country--a man whom
the Indians themselves loved and trusted far and wide, and when a man
has won the trust and faith of an Indian let him grapple it to his
breast as a treasure worth the having, great even as "the heart love of
a child." Sioux, Shoshone and Cheyenne, they would turn to "Old John" in
their councils, their dealings, their treaties, their perplexities, for
when he said a thing was right and square their doubts were gone, and
there at the Point the now well-to-do old trader met men who had known
him in by-gone days at Laramie and Omaha, and there his pretty
schoolgirl daughter met her bosom friend's big brother Marshall, a first
classman in all his glory, dancing with damsels in society, while she
was but a maiden shy in short dresses. Oh, how Jess had longed to be of
that party to the Point, but her home was in the far West, her father
long dead and buried, her mother an invalid, and the child was needed
there. Earnestly had old Folsom written, begging that she who had been
so kind to his little girl should be allowed to visit the seashore and
the Point with him and "Pappoose," as he laughingly referred to her,
adopting the school name given by the girls; but they were proud people,
were the Deans, and poor and sensitive. They thanked Mr. Folsom warmly.
"Jessie was greatly needed at her home this summer," was the answer; but
Folsom somehow felt it was because they dreaded to accept courtesies
they could not repay in kind.

"As if I could ever repay Jess for all the loving kindness to my little
girl in her loneliness," said he. No, there was no delicious visiting
with Pappoose that summer, but with what eager interest had she not
devoured the letters telling of the wonderful sights the little far
Westerner saw--the ocean, the great Niagara, the beautiful Point in the
heart of the Highlands, but, above all, that crowned monarch, that
plumed knight, that incomparable big brother, Cadet Captain Marshall
Dean. Yes, he had come to call the very evening of their arrival. He had
escorted them out, Papa and Pappoose, to hear the band playing on the
Plain. He had made her take his arm, "a schoolgirl in short dresses,"
and promenaded with her up and down the beautiful, shaded walks,
thronged with ladies, officers and cadets, while some old cronies took
father away to the mess for a julep, and Mr. Dean had introduced some
young girls, professors' daughters, and they had come and taken her
driving and to tea, and she had seen him every day, many times a day, at
guard mounting, drill, pontooning or parade, or on the hotel piazzas,
but only to look at or speak to for a minute, for of course she was
"only a child," and there were dozens of society girls, young ladies, to
whom he had to be attentive, especially a very stylish Miss Brockway,
from New York, with whom he walked and danced a great deal, and whom the
other girls tried to tease about him. Pappoose didn't write it in so
many words, but Jessie, reading those letters between the lines and
every which way, could easily divine that Pappoose didn't fancy Miss
Brockway at all. And then had come a wonderful day, a wonderful thing,
into the schoolgirl's life. No less than twelve pages did
sixteen-year-old Pappoose take to tell it, and when a girl finds time to
write a twelve-page letter from the Point she has more to tell than she
can possibly contain. Mr. Dean had actually invited her--_her_, Elinor
Merchant Folsom--Winona, as they called her when she was a toddler among
the tepees of the Sioux--Pappoose as the girls had named her at
school--"Nell," as Jessie called her--sweetest name of all despite the
ring of sadness that ever hangs about it--and Daddy had actually smiled
and approved her going to the midweek hop on a cadet captain's broad
chevroned arm, and she had worn her prettiest white gown, and the girls
had brought her roses, and Mr. Dean had called for her before all the
big girls, and she had gone off with him, radiant, and he had actually
made out her card for her, and taken three dances himself, and had
presented such pleasant fellows--first classmen and "yearlings." There
was Mr. Billings, the cadet adjutant, and Mr. Ray, who was a cadet
sergeant "out on furlough" and kept back, but such a beautiful dancer,
and there was the first captain, such a witty, brilliant fellow, who
only danced square dances, and several cadet corporals, all hop
managers, in their red sashes. Why, she was just the proudest girl in
the room! And when the drum beat and the hop broke up she couldn't
believe she'd been there an hour and three-quarters, and then Mr. Dean
escorted her back to the hotel, and Daddy had smiled and looked on and
told him he must come into the cavalry when he graduated next June, and
he'd show him the Sioux country and Pappoose would teach him the Indian
dances. It was all simply lovely. Of course she knew it was all due to
Jessie that her splendid big brother should give up a whole evening from
his lady friends. (Miss Brockway spoke so patronizingly to her in the
hall when the girls were all talking together after the cadets had
scurried away to answer tattoo roll-call.) Of course she understood that
if it hadn't been for Jessie none of the cadets would have taken the
slightest notice of her, a mere chit, with three years of school still
ahead of her. But all the same it was something to live over and over
again, and dream of over and over again, and the seashore seemed very
stupid after the Point. Next year--next June--when Marshall graduated
Jessie was to go and see that wonderful spot, and go she did with
Pappoose, too, and though it was all as beautiful as Pappoose had
described, and the scene and the music and the parades and all were
splendid, there was no deliriously lovely hop, for in those days there
could be no dancing in the midst of examinations. There was only the one
great ball given by the second to the graduating class, and Marshall had
so many, many other and older girls to dance with and say good-by to he
had only time for a few words with his sister and her shy, silent little
friend with the big brown eyes to whom he had been so kind the previous
summer, when there were three hops a week and not so many hoppers in
long dresses. Still, Marshall had one dance with each and introduced
nice boys from the lower classes, and it was all very well, only not
what Pappoose had painted, and Jessie couldn't help thinking and saying
it might all have been so much sweeter if it hadn't been for that odious
Miss Brockway, about whom Marshall hovered altogether too much, but,
like the little Indian the girls sometimes said she was, Pappoose looked
on and said nothing.

All the same, Mr. Dean had had a glorious graduation summer of it,
though Jessie saw too little of him, and Pappoose nothing at all after
the breakup of the class. In September the girls returned to school,
friends as close as ever, even though a little cloud overshadowed the
hitherto unbroken confidences, and Marshall joined the cavalry, as old
Folsom had suggested, and took to the saddle, the prairie, the bivouac,
and buffalo hunt as though native and to the manner born. They were
building the Union Pacific then, and he and his troop, with dozens of
others scattered along the line, were busy scouting the neighborhood,
guarding the surveyors, the engineers, and finally the track-layers, for
the jealous red men swarmed in myriads all along the way, lacking only
unanimity, organization, and leadership to enable them to defeat the
enterprise. And then when the whistling engines passed the forks of the
Platte and began to climb up the long slope of the Rockies to Cheyenne
and Sherman Pass, the trouble and disaffection spread to tribes far more
numerous and powerful further to the north and northwest; and there rose
above the hordes of warriors a chief whose name became the synonym for
deep rooted and determined hostility to the whites--Machpealota (Red
Cloud)--and old John Folsom, he whom the Indians loved and trusted, grew
anxious and troubled, and went from post to post with words of warning
on his tongue.

"Gentlemen," he said to the commissioners who came to treat with the
Sioux whose hunting grounds adjoined the line of the railway, "it's all
very well to have peace with these people here. It is wise to cultivate
the friendship of such chiefs as Spotted Tail and
Old-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses but there are irreconcilables beyond them,
far more numerous and powerful, who are planning, preaching war this
minute. Watch Red Cloud, Red Dog, Little Big Man. Double, treble your
garrisons at the posts along the Big Horn; get your women and children
out of them, or else abandon the forts entirely. I know those warriors
well. They outnumber you twenty to one. Reinforce your garrisons without
delay or get out of that country, one of the two. Draw everything south
of the Platte while yet there is time."

But wiseacres at Washington said the Indians were peaceable, and all
that was needed was a new post and another little garrison at Warrior
Gap, in the eastward foothills of the range. Eight hundred thousand
dollars would build it, "provided the labor of the troops was utilized,"
and leave a good margin for the contractors and "the Bureau." And it was
to escort the quartermaster and engineer officer and an aide-de-camp on
preliminary survey that "C" Troop of the cavalry, Captain Brooks
commanding, had been sent on the march from the North Platte at Frayne
to the headwaters of the Powder River in the Hills, and with it went its
new first lieutenant, Marshall Dean.



CHAPTER II.


Promotion was rapid in the cavalry in those days, so soon after the war.
Indians contributed largely to the general move, but there were other
causes, too. Dean had served little over a year as second lieutenant in
a troop doing duty along the lower Platte, when vacancies occurring gave
him speedy and unlooked-for lift. He had met Mr. Folsom only once. The
veteran trader had embarked much of his capital in business at Gate City
beyond the Rockies, but officers from Fort Emory, close to the new
frontier town, occasionally told him he had won a stanch friend in that
solid citizen.

"You ought to get transferred to Emory," they said. "Here's the band,
half a dozen pretty girls, hops twice a week, hunts and picnics all
through the spring and summer in the mountains, fishing _ad libitum_,
and lots of fun all the year around." But Dean's ears were oddly deaf. A
classmate let fall the observation that it was because of a New York
girl who had jilted him that Dean had forsworn society and stuck to a
troop in the field: but men who knew and served with the young fellow
found him an enthusiast in his profession, passionately fond of cavalry
life in the open, a bold rider, a keen shot and a born hunter. Up with
the dawn day after day, in saddle long hours, scouting the divides and
ridges, stalking antelope and black-tail deer, chasing buffalo, he lived
a life that hardened every muscle, bronzed the skin, cleared the eye and
brain, and gave to even monotonous existence a "verve" and zest the
dawdlers in those old-time garrisons never knew.

All the long summer of the year after his graduation, from mid-April
until November, he never once slept beneath a wooden roof, and more
often than not the sky was his only canopy. That summer, too, Jessie
spent at home, Pappoose with her most of the time, and one year more
would finish them at the reliable old Ohio school. By that time Folsom's
handsome new home would be in readiness to receive his daughter at Gate
City. By that time, too, Marshall might hope to have a leave and come in
to Illinois to welcome his sister and gladden his mother's eyes. But
until then, the boy had said to himself, he'd stick to the field, and
the troop that had the roughest work to do was the one that best suited
him, and so it had happened that by the second spring of his service in
the regiment no subaltern was held in higher esteem by senior officers
or regarded with more envy by the lazy ones among the juniors than the
young graduate, for those, too, were days in which graduates were few
and far between, except in higher grades. Twice had he ridden in the
dead of winter the devious trail through the Medicine Bow range to
Frayne. Once already had he been sent the long march to and from the Big
Horn, and when certain officers were ordered to the mountains early in
the spring to locate the site of the new post at Warrior Gap, Brooks's
troop, as has been said, went along as escort and Brooks caught mountain
fever in the Hills, or some such ailment, and made the home trip in the
ambulance, leaving the active command of "C" Troop to his subaltern.

With the selection of the site Dean had nothing to do. Silently he
looked on as the quartermaster, the engineer, and a staff officer from
Omaha paced off certain lines, took shots with their instruments at
neighboring heights, and sampled the sparkling waters of the Fork. Two
companies of infantry, sent down from further posts along the northern
slopes of the range, had stacked their arms and pitched their "dog
tents," and vigilant vedettes and sentries peered over every commanding
height and ridge to secure the invaders against surprise. Invaders they
certainly were from the Indian point of view, for this was Indian Story
Land, the most prized, the most beautiful, the most prolific in fish and
game in all the continent. Never had the red man clung with such
tenacity to any section of his hunting grounds as did the Northern Sioux
to this, the north and northeast watershed of the Big Horn Range. Old
Indian fighters among the men shook their heads when the quartermaster
selected a level bench as the site on which to begin the stockade that
was to enclose the officers' quarters and the barracks, storehouse and
magazine, and ominously they glanced at one another and then at the
pine-skirted ridge that rose, sharp and sudden, against the sky, not
four hundred yards away, dominating the site entirely.

"I shouldn't like the job of clearing away the gang of Indians that
might seize that ridge," said Dean, when later asked by the engineer
what he thought of it, and Dean had twice by that time been called upon
to help "hustle" Indians out of threatening positions, and knew whereof
he spoke.

"I shouldn't worry over things you're never likely to have to do," said
the quartermaster, with sarcastic emphasis, and he was a man who never
yet had had to face a foeman in the field, and Dean said nothing more,
but felt right well he had no friend in Major Burleigh.

They left the infantry there to guard the site and protect the gang of
woodchoppers set to work at once, then turned their faces homeward. They
had spent four days and nights at the Gap, and the more the youngster
saw of the rotund quartermaster the less he cared to cultivate him. A
portly, heavily built man was he, some forty years of age, a widower,
whose children were at their mother's old home in the far East, a
business man with a keen eye for opportunities and investments, a fellow
who was reputed to have stock in a dozen mines and kindred enterprises,
a knowing hand who drove fast horses and owned quite a stable, a sharp
hand who played a thriving game of poker, and had no compunctions as to
winning. Officers at Emory were fighting shy of him. He played too big a
game for their small pay and pockets, and the men with whom he took his
pleasure were big contractors or well-known "sports" and gamblers, who
in those days thronged the frontier towns and most men did them homage.
But on this trip Burleigh had no big gamblers along and missed his
evening game, and, once arrived at camp along the Fork, he had "roped
in" some of the infantry officers, but Brooks and the engineer declined
to play, and so had Dean from the very start.

"All true cavalrymen ought to be able to take a hand at poker," sneered
Burleigh, at the first night's camp, for here was a pigeon really worth
the plucking, thought he. Dean's life in the field had been so simple
and inexpensive that he had saved much of his slender pay; but, what
Burleigh did not know, he had sent much of it home to mother and Jess.

"I know several men who would have been the better for leaving it
alone," responded Dean very quietly. They rubbed each other the wrong
way from the very start, and this was bad for the boy, for in those
days, when army morals were less looked after than they are now, men of
Burleigh's stamp, with the means to entertain and the station to enable
them to do it, had often the ear of officers from headquarters, and more
things were told at such times to generals and colonels about their
young men than the victims ever suspected. Burleigh was a man of
position and influence, and knew it. Dean was a youngster without
either, and did not realize it. He had made an enemy of the
quartermaster on the trip and could not but know it. Yet, conscious that
he had said nothing that was wrong, he felt no disquiet.

And now, homeward bound, he was jogging contentedly along at the head of
the troop. Scouts and flankers signaled "all clear." Not a hostile
Indian had they seen since leaving the Gap. The ambulances with a little
squad of troopers had hung on a few moments at the noon camp, hitching
slowly and leisurely that their passengers might longer enjoy their post
prandial siesta in the last shade they would see until they reached
Cantonment Reno, a long day's ride away. Presently the lively mule teams
would come along the winding trail at spanking trot. Then the troop
would open out to right and left and let them take the lead, giving the
dust in exchange, and once more the rapid march would begin.

It was four P. M. when the shadows of the mules' ears and heads
came jerking into view beside him, and, guiding his horse to the right,
Dean loosed rein and prepared to trot by the open doorway of the stout,
black-covered wagon. The young engineer officer, sitting on the front
seat, nodded cordially to the cavalryman. He had known and liked him at
the Point. He had sympathized with him in the vague difference with the
quartermaster. He had had to listen to sneering things Burleigh was
telling the aide-de-camp about young linesmen in general and Dean in
particular, stocking the staff officer with opinions which he hoped and
intended should reach the department commander's ears. The engineer
disbelieved, but was in no position to disprove. His station was at
Omaha, far from the scene of cavalry exploits in fort or field.
Burleigh's office and depot were in this new, crowded, bustling frontier
town, filled with temptation to men so far removed from the influences
of home and civilization, and Burleigh doubtless saw and knew much to
warrant his generalities. But he knew no wrong of Dean, for that young
soldier, as has been said, had spent all but a few mid-winter months at
hard, vigorous work in the field, had been to Gate City and Fort Emory
only twice, and then under orders that called for prompt return to
Frayne. Any man with an eye for human nature could see at a glance, as
Dean saw, that both the aid and his big friend, the quartermaster, had
been exchanging comments at the boy's expense. He had shouted a cheery
salutation to the engineer in answer to his friendly nod, then turned in
saddle and looked squarely at the two on the back seat, and the
constraint in their manner, the almost sullen look in their faces, told
the story without words.

It nettled Dean--frank, outspoken, straightforward as he had always
been. He hated any species of backbiting, and he had heard of Burleigh
as an adept in the art, and a man to be feared. Signaling to his
sergeant to keep the column opened out, as the prairie was almost level
now on every side, he rode swiftly on, revolving in his mind how to meet
and checkmate Burleigh's insidious moves, for instinctively he felt he
was already at work. The general in command in those days was not a
field soldier by any means. His office was far away at the banks of the
Missouri, and all he knew of what was actually going on in his
department he derived from official written reports; much that was
neither official nor reliable he learned from officers of Burleigh's
stamp, and Dean had never yet set eyes on him. In the engineer he felt
he had a friend on whom he could rely, and he determined to seek his
counsel at the campfire that very night, meantime to hold his peace.

They were trotting through a shallow depression at the moment, the two
spring-wagons guarded and escorted by some thirty dusty, hardy-looking
troopers. In the second, the yellow ambulance, Brooks was stretched at
length, taking it easy, an attendant jogging alongside. Behind them came
a third, a big quartermaster's wagon, drawn by six mules and loaded with
tentage and rations. Out some three hundred yards to the right and left
rode little squads as flankers. Out beyond them, further still, often
cut off from view by low waves of prairie, were individual troopers
riding as lookouts, while far to the front, full six hundred yards,
three or four others, spreading over the front on each side of the
twisting trail, moved rapidly from crest to crest, always carefully
scanning the country ahead before riding up to the summit. And now, as
Dean's eyes turned from his charges to look along the sky line to the
east, he saw sudden sign of excitement and commotion at the front. A
sergeant, riding with two troopers midway between him and those foremost
scouts, was eagerly signaling to him with his broad-brimmed hat. Three
of the black dots along the gently rising slope far ahead had leaped
from their mounts and were slowly crawling forward, while one of them,
his horse turned adrift and contentedly nibbling at the buffalo grass,
was surely signaling that there was mischief ahead.

In an instant the lieutenant was galloping out to the front, cautioning
the driver to come on slowly. Presently he overhauled the sergeant and
bade him follow, and together the four men darted on up the gradual
incline until within ten yards of where the leaders' horses were
placidly grazing. There they threw themselves from saddle; one of the
men took the reins of the four horses while Dean and the other two,
unslinging carbine and crouching low, went hurriedly on up the slope
until they came within a few yards of the nearest scout.

"Indians!" he called to them as soon as they were within earshot. "But
they don't seem to be on lookout for us at all. They're fooling with
some buffalo over here."

Crawling to the crest, leaving his hat behind, Dean peered over into the
swale beyond and this was what he saw.

Half a mile away to the east the low, concave sweep of the prairie was
cut by the jagged banks and curves of a watercourse which drained the
melting snows in earlier spring. Along the further bank a dozen buffalo
were placidly grazing, unconscious of the fact that in the shallow, dry
ravine itself half a dozen young Indians--Sioux, apparently--were
lurking, awaiting the nearer coming of the herd, whose leaders, at
least, were gradually approaching the edge. Away down to the northeast,
toward the distant Powder River, the shallow stream bed trended, and,
following the pointing finger of the scout who crawled to his side, Dean
gazed and saw a confused mass of slowly moving objects, betrayed for
miles by the light cloud of dust that hovered over them, covering many
an acre of the prairie, stretching far away down the vale. Even before
he could unsling his field glass and gaze, his plains-craft told him
what was slowly, steadily approaching, as though to cross his front--an
Indian village, a big one, on the move to the mountains, bound perhaps
for the famous racecourse of the Sioux, a grand amphitheater in the
southern hills.

And even as they gazed, two tiny jets of flame and smoke shot from the
ravine edge there below them, and before the dull reports could reach
their ears the foremost bison dropped on his knees and then rolled over
on the sod; and then came the order, at sound of which, back among the
halted troopers, every carbine leaped from its socket.



CHAPTER III.


Down along the building railway in the valley or the Platte there had
been two years of frequent encounter with small bands of Indians. Down
along the Smoky Hill, in Kansas, the Cheyennes were ever giving trouble.
Even around Laramie and Frayne, on the North Platte, settlers and
soldiers had been murdered, as well as one or two officers, caught alone
out hunting, and the Indians were, of course, the perpetrators.
Nevertheless, it had been the policy of the leaders of the Northern
Sioux to avoid any meeting in force and to deny the complicity of their
people in the crimes committed. Supply trains to Reno, Kearney and C. F.
Smith, the Big Horn posts of the Bozeman Trail went to and fro with
guards of only moderate size. Officers had taken their wives and
children to these far-away stations. The stockades were filled with
soldiers' families. Big bands of Indians roamed the lovely valleys of
the Piney, the Tongue, and Rosebud, near at hand, and rode into full
view of the wary sentries at the stockades, yet made no hostile
demonstration. Officers and men went far up the rocky cañons of the
hills in search of fish or game, and came back unmolested. Escorts
reported that they sometimes marched all day long side by side with
hunting bands of Sioux, a mile away; and often little parties, squaws
and boys and young men, would ride confidently over and beg for sugar,
coffee, hardtack--anything, and ride off with their plunder in the best
of spirits and with all apparent good feeling. And yet the great
war-chief of the Brulés--Sintogaliska--Spotted Tail, the white man's
friend, gave solemn warning not to trust the Ogallallas. "Red Cloud's
heart is bad," he said. "He and his people are moving from the
reservations to the mountains. They mean trouble." Old traders like
Folsom heard and heeded, and Folsom himself hastened to Fort Frayne the
very week that Burleigh and his escort left for Warrior Gap. Visiting at
the ranch of his son in a beautiful nook behind the Medicine Bow
Mountains, the veteran trader heard tidings from an Indian brave that
filled him with apprehension, and he hurried to the fort.

"Is it true," he asked, "that the government means to establish a post
at Warrior Gap? Is it true that Major Burleigh has gone thither?" And
when told that it was and that only Captain Brooks's troop had gone as
escort, Folsom's agitation was extreme. "Colonel," said he, to the post
commander, "solemnly I have tried to warn the general of the danger of
that move. I have told him that all the northern tribes are leaguing
now, that they have determined to keep to themselves the Big Horn
country and the valleys to the north. It will take five thousand men to
hold those three posts against the Sioux, and you've barely got five
hundred. I warn you that any attempt to start another post up there will
bring Red Cloud and all his people to the spot. Their scouts are
watching like hawks even now. Iron Spear came to me at my son's ranch
last night and told me not ten warriors were left at the reservation.
They are all gone, and the war dances are on in every valley from the
Black Hills to the Powder. For heaven's sake send half your garrison up
to Reno after Brooks. You are safe here. They won't molest you south of
the Platte, at least not now. All they ask is that you build no more
forts in the Big Horn."

But the colonel could not act without authority. Telegraph there was
none then. What Folsom said was of sufficient importance to warrant his
hurrying off a courier to Laramie, fully one hundred miles southeast,
and ordering a troop to scout across the wild wastes to the north, while
Folsom himself, unable to master his anxiety, decided to accompany the
command sent out toward Cantonment Reno. He long had had influence with
the Ogallallas. Even now Red Cloud might listen if he could but find
him. The matter was of such urgency he could not refrain. And so with
the gray troop of the cavalry, setting forth within an hour of his
coming, rode the old trader whom the Indians had so long sworn by, and
he started none too soon.

Reno was some ninety miles away, and not until late the next evening did
the grays reach the lonely post. Not a sign of hostile Indian had been
seen or heard, said the officer in command. Small bands of hunters were
out toward Pumpkin Butte two days before.--Yes, Ogallallas--and a
scouting party, working down the valley of the Powder, had met no band
at all, though trails were numerous. They were now patroling toward the
Big Horn. Perhaps there'd be a courier in to-morrow. Better get a good
night's rest meantime, he said. But all the same he doubled his guards
and ordered extra vigilance, for all men knew John Folsom, and when
Folsom was anxious on the Indian question it was time to look alive.
Daybreak came without a sign, but Folsom could not rest. The grays had
no authority to go beyond Reno, but such was his anxiety that it was
decided to hold the troop at the cantonment for a day or two. Meantime,
despite his years, Folsom decided to push on for the Gap. All efforts to
dissuade him were in vain. With him rode Baptiste, a half-breed
Frenchman whose mother was an Ogallalla squaw, and "Bat" had served him
many a year. Their canteens were filled, their saddle-pouches packed.
They led along an extra mule, with camp equipage, and shook hands
gravely with the officers ere they rode away. "All depends," said
Folsom, "on whether Red Cloud is hereabouts in person. If he is and I
can get his ear I can probably stave off trouble long enough to get
those people at the Gap back to Kearney, or over here. They're goners if
they attempt to stay there and build that post. If you don't have word
from us in two days, send for all the troops the government can raise.
It will take every mother's son they've got to whip the Sioux when once
they're leagued together."

"But our men have the new breech-loaders now, Mr. Folsom," said the
officers. "The Indians have only old percussion-cap rifles, and not too
many of them."

"But there are twenty warriors to every soldier," was the answer, "and
all are fighting men."

They watched the pair until they disappeared far to the west. All day
long the lookouts searched the horizon. All that night the sentries
listened for hoof-beats on the Bozeman road, but only the weird chorus
of the coyotes woke the echoes of the dark prairie. Dawn of the second
day came, and, unable to bear suspense, the major sent a little party,
mounted on their fleetest horses, to scour the prairies at least halfway
to the foothills of the Big Horn, and just at nightfall they came
back--three at least--galloping like mad, their mounts a mass of foam.
Folsom's dread was well founded. Red Cloud, with heaven only knew how
many warriors, had camped on Crazy Woman's Fork within the past three
days, and gone on up stream. He might have met and fought the troops
sent out three days before. He must have met the troops dispatched to
Warrior Gap.

And this last, at least, he had done. For a few seconds after the fall
of the buffalo bull, the watchers on the distant ridge lay still, except
that Dean, turning slightly, called to the orderly trumpeter, who had
come trotting out after the troop commander, and was now halted and
afoot some twenty yards down the slope. "Go back, Bryan," he ordered.
"Halt the ambulances. Notify Captain Brooks that there are lots of
Indians ahead, and have the sergeant deploy the men at once." Then he
turned back and with his field glass studied the party along the ravine.

"They can't have seen us, can they, lieutenant?" muttered the trooper
nearest him.

But Dean's young face was grave and clouded. Certainly the Indians acted
as though they were totally unaware of the presence of troops, but the
more he thought the more he knew that no big body of Sioux would be
traveling across country at so critical a time (country, too, that was
conquered as this was from their enemies, the Crows), without vigilant
scouts afar out on front and flank. The more he thought the more he knew
that even as early as three o'clock those keen-eyed fellows must have
sighted his little column, conspicuous as it was because of its wagons.
Beyond question, he told himself, the chief of the band or village so
steadily approaching from the northeast had full information of their
presence, and was coming confidently ahead. What had he to fear? Even
though the blood of settlers and soldiers might still be red upon the
hands of his braves, even though fresh scalps might be dangling at this
moment from their shields, what mattered it? Did he not know that the
safeguard of the Indian Bureau spread like the wing of a protecting
angel over him and his people, forbidding troops to molest or open fire
unless they themselves were attacked? Did he not laugh in his ragged
shirt sleeve at the policy of the white fool who would permit the red
enemy to ride boldly up to his soldiers, count their numbers, inspect
their array, satisfy himself as to their armament and readiness, then
calculate the chances, and, if he thought the force too strong, ride on
his way with only a significant gesture in parting insult? If, on the
contrary, he found it weak then he could turn loose his braves,
surround, massacre and scalp, and swear before the commissioners sent
out to investigate next moon that he and his people knew nothing about
the matter--nothing, at least, that they could be induced to tell.

One moment more Dean watched and waited. Two of the Indians in the
ravine were busily reloading their rifles. Two others were aiming over
the bank, for, with the strange stupidity of their kind, the other
buffalo, even when startled by the shot, had never sought safety in
flight, but were now sniffing the odor of blood on the tainted air, and
slowly, wonderingly drawing near the stricken leader as though to ask
what ailed him. Obedient and docile, the Indian ponies stood with
drooping heads, hidden under the shelter of the steep banks. Nearer and
nearer came the big black animals, bulky, stupid, fatuous; the foremost
lowered a huge head to sniff at the blood oozing from the shoulder of
the dying bull, then two more shots puffed out from the ravine, the huge
head tossed suddenly in air, and the ungainly brute started and
staggered, whirled about and darted a few yards away, then plunged on
its knees, and the next moment, startled at some sight the soldier
watchers could not see, the black band was seized with sudden panic, and
darted like mad into the depths of the watercourse, disappeared one
moment from sight, then, suddenly reappearing, came laboring up the
hither side, straight for the crest on which they lay, a dozen black,
bounding, panting beasts thundering over the ground, followed by half a
dozen darting Indian ponies, each with his lithe red rider scurrying in
pursuit.

"Out of the way, men! Don't fire!" shouted Dean. And, scrambling back
toward their horses, the lieutenant and his men drew away from the front
of the charging herd, invisible as yet to the halted troop and to the
occupants of the ambulance, whose eager heads could be seen poked out at
the side doors of the leading vehicle, as though watching for the cause
of the sudden halt.

And then a thing happened that at least one man saw and fortunately
remembered later. Bryan, the trumpeter, with jabbing heels and flapping
arms, was tearing back toward the troop at the moment at the top speed
of his gray charger, already so near that he was shouting to the
sergeant in the lead. By this time, too, that veteran trooper, with the
quick sense of duty that seemed to inspire the war-time sergeant, had
jumped his little column "front into line" to meet the unseen danger; so
that now, with carbines advanced, some thirty blue jackets were aligned
in the loose fighting order of the prairies in front of the foremost
wagon. The sight of the distant officer and men tumbling hurriedly back
and to one side, out of the way presumably of some swiftly-coming peril,
acted like magic on the line. Carbines were quickly brought to ready,
the gun locks crackling in chorus as the horses pranced and snorted. But
it had a varying effect on the occupants of the leading wagon. The shout
of "Indians" from Bryan's lips, the sight of scurry on the ridge ahead
brought the engineer and aide-de-camp springing out, rifle in hand, to
take their manly part in the coming fray. It should have brought Major
Burleigh too, but that appropriately named non-combatant never showed
outside. An instant more and to the sound of rising thunder, before the
astonished eyes of the cavalry line there burst into view, full tear for
safety, the uncouth, yet marvelously swift-running leaders of the little
herd. The whole dozen came flying across the sky line and down the
gentle slope, heading well around to the left of the line of troopers,
while sticking to their flanks like red nettles half a dozen young
warriors rode like the wind on their nimble ponies, cracking away with
revolver or rifle in savage joy in the glorious sport. Too much for
Burleigh's nerve was the combination of sounds, thunder of hoofs and
sputter of shots, for when a cheer of sympathetic delight went up from
the soldier line at sight of the chase, and the young engineer sprang to
the door of the ambulance to help the major out, he found him a limp and
ghastly heap, quivering with terror in the bottom of the wagon, looking
for all the world as if he were trying to crawl under the seat.



CHAPTER IV.


Away to the left of the little command tore the quarry and the chase.
Out on the rolling prairie, barely four hundred yards from where the
ambulance and mules were backed into a tangle of traces and whiffletrees
and fear-stricken creatures, another buffalo had dropped in a heap; a
swarthy rider had tumbled off his pony, cut a slash or two with
ever-ready knife, and then, throwing a bead bedizened left leg over his
eager little mount, had gone lashing away after his fellows, not without
a jeering slap at the baited soldiery. Then, in almost less time than it
takes to tell it, the pursued and pursuers had vanished from sight over
a low ridge a mile to the north. "Only a hunting party!" said one or two
nervous recruits, with a gulp of relief. "Only a hunting party," gasped
Burleigh, as presently he heaved himself up from the floor, "and I
thought I'd never find that damned gun of mine. All this fuss for
nothing!" he continued, his lips still blue and quivering. "That green
youngster up there in front hasn't learned the first principles of
plains-craft yet. Here, Brooks," he added loudly, "it's high time you
were looking after this sub of yours," and Brooks, despite his illness,
was indeed working out of the back door of his yellow trundle bed at the
moment, and looking anxiously about. But the engineer stood pale and
quiet, coolly studying the flustered growler, and when Burleigh's
shifting eyes sought that young scientist's face, what he read
there--and Burleigh was no fool--told him he would be wise to change the
tune. The aid had pushed out in front of the troop and was signaling to
Dean, once more in saddle and scanning through his glass the big band
afar down the valley.

"Take my horse, sir," said the sergeant, dismounting, and the officer
thanked him and rode swiftly out to join the young commander at the
front. Together they gazed and consulted and still no signal came to
resume the advance. Then the troopers saw the staff officer make a broad
sweep with his right arm to the south, and in a moment Dean's hat was
uplifted and waved well out in that direction. "Drop carbine," growled
the sergeant. "By twos again. Incline to the right. Damn the Sioux, I
say! Have we got to circle five miles around their hunting ground for
fear of hurting their feelings. Come on. Jimmy," he added to the driver
of the leading wagon. Jimmy responded with vigorous language at the
expense of his lead mules. The quartermaster and engineer silently
scrambled in; the ambulance started with a jerk and away went the party
off to the right of the trail, the wagons jolting a bit now over the
uneven clumps of bunch grass.

But once well up at the summit of the low divide the command reined in
for a look at the great Indian cavalcade swarming in the northeastward
valley, and covering its grassy surface still a good mile away. Out from
among the dingy mass came galloping half a dozen young braves, followed
by as many squaws. The former soon spread out over the billowy surface,
some following the direction of the chase, some bounding on south west
ward as though confident of finding what they sought the moment they
reached the nearest ridge; some riding straight to the point where lay
the carcasses of the earliest victims of the hunt. Here in full view of
the soldiery, but vouchsafing them no glance nor greeting whatever, two
young warriors reined in their lively ponies and disdainfully turned
their backs upon the spectators on the divide, while the squaws, with
shrill laugh and chatter, rolled from their saddles and began the
drudgery of their lot--skinning and cutting up the buffalos slaughtered
by their lords.

"Don't you see," sneered Burleigh, "it's nothing but a village out for a
hunt--nothing in God's world to get stampeded about. We've had all this
show of warlike preparation for nothing." But he turned away again as he
caught the steady look in the engineer's blue eyes, and shouted to his
more appreciative friend, the aide-de-camp: "Well, pardner, haven't we
fooled away enough time here, or have we got to wait the pleasure of
people that never saw Indians before?"

Dean flushed crimson at the taunt. He well knew for whom it was meant.
He was indignant enough by this time to speak for himself, but the
aide-de-camp saved him the trouble.

"I requested Mr. Dean to halt a few moments, Burleigh. It is necessary I
should know what band this is, and how many are out."

"Well, be quick about it," snapped the quartermaster, "I want to get to
Reno before midnight, and at this rate we won't make it in a week."

A sergeant who could speak a little Sioux came riding back to the camp,
a grin on his sun-blistered face. "Well, sergeant, what'd he say?" asked
the staff officer.

"He said would I plaze to go to hell, sorr," was the prompt response.

"Won't he tell who they are?"

"He won't, sorr. He says we know widout askin', which is thrue, sorr.
They're Ogallallas to a man, barrin' the squaws and pappooses, wid ould
Red Cloud himself."

"How'd you find out if they wouldn't talk?" asked the staff officer
impatiently.

"'Twas the bucks wouldn't talk--except in swear wurruds. I wasted no
time on them, sorr. I gave the first squaw the last hardtack in me
saddle-bags and tould her was it Machpealota, and she said it was, and
he was wid Box Karesha--that's ould Folsom--not six hour ago, an'
Folsom's gone back to the cantonment."

"Then the quicker we skip the better," were the aide-de-camp's words.
"Get us to Reno fast as you can, Dean. Strike for the road again as soon
as we're well beyond their buffalo. Now for it! There's something behind
all this bogus hunt business, and Folsom knows what it is."

And every mile of the way, until thick darkness settled down over the
prairie, there was something behind the trooper cavalcade--several
somethings--wary red men, young and wiry, who never let themselves be
seen, yet followed on over wave after wave of prairie to look to it that
no man went back from that column to carry the news of their presence to
the little battalion left in charge of the new post at Warrior Gap.

It was the dark of the moon, or, as the Indians say, "the nights the
moon is sleeping in his lodge," and by ten P. M. the skies were
overcast. Only here and there a twinkling star was visible, and only
where some trooper struck a light for his pipe could a hand be seen in
front of the face. The ambulance mules that had kept their steady jog
during the late afternoon and the long gloaming that followed still
seemed able to maintain the gait, and even the big, lumbering wagon at
the rear came briskly on under the tug of its triple span, but in the
intense darkness the guides at the head of the column kept losing the
road, and the bumping of the wagons would reveal the fact, and a halt
would be ordered, men would dismount and go bending and crouching and
feeling their way over the almost barren surface, hunting among the sage
brush for the double furrow of the trail. Matches innumerable were
consumed, and minutes of valuable time, and the quartermaster waxed
fretful and impatient, and swore that his mules could find their way
where the troopers couldn't, and finally, after the trail had been lost
and found half a dozen times, old Brooks was badgered into telling Dean
to let the ambulance take the lead. The driver shirked at once.

"There's no tellin' where we'll fetch up," said he. "Those mules can't
see the trail if a man can't. Take their harness off and turn 'em loose,
an' I suppose they can find their way to the post, but sure as you turn
them loose when they've got somethin' on 'em, or behind 'em, and the
doggone cussedness of the creatures will prompt them to smash things."

But the quartermaster said he'd tried it with those very mules, between
Emory and Medicine Bow a dozen times, and he'd risk it. The driver could
get off his seat if he wanted to, and run alongside, but he'd stay where
he was.

"Let me out, please," said the engineer, and jumped to the ground, and
then the cavalcade pushed on again. The driver, as ordered by an
employer whom he dare not disobey, let the reins drop on the mules'
backs, the troopers falling behind, the yellow ambulance and the big
baggage wagon bringing up the rear.

Then, with a horseman on each side, the mules were persuaded to push on
again, and then when fairly started Burleigh called to the troopers to
fall back, so that the mules should not, as he expressed it, "be
influenced." "Leave them to themselves and they can get along all
right," said he, "but mix them up with the horses, and they want them to
take all the responsibility."

And now the command was barely crawling. Brooks, heavy, languid with
splitting headache, lay in feverish torpor in his ambulance, asking only
to be let alone. The engineer, a subaltern as yet, felt that he had no
right attempting to advise men like Burleigh, who proclaimed himself an
old campaigner. The aide-de-camp was getting both sleepy and impatient,
but he, too, was much the quartermaster's junior in rank. As for Dean,
he had no volition whatever. "Escort the party," were his orders, and
that meant that he must govern the movements of his horses and men by
the wishes of the senior staff official. And so they jogged along
perhaps twenty minutes more, and then there was a sudden splutter and
plunge and stumble ahead, a sharp pull on the traces, a marvelously
quick jerk back on the reins that threw the wheel team on their
haunches, and thereby saved the "outfit," for when men and matches were
hurried to the front the lead mules were discovered kicking and
splashing in a mud hole. They were not only off the road by a dozen
yards, but over a bank two feet high.

And this last pound broke the back of Burleigh's obstinacy. It was
nearly midnight anyway. The best thing to be done was unhitch, unsaddle
and bivouac until the gray light of dawn came peering over the eastward
prairie, which in that high latitude and "long-day" month would be soon
after three. Then they could push on to Reno.

Not until nearly eight o'clock in the morning, therefore, did they heave
in sight of the low belt of dingy green that told of the presence of a
stream still long miles away; and here, knowing himself to be out of
danger, the major bade the weary escort march in at a walk while he
hurried on. In fifteen minutes the black-hooded wagon was twisting and
turning over the powdery road a good mile ahead, its dust rising high
over the sage-covered desert, while the other two, with the
dust-begrimed troopers, jogged sturdily on. Loring, the young engineer,
had waved a cordial good-by to his old cadet acquaintance. "See you
later, old man," he cried. Stone, the aide-de-camp, nodded and said,
"Take care of yourself," and Burleigh said nothing at all. He was
wondering what he could do to muzzle Loring in case that gifted young
graduate were moved to tell what the quartermaster actually did when he
heard the rush and firing out at the front on the road from Warrior Gap.

But when at last the black wagon bowled in at the stockaded quadrangle
and discharged its occupants at the hut of the major commanding, there
were tidings of such import to greet them that Burleigh turned
yellow-white again at thought of the perils they had escaped.

"My God, man!" cried the post commander, as he came hurrying out to meet
the party, "we've been in a blue funk about you fellows for two whole
days. Did you see any Indians?"

"See any Indians!" said Burleigh, rallying to the occasion as became a
man who knew how to grasp an opportunity. "We stood off the whole Sioux
nation over toward Crazy Woman's Fork. There were enough to cover the
country, red and black, for a dozen miles. We sighted them yesterday
about four o'clock and there were enough around us to eat us alive, but
we just threw out skirmish lines and marched steadily ahead, so they
thought best not to bother us. They're shy of our breech loaders, damn
'em! That's all that kept them at respectful distance."

The major's face as he listened took on a puzzled, perturbed look. He
did not wish to say anything that might reflect on the opinions of so
influential a man as the depot quartermaster at Gate City, but it was
plain that there was a train of thought rumbling through his mind that
would collide with Burleigh's column of events unless he were spared the
need of answering questions. "Let me tell you briefly what's happened,"
he said. "Red Cloud and his whole band are out on the warpath. They
killed two couriers, half-breeds, I sent out to find Thornton's troop
that was scouting the Dry Fork. The man we sent to find you and give you
warning hasn't got back at all. We've had double sentries for three days
and nights. The only souls to get in from the northwest since our
fellows were run back last night are old Folsom and Baptiste. Folsom had
a talk with Red Cloud, and tried to induce him to turn back. He's beset
with the idea that the old villain is plotting a general massacre along
the Big Horn. He looks like a ghost. He says if we had five thousand
soldiers up there there'd hardly be enough. You know the Sioux have
sworn by him for years, and he thought he could coax Red Cloud to keep
away, but all the old villain would promise was to hold his young men
back ten days or so until Folsom could get the general to order the
Warrior Gap plan abandoned. If the troops are there Folsom says it's all
up with them. Red Cloud can rally all the Northern tribes, and it's only
because of Folsom's influence, at least I fancy so--that--that they
didn't attack you."

"Where is Folsom?" growled Burleigh, as he shook the powdery cloud from
his linen duster and followed the major within his darkened door, while
other officers hospitably led the aid and engineer into the adjoining
hut.

"Gone right on to Frayne. The old fellow will wear himself out, I'm
afraid. He says he must get in telegraphic communication with Omaha
before he's four days older. My heaven, man, it was a narrow squeak you
had! It's God's mercy Folsom saw Red Cloud before he saw you."

"Oh, pshaw!" said the quartermaster, turning over a little packet of
letters awaiting him in the commanding officer's sanctum. "We could have
given a good account of ourselves, I reckon. Brooks is down with fever,
and young Dean got rattled, or something like it. He's new at the
business and easily scared, you know; so I practically had to take
command. They'll be along in an hour or so, and--a word in your ear. If
Brooks has to remain on sick report you'd better put somebody in command
of that troop that's had--er--er--experience."

The post commander looked genuinely troubled. "Why, Burleigh, we've all
taken quite a shine to Dean. I know the officers in his regiment think a
heap of him; the seniors do, at least."

But Burleigh, with big eyes, was glaring at a letter he had selected,
opened, and was hurriedly reading. His face was yellowing again, under
the blister of sun and alkali.

"What's amiss?" queried his friend. "Nothing wrong, I hope. Why,
Burleigh, man! Here, let me help you!" he cried in alarm, for the
quartermaster was sinking into a chair.

"You can help me!" he gasped. "Get me fresh mules and escort. My God! I
must start for Frayne at once. Some whisky, please." And the letter
dropped from his trembling hands and lay there unnoticed on the floor.



CHAPTER V.


Mid June had come, and there was the very devil to pay--so said the
scouts and soldiers up along the Big Horn. But scouts and soldiers were
far removed from the States and cities where news was manufactured, and
those were days in which our Indian outbreaks were described in the
press long after, instead of before, their occurrence. Such couriers as
had got through to Frayne brought dispatches from the far-isolated posts
along that beautiful range, insisting that the Sioux were swarming in
every valley. Such dispatches, when wired to Washington and "referred"
to the Department of the Interior and re-referred to the head of the
Indian Bureau, were scoffed at as sensational.

"Our agents report the Indians peaceably assembled at their
reservations. None are missing at the weekly distribution of supplies
except those who are properly accounted for as out on their annual
hunt." "The officers," said the papers, "seem to see red Indians in
every bush," and unpleasant things were hinted at the officers as a
consequence.

Indians there certainly were in other sections, and they were
unquestionably "raising the devil" along the Smoky Hill and the Southern
Plains, and there the Interior Department insisted that troops in strong
force should be sent. So, too, along the line of the Union Pacific.
Officials were still nervous. Troops of cavalry camped at intervals of
forty miles along the line between Kearney and Julesburg, and even
beyond. At Washington and the great cities of the East, therefore, there
was no anxiety as to the possible fate of those little garrisons, with
their helpless charge of women and children away up in the heart of the
Sioux country. But at Laramie and Frayne and Emory, the nearest frontier
posts; at Cheyenne, Omaha and Gate City the anxiety was great. When John
Folsom said the Indians meant a war of extermination people west of the
Missouri said: "Withdraw those garrisons while there is yet time or else
send five thousand troops to help them." But people east of the Missouri
said: "Who the devil is John Folsom? What does he know about it? Here's
what the Indian agents say, and that's enough," and people east of the
Missouri being vastly in the majority, neither were the garrisons
relieved nor the reinforcements sent. What was worse, John Folsom's
urgent advice that they discontinue at once all work at Warrior Gap and
send the troops and laborers back to Reno was pooh-poohed.

"The contracts have been let and signed. The material is all on its way.
We can't hack out now," said the officials. "Send runners to Red Cloud
and get him in for a talk. Promise him lots of presents. Yes, if he must
have them, tell him he shall have breech-loaders and copper cartridges,
like the soldiers--to shoot buffalo with, of course. Promise him pretty
much anything to be good and keep his hands off a little longer till we
get that fort and the new agency buildings finished, and then let him do
what he likes."

Such were the instructions given the commissioners and interpreters
hurried through Gate City and Frayne, and on up to Reno just within the
limit fixed by Folsom. Red Cloud and his chiefs came in accordingly,
arrayed in pomp, paint and finery; shook hands grimly with the
representatives of the Great Father, critically scanned the proffered
gifts, disdainfully rejected the muzzle-loading rifles and old dragoon
horse-pistols heaped before him. "Got heap better," was his comment, and
nothing but brand new breech-loaders would serve his purpose. Promise
them and he'd see what could be done to restrain his young men. But they
were "pretty mad," he said, and couldn't be relied upon to keep the
peace unless sure of getting better arms and ammunition to help them
break it next time. It was only temporizing. It was only encouraging the
veteran war-chief in his visions of power and control. The commissioners
came back beaming, "Everything satisfactorily arranged. Red Cloud and
his people are only out for a big hunt." But officers whose wives and
children prayed fearfully at night within the puny wooden stockades, and
listened trembling to the howls and tom-toms of the dancing Indians
around the council fires in the neighboring valleys, wished to heaven
they had left those dear ones in safety at their Eastern homes--wished
to heaven they could send them thither now, but well knew that it was
too late. Only as single spies, riding by night, hiding by day, were
couriers able to get through from the Big Horn to the Platte. Of scouts
and soldiers sent at different times since the middle of May, seven were
missing, and never, except through vague boastings of the Indians, were
heard of again.

"It is a treacherous truce, I tell you," said Folsom, with grave,
anxious face, to the colonel commanding Fort Emory. "I have known Red
Cloud twenty years. He's only waiting a few weeks to see if the
government will be fool enough to send them breech-loaders. If it does,
he'll be all the better able to fight a little later on. If it doesn't
he will make it his _casus belli_."

And the veteran colonel listened, looked grave, and said he had done his
utmost to convince his superiors. He could do no more.

It was nearly three hundred miles by the winding mountain road from Gate
City to Warrior Gap. Over hill and dale and mountain pass the road ran
to Frayne, thence, fording the North Platte, the wagon trains, heavily
guarded, had to drag over miles of dreary desert, over shadeless slopes
and divides to the dry wash of the Powder, and by roads deep in alkali
dust and sage brush to Cantonment Reno, where far to the west the grand
range loomed up against the sky--another long day's march away to the
nearest foothills, to the nearest drinkable water, and then, forty miles
further still, in the heart of the grand pine-covered heights, was the
rock-bound gateway to a lovely park region within, called by the Sioux
some wild combination of almost unpronounceable syllables, which, freely
translated, gave us Warrior Gap, and there at last accounts,
strengthened by detachments from Frayne and Reno, the little command of
fort builders worked away, ax in hand, rifle at hand, subjected every
hour to alarm from the vedettes and pickets posted thickly all about
them, pickets who were sometimes found stone dead at their posts,
transfixed with arrows, scalped and mutilated, and yet not once had
Indians in any force been seen by officers or man about the spot since
the day Red Cloud's whole array passed Brooks's troop on the Reno trail,
peaceably hunting buffalo. "An' divil a sowl in in the outfit," said old
Sergeant Shaughnessy, "that hadn't his tongue in his cheek."

For three months that hard-worked troop had been afield, and the time
had passed and gone when its young first lieutenant had hoped for a
leave to go home and see the mother and Jess. His captain was still
ailing and unfit for duty in saddle. He could not and would not ask for
leave at such a time, and yet at the very moment when he was most
earnestly and faithfully doing his whole duty at the front, slander was
busy with his name long miles at the rear.

Something was amiss with Burleigh, said his cronies at Gate City. He had
come hurrying back from the hills, had spent a day in his office and not
a cent at the club, had taken the night express unbeknown to anybody but
his chief clerk, and gone hurrying eastward. It was a time when his
services were needed at the depot, too. Supplies, stores, all manner of
material were being freighted from Gate City over the range to the
Platte and beyond, yet he had wired for authority to hasten to Chicago
on urgent personal affairs, got it and disappeared. A young regimental
quartermaster was ordered in from Emory to take charge of shipments and
sign invoices during Burleigh's temporary absence, and the only other
officer whom Burleigh had seen and talked with before his start was the
venerable post commander. One after another the few cavalry troops
(companies) on duty at Emory had been sent afield until now only one was
left, and three days after Burleigh started there came a dispatch from
department headquarters directing the sending of that one to Frayne at
once. Captain Brooks's troop, owing to the continued illness of its
commander, would be temporarily withdrawn and sent back to Emory to
replace it.

Marshall Dean did not know whether to be glad or sorry. Soldier from top
to toe, he was keenly enjoying the command of his troop. He gloried in
mountain scouting, and was in his element when astride a spirited horse.
Then, too, the air was throbbing with rumors of Indian depredations
along the northward trails, and everything pointed to serious outbreak
any moment, and when it came he longed to be on hand to take his share
and win his name, for with such a troop his chances were better for
honors and distinctions than those of any youngster he knew. Therefore
he longed to keep afield. On the other hand the visit paid by Jessie's
school friend, little "Pappoose" Folsom, was to be returned in kind.
John Folsom had begged and their mother had consented that after a week
at home Jess should accompany her beloved friend on a visit to her far
western home. They would be escorted as far as Omaha, and there Folsom
himself would meet them. His handsome house was ready, and, so said
friends who had been invited to the housewarming, particularly well
stocked as to larder and cellar. There was just one thing on which Gate
City gossips were enabled to dilate that was not entirely satisfactory
to Folsom's friends, and that was the new presiding goddess of the
establishment.

"What on earth does John Folsom want of a housekeeper?" asked the
helpmates of his friends at Fort Emory, and in the bustling, busy town.
"Why don't he marry again?" queried those who would gladly have seen
some unprovided sister, niece or daughter thus cozily disposed of. It
was years since Elinor's mother's death, and yet John Folsom seemed to
mourn her as fondly as ever, and except in mid-winter, barely a month
went by in which he did not make his pilgrimage to her never-neglected
grave. Yet, despite his vigorous years in saddle, sunshine or storm, and
his thorough love for outdoor life, Folsom, now well over fifty, could
no longer so lightly bear the hard life of the field. He was amazed to
see how his sleepless dash to head off Red Cloud, and his days and
nights of gallop back, had told upon him. Women at Fort Emory who looked
with approving eyes on his ruddy face and trim, erect figure, all so
eloquent of health, and who possibly contemplated, too, his solid bank
account, and that fast-building house, the finest in Gate City, had been
telling him all winter long he ought to have a companion--an elder guide
for Miss Elinor on her return; he ought to have some one to preside at
his table; and honest John had promptly answered: "Why, Nell will do all
that," which necessitated their hinting that although Miss Folsom would
be a young lady in years, she was only a child in experience, and would
be much the better for some one who could take a mother's place. "No one
could do that," said John, with sudden swimming of his eyes, and that
put as sudden a stop to their schemings, for the time at least, but only
for the time. Taking counsel together, and thinking how lovely it would
be now if Mr. Folsom would only see how much there was in this unmarried
damsel, or that widowed dame, the coterie at Emory again returned to the
subject, until John, in his perplexity, got the idea that propriety
demanded that he should have a housekeeper against his daughter's
coming, and then he did go and do, in his masculine stupidity, just
exactly what they couldn't have had him do for worlds--invite a woman,
of whom none of their number had ever heard, to come from Omaha and take
the domestic management of his hearth and home. All he knew of her was
what he heard there. She was the widow of a volunteer officer who had
died of disease contracted during the war. She was childless, almost
destitute, accomplished, and so devoted to her church duties. She was
interesting and refined, and highly educated. He heard the eulogiums
pronounced by the good priest and some of his flock, and Mrs. Fletcher,
a substantial person of some forty years at least, was duly installed.

Fort Emory was filled with women folk and consternation--most of the men
being afield. The seething question of the hour was whether they should
call on her, whether she was to be received at the fort, whether she was
to be acknowledged and recognized at all, and then came, _mirabile
dictu_, a great government official from Washington to inspect the Union
Pacific and make speeches at various points along the road, and Mrs.
Fletcher, mind you, walked to church the very next Sunday on the
Honorable Secretary's arm, sat by his side when he drove out to hear the
band at Emory, and received with him on the colonel's veranda, and that
settled it. Received and acknowledged and visited she had to be. She
might well prove a woman worth knowing.

Within a fortnight she had made the new homestead blossom like the rose.
Within a month everything was in perfect order for the reception of
Elinor and her school friend--a busy, anxious month, in which Folsom was
flitting to and fro to Reno and Frayne, as we have seen; to Hal's ranch
in the Medicine Bow, to Rawhide and Laramie, and the reservations in
Northwestern Nebraska; and it so happened that he was away the night
Major Burleigh, on his way to the depot, dropped in to inquire if he
could see Mr. Folsom a moment on important business. The servant said he
was not in town--had gone, she thought, to Omaha. She would inquire of
Mrs. Fletcher, and meantime would the major step inside? Step inside,
and stand wonderingly at the threshold of the pretty parlor he did; and
then there was a rustle of silken skirts on the floor above, and, as he
turned to listen, his haggard, careworn face took on a look something
like that which overspread it the night he got the letter at
Reno--something that told of bewilderment and perplexity as a quiet,
modulated voice told the servant to tell the gentleman Mr. Folsom might
not return for several days. Burleigh had no excuse to linger, none to
ask to hear that voice again; yet as he slowly descended the steps its
accents were still strangely ringing in his ears. Where on earth had he
heard that voice before?



CHAPTER VI.


The quartermaster's depot at Gate City was little more than a big
corral, with a double row of low, wooden sheds for the storing of
clothing, camp and garrison equipage. There was a blacksmith and wagon
repair shop, and a brick office building. Some cottage quarters for the
officer in charge and his clerks, corral master, etc., stood close at
hand, while most of the employees lived in town outside the gates. A
single-track spur connected the depot with the main line of the Union
Pacific only five hundred yards away, and the command at Fort Emory, on
the bluff above the rapid stream, furnished, much to its disgust, the
necessary guard. A much bigger "plant" was in contemplation near a
larger post and town on the east side of the great divide, and neither
Fort Emory nor its charge--the quartermaster's depot--was considered
worth keeping in repair, except such as could be accomplished "by the
labor of troops," which was why, when he wasn't fighting Indians, the
frontier soldier of that day was mainly occupied in doing the odd jobs
of a day laborer, without the recompense of one, or his privilege of
quitting if he didn't like the job. That he should know little of drill
and less of parade was, therefore, not to be wondered at.

But what he didn't know about guard duty was hardly worth knowing. He
had prisoners and property of every conceivable kind--Indians, horse
thieves, thugs and deserters, magazines and medicines, mules and
munitions of war. Everything had to be guarded. The fort lay a mile to
the west of and two hundred feet higher than the railway hotel in the
heart of the town. It looked down upon the self-styled city, and most of
its womenkind did the same on the citizens, who were, it must be owned,
a rather mixed lot. The sudden discovery of gold in the neighboring
foothills, the fact that it promised to be the site of the division car
shops and roundhouse, that the trails to the Upper Platte, the
Sweetwater, the Park country to the south, and the rich game regions of
the Medicine Bow all centered there, and that stages left no less than
twice a week for some of those points, and the whole land was alive with
explorers for a hundred miles around--all had tended to give Gate City a
remarkable boom. Cheyenne and Laramie, thriving frontier towns with
coroners' offices in full blast from one week's end to the other, and a
double force on duty Sundays, confessed to and exhibited pardonable
jealousy. Yet there was wisdom in the warning of an old friend and
fellow frontiersman, who said to Folsom, "You are throwing yourself and
your money away, John. There's nothing in those gold stones, there's
nothing in that yawp about the machine shops; all those yarns were
started by U. P. fellows with corner lots to sell. The bottom will drop
out of that place inside of a year and leave you stranded."

All the same had Folsom bought big blocks and built his home there. It
was the nearest town of promise to Hal Folsom's wild but beautiful home
in the hills, and, almost as he loved Nell, his bonny daughter, did the
old trader love his stalwart son. Born a wild Westerner, reared among
the Sioux with only Indians or army boys for playmates, and precious
little choice in point of savagery between them, Hal had grown up a
natural horseman with a love for and knowledge of the animal that is
accorded to few. His ambition in life was to own a stock farm. All the
education he had in the world he owed to the kindness of loving-hearted
army women at Laramie, women who befriended him when well-nigh
broken-hearted by his mother's death. Early he had pitched his tent on
the very spot for a ranchman's homestead, early he had fallen in love
with an army girl, who married the strapping frontiersman and was now
the proud mistress of the new and promising stock farm nestling in the
valley of the Laramie, a devoted wife and mother. The weekly stage to
the railway was the event of their placid days except when some of the
officers and ladies would come from either of the neighboring posts and
spend a week with her and Hal. From being a delicate, consumptive child,
Mrs. Hal had developed into a buxom woman with exuberant health and
spirits. Life to her might have some little monotony, but few cares;
many placid joys, but only one great dread--Indians. John Folsom, her
fond father-in-law, was a man all Indians trusted and most of them
loved. Hal Folsom, her husband, had many a trusted and devoted friend
among the Sioux, but he had also enemies, and Indian enmity, like Indian
love, dies hard. As boy he had sometimes triumphed in games and sports
over the champions of the villages. As youth he had more than once found
favor in the dark eyes that looked coldly on fiercer, fonder claimants,
and one girl of the Ogallallas had turned from her kith and kin, spurned
more than one red lover to seek the young trader when he left the
reservation to build his own nest in the Medicine Bow, and they told a
story as pathetic as that of the favorite daughter of old Sintogaliska,
chief of the Brulé Sioux, who pined and died at Laramie when she heard
that the soldier she loved had come back from the far East with a
pale-faced bride. There were red men of the Ogallallas to whom the name
of Hal Folsom was a taunt and insult to this day, men whom his father
had vainly sought to appease, and they were Burning Star, the lover, and
two younger braves, the brothers of the girl they swore that Hal had
lured away.

South of the Platte, as it rolled past Frayne and Laramie, those Indians
were bound by treaty not to go. North of the Platte Hal Folsom was
warned never again to venture. These were stories which were well known
to the parents of the girl he wooed and won, but which probably were not
fully explained to her. Now, even behind the curtain of that sheltering
river, with its flanking forts, even behind the barrier of the mountains
of the Medicine Bow, she often woke at night and clutched her baby to
her breast when the yelping of the coyotes came rising on the wind.
There was no woman in Wyoming to whom war with Red Cloud's people bore
such dread possibility as to Hal Folsom's wife.

And so when Marshall Dean came riding in one glad June morning, bronzed,
and tanned, and buoyant, and tossed his reins to the orderly who trotted
at his heels, while the troop dismounted and watered at the stream, Mrs.
Folsom's heart was gladdened by his confident and joyous bearing. Twice,
thrice he had seen Red Cloud and all his braves, and there was nothing,
said he, to worry about. "Ugly, of course they are; got some imaginary
grievances and talk big about the warpath. Why, what show would those
fellows have with their old squirrel rifles and gas-pipe Springfields
against our new breech-loaders? They know it as well as we do. It's all
a bluff, Mrs. Folsom. You mark my words," said he, and really the boy
believed it. Frequent contact in the field with the red warriors
inspires one with little respect for their skill or prowess until that
contact becomes hostile, then it's time to keep every sense on guard and
leave no point uncovered.

"But what if the Indian Bureau should let them have breech-loaders?" she
anxiously asked. "You know that is Red Cloud's demand."

"Oh," said Dean, with confidence born of inexperience in the Bureau
ways, "they couldn't be such fools. Besides, if they do," he added
hopefully, "you'll see my troop come trotting back full tilt. Now, I'm
counting on a good time at Emory, and on bringing your sister and mine
up here to see you."

"It will be just lovely," said Mrs. Hal, with a woman's natural but
unspoken comparison between the simplicity of her ranch toilet and the
probable elegancies of the young ladies' Eastern costumes. "They'll find
us very primitive up here in the mountains, I'm afraid; but if they like
scenery and horseback riding and fishing there's nothing like it."

"Oh, they're coming sure. Jessie's letters tell me that's one of the big
treats Mr. Folsom has promised them. Just think, they should be along
this week, and I shall be stationed so near them at Emory--of all places
in the world."

"How long is it since you have seen Elinor--'Pappoose,' as your sister
calls her," asked Mrs. Hal, following the train of womanly thought then
drifting through her head, as she set before her visitor a brimming
goblet of buttermilk.

"Two years. She was at the Point a day or two the summer of our
graduation," he answered carelessly. "A real little Indian girl she was,
too, so dark and shy and silent, yet I heard Professor M----'s daughters
and others speak of her later; she pleased them so much, and Jessie
thinks there's no girl like her."

"And you haven't seen her since--not even her picture?" asked Mrs. Hal,
rising from her easy-chair. "Just let me show you the one she sent Hal
last week. I think there's a surprise in store for you, young man," was
her mental addition, as she tripped within doors.

The nurse girl, a half-breed, one of the numerous progeny of the French
trappers and explorers who had married among the Sioux, was hushing the
burly little son and heir to sleep in his Indian cradle, crooning some
song about the fireflies and and Heecha, the big-eyed owl, and the
mother stooped to press her lips upon the rounded cheek and to flick
away a tear-drop, for Hal 2d had roared lustily when ordered to his
noonday nap. Away to the northward the heavily wooded heights seemed
tipped by fleecy, summer clouds, and off to the northeast Laramie Peak
thrust his dense crop of pine and scrub oak above the mass of snowy
vapor that floated lazily across that grim-visaged southward scarp. The
drowsy hum of insects, the plash of cool, running waters fell softly on
the ear. Under the shade of willow and cottonwood cattle and horses were
lazily switching at the swarm of gnats and flies or dozing through the
heated hours of the day. Out on the level flat beyond the corral the
troopers had unsaddled, and the chargers, many of them stopping to roll
in equine ecstasy upon the turf, were being driven out in one big herd
to graze. Without and within the ranch everything seemed to speak of
peace and security. The master rode the range long miles away in search
of straying cattle, leaving his loved ones without thought of danger.
The solemn treaty that bound the Sioux to keep to the north of the
Platte stood sole sentinel over his vine and fig tree. True there had
been one or two instances of depredation, but they could be fastened on
no particular band, and all the chiefs, even defiant Red Cloud, and
insolent, swaggering Little Big Man, denied all knowledge of the
perpetrators. Spotted Tail, it was known, would severely punish any of
his people who transgressed, but he could do nothing with the
Ogallallas. Now they were not two hundred miles away to the north, their
ranks swollen by accessions from all the disaffected villages and
turbulent young braves of the swarming bands along the Missouri and
Yellowstone, and if their demands were resisted by the government, or
worse, if they were permitted to have breech-loaders or magazine rifles,
then just coming into use, no shadow of doubt remained that war to the
knife would follow. Then how long would it be before they came charging
down across the Platte, east or west of Frayne, and raiding those new
ranches in the Laramie Valley?

Reassuring as he meant his words to be, Marshall Dean himself looked
anxiously about at the unprotected walls. Not even the customary
"dugout" or underground refuge seemed to have been prepared. Almost
every homestead, big or little, of those days, had its tunnel from the
cellar to a dugout near at hand, stocked with provisions and water and
provided with loopholes commanding the neighborhood, and herein the
besieged could take refuge and stand off the Indians until help should
come from the nearest frontier fort. "The name of Folsom is our
safeguard," said Mrs. Hal, in her happy honeymoon days, but that was
before the mother told her of the threats of Burning Star or the story
of the Ogallalla girl he vainly loved. "All that happened so long ago,"
she murmured, when at last the tale was told. But Hal should have known,
if she did not, that, even when it seems to sleep, Indian vengeance is
but gaining force and fury.

Presently Mrs. Hall came tripping forth again, a little _carte de
visite_ in her hand, a smile of no little significance on her lips.
"Now, Mr. Dean, will you tell me what you think of that for a pappoose?"

And with wonderment in his eyes the young officer stood and held it and
gazed.

There stood Pappoose, to be sure, but what a change! The little maiden
with the dark braids of hair hanging far below her waist had developed
into a tall, slender girl, with clear-cut, oval face, crowned by a mass
of dark tresses. Her heavy, low-arching brows spanned the thoughtful,
deep, dark-brown eyes that seemed to speak the soul within, and the
beautiful face was lighted up with a smile that showed just a peep of
faultless white teeth, gleaming through the warm curves of her soft,
sensitive lips. The form was exquisitely rounded, yet supple and erect.

"Hasn't Jessie written you of how Nell has grown and improved?" said
Mrs. Hall, with a woman's quick note of the admiration and surprise in
Dean's regard.

"She must have," was the answer, "I'm sure she has, but perhaps I
thought it schoolgirl rhapsody--perhaps I had too many other things to
think of."

"Perhaps you'll find it superseding these too many things, Mr. Soldier
Boy," was Mrs. Hal's mental comment. "Now, sir, if you've gazed enough
perhaps you'll tell me your plans," and she stretched forth a reclaiming
hand.

But he hung on to the prize. "Let me keep it a minute," he pleaded.
"It's the loveliest thing I've seen in months."

And, studying his absorbed face, she yielded, her eyebrows arching, a
pretty smile of feminine triumph about her lips, and neither noticed the
non-commissioned officer hurrying within the gate, nor that half the men
in "C" Troop at their bivouac along the stream were on their feet and
gazing to northeast, that far down the valley a horseman was speeding
like the wind, that little puffs of smoke were rising from the crests of
the grand landmark of the range and floating into the blue of the
heavens. Both started to their feet at the abrupt announcement.

"Lieutenant, there are smoke signals on Lar'mie Peak."



CHAPTER VII.


Lieutenant Dean's orders required that he should march his troop without
unnecessary delay to Fork Emory, there to take station relieving Troop
"F," ordered to change to Frayne, which meant, in so many words, to take
the field. Captain Brooks, still wrestling with the fever, had retired
to his quarters at the old frontier fort that stood so long on the
bluffs overlooking the fords of the Platte. The surgeon said he must
remain in bed at least a week, so meantime the troop packed up, sent its
wagons ahead over the range, bade God speed to "F" as it passed through
_en route_ to the front, exchanged a volley of chaff and chewing tobacco
over the parting game of "freeze out" fought to a finish on many an
outspread saddle blanket, then, jogged on toward Gate City, making wide
_détour_ at the suggestion of the field officer in command at Frayne,
that they might scout the Laramie plains and see that all was well at
Folsom's ranch. This _détour_ was duly reported to the peppery veteran
at Fort Emory, an old colonel whose command was by this time reduced
from "headquarters, field, staff and band," six companies of infantry
and four troops of cavalry, to the band and two desperately overworked
companies of foot. "Two nights in bed" were all his men could hope for,
and sometimes no more than one, so grievous was the guard duty. Hence
"old Pecksniff," his adjutant and quartermaster and his two remaining
companies saw fit to take it as most unkind in Lieutenant-Colonel Ford
to authorize that diversion of Dean's, and highly improper on Dean's
part to attempt it. By this time, too, there was in circulation at Emory
a story that this transfer of "C" to interior lines and away from
probable contact with the Sioux was not so much that it had done far
more than its share of that arduous work, completely using up its
captain, as that, now the captain was used up, the authorities had their
doubts as to the "nerve" of the lieutenant in temporary command. A
fellow who didn't care to come to Emory and preferred rough duty up
along the Platte must be lacking in some essential particular, thought
the women folk, and at the very moment that Marshall Dean sat there at
Hal Folsom's ranch, as brave and hardy and capable a young officer as
ever forded the Platte, looking forward with pleasurable anticipations
to those days to come at Emory, with Jessie--Jessie and, of course,
Pappoose--so close at hand in town, there was gaining ground at the post
an impression that the safety of the board of officers sent to choose
the site of the new Big Horn post had been imperiled by Dean's weakening
at a critical moment in presence of a band of probably hostile Sioux.
Burleigh had plainly intimated as much to his chief clerk and Colonel
Stevens, and when Loring and Stone came through a day or two later and
questions were asked about that meeting, the aide-de-camp gave it as
distinctly to be understood that he had practically assumed command,
Dean's inexperience being manifest, and his own prompt measures had
extricated the little detachment from a most delicate and dangerous
position. The engineer, let it be said, did not hear this statement, and
the aid was very careful not to make it in his presence. He was a
comparative stranger and as no one presumed to question him, he
volunteered no information.

Planning to bivouac until dawn of the next day at Folsom's, Dean had
then intended to reach Fort Emory in three easy marches. He was anxious
to bring his horses in in best possible condition, despite all their
hard service; yet now, barely two o'clock on this hot June afternoon,
came most unlooked-for, most importunate interruption to his plans.
Springing to the gate at the sergeant's summons, he first directed his
gaze to the distant peak, recognized instantly the nature of the smoke
puffs there rising, then turned for explanation to the swift-riding
courier, whose horse's heels were making the dust fly from the sun-dried
soil. One or two ranch hands, with anxious faces, came hastening over
from the corral. The darkey cook rushed up from the kitchen, rifle in
hand. Plainly these fellows were well used to war's alarms. Mrs. Folsom,
with staring eyes and dreadful anxiety in her face, gazed only at the
hurrying courier, clinging the while to the pillar of the portico, as
though needing support. The smoke puffs on the mountain, the dust-cloud
back of the tearing rider were symptoms enough for Dean.

"Get in your herd, sergeant!" he shouted at the top of his voice; and
over the rushing of the Laramie his words reached the rousing bivouac,
and saddle blankets were sent swinging in air in signal to the distant
guards, and within a few seconds every horse was headed for home; and
then, to the sound of excited voices was added the rising thunder of
scores of bounding hoofs, as, all in a dust-cloud of their own, the
sixty chargers came galloping in, ears erect, eyes ablaze, nostrils
wide, manes and tails streaming in the breeze, guided by their eager
guards full tilt for camp. Out ran their riders, bridles in hand, to
meet and check them, every horse when within a few yards of his master
seeming to settle on his haunches and plow up the turf in the sudden
effort to check his speed, long months of service on the plains and in
the heart of Indian land having taught them in times of alarm or peril
that the quicker they reached the guiding hand and bore, each, his
soldier on his back, the quicker would vanish the common foe. Even
before the panting steed of the headlong courier came within hailing
distance of the ranch, half the horses in the troop were caught and the
bits were rattling between their teeth; then, as the messenger tore
along the gentle slope that led to the gateway, his wearied horse
laboring painfully at the rise, Mrs. Folsom recognized one of her
husband's herdsmen, a man who had lived long years in Wyoming and could
be unnerved by no false alarm, and her voice went up in a shriek of fear
as she read the tidings in his almost ghastly face.

"Where is Hal?" she screamed. "Oh, what has happened?"

"He's safe," was the answering call, as the rider waved a reassuring
hand, but at the instant he bent low. "Thank God, you're here,
lieutenant," he gasped. "Mount quick. Hal's corralled two miles out
there under the butte--Sioux!" And then they saw that he was swooning,
that the blood was streaming down the left thigh and leg, and before
hand could help him, he rolled senseless, doubled up in the dust at his
horse's feet, and the weary creature never even started.

"Saddle up, men!" rang the order across the stream. And then while
strong arms lifted and bore the wounded herdsman to the porch, Dean
turned to the wailing mistress, who, white-faced and terror-stricken,
was wringing her hands and moaning and running wildly up and down the
walk and calling for some one to go and save her husband. Dean almost
bore her to a chair and bade her fear nothing. He and his men would lose
not a moment. On the floor at her feet lay the little card photograph,
and Dean, hardly thinking what he did, stooped, picked it up and placed
it in the pocket of his hunting shirt, just as the trumpeter on his
plunging gray reached the gate, Dean's big, handsome charger trotting
swiftly alongside. In an instant the lieutenant was in saddle, in
another second a trooper galloped up with his belt and carbine. Already
the men were leading into line across the stream, and, bidding the
trumpeter tell Sergeant Shaughnessy to follow at speed, the young
officer struck spur to his horse and, carbine in hand, a single trooper
at his heels, away he darted down the valley, "C" Troop, splashing
through the ford a moment later, took the direct road past the stockade
of the corral, disappeared from sight a moment behind that wooden
fortification, and, when next it hove in view, it was galloping front
into line far down the Laramie, then once more vanished behind its
curtain of dust.

"Two miles out there under the butte," was the only indication the young
officer had of the scene of the fight, for fight he knew it must be, and
even as he went bounding down the valley he recalled the story of the
Indian girl, the threats of Burning Star, the vowed vengeance of her
brothers. Could it be that, taking advantage of this raid of Red Cloud,
far from all the reservations, far from possibility of detection by
count of prying agents, the three had induced a gang of daring,
devil-may-care young warriors to slip away from the Big Horn with them
and, riding stealthily away from the beaten trails, to ford the Platte
beyond the ken of watchful eyes at Frayne and sneak through the mountain
range to the beautiful, fertile valley beyond, and there lie in wait for
Hal Folsom or for those he loved? What was to prevent? Well they knew
the exact location of his ranch. They had fished and sported all about
it in boy days--days when the soldiers and the Sioux were all good
friends, days before the mistaken policy of a post commander had led to
an attack upon a peaceful band, and that to the annihilation of the
attacking party. From that fatal day of the Grattan massacre ten years
before, there had been no real truce with the Sioux, and now was
opportunity afforded for a long-plotted revenge. Dean wondered Folsom
had not looked for it instead of sleeping in fancied security.

A mile nearer the butte and, glancing back, he could see his faithful
men come bounding in his tracks. A mile ahead, rising abruptly from the
general level, a little knoll or butte jutted out beyond the shoulders
of the foothills and stood sentinel within three hundred yards of the
stream. On the near--the westward--side, nothing could be seen of horse
or man. Something told him he would find the combatants beyond--that
dead or alive, Hal Folsom would be there awaiting him. A glance at the
commanding height and the ridge that connected it with the tumbling,
wooded hills to the north, convinced him that at this moment some of the
foe were lurking there, watching the westward valley, and by this time
they knew full well of the coming of the cavalry to the rescue. By this
time, more than likely, they were scurrying off to the mountains again,
returning the way they came, with a start of at least two miles.

"With or without the coveted scalps?" he wondered. Thus far he had been
riding straight for the butte. The road wound along and disappeared
behind him, but there was no sense in following the road. "Pursue and
punish," was the thing to be done. Surely not more than a dozen were in
the band, else that courier could never have hoped to get in, wounded as
he was. The Indians were too few in number to dare follow to the ranch,
guarded as, by almost God-given luck, it happened to be through the
unlooked-for presence of the troops. No, it was a small band, though a
daring one. Its lookout had surely warned it by this time of his coming,
and by this time, too, all save one or two who rode the fleetest ponies
and lingered probably for a parting shot at the foremost of the chase,
had scampered away behind the curtain of that ridge. Therefore, in long
curve, never checking his magnificent stride, Dean guided his bounding
bay to the left--the northeast--and headed for the lowest point of the
divide.

And then it all occurred to him too that he was far in front of his men,
too far to be of use to them and just far enough to be an easy prey for
the lurking foe. Then, too, it occurred to him that he must not leave
the ranch unprotected. Already he was within long rifle range of the
height; already probably some beady eye was glancing through the sights,
and the deadly tube was covering him as he came bounding on. Three
hundred yards more and his life probably wouldn't be worth a dollar in
Confederate money, and wisely the young leader began to draw rein, and,
turning in saddle, signaled to his single companion, laboring along one
hundred yards behind, to hasten to join him. Presently the trooper came
spurring up, a swarthy young German, but though straining every nerve
the troop was still a mile away.

"Ride back, Wegner, and tell the sergeant to take ten men around that
side--the south side of the bluff," and he pointed with his hand; "the
rest to come straight to me."

Oh, well was it for Dean that he checked his speed, and as the young
dragoon went sputtering back, that he himself drew rein and waited for
the coming of his men. Suddenly from far out along the ridge in front,
from the very crest there leaped a jet or two of fire and smoke. Two
little spurts of dust and turf flew up from the prairie sod a dozen
yards in front, a rifle bullet went singing off through the sunny air,
Rabb, his handsome bay, pawed the ground and switched about, and up on
the crest, riding boldly in full view, two lithe, naked, painted
warriors, war bonnets trailing over their ponies' croups, yelling shrill
insult and derision, went tearing away northward, one of them pausing
long enough to wave some ragged object on high, and give one ringing,
exultant whoop ere he disappeared from view.

"It's a scalp, lieutenant," shouted the foremost sergeant as he came
lunging up to join his chief. "They've got one, anyhow."

"Come on, then, and we'll get it back," was the only answer, as with
nearly thirty troopers stringing out behind them, the two launched out
in chase.



CHAPTER VIII.


Obedient to his orders the Irish sergeant, with a little squad at his
heels, had kept straight on. A few minutes later, rounding the bluff at
the gallop, eyes flashing over the field in front of them, the party
went racing out over the turf and came in full view of the scene of the
fight. Five hundred yards further down stream was a deep bend in the
Laramie. Close to the water's edge two horses lay stretched upon the
ground, stone dead. Out on the open prairie lay an Indian pony still
kicking in his dying agony, and as the soldiers came sweeping into view
two men rose up from behind the low bank of the stream and swung their
hats--Hal Folsom and one of his hands safe, unwounded, yet with a look
in their gray faces that told of recent mortal peril.

"We're all right! Go on after them. They've run off a dozen of my best
horses," said Folsom, "and I'm afraid they cut off Jake."

"No! Jake reached the ranch all right--leastwise somebody did," said
Shaughnessy. "That's how we got the news. They got somebody, or else
they were only bluffing when they waved that scalp. How many were
there?"

"At least a dozen--too many for you to tackle. Where's the rest of the
troop?"

"Close at their heels. The lieutenant led them right over the ridge.
Listen!"

Yes, far up in the foothills, faint and clear, the sounds of the chase
could now be heard. Dean's men were closing on the fleeing warriors, for
every little while the silence of the range was broken by the crack of
rifle or carbine. Shaughnessy's fellows began to fidget and look eagerly
thither, and he read their wish. "Two of you stay with Mr. Folsom," he
said, "and the rest come with me. There's nothing we can do here, is
there? Sure, you're not hit?"

"No, go on! Give 'em hell and get back my horses. I'd go with you, but
they've killed what horses they couldn't drive. All safe at the ranch?"

Shaughnessy nodded as he spurred away. "We'll be gettin' the lieutenant
a brevet for this," said he, "if we can only close up with those
blackguards." And these were the words Folsom carried back with him, as,
mounting a willing trooper's horse, he galloped homeward to reassure his
wife, thanking God for the opportune coming of the little command, yet
swearing with close compressed lips at the ill-starred work of the day.
Thus far he had striven to keep from her all knowledge of the threats of
the Ogallallas, although he knew she must have heard of them. He had
believed himself secure so far back from the Platte. He had done
everything in his power to placate Red Cloud and the chiefs--to convince
his former friends that he had never enticed poor Lizette, as Baptiste
had called the child, from her home and people. They held he should
never have left her, though she had accused him of no wrong. Burning
Star, in his jealous rage, hated him, because he believed that but for
love of the paleface Lizette would have listened to his wooing, and
Folsom's conscience could not acquit him of having seen her preference
and of leading her on. He could not speak of her to his wife without
shame and remorse. He had no idea what could have been her fate, for the
poor girl had disappeared from the face of the earth, and now, at last,
this day had proved to him the threats of her lover and her brothers
were not idle. He had had so narrow a squeak for his life, so sharp and
sudden and hard a fight for it that, now that the peril was over, his
nerve began to give way, his strong hands to tremble. Armed with
breech-loaders, he and his two friends had been able to stand off the
attacking party, killing two ponies, and emptying, they felt sure, two
saddles; but little by little the Indians were working around their
position, and would have crawled upon them within an hour or two but for
Jake's daring ride for help and the blessed coming of the blue-coats in
the nick of time. Folsom swore he'd never forget their services this
day.

And as he cantered homeward he could still hear the distant firing dying
away in the mountains to the north. "Give 'em hell, Dean!" he muttered
through his set teeth. "They're showing fight even when you've got 'em
on the run. I wonder what that means?"

Not until another day was he to know. Late on the evening of the attack,
while he was seated with his wife by Jake's bedside, half a dozen
troopers, two of them wounded and all with worn-out horses, came
drifting back to camp. Twice, said they, had the fleeing Indians made a
stand to cover the slow retreat of one or two evidently sorely stricken,
but so closely were they pressed that at last they had been forced to
abandon one of their number, who died, sending his last vengeful shot
through the lieutenant's hunting shirt, yet only grazing the skin. Dean,
with most of the men, pushed on in pursuit, determined never to desist
so long as there was light, but these who returned could not keep up.

Leaving the dead body of the young brave where it lay among the rocks,
they slowly journeyed back to camp. No further tidings came, and at
daybreak Folsom, with two ranchmen and a trooper, rode out on the trail
to round up the horses the Indians had been compelled to drop. Mrs. Hal
clung sobbing to him, unable to control her fears, but he chided her
gently and bade her see that Jake lacked no care or comfort. The brave
fellow was sore and feverish, but in no great danger now. Five miles out
in the foothills they came upon the horses wandering placidly back to
the valley, but Folsom kept on. Four miles further he and a single
ranchman with him came upon three troopers limping along afoot, their
horses killed in the running fight, and one of these, grateful for a
long pull at Folsom's flask, turned back and showed them the body of the
fallen brave. One look was enough for Hal and the comrade with him.
"Don't let my wife know--who it was," he had muttered to his friend. "It
would only make her more nervous." There lay Chaska, Lizette's eldest
brother, and well Hal Folsom knew _that_ death would never go unavenged.

"If ever a time comes when I can do you a good turn, lieutenant," said
he that afternoon as, worn out with long hours of pursuit and scout, the
troop was encountered slowly marching back to the Laramie, "I'll do it
if it costs me the whole ranch." But Dean smiled and said they wouldn't'
have missed that chance even for the ranch. What a blessed piece of luck
it was that the commanding officer at Frayne had bidden him take that
route instead of the direct road to Gate City! He had sent men riding in
to both posts on the Platte, with penciled lines telling of the Indian
raid and its results. Once well covered by darkness the little band had
easily escaped their pursuers, and were now safe across the river and
well ahead of all possibility of successful pursuit. But if anything
were needed to prove the real temper of the Sioux the authorities had
it. Now was the time to grapple that Ogallalla tribe and bring it to
terms before it could be reinforced by half the young men in the
villages of the northern plains. The Platte, of course, would be
patrolled by a strong force of cavalry for some weeks to come, and no
new foray need be dreaded yet awhile. Red Cloud's people would "lay low"
and watch the effect of this exploit before attempting another. If the
White Father "got mad" and ordered "heap soldiers" there to punish them,
then they must disavow all participation in the affair, even though one
of their best young braves was prominent in the outrage, and had paid
for the luxury with his life--even though Burning Star was trying to
hide the fresh scar of a rifle bullet along his upper arm. Together Dean
and Folsom rode back to the ranch, and another night was spent there
before the troop was sufficiently rested to push on to Emory.

"Remember this, lieutenant," said Folsom again, as he pressed his hand
at parting, "there's nothing too good for you and "C" Troop at my home.
If ever you need a friend you'll find one here."

And the time was coming when Marshall Dean would need all that he could
muster.

Two days later--still a march away from Emory--a courier overtook him
with a letter from his late post commander: "Your vigorous pursuit and
prompt, soldierly action have added to the fine record already made and
merit hearty commendation." The cordial words brought sunshine to his
heart. How proud Jess would be, and mother! He had not had a word from
either for over a week. The latter, though far from strong, was content
at home in the loving care of her sister, and in the hope that he would
soon obtain the leave of absence so long anticipated, and, after Jess's
brief visit to Pappoose's new home, would come to gladden the eyes of
kith and kin, but mother's most of all, bringing Jessie with him. Little
hope of leave of absence was there now, and less was he the man to ask
it with such troubles looming up all along the line of frontier posts to
the north. But at least there would be the joy of seeing Jess in a few
days and showing her his troop--her and Pappoose. How wonderfully that
little schoolgirl must have grown and developed! How beautiful a girl
she must now be if that photograph was no flatterer! By the way, where
was that photo? What had he done with it? For the first time in four
days he remembered his picking it up when Mrs. Hal Folsom collapsed at
sight of Jake's swooning. Down in the depths of the side pocket of his
heavy blue flannel hunting shirt he found it, crumpled a bit, and all
its lower left-hand corner bent and blackened and crushed, Chaska's last
shot that tore its way so close below the young soldier's bounding
heart, just nipping and searing the skin, had left its worst mark on
that dainty _carte de visite_. In that same pocket, too, was another
packet--a letter which had been picked up on the floor of the hut at
Reno after Burleigh left--one for which the major had searched in vain,
for it was underneath a lot of newspapers. "You take that after him,"
said the cantonment commander, as Dean followed with the troop next day,
and little dreamed what it contained.

That very day, in the heavy, old-fashioned sleeping-cars of the Union
Pacific, two young girls were seated in their section on the northward
side. One, a dark-eyed, radiant beauty, gazed out over the desolate
slopes and far-reaching stretches of prairie and distant lines of bald
bluff, with delight in her dancing eyes. The other, a winsome maid of
nineteen, looked on with mild wonderment, not unmixed with
disappointment she would gladly have hidden. To Elinor the scenes of her
childhood were dear and welcome; to Jessie there was too much that was
somber, too little that was inviting. But presently, as the long train
rolled slowly to the platform of a rude wooden station building, there
came a sight at which the eyes of both girls danced in eager interest--a
row of "A" tents on the open prairie, a long line of horses tethered to
the picket ropes, groups of stalwart, sunburned men in rough blue garb,
a silken guidon flapping by the tents of the officers. It was one of
half a dozen such camps of detached troops they had been passing ever
since breakfast time--the camps of isolated little commands guarding the
new railway on the climb to Cheyenne. Papa, with one or two cronies, was
playing "old sledge" in the smoking compartment. At a big station a few
miles back two men in the uniform of officers boarded the car, one of
them burly, rotund, and sallow. He was shown to the section just in
front of the girls, and at Pappoose he stared--stared long and hard, so
that she bit her lip and turned nervously away. The porter dusted the
seat and disposed of the hand luggage and hung about the new arrivals in
adulation. The burly man was evidently a personage of importance, and
his shoulder straps indicated that he was a major of the general staff.
The other, who followed somewhat diffidently, was a young lieutenant of
infantry, whose trim frock-coat snugly fitted his slender figure.

"Ah, sit down here, Mr.--Mr. Loomis," said the major patronizingly. "So
you are going up to the Big Horn. Well, sir, I hope we shall hear good
accounts of you. There's a splendid field for officers of the right
sort--there--and opportunities for distinction--every day."

At sound of the staff officer's voice there roused up from the opposite
section, where he had been dozing over a paper, a man of middle age,
slim, athletic, with heavy mustache and imperial, just beginning to turn
gray, with deep-set eyes under bushy brows, and a keen, shrewd face,
rather deeply lined. There was a look of dissipation there, a shade of
shabbiness about his clothes, a rakish cut to the entire personality
that had caused Folsom to glance distrustfully at him more than once the
previous afternoon, and to meet with coldness the tentatives permissible
in fellow travelers. The stranger's morning had been lonesome. Now he
held his newspaper where it would partly shield his face, yet permit his
watching the officers across the aisle. And something in his stealthy
scrutiny attracted Pappoose.

"Yes," continued the major, "I have seen a great deal of that country,
and Mr. Dean, of whom you spoke, was attached to the troop escorting our
commission. He is hardly--I regret to have to say it--er--what you
imagine. We were, to put it mildly, much disappointed in his conduct the
day of our meeting with the Sioux."

A swift, surprised glance passed between the girls, a pained look shot
into the lieutenant's face, but before the major could go on the man
across the aisle arose and bent over him with extended hand.

"Ah, Burleigh, I thought I knew the voice." But the hand was not
grasped. The major was drawing back, his face growing yellow-white with
some strange dismay.

"You don't seem sure of my identity. Let me refresh your memory,
Burleigh. I am Captain Newhall. I see you need a drink, major--I'll take
one with you."



CHAPTER IX.


For nearly a week after the home-coming of his beloved daughter John
Folsom was too happy in her presence to give much thought to other
matters. By the end of that week, however, the honest old Westerner
found anxieties thickening about him. There were forty-eight hours of
undimmed rejoicing. Elinor was so radiant, so fond, and had grown, so
said the proud father to himself, and so said others, so wondrously
lovely. His eyes followed her every movement. He found himself negligent
of her gentle little friend and guest, Jessie Dean, to whom he had vowed
to be a second father, and such a friend as she had been to his Pappoose
when, a homesick, sad-eyed child, she entered upon her schooldays.
Elinor herself had to chide him, and with contrition and dismay he
admitted his fault, and then for hours nothing could exceed his
hospitable attentions to Jessie, who, sorely disappointed because
Marshall was not there to meet her, was growing anxious as no tidings
came from him. Two whole days the damsels spent in going over the new
house, exclaiming over papa's lavish preparations, but wishing presently
that Mrs. Fletcher were not quite so much in evidence, here, there, and
everywhere. Only when bedtime came and they could nestle in one or other
of their connecting rooms were they secure from interruption, and even
then it presently appeared they could not talk confidentially as of old.
Folsom had taken them driving each afternoon, he himself handling the
reins over his handsome bays, Elinor at his side the first time, and
Jessie, with Mrs. Fletcher, occupying the rear seat. But this, Elinor
whispered to him, was not as it should be. Her guest should have the
seat of honor. So, next day, Jessie was handed to the front and Mrs.
Fletcher and Pappoose were placed in rear, and in this order they bowled
round the fort and listened to the band and talked with several of the
women and one or two officers, but these latter could tell nothing about
Lieutenant Dean except that they had been expecting him for two days--he
having taken the long way home, which both Jessie and Pappoose
considered odd under the circumstances, though neither said so and
nobody thought to explain. But the morning of the third day "Miss
Folsom"--as the veteran was amazed to hear his daughter addressed, yet
on reflection concluded that he'd be tempted to kick any man who
addressed her otherwise--seized a favorable opportunity and whisked her
fond father into a corner of his library, and there gave him to
understand that in Eastern circles the housekeeper might sometimes,
perhaps, accompany the young ladies when they were going shopping, or
the like, alone, but that when escorted by papa it was quite
unnecessary. It was in fact not at all conventional.

"Bless my soul!" said Folsom. "I supposed that was what she was for.
What did these women mean by telling me I must have a, companion--a
guide--etc.?"

"They meant, you blessed Daddy, that they wished to provide you
with--one of their number, and me--with something I do not want. If Mrs.
Fletcher is to be housekeeper I have nothing to say, but--don't you
think your big daughter old enough and wise enough to select her own
companions? Daddy dear," she continued, after a little pause, and
nestling close to him with a pathetic look in the big brown eyes, her
lips twitching a bit, "I know how loving and thoughtful you have been in
all this, and I wouldn't have you think me ungrateful, but--did you
believe I was always going to be a little girl? What do you suppose I
studied housekeeping for at school? Mrs. Fletcher is engaged, I presume,
and I can't ask you to undo that now, but I wish you had written to me
first. However, if you don't mind, there's somebody I'd rather you would
invite to take the fourth seat to-day, and then you can have Pappoose
beside you, if you wish."

"Why, of course, sweetheart, any one you like."

"Lieutenant Loomis, then, Daddy--the officer we met on the train. Jessie
likes him and he's such a friend of her brother--the only one we have
yet seen who seems to know him at all. Then you could ask him to dinner,
too."

Folsom's face was a study. Doubt and perplexity both were twitching in
the little muscles about his lips.

"We met three officers, did we not, Elinor, and I had thought--somewhat
of--asking the major and his guest. He said he wished to call. He was
here while we were driving yesterday. I met him later."

"Yes, I saw his card," was the hurried, indifferent answer. "But they
are not like Mr. Loomis. Daddy, I did not at all like that Captain
Newhall, or--for that matter----"

"They both seemed prodigiously struck with you," said Folsom, in
misguided confidence yet pardonable pride. "They've done, nothing but
talk to me about you ever since."

"They did nothing but talk to me all the way over the mountains, except
when they were out taking what I have reason to believe was an
occasional drink, Daddy mine. Jess had Mr. Loomis to herself. They have
found your weak spot, Daddy. They know you love to talk of your
daughter. You have only known Major Burleigh a little while, is it not
so?"

"Only within the year, perhaps, though of course I've heard of him a
great deal."

"And this Captain Newhall, whose regiment is in Louisiana while he's out
here on leave--I thought officers went East when they got leave."

"Newhall says he's out here looking over some mining schemes. He has
money to invest, I believe."

"He should invest some money in a traveling suit, Daddy dear. That coat
and his linen seemed woefully out of condition. Gentlemen are not
careless about such matters."

"Oh, he explained that his trunks were delayed in Omaha or somewhere,
and were coming along next train. I own I was prejudiced against him,
too, but of course if he's a friend and guest of Burleigh's he--he must
be all right. He's staying with him at the depot."

"And you've got to invite them to dinner?" asked Miss Folsom, after
another pause, during which she had been thinking deeply.

"Not if you don't want it, pet. Of course they'll expect it. Army
officers are hospitable, you know, Burleigh has asked me to dine with
him a dozen times, though I've only been there once."

"Then you'll have to invite him, Daddy," was the answer, with quick
decision. "Only, just wait for a day or two. Captain Newhall was going
right out to the mines, he said, and there may be others we'd be glad to
have. Jessie's brother ought to be here any hour."

"Yes," said Folsom dubiously. "I've been thinking about him--I've been
wishing----"

But he hesitated and faltered and could not meet the deep brown eyes, so
full of searching inquiry and keen intelligence.

"You've been thinking--what, Daddy?" she asked, and now her slender
hands were on his shoulders and she was turning him so that she could
study his face. "You have been hearing something you do not wish us to
know, Daddy dear. I heard Major Burleigh say something to Mr. Loomis
about--about Lieutenant Dean, and I know Mr. Loomis did not like it, and
Jessie and I can't believe it. Father, where is he? Why doesn't he come?
Why do these--these people at the fort hem and haw and hesitate when
they speak about him? Jessie is getting so troubled."

"_I'm_ getting troubled, daughter," answered Folsom impulsively. "I
never met a likelier young fellow or one that promised to make a better
officer. He may be all right, too, only it isn't so much what they _do_
say as what they don't say that troubles me. Burleigh here and old
Stevens out at the fort and one or two others I've asked about him.
Burleigh says he 'lost his nerve' when they met Red Cloud's big band. A
boy might be excused for that so long as he didn't misbehave. It was big
responsibility for a young lieutenant. But these people, as you speak of
them out at the fort, really know very little about Dean. Burleigh says
he's in a position that enables him to know so much more about the
character and habits of the young officers."

"Surely he can say nothing against Mr. Dean!" exclaimed Pappoose,
looking up with quick indignation in her brown eyes. "No one knows how
good and generous he has been to Jessie and his mother."

They were standing at the moment in the corner of the library farthest
from the doorway. The front windows opened to the north, giving a fine
view of the rolling hills rising higher and higher and looking down upon
the grass-grown slopes spread out at their feet, criss-crossed and
traversed by hard-beaten roads and trails. Immediately in front of the
house Folsom had seeded and watered and coaxed into semblance of a lawn
the best turf to be had in that section of Wyoming, and inclosed it in a
spick and span white picket fence. The main road between the fort and
the railway station passed directly in front of his gate. The side
window of the cozy room looked out to the west over the valley of a
rushing stream, once rich in trout, but now much infested by the mules
from Burleigh's corral, which lay half a mile away to the southeast, out
of sight of Folsom's house except from the upper windows. Eager to stock
the library with standard works against his daughter's coming, the old
trader had consulted a friend among the officers and had sent a lavish
order to a house in Chicago. Books, therefore, were there in plenty on
the handsome shelves, and they were not ill-chosen either, but it was
Mrs. Fletcher who pointed out how stiff and angular everything looked,
who introduced the easy lounge, the soft rugs, the heavy hanging
portières of costly Navajo blankets. It was her deft touch that draped
the curtains at the windows and softened and beautified the lines the
hand of man would have left crude and repellent. And that library had
been her favorite haunt; but since the coming of the girls Mrs. Fletcher
had seemed to retire to her own room aloft, and to spend no time below
stairs that was not demanded by her household duties. Now as the father
and daughter were talking earnestly together, they heard Mrs. Fletcher
moving about overhead as though looking over the work of the housemaid.
Jessie had gone to her own room to write a short letter to her mother.
Major Burleigh was to come at 10.30 to drive them out to Pinnacle Butte,
a sharp, rocky height far across the valley, from the summit of which a
wonderful view was to be obtained. It lacked but five minutes of the
time and suddenly Mrs. Fletcher's voice was heard on the floor above. It
was a well-modulated voice, gentle and controlled, with a clear, vibrant
ring in it that made the words distinctly audible to the hearers below.

"The major's carriage is coming up the street, Miss Dean. There are two
officers."

"Two!" exclaimed Jess, starting to her feet, thinking only of her
brother. "Oh! I wonder if--" And then they heard her go pit-a-pat
through the hall to the front of the house, heard Mrs. Fletcher more
deliberately follow, heard presently the beat of horses' hoofs on the
hard roadway, and the whir of coining wheels. "I'll go out to meet them,
Elinor--I'll--I'll talk to you more about this some other time. You
don't care to go on this ride this morning one bit, do you dear?" he
added uneasily.

"No, father; frankly, I don't--but he has been polite to you and
attentive to us. There's no help for it."

And so Folsom went alone to the door to meet his visitors on the porch
without, and did not hear, did not see Mrs. Fletcher, who came hastily
down the stairs, her face singularly pale, a glitter of excitement in
her eyes. On tiptoe she hastened along the broad hall, reaching the
library door just as Folsom stepped out on the porch. On tiptoe she
darted in, closed the door behind her, almost rushed to the north
window, and there grasping the curtain she crouched, heedless of the
possibility of observation, and for half a minute clung and crouched and
stared. Then, as Folsom's genial, powerful voice was heard in welcoming
accents, and heavy footsteps came along the broad board walk, the woman
straightened suddenly and, noiseless as before, hurried back across the
room and came face to face with the daughter of the house.

"Oh, Miss Folsom!" she faltered, her bosom heaving in violent agitation.
"I did not know you were here. I--excuse me--" and hastened out of the
room and up the winding stairs.

"Pappoose" never hesitated. Coolly, quickly, she stepped to the window.
Major Burleigh had just reached the top step and was exchanging greeting
with his host. The stylish team and glistening wagon were just spinning
away.

"It'll be back in five minutes," she, heard the quartermaster explain to
her father. "Newhall has to meet come people coming in by stage from
Green River. I thought I'd rather spend the time here."

And on the back seat, affably waving his hand in adieu, and jauntily
lifting his rakish forage cap in salutation general to any of the young
ladies who might be watching, sat the gentleman whose regiment was in
Louisiana while he was up here on leave looking after mining
investments.



CHAPTER X.


"Three mortal hours," said Miss Folsom to her fond little school friend
and chum that afternoon, "have I had to sit or stroll with or listen to
Major Burleigh. I never once was able to enjoy the view. What made him
hurry us away from the northeast point, do you suppose?"

"Did you notice that, Nell? I did, too, and I was so interested in the
view. Away up toward Laramie Peak I could see something through the
glasses that looked like a lot of little ants crawling along together.
It was just after that--just after we looked through the glass, that he
marched us round to the other side. The view toward Green River isn't
half as pretty."

"And now he's telling some interminable story to father over their
cigars. What shall we do if he hangs on? Father will have to ask him to
drive with us to the fort, and there won't be room."

"Unless Mrs. Fletcher gives up her seat," said Jessie demurely.

"Mrs. Fletcher isn't going. A very different person takes her seat
to-day, Jess. Father left a note for Mr. Loomis at the hotel and he
accepted. Now you see why I don't want Major Burleigh."

It was then long after three o'clock. At five they were to start and
Jessie could hardly curb her impatience. The mail from Frayne, so said
Folsom, would arrive that evening, and then surely there would be news
of Marshall. They had slipped away to their rooms after the bountiful
luncheon served on their return, in order, as "Pappoose" expressed it,
that the gentlemen might have t­heir cigars in peace. Mrs. Fletcher,
after seeing that everything was prepared, had directed the servant to
say to Mr. Folsom, on the return of the party, that she would prefer not
to appear, and would be glad to keep her room, as she did not feel it at
all necessary for the housekeeper to meet strangers, and Folsom felt a
sense of relief. It was so much sweeter not to have any presiding genius
other than Pappoose, not that he was forgetful of Mrs. Fletcher's merits
and services--which were great--but it was plain to see that his
daughter would have been happier had no such office existed as that
created for this deserving and destitute widow. At three Miss Folsom had
gone and tapped at the lady's door--her room was in the third story
overlooking the street--and was very civilly assured that Mrs. Fletcher
stood in need of nothing, but, being wearied, she would like a little
sleep. No, she did not even care for a cup of tea. Yet Elinor felt
confident that the voice that replied to her inquiries came neither from
the bed nor the lounge, but from the direction of the front window.

At three the cigars were smoked out and the host and his guest were in
the library. It was Folsom's custom, when a possible thing, to take a
brief nap after the midday meal, and Elinor felt sure he would be glad
of the opportunity now, if Burleigh would only go, but Burleigh
wouldn't. In monotonous monologue his voice came floating up to the
second floor, drowsy, unbroken in its soporific flow, and the girls
themselves, after the morning's drive in the clear, bracing air, felt as
though forty winks would be a blessing. Could it be that Burleigh
lingered on in hopes of their reappearance below? Might it not be that
if relief came not speedily Papa Folsom would yield to the spell and
fall asleep in his easy-chair? Was it not Miss Folsom's duty to descend
and take the burden of entertainment off those elder shoulders? These
thoughts oppressed the girl, and starting up, she cried:

"It's simply wicked of me staying here and letting poor papa be bored to
death. Do come down, Jess, dear, unless you're dreadfully sleepy. He
acts just as though he intended never to go."

And Jess promised reluctantly to come down in ten minutes, if he didn't
leave; but she hated him, and had hated him ever since he spoke so of
Marshall in the car three days before.

The upper hall had been quite dark when Miss Folsom went up to inquire
how Mrs. Fletcher was just after luncheon. The door to her little room
was tightly closed. The blinds in all the other rooms aloft were drawn
against the glare of the sunshine in the cloudless atmosphere; yet now,
as Pappoose stepped suddenly out upon the landing, she was surprised to
see that the upper floor was much lighter than when she went up half an
hour earlier. The maid had not gone thither from the kitchen, and Mrs.
Fletcher wished to doze. Who, then, could have opened both blind and
door and let in that flood of light? Impulsively the active girl flew up
the winding stairs to the third story, and some one suddenly withdrew
from the balcony rail, and an instant later, as Miss Folsom reached the
top, all became dark again. Mrs. Fletcher's door had unquestionably been
open, and was now shut to. She must have been out there listening, and
gravely the young girl asked herself what it meant--Mrs. Fletcher's
agitation in the library that morning as she peered out at the major's
wagon; her absence from luncheon on account, as she pleaded, of not
desiring to appear when company was present; and now, despite her desire
to sleep, her vigil at the third-floor landing, where she was surely
listening to the sounds from below.

Pondering over the facts, Elinor Folsom slowly retraced her steps and
went downstairs. She reached the library none too soon. Old John's eyes
were closed, and he was slowly toppling, over come with sleep. The sound
of her cheery voice aroused him, and he started, guilty and crestfallen.

Burleigh's heavy face brightened visibly at her coming. He cared no more
for music than does a cat, but eagerly followed her across the broad
hall into the parlor when she suggested showing him the beautiful piano
papa had given her; and old John, blessing her, lurched for the sofa,
buried his hot head in a pillow, and was asleep in ten seconds. Major
Burleigh was alone with the lovely daughter of the veteran trader. He
was a man of the world; she an unsophisticated girl just out of
school--so said Burleigh, albeit a most charming one; and he, who had
monopolized her time the entire morning, bore down once more upon his
prize.

She had seated herself at the piano, and her long, taper fingers were
rippling over the keys. She knew full well he did not care what she
played, and as for herself she did not care just then to play at all.
She was thinking of his insinuation at Marshall Dean's expense. She was
still pondering over Mrs. Fletcher's stealthy scrutiny of the
quartermaster's team. On these two accounts, and no other, he was
possessed of certain interest in Elinor's dark-brown eyes, and they were
studying him coolly, searchingly, as he drew a chair near the piano
stool, and seated himself and met her look with a broad, encouraging
smile.

Trill and ripple, ripple and trill her white fingers raced over the
keyboard.

"I'm sure you know this waltz, major," she was saying. "They played it
beautifully at the Point two summers ago."

"I--ah, yes, it's a charming composition--charming, though I don't
recall it's name just now."

"This? why it's one of Godfrey's--'The Hilda,' don't you know? I'm sure
you waltz, major."

"I--ah, used to, yes. I was very fond of a waltz," answered Burleigh,
whose best efforts in that line could result in nothing better than a
waddle. "But of late years I--I--since my bereavement--have practically
withdrawn from society." Then, with a languishing smile, he added, "I
shall be tempted to re-enter the list now," and the major drew his chair
nearer by full an inch, and prepared to be further "killing."

"Jessie dances divinely," said Miss Folsom. "She simply floats round a
room. You should see her waltz with her brother, Major Burleigh. They
might be waltzing here this very minute if he were only home. What can
have detained him, do you think?"

"I wish I knew," said the quartermaster slowly. "It makes those who
are--ah--his friends, you know, anxious in more ways than one, because
there is--er--nothing to warrant delay--nothing to--excuse it. He
should, in fact, have been at his post, where his troop is sorely
needed, full four days ago," and Burleigh looked heavy with portent.

"Is it not possible that he has found something along the lower
Laramie--something where his troop is needed much more than here doing
stable guard?"

"How can it be possible?" said Burleigh. "The only thing to warrant his
delay would be Indians, and there are none south of the Platte; or horse
thieves, and they hung the last of the gang three months ago. Mr. Dean,
I--ah--regret to say, is fonder of fishing and hunting than of his
legitimate duties, and this, I fear, is why he is not here to welcome
his sister."

The piano went rippling on, but the brown eyes kept up their steady
gaze. In the deep bass chords now her slender fingers were entangled.
Slowly and thoughtfully the rich melody swung in the proud waltz rhythm
through the airy room and floated out upon the summer breeze. A little
line was setting deep between the dark, arching eyebrows, a symptom
Pappoose's schoolmates had learned to note as a signal for danger, but
Burleigh knew her not, as yet.

"It is odd," said she dreamily, "that at the Point the officers spoke so
highly of Mr. Dean, and here you seem to think so differently of him. It
is a deep disappointment to his sister that he is not here; but, do you
know, major, we were saying only this morning before you came that there
was some excellent reason for his delay, and we'd know it within another
day."

"Oh, ah--er--of course I hope so. I think, pardon me, that that must be
a messenger from my office now," for spurred boot-heels were coming
briskly up the wooden walk. There was a bounding step on the piazza, a
ring at the bell. The servant bustled through the hall and threw open
the door. It was not a messenger from the depot, but a stalwart,
sunburnt man in rough ranch garb, who whipped off his broad-brimmed hat
and stood abashed within the hall as he asked for Mr. Folsom.

And all of a sudden over went the piano-stool with a crash, and out into
the hall, joyous, bounding, light as a fairy, a vision of dark, girlish
beauty, went Pappoose.

"Why, Ned Lannion!" she cried, as she seized the swarthy young fellow's
hands and shook them up and down "Don't you know me--Winona that used to
be? Why, how well you look! When did you leave the ranch? How did you
leave them? Is Hal here--or coming?"

And at sound of her voice old Folsom had started up from his sofa and
came trotting out into the hall, just roused from his sleep, and
blinking a bit as he, too, held forth cordial, welcoming hands. It was a
moment before they could let Ned tell his story, and then it came by
jerks.

"We left there early yesterday morning, mum. They're all well now, 'cept
Jake, and he'll come out all right, but we had a close call. A war party
of Sioux jumped as Wednesday afternoon, and they'd a got away with us
but for Lieutenant Dean and his troop. They come along just in time----"

"Ned!" gasped Elinor, "you don't mean they attacked the ranch?"

"No'me. We was down the Lar'mie--rounding up horses. There was a dozen
bucks in the party. It's the first time they've come across in a year
that I know of, and they won't be apt to try it again. We shot two of
'em and the cavalry drove 'em a running fight, so hard that they had to
leave one of their wounded behind them. He died in a minute. It
was--" and then Ned Lannion gulped and stumbled and choked in
embarrassment.

"Who was it?" demanded Mr. Folsom, his rugged face pale and twitching,
his eyes full of anxiety.

"Chaska, sir. _You_ know."

Folsom gripped him by the shoulder. "And Burning Star--did you see him?
Was he there?"

"Yes, sir; but those boys of Lieutenant Dean's gave them a lickin'
they'll never forget. The ranch is safe as if it was here in Gate City,
only Hal he couldn't come himself, and he knowed you'd be anxious for
full particulars, so he sent me in with the cavalry. They're out at the
fort now."

"Jessie!" cried Elinor, in delight that overmastered the emotion with
which she had listened to the tale of her brother's recent peril.
Marshall's here--almost home. It's just as we said, Jess. Do come down.
He was there just in time to save my brother's life--to drive the
Indians back to the river. Come quick--I want to hug you!" And her dark
eyes, flashing with joy and excitement, danced full upon the bulky form
of the major, slowly issuing from the parlor door, then beyond as she
went bounding by him, all eagerness to clasp her bonny friend in her
arms, and shower her with congratulations. And so it happened that both
the girls were at the rear of the hall entwined in each other's arms at
the foot of the stairs when the ranchman answered Folsom's next
question, and then broke out with the abrupt announcement, "I never see
a young officer handle his men better. We'd all been in hell by this
time if it wasn't for him, yet, by God, sir, the moment he got into the
post they clapped him in arrest."



CHAPTER XI.


That evening, when John Folsom, half an hour earlier than the stipulated
time, drove the girls and their friend, Lieutenant Loomis, out to the
fort, Major Burleigh was left to his own devices, and his face plainly
showed that he was far from pleased with the way things were going. The
news that Marshall Dean had been placed in arrest by order of the
commanding officer of Fort Emory, following as it did close on the heels
of the tidings of that young officer's prompt and soldierly handling of
the crisis at the ranch, made Folsom boil over with wrath. His first
word was one of caution, however. "Hush!" he said, "Speak low. Yonder
stands his sister. The girls must not know yet." Then, leading the way
into the library and closing the door behind them, he demanded all
particulars Lannion could give him, which were few enough.

"The lieutenant halted the troop outside the post," said the indignant
ranchman, "had it dismount there while he rode on in to report to the
commanding officer for instructions. The colonel was taking his nap
after lunch, and the adjutant was at the office, and what does he do but
get up from his desk solemn-like, and when the lieutenant says 'I report
the arrival of Troop "C" at the post, sir,' the adjutant didn't answer a
word, but reached out and got his sabre and began buckling it around
him, and then he put on his cap and gloves, and says he, 'Lieutenant
Dean, I'm sorry, but my instructions are to place you in close arrest,
by order of Colonel Stevens.' Why, you could have knocked me down with
the kick of a gopher I was so dumfounded! The lieutenant he didn't say
anything for a minute, but turned white and looked like he could have
knocked the top of the adjutant's head off. 'An officer will be sent to
take charge of the troop,' said the adjutant, 'an' I suppose you'd
better confine yourself to your tent, as the colonel means to have them
camp there a day or two, until he hears from Captain Brooks as to
quarters.' 'Well, will you have the goodness to say what charges have
been laid against me?' said Mr. Dean, and the adjutant hemmed, and
hawed, and 'lowed that the colonel hadn't formerly drawn 'em up yet, but
that a copy would be served on him as soon as they were ready."

"Then I said I'd go right in and find you, and that's all I know."

And then it was that Folsom turned on Burleigh, with gloom in his eye,
and said: "By the Eternal, Major Burleigh, I hope you've had nothing to
do with this!"

"Nothing in the world, I assure you, Mr. Folsom, I--I deeply regret it.
Though, as I have told you, I can hardly be surprised, after what has
been said, and--d what I have seen." But the major could not squarely
meet the gaze in the keen eyes of the old trader, nor could the latter
conceal his suspicions. "I know you wish to hear all the particulars of
the affair at the ranch from this gentleman," said the major uneasily,
"so I will leave you with him for the present," and backing out into the
hall he turned to the foot of the winding staircase where Elinor had met
her friend. The girls were still there, their faces clouded with
surprise and anxiety. It was an opportunity not to be lost.

"Pray do not be troubled, Miss Folsom," said Burleigh, advancing upon
them with outstretched hand, "er, Mr. Folsom merely wants to hear
further details from Lannion. I wish to extend my congratulations to you
and, ah, this young lady, first upon the fortunate escape of _your_
brother," and he bowed over his distended stomach to Elinor, "and second
upon the part played by _yours_," and he repeated the bow to Jess, who,
however, shrank away from the extended hand. "It will go far to
counteract the stories that I--ah, er--believe you know about--that were
in circulation, and most unjustly, doubtless, at--er--his expense."

"Who put them in circulation, Major Burleigh?" asked Pappoose, her brown
eyes studying his face as unflinchingly as had her father's gaze a
moment before.

"That, my dear young lady I--er--cannot surmise. They are mostly
imaginative, I dare say."

But Miss Folsom looked unmollified, Miss Dean agitated, and Burleigh
himself had many a reason for feeling ill at ease. Just at the time of
all others when he most desired to stand on good terms with the
well-to-do old trader and his charming daughter he found himself the
object of distrust. He was thinking hard and far from hopefully as a
moment later he hastened down the street.

"Tell them to send up my buggy, quick," were his orders as he stepped
within his office doorway. Then lowering his voice, "Has Captain Newhall
returned?" he asked the chief clerk.

"The captain was here, sir. Left word he needed to take the first
train--freight or construction, it made no difference--to Cheyenne and
expected to find a letter or package from you, and there's two telegrams
in from Department Headquarters on your desk, sir."

The major turned thither with solemn face, and read them both, his back
to his subordinate, his face to the light, and growing grayer every
moment. One was a curt notification that ten thousand dollars would be
needed at once at Warrior Gap to pay contractors and workmen, and
directing him to send the amount from the funds in his keeping. The
other read as follows:

"Have all transportation put in readiness for immediate field service.
Every wheel may be needed."

This he tossed carelessly aside. Over the first he pondered deeply, his
yellow-white face growing dark and haggard.

Ten thousand dollars to be sent at once to Warrior Gap! Workmen's pay!
Who could have predicted that? Who could have given such an order? Who
would have imagined payment would have to be made before July, when some
reasonable amount of work had been done? What could laborers do with
their money up there, even if they had it? It was preposterous! It was
risky to attempt to send it. But what was infinitely worse--for him--it
was impossible. The money was practically already gone, but--not to
Warrior Gap.

Those were days when inspectors' visits were like those of other angels,
few and far between. The railway was only just finished across the great
divide of the Black Hills of Wyoming. Only as far as Cheyenne was there
a time schedule for trains, and that--far more honored in the breach
than the observance. Passengers bound west of that sinfully thriving
town were luckier, as a rule, if they went by stage. Those were days,
too, in which a depot quartermaster with a drove of government mules and
a corral full of public vehicles at his command was a monarch in the
eyes of the early settlers; and when, added to these high-priced
luxuries, he had on deposit in various banks from Chicago to Cheyenne,
and even here at Gate City, thousands of dollars in government
greenbacks expendible on his check for all manner of purposes, from
officers' mileage accounts to the day laborer's wages, from bills for
the roofing of barracks and quarters to the setting of a single
horseshoe, from the purchase of forage and fuel for the dozen military
posts within range of his supply trains down to a can of axle grease.
Every one knew Burleigh's horses and habits were far more costly than
his pay would permit. Everybody supposed he had big returns from mines
and stocks and other investments. Nobody knew just what his investments
were, and only he knew how few they were and how unprofitable they had
become. Those were days when, as now, disbursing officers were forbidden
to gamble, but when, not as now, the law was a dead letter. Burleigh had
gambled for years; had, with little remorse, ruined more than one man,
and yet stood now awe-stricken and dismayed and wronged by Fate, since
luck had turned at last against him. Large sums had been lost to players
inexorable as he himself had been. Large sums had been diverted from the
government channels in his charge, some to pay his so-called debts of
honor, some to cover abstractions from other funds, "robbing Peter to
pay Paul," some to silence people who knew too much; some, ay, most of
it, in fact, to cover margins, and once money gets started on that grade
it slips through one's fingers like quicksilver. At the very moment when
Anson Burleigh's envious cronies were telling each other he stood far
ahead of the world, the figures were telling him he stood some twenty
thousand dollars behind it, and that, too, when he was confronted by two
imperative calls for spot cash, one for ten thousand to go to Warrior
Gap, another for a sum almost as big to "stake" a man who never yet had
turned an honest penny, yet held the quartermaster where he dare not say
so--where indeed he dare not say no.

"If you haven't it you know where you can get it--where you have often
got it before, and where you'd better get it before it's too late;"
these were words said to him that very morning, in tones so low that
none but he could bear; yet they were ringing in his head now like the
boom of some tolling bell. Time was when he had taken government money
and turned it into handsome profit through the brokers of San Francisco
and Chicago. But, as Mr. John Oakhurst remarked, "There's only one thing
certain about luck, and that is it's bound to change," and change it
had, and left him face to face with calamity and dishonor. Where was he
to raise the ten thousand dollars that must be sent to the post
quartermaster at Warrior Gap? The end of the fiscal year was close at
hand. He dare not further divert funds from one appropriation to cover
shortages in another. He could borrow from the banks, with a good
endorser, but what endorser was there good enough but John Folsom?--the
last man now whom he could bear to have suspect that he was in straits.
Folsom was reported to be worth two hundred thousand dollars, and that
lovely girl would inherit half his fortune. There lived within his
circle no man, no woman in whose esteem Burleigh so longed to stand
high, and he had blundered at the start. Damn that young cub who dared
to lecture him on the evils of poker! Was a boy lieutenant to shame him
before officers of the general's staff and expect to go unwhipped? Was
that butt-headed subaltern to be the means of ruining his prospects
right here and now when he stood so sorely in need of aid? Was the devil
himself in league against him, that that boy's sister should turn out to
be the closest friend old Folsom's daughter ever had--a girl to whom
father and daughter both were devoted, and through her were doubtless
interested in the very man he had been plotting to pull down? Burleigh
savagely ground his teeth together.

"Go and hurry that buggy," he ordered, as he crushed the sheet of paper
on which he had been nervously figuring. Then, springing up, he began
pacing his office with impatient stride. A clerk glanced quickly up from
his desk, watched him one moment with attentive eye, and looked
significantly at his neighbor. "Old man's getting worse rattled every
day," was the comment, as the crash of wheels through loose gravel
announced the coming of the buggy, and Burleigh hastened out, labored
into his seat, and took the whip and reins. The blooded mare in the
shafts darted forward at the instant, but he gathered and drew her in,
the nervous creature almost settling on her haunches.

"Say to Captain Newhall when he gets back-that I'll see him this
evening," called Burleigh over his shoulder. "Now, damn you, _go_--if
you want to!" and the lash fell on the glistening, quivering flank, and
with her head pointed for the hard, open prairie, the pretty creature
sped like mad over the smooth roadway and whirled the light buggy out
past the scattered wooden tenements of the exterior limits of the
frontier town--the tall white staff, tipped by its patch of color
flapping in the mountain breeze, and the dingy wooden buildings on the
distant bluff whirling into view as he spun around the corner where the
village lost itself in the prairie; and there, long reaches ahead of
him, just winding up the ascent to the post was a stylish team and trap.
John Folsom and the girls had taken an early start and got ahead of him.

Old Stevens was up and about as Folsom's carriage drove swiftly through
the garrison and passed straight out by the northeast gate. "I'll be
back to see you in a moment," shouted the old driver smilelessly, as he
shot by the lonely colonel, going, papers in hand to his office, and
Stevens well knew he was in for trouble. Already the story was blazing
about the post that nothing but the timely arrival of Dean and his men
had saved Folsom's ranch, and Folsom's people. Already the men,
wondering and indignant at their young leader's arrest, were shouting
over the sutler's bar their pæans in his praise, and their denunciation
of his treatment. Over the meeting of sister and brother at the latter's
little tent let us draw a veil. He stepped forth in a moment and bade
his other visitors welcome, shook hands eagerly with Loomis and urged
their coming in, but he never passed from under the awning or "fly," and
Folsom well knew the reason.

"Jump out, daughter," he said to Pappoose, and Loomis assisted her to
alight and led her straight up to Dean, and for the first time in those
two years the ex-cadet captain and the whilom little schoolgirl with the
heavy braids of hair looked into each other's eyes, and in Dean's there
was amaze and at least momentary delight. He still wore his field rig,
and the rent in the dark-blue flannel shirt was still apparent. He was
clasping Miss Folsom's hand and looking straight into the big dark eyes
that were so unusually soft and humid, when Jessie's voice was heard as
she came springing forth from the tent:

"Look, Nell, look! Your picture!" she cried, as with the bullet-marked
_carte de visite_ in her hand she flitted straight to her friend.

"Why, where did this come from?" asked Miss Folsom in surprise, "and
what's happened to it?--all creased and black there!" Then both the
girls and Loomis looked to him for explanation, while Folsom drove away,
and even through the bronze and tan the boy was blushing.

"I--borrowed it for a minute--at the ranch just as Jake came in wounded,
and there was no time to return it, you know. We had to gallop right
out."

"Then--you had it with you in the Indian fight?" cried Jess, in
thrilling excitement. "Really? Oh, Nell! How I wish it were mine. But
how'd it get so blackened there--and crushed? You haven't told us."

"Tell you some other time, Jess. Don't crowd a fellow," he laughed. But
when his eyes stole their one quick glance at Elinor, standing there in
silence, he saw the color creeping up like sunset glow all over her
beautiful face as she turned quickly away. Lannion had told them of the
close shave the lieutenant had had and the havoc played by that bullet
in the breast pocket of his hunting shirt.



CHAPTER XII.


Meantime "Old Peeksniff," as commentators of the day among the graceless
subs were won't to call Colonel Stevens, was having his bad quarter of
an hour. Leaving his team with the orderly, John Folsom had stamped into
his presence unannounced, and after his own vigorous fashion opened the
ball as follows:

"Stevens, what in the devil has that young fellow done to deserve
arrest?"

"Oh, ah, shut the door, Mr. Adjutant," said the commanding officer,
apprehensively, to his staff officer, "and--d I desire to confer with
Mr. Folsom a moment," whereat the adjutant took the hint and then hied
himself out of the room.

"Now, ah, in the first place, Mr. Folsom this is rather a long and--d
painful story. I'm--m--ah, ah--in a peculiar position."

"For God's sake talk like a man and not like Burleigh," broke in the old
trader impulsively. "I've known you off and on over twenty years, and
you never used to talk in this asinine way until you got to running with
him. Come right to the point--What crime is young Dean charged with?
Those girls of mine will have to know it. They will know he's in arrest.
What can I tell them?"

"Crime--ah--is hardly the word, Folsom. There has been a
misunderstanding of orders, in short, and he was placed under arrest
before--ah--before I had been furnished with a mass of information that
should have been sent to me before."

"Well, what fault is that of his? See here, man, you don't mean to say
it is because he didn't get here three days ago? That's no crime, and I
haven't knocked around with the army the last forty years not to know
the regulations in such matters. Do you mean without ever hearing what
kept him and what splendid, spirited service he rendered there along the
Laramie, that you've humiliated that fine young fellow and put him in
arrest?"

Pecksniff whirled around in his chair. "Really now, Mr. Folsom, I can't
permit you to instruct me in my military duties. You have no conception
of the way in which I've been ignored and misled in this matter. There
are collateral circumstances brought about, er--forced on me in fact, by
injudicious friends of this young man, and he--he must blame them--he
must blame them, not me. Now if you'll permit me to glance over this
mass of matter, I can the sooner do justice in the premises." And over
his goggles the colonel looked pleadingly up into his visitor's irate
features.

"Read all you like, but be quick about it," was the angry rejoinder. "I
want to take that boy back with me to town and confront him with one of
his accusers this very day--the man I believe, by the ghost of Jim
Bridger, is at the bottom of the whole business!" and Folsom flopped
heavily and disgustedly into a chair, at sound of a rap at the door,
which opened an inch and the adjutant's nose became visible at the
crack.

"Major Burleigh, sir, would like to see you."

"And I'd like to see Major Burleigh!" stormed Folsom, springing to his
feet. Commanding officers of the Stevens stamp had no terrors for him.
He had known his man too long.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" cried Pecksniff, "I can have no disturbance now
over this unfortunate matter. Really, Mr. Folsom, I cannot permit my
office to be the scene of any--of any----"

But his words wandered aimlessly away into space as he discovered he had
no listener. Folsom, finding that the major had apparently changed his
mind and was not coming in, had changed his plan and was going out. He
overtook Burleigh on the boardwalk in front and went straight to the
point.

"Major Burleigh, you told me a short time ago that you had nothing to do
with the allegations against this young gentleman who was placed in
arrest here this afternoon, yet I learn from my own daughter that you
spoke of him to a brother officer of his in terms of disparagement the
day you got aboard the car at Sidney. Mr. Loomis corroborates it and so
does Miss Dean. I've heard of two other instances of your speaking
sneeringly of him. Now I ask you as man to man what it is you have to
tell? He has saved the lives of my son, his wife and child, and the
people of the ranch, and by the Eternal I'm his friend and mean to see
justice done him!"

Burleigh listened with solemn face and with no attempt to interrupt. He
waited patiently until Folsom came to a full stop before he spoke at
all. Then his voice was eloquent of undeserved rebuke--of infinite
sympathy. "Mr. Folsom," he said, "it would be useless for me to deny
that before I knew your charming daughter or her--ah--very interesting
friend I did speak in their presence--ah--incautiously, perhaps, of Mr.
Dean, but it was in continuance of a conversation begun before we
boarded the car, and what I said was more in sorrow than in criticism.
The young gentleman had attracted my attention--my
favorable--ah--opinion on the up trip to the Big Horn, and I
was--ah--simply disappointed in his conduct on the way back. It was
perhaps due to--ah--inexperience only, and my whole object in coming
here in haste this afternoon was to bear testimony to his ability and
zeal as a troop commander, and to urge--ah--Colonel Stevens to
reconsider his action and restore him at once to duty. I had hoped, sir,
to be here--ah--ahead of you and to have driven him in my buggy--ah--to
meet you, but I am disappointed--I am disappointed in more ways than
one."

Folsom stood and wiped his streaming face, and looked the speaker square
in the eye, and Burleigh stood the scrutiny with unlooked-for nerve.
Long years at the poker-table had given him command of his features, and
the faculty of appearing the personification of serene confidence in his
"hand," when the twitching of a nerve might cost a thousand dollars.
Folsom was no match for him in such a game. Little by little the anger
and suspicion faded from his eyes, and a shame-faced look crept into
them. Had he really so misjudged, so wronged this gentleman? Certainly
there was every appearance of genuine sympathy and feeling in Burleigh's
benevolent features. Certainly he was here almost as soon as he himself
had come, and very possibly for the same purpose. It was all that old
fool Pecksniff's doing after all. Folsom had known him for years and
always as more or less of an ass--a man of so little judgment that,
though a major in the line at the outbreak of the war, he had never been
trusted with a command in the field, and here he was now a full colonel
with only three companies left him. Burleigh saw his bluff was telling,
and he took courage.

"Come with me," he said, "and let me reassure you," and the doors of the
commanding officer's sanctum opened at once to the omnipotent disburser
of government good things, Folsom following at his heels. "Colonel
Stevens," he began, the moment he was inside, and before the colonel
could speak at all, "in a moment of exasperation and extreme
nervous--ah--depression the night I--er--started East so hurriedly
after a most exhausting journey from the Big Horn, I spoke disparagingly
of the action of Lieutenant Dean in face of the Indians the day we met
Red Cloud's band, but on mature reflection I am convinced I misjudged
him. I have been thinking it all over. I recall how vigilant and dutiful
he was at all times, and my object in hurrying out here to-day,
at--ah--almost the instant I heard of his arrest, was to put in the best
words I could think of in his behalf--to--ah--urge you to reconsider
your action, especially in view of all the--e--ah--encomiums passed upon
his conduct in this recent raid on the Laramie."

The colonel whirled around upon him as he had on Folsom. "Major
Burleigh," he began, "I call you to witness that I am the most abused
man in the army. Here am I, sir, thirty-five years in service, a full
colonel, with a war record with the regulars that should command
respect, absolutely ignored by these mushroom generals at Omaha and
elsewhere--stripped of my command and kept in ignorance of the movements
of my subordinates. Why, sir," he continued, lashing himself on, as he
rose from his chair, "here's my junior at Frayne giving orders to my
troop, sir; presumes to send them scouting the Laramie bottoms, when
every man is needed here, and then, when, as it happens, my officer and
his men get into a fight and drive the Indians, to whom does he report,
sir? Not to me, sir--not to his legitimate commander, but he sends
couriers to Laramie and to Frayne, and ignores me entirely."

A light dawned on Burleigh in an instant. Well he knew that Dean's
reasons for sending couriers to those guard posts of the Platte were to
warn them that a war party had crossed into their territory, and was now
in flight. There was nothing to be gained by sending a man galloping
back to the line of the railway seventy-five miles to the rear--no
earthly reason for his doing so. But the fact that he had sent runners
to officers junior in rank to Stevens, and had not sent one to him,
fairly "stuck in the crop" of the captious old commander, and he had
determined to give the youngster a lesson. But now the mail was in, and
dispatches from various quarters, and a telegram from Omaha directing
him to convey to Lieutenant Dean the thanks and congratulations of the
general commanding the department, who had just received full
particulars by wire from Cheyenne, and Stevens was glad enough to drop
the game, and Burleigh equally glad of this chance to impress Folsom
with the sense of his influence, as well as of his justice.

"I admit all you say, colonel. I have long--ah--considered you most
unfairly treated, but really--ah--in this case of Lieutenant Dean's, it
is, as I said before, inexperience and--ah--the result of-ah--er--not
unnatural loss of--er--balance at a most exciting time. A word
of--ah--admonition, if you will pardon my suggestion, all he probably
needs, for he has really behaved very well--ah--surprisingly well in
conducting this--ah--pursuit."

And so was it settled that later the colonel was to see Mr. Dean, and
admonish accordingly, but that meantime the adjutant should go and
whisper in his ear that his arrest was ended, and all would be explained
later, thereby releasing him before the girls discovered the fact that
he was confined to his tent.

But the adjutant came too late. The tearful eyes of one, the flushed and
anxious faces of both damsels, and the set look in the eyes of both the
young officers at Dean's tent, as the adjutant approached, told him the
cat was out of the bag. "The explanation cannot be made too promptly for
me, sir," said Dean, as he received the colonel's message and permitted
the adjutant to depart without presenting him to the two prettiest girls
he had seen in a year. "Now, Loomis, just as quick as possible I want
you to go with me to that man Burleigh. I'll cram his words down his
throat."

"Hush, Dean, of course, I'll stand by you! But--both girls are looking.
Wait until to-morrow."

How many a project for the morrow is dwarfed or drowned by events
unlooked for--unsuspected at the time! Not ten minutes later Folsom and
Burleigh came strolling together to the little tent. Ashamed of his
apparently unjust accusation, Folsom had begged the quartermaster's
pardon and insisted on his coming with him and seeing the young people
before driving back to town. The horses were being groomed at the picket
line. The western sun was low. Long shadows were thrown out over the
sward and the air was full of life and exhilaration. The somber fears
that had oppressed the quartermaster an hour earlier were retiring
before a hope that then he dare not entertain.

"You--you stood by me like a trump, Burleigh," old Folsom was saying,
"even after I'd abused you like a thief. If I can ever do you a good
turn don't you fail to let me know."

And Burleigh was thinking then and there how desperately in need of a
good turn he stood that minute. What if Folsom would back him? What
if----

But as they came in full view of the picket line beyond the row of
tents, the major's eagerly searching gaze was rewarded by a sight that
gave him sudden pause. Halted and examining with almost professional
interest the good points of a handsome little bay, Lieutenant Loomis and
Jessie Dean were in animated chat. Halted and facing each other, he with
glowing admiration in his frank blue eyes, she with shy pleasure in her
joyous face, Dean and Elinor Folsom stood absorbed in some reminiscence
of which he was talking eagerly. Neither saw the coming pair. Neither
heard the rapid beat of bounding hoofs nearing them in eager haste.
Neither noted that a horseman reined in, threw himself from saddle and
handed Burleigh a telegraphic message which, with trembling hands, he
opened and then read with starting eyes.

"My heaven, Folsom!" he cried. "I ought to have known something was
coming when I got orders to have every mule and wheel ready.
Everything's to be rushed to the Big Horn at once. Just as you
predicted, Red Cloud's band has broken loose. There's been a devil of a
fight not eighty miles from Frayne!"



CHAPTER XIII.


And now indeed came for Marshall Dean a time in which he could see a
divided duty. A camp of woodchoppers in one of the deep, sequestered
valleys of the mountains had been suddenly set upon by a host of mounted
Indians that seemed, like the warriors born of the dragon's teeth, to
spring up from the earth, and yelling like fiends bore down upon the
little guard. Happily for the woodchoppers, but unluckily for Lo, the
commander was a cool-headed veteran of the late war who had listened
time and again to yells as frantic and had withstood charge after charge
ten times as determined. Most unluckily for Lo the infantry company was
armed with the new Springfield breech-loader, and when the band came
exultantly on, having, as they supposed, drawn the fire when full four
hundred yards away, they were confounded by the lively crackle and
sputter of rifles along the timber in front of them, toppling many a
dashing warrior to earth and strewing the ground with slaughtered
ponies. That charge failed, but they rallied in furious force. There
were only forty soldiers: they had five hundred braves, so on they came
again from three different points, and again did Powell's sheltered blue
coats scatter them like red autumn leaves before the storm. Thrice and
four times did they essay to stampede the soldiers and sweep off their
own dead and wounded, and each time were they soundly thrashed, thanks
to cool courage and the new breech-loaders. And Red Cloud, cursing his
medicine men, drew off his baffled braves and the hills that night
resounded to their vengeful war-whoops and echoed back the wailing of
the Indian women mourning over the slain. "All well enough so far,
lads," cried Folsom, when he heard the news. "Machpealota is unmasked.
It's war to the knife now, so for God's sake send all the troops you can
muster to the aid of those already up there in the Big Horn. Next time
he hits he'll have all the Northern Sioux at his back, you mark my
words!"

But, who the devil is John Folsom? said the Bureau again. Arrest Red
Cloud. Bring his band in prisoners, were the orders to the agents, and
the agents called for troops to go and do their bidding. It's one thing,
as I've had occasion to say before, to stand off with breech-loaders a
thousand Indians armed only with old percussion cap muskets, squirrel
rifles, bows, clubs and lances; it's another thing for soldiers armed
even with the best the market affords, to march into an Indian position
and arrest an Indian chief. There were not soldiers enough north of the
Platte to do it, and the War Department knew it if the Bureau didn't.
Hence the mustering in force along the river, and the mounting in hot
haste of perhaps ten more troops and companies, nowhere near enough for
the work in hand, but all the nation had within a month's march that
could possibly be spared from other work and work more important.

And there was wrath at Emory, where the colonel found himself ordered to
send all his transportation to Frayne forthwith, and all his remaining
troops except one of foot. "Damnation! I've only got two companies of
foot," he screamed, in the shrill treble of piping senility. "And they
mean to rob me of my cavalry, too! 'C' troop is ordered to be held in
readiness for special service."

The transportation, consisting of three wagons and two ambulances, with
the somber company of infantry, started next day, however, and Dean,
with eager expectancy kept his men in camp, cooked rations ready,
ammunition pouches filled, arms and equipments overhauled and in perfect
order, horses examined and reshod, ready for the word that might come
any minute and carry him--he knew not whither. Folsom and the girls had
to drive back to dinner without him. Despite the permission sent by the
colonel, he would not leave his troop and go in town. So back they came
in the soft moonlight and spent a long, lovely summer evening with him,
while the band played melodiously in the fort inclosure, and the stars
twinkled over the peaks of the Rockies in the southern skies. Folsom
spent the hours wiring to Omaha and conferring with such officers as he
could reach. They thought the lesson given Red Cloud would end the
business. He knew it would only begin it. Burleigh, saying that he must
give personal attention to the selection of the teams and wagons, spent
the early evening in his corral, but sent word to Folsom that he hoped
to see him in the morning on business of great importance. He had other
hopes, too, one of them being that now the order to send that big sum in
currency to the new stockade would be revoked. He had lost no time in
suggesting to the chief quartermaster of the department the extreme
hazard. He quoted Folsom as saying that before we could send one hundred
men to Warrior Gap Red Cloud could call five thousand, and the chief
quartermaster, being a man of method and a stranger to the frontier
said, as said the Bureau "Who the devil is John Folsom? Do as you are
told." But that answer only came the following day. Meantime there was
respite and hope.

Long lived that beautiful evening in the memory of four young hearts. A
sweet south wind had been gently playing all day and left the night warm
and fragrant of the pines and cedars in the mountain parks. All Fort
Emory seemed made up of women and children now, for such few soldiers as
were left, barring the bandsmen, were packing or helping pack and store
about the barracks. From soon after eight until nearly ten the musicians
occupied their sheltered wooden kiosk on the parade, and filled the air
with sweet strains of waltz or song or stirring martial melody.

For an hour, with Elinor Folsom on his arm, young Dean was strolling up
and down the moonlit walk, marveling over the beauty of her dark, yet
winsome face, and Loomis and Jessie, stanch friends already, sauntered
after them. For a time the merry chat went on unbroken. They were
talking of that never-to-be-forgotten visit to the Point--Pappoose's
first--and of the hop to which the tall cadet captain took the timid
schoolgirl, and of her hop card and the distinguished names it bore, as
names ran in the old days of the battalion; of Ray, who danced so
beautifully and rode so well--he was with the --th cavalry now somewhere
along the U. P., said Dean--and of Billings the cadet adjutant; he was
with a light battery in Louisiana. "Where this Captain Newhall is
stationed," interrupted Pappoose, with quick, upward look. "I wonder if
he knows him, Mr. Dean."

"He doesn't like him, I'll venture to say," said Dean, "if Newhall
doesn't suit you and Jessie, and I'm sure I shan't." And then they went
on to talk of the lovely dance music they had at the Point that
summer, and how bewitchingly Elsen used to play that pretty
galop--"Puckwudjies"--the very thing for a moonlit night. One could
almost see the Indian fairies dancing about their tiny fires.

"It was that galop--my first at West Point--that I danced with Cadet
Captain Dean," said Pappoose, looking blithely up into his steadfast
eyes. "You've no idea what a proud girl I was!" They were at the upper
end of the parade at the moment. The kiosk was only fifty yards away,
its band lights sparkling under the canopy, the moonlight glinting on
the smooth surface of the dancing floor that an indulgent post commander
had had placed there. Half a dozen young garrison girls, arm in arm and
by twos, were strolling about its waxen face awaiting the next piece;
and some of them had been importuning the leader, for at the moment,
soft and rippling, sweet and thrilling, quick and witching, the
exquisite opening strains of "Puckwudjies" floated out upon the night.

"Oh, Jess! Listen!" cried Elinor in ecstasy and surprise, as she turned
back with quickly beating heart.

"No, no, indeed!" replied her soldier escort, with a throb in his breast
that echoed and overmastered that in her own. "No time to listen--come!
It was your first galop at the Point--let it be our first in Wyoming."
And in a moment more the tall, lithe, supple, slender forms were gliding
about the dancing-floor in perfect time to the lovely music, but now her
dark eyes could not meet the fire in the blue. Following their lead,
Loomis and Jessie joined the dance. Other couples from along the row
hastened to the scene. In five minutes a lively hop was on at Emory, and
when at last, breathing a little hurriedly and with heightened color,
Elinor Folsom glanced up into his joyous and beaming face--"You had
forgotten that galop, Mr. Dean," she archly said, but down went the dark
eyes again at his fervent reply.

"Yes, I admit it; but so long as I live I'll never forget this."

Small wonder was it that when Burleigh came driving out at tattoo for a
brief conference with the colonel, his sallow face took on a darker
shade as he suddenly caught sight of that couple standing at the moment
apart from the dancers, seeing neither them nor him, hearing for the
moment no music but that which trembled in the tones of his deep voice,
for Elinor was strangely silent.

"Marshall Dean," whispered Jessie that night, as she hugged him before
being lifted to her seat, "tell me true, wasn't Pappoose's picture in
your heart pocket? Didn't that bullet crease it?"

"Promise on your honor not to tell, Jess," he whispered.

She nodded delightedly.

"Yes, and what's more, it's there now!"

Early on the morrow came further news. Troops from Steele and Bridger
were on the move, but no word came for the cavalry at Emory, and
Marshall Dean, hitherto most eager for field service, learned with joy
he felt ashamed to own that he had still another day to spend in the
society of Jessie and her friend. But how much of that elation Jessie
could have claimed as due to her every sister whose brother is in love
can better tell than I. At eight they came driving out to hear the band
at guard-mounting, though to old Pecksniff's pathetic sorrow he could
mount only twelve men all told. That ceremony over, they watched with
kindling eyes the sharp drill of Marshall's troop; that soldierly young
commander, one may feel well assured, showing his men, his horses, and
himself off to the best of his ability, as who would not have done under
such scrutiny as that. Loomis was with them, but Elinor drove, for her
father had urgent business, he said, and must remain at his office.
Major Burleigh, he added, was to meet him, whereat the girls were
silent.

"If you could have beard the major pleading with that cantankerous old
fool at the fort in Marshall's behalf you would get over your wrath at
Burleigh just as I did," said Folsom, to both, apparently, and still
neither answered. Burleigh was evidently _persona non grata_ in the eyes
of both. "He tells me Captain Newhall is still here, waiting for a train
to be made up to run back to Cheyenne. I'm afraid I'll have to ask him
to bring the captain to dinner to-day. Do you think Mr. Dean will care
to come?" he asked.

"I think he would rather not leave camp," said Jessie slowly. "Orders
may come any minute, he says."

"Yes, I suppose so," answered Folsom, vaguely relieved. Something told
him there was antagonism between the young fellow and Burleigh that
would be apt to involve Newhall, too. "I'll ask them both, if you don't
very much mind," he went on, whispering to Elinor. "And will you tell
Mrs. Fletcher? How is she this morning?"

"Just as usual, papa. She says she has rather violent headaches once in
a while, and she thinks it prudent to keep her room to-day. But I can
attend to everything." Indeed, thought the daughter, she wished she had
it all to do.

And so Folsom had gone to meet Burleigh, and the girls had planned, at
least Jessie had, that Marshall after drill should ride beside them into
town and have a chat in the parlor while she wrote to mother in the
library. But a thing happened that no one could have foreseen. Just
before drill was over and while they were still watching it from their
seats in the covered wagon, a buggy drove up alongside and Major
Burleigh jumped out, gave the reins to his companion and bade him come
to him as soon as he had finished what he wished to do at the sutler's.
The major's face was perturbed, that of his companion looked black and
ugly. It was Captain Newhall, and something was amiss. The latter barely
tipped his hat in driving away, the former heaved a sigh of relief, then
turned to greet the girls.

Ten minutes passed in constraint and awkwardness. Burleigh felt that he
was unwelcome, but his eyes were fixed in fascination on Elinor Folsom,
and he could not go. Presently drill was dismissed, and Dean, all aglow,
came galloping up, his orderly trumpeter following. Not until he had
joyously greeted both the girls did he see who was standing by the
forward wheel on the opposite side.

"Good-morning, Mr. Dean," said Burleigh affably. "I never saw that troop
look so well."

"Good-morning, sir," said Dean coldly. Then turned to speak again to
Miss Folsom when the buggy came whirring back.

"He isn't here, Burleigh," said the occupant petulantly. "He's in town,
and you've got to find him right off. Come on!"

Burleigh turned livid. "Captain Newhall," he said, "you fail to notice I
am with friends."

"They are friends who will be glad to get rid of you, then," replied the
stranger thickly, and it was easy to see that he had been drinking. All
the same Burleigh went.



CHAPTER XIV.


Another day Dean and Troop "C" were held in camp awaiting orders for
special service, and no orders came. "Old Pecksniff" had an eye for
pretty girls, a trait by no means rare in soldiers old or young, and
prettier girls than Pappoose and Jessie he had never met. Mrs. Stevens
was accordingly bidden to invite them to luncheon that very day, and
Dean and Loomis were of the party, as were other young people of the
post, and, despite the rising war clouds in the north and the recent
unpleasantness at Emory and an odd manner indicative of suppressed
excitement on part of both Dean and Loomis, a very joyous time they had
until the damsels Had to drive home to dress for dinner. Folsom had
named six as the hour. Burleigh, Newhall and the two boys were mentioned
as his guests. Burleigh accepted for self and partner, Loomis for
himself, with mental reservation. Dean at once had begged to be excused.
After the morning's disappearance of Burleigh and "Surly," as Miss
Folsom promptly named the pair, Marshall had ridden into Gate City at
the side of the Folsom carriage, and was welcomed by the old trader
himself, who looked pained when told he could not attend the dinner.
"Surely Colonel Stevens will let you off," said Folsom, but that
obviously was not the reason.

"I'm the only officer with my troop," said Dean, "and so cannot ask."

But when Folsom took his daughter in his arms a little later and
inquired whether there were not some graver cause behind the one
assigned, Elinor calmly answered that she thought there was, and that
the cause was Major Burleigh.

"But, daughter dear," said he, "that's just one reason I wish to bring
them together. Then Dean could see how pleasantly disposed the major
is," and he was amazed when she replied:

"Major Burleigh may be pleasantly disposed, but Mr. Dean is not, by any
means, nor would I be were I in his place, papa."

"My child," said he, "what do you know about it?"

"Everything that Jessie knows, besides what we heard on the train.
Mar--Mr. Dean told her of several things Major Burleigh had said and
done to his discredit, and no wonder he declines to dine with a man who
has deliberately maligned him."

"I wish I had thought of that," said Folsom, his knotty hands deep in
the pockets of his loose-fitting trousers. "I saw Burleigh this morning
on some business, and he seemed to want to help Dean along. What took
him out to the fort, do you suppose?"

"I don't know," she answered gravely. "He had Captain Newhall with him,
in quest of somebody who wasn't there."

"Ah, yes, Griggs, the sutler. I heard of it," interposed Folsom,
fingering his watchchain.

"Very possibly. The captain was ugly and rude in manner and Major
Burleigh very much embarrassed. Indeed, Daddy dear, I should not be
greatly surprised if others of your party failed to come."

"Burleigh, do you mean, or his queer guest?"

But Pappoose did not reply. She seemed listening intently, and then with
swift, sudden movement darted across to the heavy Navajo blanket
portière that hung at the doorway of a little room back of the library.
Her voice was far from cordial as she asked:

"Were you looking for any one, Mrs. Fletcher? I thought you were in your
room."

"For Mr. Folsom, please, when he is at leisure," was the answer, in
unruffled tones. "I believe it easier to take active part in the
preparations than to lie there thinking."

At one the girls were to lunch at the fort, as has been said, and it was
time for them to dress. There were other matters on which Elinor much
wished to talk with her father and, with more reluctance than she had
yet experienced, she left him to hear what Mrs. Fletcher might have to
say. The conference was brief enough, whatever its nature, for presently
his voice was heard at the foot of the stairs.

"I'm going over to the depot a few minutes, Daught. I wish to see
Burleigh. Don't wait for me. Start whenever you are ready. Where do the
boys meet you?"

"Here, Daddy, at half-past twelve."

It was high noon now, and the ruddy-faced old fellow grew redder as the
summer sun beat down on his gray head, but he strode sturdily down the
broad avenue that led to the heart of the bustling new town, turned to
the right at the first cross street beyond his own big block, and ten
minutes' brisk tramp brought him to the gateway of Burleigh's stockaded
inclosure. Two or three employees lounging about the gate were gazing
curiously within. Silently they let him pass them by, but a sound of
angry voices rose upon the heated air. Just within the gate stood the
orderly trumpeter holding two horses by the reins, one of them Marshall
Dean's, and a sudden idea occurred to Folsom as he glanced at the open
windows of the office building. There was no mistaking the speaker
within. It was Burleigh.

"Leave my office instantly, sir, or I'll prefer charges that will
stick----"

"Not till I've said what I came to say, Major Burleigh. I've abundant
evidence of what you've been saying at my expense. You asserted that I
lost my nerve the day we met Red Cloud's band--you who never dared get
out of the ambulance until the danger was over. It's common talk in the
troop. At Frayne, at Reno, and here at Emory you have maligned me just
as you did in the cars to my friend here, Mr. Loomis, and in hearing of
my sister. I will not accept your denial nor will I leave your office
till you swallow your words."

"Then, by God, I'll have you thrown out, you young whipsnapper!"

And then Folsom, with fear at his heart, ran around to the doorway to
interpose. He came too late. There was a sound of a furious scuffle
within, a rattling of chairs, a crunching of feet on sanded floor, and
as he sprang up the steps he saw Dean easily squirming out from the
grasp of some member of the clerical force, who, at his master's
bidding, had thrown himself upon the young officer, who then deftly
tripped his heels from under him and dropped him on the floor, while
Loomis confronted the others who would have made some show of obeying
orders. And then there was the whirr of a whip-lash, a crack and snap
and swish, and a red welt shot across Burleigh's livid face as he
himself staggered back to his desk. With raging tongue and frantic oath
he leaped out again, a leveled pistol in his hand, but even before he
could pull trigger, or Folsom interpose, Loomis's stick came down like a
flash on the outstretched wrist, and the pistol clattered to the floor.

"Good God, boys! what are you doing?" cried the trader, as he hurled
himself between them. "Stop this instantly. Sit down, Burleigh. Come
out, Dean--come out at once! And you, too, Loomis."

"I'm entirely ready--now," said the cavalry lieutenant, though his eyes
were flaming and his lips were rigid. "But whenever Major Burleigh wants
to finish this he can find me," and with these words he backed slowly to
the door, face to the panting and disordered foe.

"Finish this! you young hound, I'll finish you!" screamed Burleigh, as
he shook his clinched fist at the retiring pair.

"Go, boys, go!" implored Folsom. "I'll see you by and by. No--no--sit
still, Burleigh. Don't you speak. This must stop right here."

And so the old man's counsels prevailed, and the two friends, with
grave, pallid, but determined faces, came out into the sunshine, and
with much deliberation and somewhat ostentatious calm proceeded to where
the orderly waited with the horses.

"You will see--the ladies out to camp, Loomis?" asked Dean. "I must
gallop on ahead."

"Ay, ay, go on, I reckon----"

But on this scene there suddenly appeared a third party, in the partial
guise of an officer and the grip of Bacchus. Lurching down the office
steps, with flushed face and bloodshot eyes, came Captain Newhall.

"Gen'l'm'n," said he thickly, "le'm 'ntroduce m'self. Haven't th' honor
y'r 'quain's. I'm Ca'm New(hic)'ll. Cap'n N-n-(hic)oohaul (this cost
prodigious effort and much balancing), an'--an' you sherv'd that f'ler
per-per-flicky ri'. He's dam scoun'rl--gen'lemen--an' ole frien' mine."

For an instant he stood swaying unsteadily, with half-extended hand. For
an instant the two young officers gazed at him in contempt, then turned
abruptly away.

"Good Lord, Marshall," said Loomis, as they cleared the gate, "if that's
the only approbation this day's work will bring us what will the results
be? You served him right, no doubt, but--" and an ominous shake of the
head wound up the sentence.

"But or no but," said Dean, "it's done now, and I'd do it again."

There was no dinner party at Folsom's that evening. At two a messenger
trotted out to the post with a note for Miss Folsom to apprise her of
the fact, and without a word or change of color she put it into her
pocket. The garrison girls were bent on having them spend the afternoon,
but presently Miss Folsom found a moment in which to signal to Jess, and
at three they were driving home.

"You will surely come out this evening and hear the music and have a
dance," were the parting salutations, as with skillful hands the young
girl took up the reins.

"We hope to," was her smiling answer. Jess was clinging to her brother's
hand as he stood by the wheel, and Loomis had already clambered in
beside her.

"Please come, Marshall," pleaded Jessie; but he shook his head.

"I must be at camp this evening, sister mine. We go to stables in an
hour. You will come back, Loomis?"

"As soon as I've seen--" and a significant nod supplied the ellipsis.

Something ominous was in the wind and both girls knew it. Loomis,
usually gay and chatty, was oddly silent, as the light, covered wagon
sped swiftly homeward. Beside the fair charioteer sat a young officer of
the infantry who, vastly rejoicing that Dean could not go, had
laughingly possessed himself of the vacant place, and to him Miss Folsom
had to talk. But they parted from their escorts at the gate and hastened
within doors. Just as Elinor expected, papa had not come home. It was
nearly six when she saw him striding slowly and thoughtfully up the
road, and she met him at the gate.

"Tell me what has happened, Daddy," was her quiet greeting, as she
linked her hands over his burly arm, and looking into her uplifted,
thoughtful eyes, so full of intelligence and deep affection, he bent and
kissed her cheek.

"By Jove, daughter, I believe it's the best thing I can do. Come into
the library."

That night the moon beamed brightly down on the wide-spreading valley,
glinting on the peaks, still snow-tipped, far in the southern sky, and
softening the rugged faces of the nearer range, black with their
clustering beard of spruce and pine. The band played sweetly on the
broad parade until after the tattoo drums had echoed over the plains and
the garrison belles strolled aimlessly in the elfin light--all nature so
lavishly inviting, yet so little valued now that nearly every man was
gone. Out in the camp of "C" Troop men were flitting swiftly to and fro,
horses were starting and stamping at the picket ropes, eager eyes and
tilted ears inquiring the cause of all this stir and bustle among the
tents. In front of the canvas home of the young commander a grave-faced
group had gathered, two gentle girls among them, one with tear-dimmed
eyes. Old Folsom stood apart in murmured conference with Griggs, the
sutler. The regimental quartermaster was deep in consultation with Dean,
the two officers pacing slowly up and down. One or two young people from
the garrison had spent a few minutes earlier in the evening striving to
be interesting to the girls; but Jessie's tearful eyes and Miss Folsom's
grave manner proved hint sufficient to induce them to withdraw, each
bidding Dean good night, safe journey and speedy return, and the
hand-clasps were kind and cordial. The colonel himself had paid a brief
visit to camp, his adjutant in attendance, and had given Mr. Dean ten
minutes of talk concerning a country Dean knew all about, but that
"Pecksniff" had never seen. "It is a responsibility I own I should have
expected to see placed on older shoulders," said he, "but prudence
and--and, let me suggest, cool-headedness--will probably carry you
through. You will be ready to start----"

"Ready now, sir, so far as that's concerned; but we start at three."

"Oh, ah--yes, of course--well--ah--it leaves me practically with no
command, but I'll hope to have you back, Mr. Dean. Good-by." Then as he
passed Folsom the colonel whispered: "That's ten thousand dollars as
good as thrown away."

"Ten thousand dollars!" answered the trader in reply. "What do you
mean?"

"That's what those boys are to run the gauntlet with. My--ah--protests
are entirely unavailing."

For a moment Folsom stood there dumb. "Do you mean," he finally cried,
"that--that it's beyond Frayne that they're going--that it's money
they're to take?"

"Hush! Certainly, but it mustn't be known. Every road agent in Wyoming
would be out, and every Indian from the Platte to Hudson's Bay would be
on the watch. He's to take ten men and slip through. The money comes out
from Burleigh to-night."

The colonel turned away, and, beckoning to his staff officer to join us,
stumped onward to the garrison. The prolonged wail of the bugle, aided
by the rising night wind, sent the solemn strains of taps sailing down
the dimly-lighted valley, and with staring eyes old Folsom stood gazing
after the departing officers, then whirled about toward the tents. There
in front of Dean stood Pappoose, her hands clasped lightly over the hilt
of the saber the "striker" had leaned against the lid of the mess chest
but a moment before, her lovely face smiling up into the owner's.

"You'll come back by way of Hal's, won't you?" she was blithely saying.
"Perhaps I can coax father to take us there to meet you."

"By heaven, Burleigh," muttered the old trader to himself, "are you the
deepest man I ever met, or only the most infernal scoundrel?"



CHAPTER XV.


A sleepless night had old John Folsom, and with the sun he was up again
and hurriedly dressing. Noiseless as he strove to be he was discovered,
for as he issued from his room into the dim light of the upper hall
there stood Pappoose.

"Poor Jess has been awake an hour," said she. "We've been trying to see
the troop through the glass. They must have started before daybreak, for
there's nothing on the road to Frayne."

"It disappears over the divide three miles out," he answered vaguely,
and conscious that her clear eyes were studying his face. "I didn't
sleep well either. We shall be having news from Hal to-day, and the mail
rider comes down from Frayne."

She had thrown about her a long, loose wrapper, and her lustrous hair
tumbled like a brown-black torrent down over her shoulders and back.
Steadfastly the brown eyes followed his every move.

"It is hours to breakfast time, Daddy dear; let me make you some coffee
before you go out."

"What? Who said I was going out?" he asked, forcing a smile; then, more
gravely: "I'll be back in thirty minutes, dear, but wait a moment I
cannot. I want to catch a man before he can possibly ride away."

He bent and kissed her hurriedly, and went briskly down the stairs. In
the lower hall he suddenly struck a parlor match that flared up and
illumined the winding staircase to the third story. Some thought as
sudden prompted her to glance aloft just in time to catch a glimpse of a
woman's face withdrawing swiftly over the balcony rail. In her hatred of
anything that savored of spying the girl could have called aloud a
demand to know what Mrs. Fletcher wanted, but strange things were in the
wind, as she was learning, and something whispered silence. Slowly she
returned to Jessie's side, and together once more they searched with the
glasses the distant trail that, distinctly visible now in the slant of
the morning sun, twisted up the northward slopes on the winding way to
Frayne. Not a whiff of dust could they see.

Meantime John Folsom strode swiftly down the well-known path to the
quartermaster's depot, a tumult of suspicion and conjecture whirling in
his brain. As he walked he recalled the many hints and stories that had
come to his ears of Burleigh's antecedents elsewhere and his
associations here. With all his reputation for enterprise and wealth,
there were "shady" tales of gambling transactions and salted mines and
watered stocks that attached perhaps more directly to the men with whom
he foregathered than to him. "A man is known by the company he keeps,"
said Folsom, and Burleigh's cronies, until Folsom came to settle in Gate
City, had been almost exclusively among the "sharps," gamblers, and
their kindred, the projectors and prospectors ever preying on the unwary
on the outer wave of progress. Within the past six months he had seen
much of him, for Burleigh was full of business enterprises, had large
investments everywhere, was lavish in invitation and suggestion, was
profuse in offers of aid of any kind if aid were wanted. He had gone so
far as to say that he knew from experience how with his wealth tied up
in real estate and mines a man often found himself in need of a few
thousands in spot cash, and as Folsom was buying and building, if at any
time he found himself a little short and needed ten or twenty thousand
say, why, Burleigh's bank account was at his service, etc. It all
sounded large and liberal, and Folsom, whose lot for years had been cast
with a somewhat threadbare array of army people, content with little,
impecunious but honest, he wondered what manner of martial man this was.
Burleigh did not loudly boast of his wealth and influence, but impressed
in some ponderous way his hearers with a sense of both. Yet, ever since
that run to Warrior Gap, a change had come over Burleigh. He talked more
of mines and money and showed less, and now, only yesterday, when the
old man's heart had mellowed to him because he had first held him wholly
to blame for Dean's arrest and later found him pleading for the young
fellow's release, a strange thing had happened. Burleigh confided to him
that he had a simply fabulous opportunity--a chance to buy out a mine
that experts secretly told him was what years later he would have called
a "bonanza," but that in the late sixties was locally known as a
"Shanghai." Twenty-five thousand dollars would do the trick, but his
money was tied up. Would Folsom go in with him, put up twelve thousand
five hundred, and Burleigh would do the rest? Folsom had been bitten by
too many mines that yielded only rattlesnakes, and he couldn't be lured.
Then, said Burleigh, wouldn't Folsom go on his note, so that he could
borrow at the bank? Folsom seldom went on anybody's note. It was as bad
as mining. He begged off, and left Burleigh disappointed, but not
disconcerted. "I can raise it without trouble," said he, "but it may
take forty-eight hours to get the cash here, and I thought you would be
glad to be let in on the ground floor."

"I've been let in to too many floors, major," said he. "You'll have to
excuse me." And so Burleigh, with his Louisiana captain, had driven off
to the fort, where Newhall asked for Griggs and was importunate, nor did
Griggs's whisky, freely tendered to all comers of the commissioned
class, tend to assuage his desire. Back had they gone to town, and then
came the cataclysm of noon.

In broad daylight, at his official desk, in the presence and hearing of
officers, civilians and enlisted men, as the soldier lawyers would have
it, a staff official of high rank had been cowhided by a cavalry
subaltern, and that subaltern, of all others, the only brother of
Folsom's fair guest, Jessie Dean--the boy who had saved the lives of
Folsom's son and his son's imperiled household, and had thereby endeared
himself to him as had no other young soldier in the service. And now,
what fate was staring him in the face? Released from arrest but a day or
so before upon the appeal of the officer whom he had so soon thereafter
violently assaulted, Marshall Dean had committed one of the gravest
crimes against the provisions of the Mutiny Act. Without warrant or
excuse he had struck, threatened, assaulted, etc., a superior officer,
who was in the discharge of his duty at the time. No matter what the
provocation--and in this case it would be held grossly inadequate--there
could be only one sentence--summary dismissal from the army. Just as
sure as shooting, if Burleigh preferred charges that boy was ruined.

And for mortal hours that afternoon it looked as though nothing could
hold Burleigh's hand. The man was livid with wrath. First he would have
the youngster's blood, and then he'd dismiss him. Folsom pointed out
that he couldn't well do both, and by two o'clock it simmered down to a
demand for instant court-martial. Burleigh wrote a furious telegram to
Omaha. He had been murderously assaulted in his office by Lieutenant
Dean. He demanded his immediate arrest and trial. Folsom pleaded with
him to withhold it. Every possible _amende_ would be made, but no!
Indeed, not until nearly four o'clock could Folsom succeed in the last
resort at his disposal. At that hour he had lent the quartermaster
fifteen thousand dollars on his unindorsed note of hand, on condition
that no proceedings whatever should be taken against Mr. Dean, Folsom
guaranteeing that every _amende_ should be made that fair arbitration
could possibly dictate. He had even gone alone to the bank and brought
the cash on Burleigh's representation that it might hurt his credit to
appear as a borrower. He had even pledged his word that the transaction
should be kept between themselves.

And then there had been a scene with that drunken wretch Newhall. What
possible hold had he on Burleigh that he should be allowed to come
reeling and storming into the office and demanding money and lots of
money--this, too, in the presence of total strangers? And Burleigh had
actually paid him then and there some hundreds of dollars, to the
stupefaction of the fellow--who had come for a row. They got him away
somehow, glad to go, possibly, with his unexpected wealth, and Burleigh
had explained that that poor devil, when he could be persuaded to swear
off, was one of the bravest and most efficient officers in the service,
that he was well to do, only his money, too, was tied up in mines; but
what was of more account than anything else, he had devotedly and at
risk of his own life from infection nursed his brother officer Burleigh
through the awful epidemic of yellow fever in New Orleans in '67. He had
saved Burleigh's life, "so how can I go back on him now," said he.

All this was the old trader revolving in mind as he hastened to the
depot, all this and more. For two days Marshall Dean and "C" troop had
stood ready for special service. Rumor had it that the old general
himself had determined to take the field and was on his way to Gate
City. It was possibly to escort him and his staff the troop was ordered
kept prepared to move at a moment's notice. On Burleigh's desk was a
batch of telegrams from Department Headquarters. Two came in during
their long conference in the afternoon, and the quartermaster had
lowered his hand long enough from that lurid welt on his sallow cheek to
hurriedly write two or three in reply. One Folsom felt sure was sent in
cipher. Two days before, Burleigh had urged him to protest as vehemently
as he could against the sending of any money or any small detachment up
to the Big Horn, and protested he had strenuously. Two days before,
Burleigh said it was as bad as murder to order a paymaster or disbursing
officer to the Hills with anything less than a battalion to escort him,
and yet within four hours after he was put in possession of nearly all
the paper currency in the local bank a secret order was issued sending
Lieutenant Dean with ten picked men to slip through the passes to the
Platte, away from the beaten road, and up to ten P.M. Dean himself was
kept in ignorance of his further destination or the purpose of his
going. Not until half-past ten was a sealed package placed in his hands
by the post quartermaster, who had himself received it from Major
Burleigh and then and there the young officer was bidden by Colonel
Stevens, as the medium of the department commander, to ride with all
haste commensurate with caution, to ford the Sweetwater above its
junction with the Platte, to travel by night if need be and hide by day
if he could, to let no man or woman know the purpose of his going or the
destination of his journey, but to land that package safe at Warrior Gap
before the moon should wane.

And all this Burleigh must have known when he, John Folsom, shook his
hand at parting after tea that evening, and had then gone hopefully to
drive his girls to Emory to see his soldier boy, and found him busy with
the sudden orders, received not ten minutes before their coming.
Something in Burleigh's almost tremulous anxiety to get that money in
the morning, his ill-disguised chagrin at Folsom's refusal, something in
the eagerness with which, despite the furious denunciation of the moment
before, he jumped at Folsom's offer to put up the needed money if he
would withhold the threatened charges--all came back to the veteran now
and had continued to keep him thinking during the night. Could it be
that Burleigh stood in need of all this money to cover other sums that
he had misapplied? Could it be that he had planned this sudden sending
of young Dean on a desperate mission in revenge that he could not take
officially? There were troops at Frayne going forward in strong force
within the week. There were other officers within call, a dozen of them,
who had done nowhere near the amount of field service performed by Dean.
He, a troop commander just in from long and toilsome marches and from
perilous duty, had practically been relieved from the command of his
troop, told to take ten men and run the gauntlet through the swarming
Sioux. The more Folsom thought the more he believed that he had grave
reason for his suspicion, and reason equally grave for calling on the
quartermaster for explanation. He reached the corral gate. It was
locked, but a little postern in the stockade let him through. One or two
sleepy hands appeared about the stables, but the office was deserted.
Straight to Burleigh's quarters he went and banged at the door. It took
three bangs to bring a servant.

"I wish to see your master at once. Tell him I am here," and as the
servant slowly shambled up the stairs, Folsom entered the sitting-room.
A desk near the window was open and its contents littered about. The
drawers in a heavy bookcase were open and papers were strewn upon the
floor. The folding doors to the dining-room were open. Decanters,
goblets, cigar stumps and heel taps were scattered over the table. Guest
or host, or both, had left things in riotous shape. Then down came the
servant, a scared look in his eyes.

"The major isn't in, sir. His bed hasn't been occupied, an' the
captain's gone, too. Their uniforms are there, though."

Five minutes later, on a borrowed horse, John Folsom was galloping like
mad for home. A door in the high board fence at the rear of his house
shot open just as he was darting through the lane that led to the
stable. A woman's form appeared in the gap--the last thing that he saw
for a dozen hours, for the horse shied violently, hurling the rider
headlong to the ground.



CHAPTER XVI.


At three o'clock in the morning, while the stars were still bright in
the eastern sky, the little party of troopers, Dean at the irhead, had
ridden away from the twinkling lights of camp, and long before sunrise
had crossed the first divide to the north, and alternating trot, lope
and walk had put miles between them and Fort Emory before the drums of
the infantry beat the call for guard mounting.

At ten o'clock the party halted under some spreading willows, deep in a
cleft of the bold, high hills that rolled away toward the Sweetwater
valley. Horses were unsaddled and picketed out to graze. A little cook
fire was started close to the spring that fed the tiny brook, trickling
away down the narrow ravine, and in a few moments the aroma of coffee
and of appetizing slices of bacon greeted the welcoming nostrils of the
hungry men. The sun that had risen clear and dazzling was now obscured
by heavy masses of clouds, and time and again Dean cast anxious eyes
aloft, for a storm seemed sweeping eastward from the distant Wahsatch
range, and long before the little command had dived downward from the
heights into the depths of this wild, romantic and contracted valley,
all the rolling upland toward Green River, far to the west, lay under
the pall of heavy and forbidding banks of hurrying vapor. Coffee and
breakfast finished, Dean climbed the steep bluff overhanging the spring,
a faithful sergeant following, and what he saw was sufficient to
determine immediate action.

"Saddle up. We'll push ahead at once."

For an instant the veteran trooper looked dissent, but discipline
prevailed.

"The lieutenant knows that Carey's not in yet," he ventured to say, as
he started back down the narrow game trail which they had climbed.

"Yes; but yonder he comes and so does the storm. We can't be caught in
this cañon in case of a hard rain. Let Carey have some coffee and a
bite, if he feels well enough. Then we'll push on."

Ordinarily when making summer marches over the range, the first "water
camp" on the Sweetwater trail was here at Cañon Springs. On the road to
Frayne, which crossed the brook ten miles to the east, all wagon trains
and troops not on forced march made similar camp. In the case of
scouting detachments or little parties sent out from Emory, it was
always customary to spend the first night and make the first camp on the
Box Elder at furthermost, then to push on, ready and refreshed, the
following day. Dean well knew that to get the best work out of his
horses he should start easily, and up to nine o'clock he had fully
intended to make the usual camp at the Springs. But once before, within
a few years, a big scouting party camping in the gorge of the Box Elder
had been surprised by one of those sudden, sweeping storms, and before
they could strike tents, pack up and move to higher ground, the stream
took matters into its own hands and spared them all further trouble on
that score, distributing camp and garrison equipage for long leagues
away to the east. Two miles back, trooper Carey, who had been
complaining of severe cramp and pain in the stomach, begged to be
allowed to fall out and rest awhile. He was a reliable old soldier when
whisky was not winning the upper hand, and this time whisky was not at
fault. A dose of Jamaica ginger was the only thing their field
pharmacopoeia provided, and Carey rolled out of his saddle and doubled
up among the rocks with his hands on the pit of his stomach, grimacing.

"Go back if you think best, or come ahead and catch us at the Springs if
well enough," were the orders left him, while the men pushed on, and
now, as the lieutenant said, Carey was coming himself. Some of the party
were already dozing when the sergeant's sharp order "Saddle up" was
given, but a glance at the lowering sky explained it all, and every man
was standing to horse and ready when the missing trooper came jogging in
among them, white, peaked, but determined. A look of mingled
disappointment and relief appeared on his face as he saw the
preparations for the start, but his only comment was, "I can make it,
sir," as he saluted his young commander. Less than two hours from the
time they unsaddled, therefore, the troopers once more mounted, and,
following their leader, filed away down the winding gorge. Presently
there came the low rumble of thunder, and a sweep of the rising wind.
"Trot," said Dean, and without other word the little column quickened
the pace.

The ravine grew wider soon and far less tortuous, but was still a narrow
and dangerous spot. For a mile or two from the Springs its course was
nearly east of north, then it bore away to the northeast, and the
Sweetwater trail abruptly left it and went winding up a cleft in the
hills to the west. Just as they reached this point the heavens opened
and the clouds descended in a deluge of rain. Out came the ponchos,
unstrapped from the saddle, and every man's head popped through the slit
as the shiny black "shedwater" settled down on his shoulders.

"That outfit behind us will get a soaking if it has been fool enough to
follow down to the Springs," said Carey to the sergeant, as they began
the pull up the slippery trail.

"What outfit?" asked Dean, turning in the saddle and looking back in
surprise.

A blinding flash of lightning, followed almost on the instant by the
crack and roar of thunder, put summary stop to talk of any kind. Men and
horses bowed their heads before the deluge and the rain ran in streams
from the manes and tails. The ascending path turned quickly into a
running brook and the black forms of steeds and riders struggled
sidewise up the grass-grown slopes in search of higher ground. The
heavens had turned inky black. The gloomy ravine grew dark as night.
Flash after flash the lightning split the gloom. Every second or two
trooper faces gleamed ghastly in the dazzling glare, then as suddenly
vanished. Horses slipped or stumbled painfully and, man after man, the
riders followed the example of the young soldier in the lead and,
dismounting, led their dripping beasts farther up the steep incline.
Halfway to the summit, peering through the wind-swept sheets of rain, a
palisaded clump of rocks jutted out from the heights and, after a hard
climb, the little band found partial shelter from the driving storm, and
huddled, awe-stricken, at their base. Still the lightning played and the
thunder cannonaded with awful resonance from crag to crag down the deep
gorge from which they had clambered, evidently none too soon, for
presently, far down the black depths, they could see the Box Elder,
under a white wreath of foam, tearing in fury down its narrow bed.

"Beg pardon, lieutenant," shouted the veteran sergeant in the young
commander's ear, even in that moment never forgetting the habitual
salute, "but if I didn't see the reason for that sudden order to saddle
I more than see it now. We would have been drowned like rats down there
in the gulch."

"I'm wondering if anybody _has_ drowned like rats," shouted Dean, in
reply. "Carey says another party was just behind us. Who could they be?"

But for answer came another vivid, dazzling flash that for an instant
blinded all eyes. "By God! but that's a stunner!" gasped a big trooper,
and then followed the deafening bang and crash of the thunder, and its
echoes went booming and reverberating from earth to heaven and rolling
away, peal after peal, down the bluff-bound cañon. For a moment no other
sound could be heard; then, as it died away and the rain came swashing
down in fresh deluge, Carey's voice overmastered the storm.

"That's struck something, sir, right around yonder by the Springs. God
help that outfit that came a-gallopin' after me!"

"What was it? Which way were they coming?" Dean managed to ask.

"Right along the bluff, sir, to the east. Seemed like they was ridin'
over from the old camp on the Frayne road. There was twenty-five or
thirty of 'em, I should say, coming at a lope."

"Cavalry?" asked Dean, a queer look in his face.

"No, sir. They rode dispersed like. They was a mile away when I sighted
them, and it was gittin' so black then I don't think they saw me at all.
They were 'bout off yonder, half a mile east of the Springs when I
dipped down into the ravine, and what seemed queer was that two of them
galloped to the edge, dismounted, and were peering down into the gorge
like so many Indians, just as though they didn't want to be seen. I was
goin' to tell the lieutenant 'bout it first thing if I had found our
fellows off their guard, but you were all mounted and just starting."

Instinctively Dean put forth his hand under the dripping poncho and
tugged at the straps of his off saddle-bag. No need for dread on that
score. The bulky package, wrapped, sealed and corded, was bulging out of
the side of his field pouch till it looked as though he had crammed a
cavalry boot into its maw.

"Thirty men--mounted?--no wagons or--anything?" he anxiously asked.

"Full thirty, sir, and every man armed with rifle as far as I could
see," said Carey, "and if it was us they was after, they'd have had us
at their mercy down in that pocket at the Springs."

A shout from one of the men attracted the attention of the leaders. The
storm had spent its force and gone rolling away eastward. The thunder
was rumbling far over toward the now invisible crest of the Black Hills
of Wyoming. The rain sheets had given place to trickling downpour. A dim
light was stealing into the blackness of the gorge. Louder and fiercer
roared the Box Elder, lashing its banks with foam. And then came the cry
again.

"I tell you it is, by God! for there goes another!"

All eyes followed the direction of the pointing finger. All eyes saw,
even though dimly, the saddled form of a horse plunging and struggling
in the flood, making vain effort to clamber out, then whirling
helplessly away--swept out of sight around the shoulder of bluff, and
borne on down the tossing waves of the torrent. Men mean no irreverence
when they call upon their Maker at such times, even in soldier oath. It
is awe, not blasphemy.

"By God, lieutenant, that's what we'd a been doing but for your order."
It was the sergeant who spoke.

And at that very hour there was excitement at Fort Emory. At eight
o'clock the colonel was on his piazza looking with gloomy eyes over the
distant rows of empty barracks. The drum-major with the band at his
heels came stalking out over the grassy parade, and the post adjutant,
girt with sash and sword-belt, stood in front of his office awaiting the
sergeant-major, who was unaccountably delayed. Reduced to a shadow, the
garrison at Fort Emory might reasonably have been excused, by this time,
from the ceremony of mounting a guard, consisting practically of ten
privates, three of whom wore the cavalry jacket; but old "Pecksniff" was
determined to keep up some show of state. He could have no parade or
review, but at least he could require his guard to be mounted with all
the pomp and ceremony possible. He would have ordered his officers out
in epaulets and the full dress "Kossuth" hat of the period, but epaulets
had been discarded during the war and not yet resumed on the far
frontier. So the rank and file alone were called upon to appear in the
black-feathered oddity a misguided staff had designed as the headgear of
the array. "Pecksniff's" half-dozen doughboys, therefore, with their
attendant sergeants and corporals in the old fashioned frock and felt,
and a still smaller squad of troopers in yellow-trimmed jackets and
brass-mounted forage caps, were drawn up at the edge of the parade
awaiting the further signal of adjutant's call, while the adjutant
himself swore savagely and sent the orderly on the run for the
sergeant-major. When that clock-governed functionary was missing
something indeed must be going wrong.

Presently the orderly came running back.

"Sergeant Dineen isn't home, sir, and his wife says he hasn't been back
since the lieutenant sent him in town with the last dispatch."

"Tell the first sergeant of "B" Company, then, to act as sergeant-major
at once," said the adjutant, and hurried over to his colonel. "Dineen's
not back, sir," he reported at the gate. "Can anything be wrong?"

"I ordered him to bring with him the answer to my dispatch to the
general, who wired to me from the railway depot at Cheyenne. Probably
he's been waiting for that, and the general's away somewhere. We ought
to have an operator here day and night," said Pecksniff petulantly. But
the irritation in his eyes gave way to anxiety when at that moment the
sutler's buggy was seen dashing into the garrison at headlong speed, his
smart trotter urged almost to a run. Griggs reined up with no little
hard pulling at the colonel's gate, and they could see a dozen yards off
that his face was pale.

"Have you any idea, colonel," he began the moment the officers reached
him, "where Major Burleigh can be? He left the depot somewhere about
three o'clock this morning with that Captain Newhall. He hasn't returned
and can't be found. Your sergeant-major was waylaid and robbed some time
after midnight, and John Folsom was picked up senseless in the alley
back of his house two hours ago. What does it all mean?"



CHAPTER XVII.


That storm-burst along the range had turned for twenty-four hours every
mountain stream into a foaming torrent for a hundred miles. Not a bridge
remained along the Platte. Not a ford was fordable within two days'
march of either Emory or Frayne. Not a courier crossed the Box Elder,
going either way, until the flood went down, and then it transpired that
a tide in the affairs of men had also turned, and that there was trouble
ahead for some who had thought to find plain sailing. For two days
watchers along the lower Box Elder dragged out upon the shallows the
bodies of horses that once upon a time might have borne the "U. S."
brand, but were not girthed with cavalry saddles now. Nor were there
lacking other bodies to prove that the victims of the sudden storm were
not Uncle Sam's men, much as two, at least, of the drowned had been
wanted by Federal authorities but a week before. What the denizens of
Gate City and Fort Emory dreaded and expected to bear was that Dean and
his little party had been caught in the trap. But, living or dead, not a
sign of them remained along the storm-swept ravine. What most people of
Gate City and Fort Emory could not understand was the evidence that a
big gang of horse thieves, desperadoes and renegades had suddenly
appeared about the new town, had spurred away northward in the night,
had kept the Frayne road till they reached the Box Elder, riding hard
long after sun-up, and there, reinforced, they had gone westward to the
Sweetwater trail, and, old frontiersmen though they were, had been
caught in the whirl of water at Cañon Springs, losing two of their
number and at least a dozen of their horses. What could have lured them
into that gloomy rift at such a time? What inspiration had led Dean out
of it?

Singly or in little squads, many of them afoot, bedraggled, silent,
chagrined, the "outfit," described by Trooper Carey had slunk away from
the neighborhood of the Box Elder as soon as the storm subsided.
Solemnly, as befitted soldiers, silent and and alert despite their
dripping accoutrements, the little detachment of cavalry had pushed
ahead, riding by compass over the drenched uplands, steering for the
Sweetwater. Late in the afternoon the skies had cleared, the sun came
out, and they camped in a bunch of cottonwoods on the old Casper trail
and slept the sleep of the just and the weary. Early next day they
hastened on, reaching the usually shallow stream, with Devil's Gate only
a few miles away, before the setting of a second sun. Here they feasted
and rested well, and before the dawn was fairly red on the third day out
from Emory they were breasting the turbid waters and by noon had left
the valley far to the south and were well out toward the Big Horn
country, where it behooved them to look warily ahead, for from every
ridge, though far to the west of their probable raiding ground, Dean and
his men could expect to encounter scouting parties of the Indians at any
moment, and one false step meant death.

The third night passed without alarm, though every eye and ear was
strained. The morning of the fourth day dawned and the sun soon tinged
the misty mountain tops to the far north, and Dean saw before him an
open rolling country, over which it would be impossible to march without
attracting Indian eyes, if Indian eyes there were within twenty miles.
And with proper caution he ordered his men to keep in concealment,
horses grazing under guard in a deep depression near a stream, men
dozing soundly by turns until the twilight came, and then the
stars--their night lights for a long, long march. Dawn of the fifth day
found them huddled in a deep ravine of the southern foothills, with
Warrior Gap not thirty miles away, and now, indeed, was prudence
necessary, for the faint light showed the fresh prints of innumerable
pony hoofs on every side. They were close on Machpealota's lurking
braves. Which would see the other first?

It must have been somewhere toward five o'clock in the afternoon that
Dean, searching with his field glass the sunlit slopes far out to the
east, heard the voice of his sergeant close at hand and turned to
answer. Up to this moment, beyond the pony tracks, not a sign had they
seen of hostile Indians, but the buffalo that had appeared in scattered
herds along their line of march were shy and scary, and old hands said
that that meant they had recently been hunted hard. Moreover, this was
not a section favored of the buffalo. There was much alkali and sage
brush along their trail, and only here and there in scanty patches any
of the rich, nutritious bunch grass which the roving animals so eagerly
sought. The day had been hot and almost cloudless. The shimmer of heat
along the lazy roll of the land to the south had often baffled their
blinking eyes. But now the sun was well to the west, and the refraction
seemed diminishing, and away over to the northeast a dull-colored cloud
seemed slowly rising beyond the ridges. It was this that Sergeant Bruce
was studying when he murmured to his young commander:

"I think that means a big herd on the run, sir, and if so Indians
started them."

One or two troopers, dozing close at hand, sprawled full length upon the
ground, with their faces buried in, or hidden by, their blue-sleeved
arms, slowly rolled over and came crouching up alongside. Dean dropped
his glasses and peered in the direction indicated by his comrade of
humbler rank. Dust cloud it was beyond a doubt, and a long peep through
the binocular proved that it was slowly sailing across the horizon in a
northerly direction. Did that mean that the red hunters were driving the
great quarry toward the village of the Sioux, or that the young men were
out in force, and with the full complement of squaws and ponies, were
slaughtering on the run. If the former, then Dean and his party would be
wise to turn eastward and cross the trail of the chase. If the latter
they would stand better chance of slipping through to the Gap by pushing
northward, deeper in among the pine-crested heights.

Behind the watchers, well down in the ravine, the horses were placidly
nibbling at the scant herbage, or lazily sprawling in the sun, each
animal securely hoppled, and all carefully guarded by the single
trooper, whose own mount, ready saddled, circled within the limits of
the stout lariat, looped about his master's wrist. All spoke of caution,
of lively sense of danger and responsibility, for they of the little
detachment were picked men, who had ridden the warpath too long not to
realize that there was no such thing as trusting to luck in the heart of
the Indian country, especially when Machpealota with his Ogallalla
braves was out for business. The cautious movements of the group along
the bank had quickly been noted by the wakeful ones among the troopers,
and presently the entire party, excepting only the herd guard, had
crouched up alongside, and with the comradeship born of such perilous
service, were now discussing the situation in low, confidential tones.

For half an hour they lay there, studying the signs to the northeast.
The dun colored cloud hung low over the earth for a distance of several
miles. The herd was evidently one of unusual size even for those days
when the buffalo swarmed in countless thousands, and finally the
sergeant spoke again.

"It's a big hunt, lieutenant. Whatever may be going on about the Gap
they've found time to send out young men enough to round up most of the
buffalo north of the Platte and drive them in toward the mountains. It's
combining pleasure with business. They don't feel strong enough in
number, perhaps, to make another attempt on troops armed with
breech-loaders, so while they're waiting until their reinforcements
come, or their own breech-loaders, they are herding the buffalo where
they can get them when they want them later on. We are in big luck that
no stragglers are anywhere around us; if they were it wouldn't take such
fellows long to spy us out."

Dean swept the ridge line with his glass. No sign of life nearer than
that far-away, betraying dust cloud. No symptom of danger anywhere
within their ken. He was thinking at the moment of that precious package
in his saddle-bags and the colonel's words impressing him with the sense
of responsibility the night they parted at Fort Emory. To-morrow, by
sunrise, if fortune favored him, he could turn it over to the commanding
officer at the new stockade, and then if the Indians were not gathered
in force about the post and actually hostile, he could slip out again at
night and make swift dash for the Platte and the homeward way, and then
within the week rejoin his sister at Fort Emory--his sister and
"Pappoose." Never before had the Indian pet name carried such
significance as now. Night and day those soft, dark eyes--that beautiful
face--haunted his thoughts and filled his young heart with new and
passionate longing. It was hard to have to leave the spot her presence
made enchanted ground. Nothing but the spur of duty, the thrill of
soldier achievement and stirring venture could have reconciled him to
that unwelcome order.

In one week now, if fortune favored and heaven spared, he could hope to
look again into the eyes that had so enchained him, but if there should
interpose the sterner lot of the frontier, if the Sioux should learn of
his presence, he who had thwarted Burning Star and the brothers of poor
Lizette in their schemes of vengeance, he at whose door the Ogallallas
must by this time have laid the death of one of their foremost braves,
then indeed would there be no hope of getting back without a battle
royal. There was only one chance of safety--that the Indians should not
discover their presence. If they did and realized who the intruders
were, Jessie Dean might look in vain for her brother's return. Pappoose
would never hear the love words that, trembling on his lips the night he
left her, had been poured out only to that unresponsive picture. Two
ways there were in which the Indians could know of his presence. One by
being informed through some half-breed spy, lurking about Frayne; but
then who would be dastard enough to send such word? The other by being
seen and recognized by some of the Ogallalla band, and thus far he
believed they had come undetected, and it was now after five
o'clock--after five o'clock and all was well. In a few hours they could
again be on their starlit way. With the morrow they should be safely
within the gates of the new stockade at Warrior Gap.

Turning with hope and relief in his face to speak to Sergeant Bruce, who
lay there at his elbow, he saw the blue-sleeved arm stretching forth in
warning to lie low, and with grave eyes the veteran was gazing straight
at a little butte that rose from the rolling surface not more than half
a mile away to the southeast.

"Lieutenant," he whispered, "there are Indians back of that hill at this
minute, and it isn't buffalo they're laying for."

Dean was brave. He had been tried and his mettle was assured, and yet he
felt the sudden chill that coursed his veins. "How can they have seen
us," he murmured.

"May have struck our trail out to the southwest," said Bruce slowly, "or
they may have been told of our coming and are stalking us. They've got a
heavy score to settle with this troop, you know."

For a moment only the breathing of the little party could be heard. All
eyes were fixed upon the distant mound. At last Dean spoke again.

"When did you see them first and how many are there?"

"Near ten minutes ago. I saw something fluttering swift along the sky
line just beyond that divide to the south. It skimmed like a bird, all
but the quick bobbing up and down that made me sure there was a
galloping pony under it. Then another skimmed along. It was the bunch of
feathers and red flannel on their lances, and my belief is that they
struck our trail back here somewhere, and that there's only a small
party, and they don't know just who we are and they want to find out."

"You're right. Look!" was Dean's sudden answer, for at the very instant
there rode boldly, calmly into full view two young Indians, who with
cool deliberation came jogging on at gentle speed, straight toward the
concealed bivouac of the troopers. Instantly Bruce reached for his
carbine, and two or three of the men went sliding or crouching backward
down the slope as though in quest of their arms. Full eight hundred
yards away were the riders at the moment, coming side by side in
apparent unconcern.

"Don't," muttered Dean, with hand outstretched. "They look anything but
hostile."

"That's when they're most likely to be full of hell, sir," was the
prompt answer. "See! others are watching behind that knoll," and indeed
as Bruce declared, a feather-decked head or two could be detected
through the glass, peering over the summit.

"Warn them to halt, then," cried Dean. "But we cannot fire unless they
provoke it."

Bruce was on his feet in a second. Standing erect and facing straight
toward the coming pair, he raised his right hand, palm to the front, to
the full length of his arm, and slowly motioned "stand." Every plainsman
knows the signal. In well-acted surprise, the Indians reined their
ponies flat back, and, shading their eyes with their hands a moment,
remained motionless. Then, as with one accord, each tossed aside his
rifle, and one of them further lifted high and displayed a revolver.
This, too, he tossed out on the turf, and now with both arms bare and
extended on high, with empty hands outspread, they slowly advanced as
though saying "See, we are without arms. We come as brothers."

But the sergeant never hesitated. Almost on tiptoe he repeated the
signal "halt," and half-turned imploringly to his officer.

"It's all a bluff, sir. They want to crawl upon us, see who and how many
we are. Let some of us fire warning shots or come they will, and the
moment they find out who we are, away they'll ride to bring Red Cloud
and all his bucks about our ears."

"I cannot fire," was the answer. "That's their flag of truce and we must
not ignore it. Let them come, sergeant; I'll meet them."



CHAPTER XVIII.


Remonstrance on part of his men would have been a violation of their
rules of order. Obedient to the lieutenant's instructions, Sergeant
Bruce, with evident reluctance, lowered his hand. Whoever these Indians
were they well understood the principles that governed civilized
warfare. They well knew that the white soldiers would respect a flag of
truce, though in their own vernacular they referred to the sacred emblem
only as a "fool flag," and sometimes used it, as did the Modocs five
years later, to lure officers into ambush and deliberately murder them.
They knew the white soldiers would take no advantage of foemen gathered
for a conference or parley, and thus far the Sioux themselves had
observed the custom which the Modocs basely violated when in cold blood
they slaughtered General Canby and the peace commissioners sent to treat
with them. Confidently, therefore, came the two young warriors, but as
Dean raised himself from the ground and was about to step forward, the
sergeant spoke:

"Beg pardon, sir, but these fellows know all our officers. They would
recognize you at once. The word would go to Red Cloud faster than any
pony could gallop. Let me meet them, or let one of the men."

The ponies were coming at the lope now, and not an instant was to be
lost. The safety of his command might possibly depend on their not being
recognized as of the troop before whose carbines Chaska, brother to
Lizette, had met his death.

"Perhaps you're right," said Dean. "Halt them again. Conroy, you go with
Sergeant Bruce."

Eagerly a young trooper, carbine in hand, sprang up and stood by the
sergeant's side as the latter repeated his warning signal. Obediently,
yet not too promptly, showing evident desire to get where they could
peer over into the ravine and count the number of the white men and
horses, the Indians again drew rein, this time barely one hundred yards
away. Then Bruce and Conroy, holding up their emptied hands, strode
forward along the grassy slope, making the further sign, "Dismount."

In those days few of our cavalry wore, when on Indian campaign, the
forage-cap with its crossed sabres and distinguishing letters. Nothing
in the dress or accoutrements of the two men thus advancing to meet the
Indian emissaries would give to the latter any clew as to the troop or
regiment to which they belonged. Could they see the horses, however, the
matter would be settled at once. The U. S. brand, with that of the
number of the regiment and letter of the troop showed on every cavalry
mount in the service, and the Ogallallas knew the earmarks of two, at
least, of our cavalry regiments in '68 as well as they did the cut of
their own hair. But in the modesty of the non-commissioned officer Bruce
had underrated his own prominence in Indian eyes. Not only did these
keen observers know every officer by sight, and have for him some
distinguishing name of their own, but many a trooper, easily singled out
from his fellows because of his stature, or the color of his hair, or
some other physical peculiarity, was as well known as his captain or
lieutenant, and Bruce, ex-trooper of the Scots Greys, and now a model
sergeant of Yankee cavalry, was already a marked man in the eyes of the
southern Sioux. Brulé, Minneconjou and Ogallalla knew him well--his
aquiline beak, to which the men would sometimes slyly allude, having won
him the Indian appellative of Posh Kopee or Big Nose.

Before the two parties came within fifty yards of each other, therefore,
watchers along the ravine saw the quick exchange of significant glances
between the young braves. "Twig that?" whispered Trooper Blaine, in low,
emphatic tone. "Those fellows know 'Scotty' just as well as we do."

All the same, leaving their trained ponies to nibble at the scanty bunch
grass, the two came straight forward with extended hands and cordial
"How, colah!" on their lips, one of them adding, in agency English,
"Want talk chief. Indian poor. Heap sick." (And here he clasped his
stomach with both hands.) "Want coffee, sugar, bread."

"All right," said Bruce promptly, noting the while how the roving black
eyes searched the edge of the ravine. "Stay here. Don't come nearer. You
got buffalo meat?"

A grunt was the reply of one, a guttural "Buffalo, yes," the answer of
the other.

"Bring tongues, then," and Bruce touched his own. "Five," and he threw
forward the outspread right hand, rapidly touching in succession the
thumb and four fingers. "We give both hands full--coffee, sugar,
hardtack," and Bruce illustrated as he spoke. "That's all!" he finished
abruptly, with the well-known Indian sign that plainly tells "I have
spoken--there is nothing more to say," then calmly turned his back and,
bidding Conroy follow, started to return to his comrades at the ravine.

But Indian diplomacy was unsatisfied. The Sioux had found "Big Nose" to
be one of the soldiers in the field. He, at least, was of the hated
troop that fought and chased Burning Star and killed Chaska. The trail
told them there were nearly a dozen in the party, all on shod horses,
with two in lead-spare mounts or pack-horses, doubtless--so they had
extra rations and had come far; but why were they going this way, so far
west of the usual road to the Big Horn posts? Why were they so few in
number? Where were the rest? Why were they hiding here in the ravine,
instead of marching? Answer to this last question was easy enough. It
was to keep out of sight of Indian eyes and needed no excuse. There was
something behind this mysterious presence of ten or twelve soldiers in
the southern foothills, and Machpealota would expect of his scouts full
information, hence the instant movement on the part of one of the two
braves to follow.

Impressively, Bruce turned again and waved him back. "Go, get buffalo
tongue," said he, "or no trade. Keep away from our tepees," and he drew
with his spurred boot-heel a jagged line across the turf. "Your side,"
said he, indicating the slope to the southeast of the line. "This--ours.
That's all!" And this time the Indian knew he must come no nearer.

"I've got 'em talking trade, lieutenant," reported Bruce, the instant he
reached Dean's side. "We don't need the tongues, but we've got more
coffee and sugar than we are apt to want, and at least we can keep them
interested until dark, then we can slip away. Of course, they've sent
word to their main body that we're over here, but I believe they can't
come in force before night."

"They knew you, sergeant, and they know it is probably our troop," said
he. "There must be only a small party near us. Make your trade, but
while you're doing it we'll saddle. I mean to get out of this and into
the thick of the timber before they can surround us. Stand 'em off, now,
while we get ready."

Promises must be kept when made to an Indian, even if they are otherwise
sometimes broken. In ten minutes, with coffee, sugar and hardtack in
their hands, the sergeant and his comrades were back at the front. One
brave was still there, the other had vanished. Five minutes, neither
party saying a word, the troopers waited; then Bruce turned to Conroy.
"I knew they had nothing to trade. Take this sack with you and fall
back. Tell our fellows to keep me well covered till I follow." The
instant the soldier started with the sack swung over his shoulder, the
Indian, who had been squatted on the turf, sprang up and began rapid
expostulation in fluent Ogallalla. "It's no use, young man," interposed
Bruce. "Your chum there has no buffalo tongues, and he knew it. Here's
some hardtack for you," and he spread one liberally with sugar and
handed it to the ever-receptive paw, outstretched to grasp it. A glance
over the shoulder showed that Conroy was nearly at the edge. Then,
quietly, Bruce, too, began to retire. He had not got ten paces, still
facing his unwelcome visitor, when the Indian gave a shrill, sudden cry
and tossed up his hands. Not a second too soon Bruce turned and darted
for cover. The Indian flung himself flat on the turf and rolled away
into a depression where he could find partial shelter from bullets from
the ravine, whence he evidently looked for them, and out from behind the
knoll, bridles held high, "quirts" lashing at their ponies' flanks,
darted half a dozen painted savages, tearing down upon the spot at the
top speed of their agile mounts. Only two men remained on watch at the
moment, Dean and one trooper. Most of the others, already in saddle,
were filing away up the game trail that threaded the windings of the
ravine, the two lead horses with them, while a few yards behind the
young officer and his comrade, halfway down the reverse slope, two
others, afoot, handled the reins of their own horses and those of the
lieutenant and men still held at the edge. It was an exciting moment.
Bruce had only a hundred yards to run before he could get under cover,
and there was no chance of their hitting him at that range, yet a puff
of smoke rose from the knoll, and a bullet, nearly spent, came tumbling
and singing up the turf, and the dashing warriors, yelling wildly,
applauded the shot. Bruce took matters coolly. Leaping behind the
shelter of the ledge, he reached for his carbine, and in a moment more,
as the pursuing Indians came lashing within long range, four seasoned
cavalry carbines, each with a keen eye at the sight and a steady finger
at the trip, were leveled on the coming foe. Dean's young heart beat
hard, it must be owned, for hitherto the Indians had been fighting in
retreat or on the defensive, while now they came as though confident of
success; but there was soldier exultation and something like savage joy
mingling with the thrill of excitement.

"There's more behind those beggars, sir," growled Conroy, a veteran at
Indian work, "but they'll sheer off when they get within three hundred
yards." On they came, shields and lances dangling, ponies on the keen
jump, feathers and pennons streaming on the wind. But, just as Conroy
said, no sooner was Bruce safely under cover and they felt themselves
drawing within dangerous range than, fan-like, they opened out to right
and left, and, yelling still like fiends, veered in wide circle from
their line of attack, and ducking over their ponies' shoulders, clinging
with one leg to the upright part of the cantle, they seemed to invite
the fire of their white foe--and got it. A daring fellow in the lead
came streaking slantwise across the front, as though aiming to pick up
the comrade lurking in the dip of the prairie-like slope, and Conroy's
carbine was the first to bark, followed almost instantly by Dean's. The
scurrying pony threw up his wall-eyed head and lashed with his feathered
tail, evidently hit, but not checked, for under the whip he rushed
gamely on until another bullet, whistling within a foot of his neck,
warned the red rider that he was far too close for safety, for with
halting gait the pony turned and labored off the field, and presently
was seen to be staggering. "Score one for our side," laughed the
Irishman, in glee. "Now's your time, sergeant."

But Bruce, reloading, was gazing sternly at the distant knoll. The other
warriors, riding right and left, were now chasing crosswise over the
billowy slopes, keeping up a fire of taunt and chaff and shrill
war-cries, but never again venturing within three hundred yards--never
wasting a shot.

"I thought so," suddenly cried the sergeant. "They're signaling from the
knoll. They never would have attacked with so few, unless there were
dozens more within sight. Now's our time, lieutenant. We can mount and
ride like hell to the timber--I beg your pardon, sir," he broke off
suddenly. "I didn't mean to say what the lieutenant should do."

"No apologies," laughed Dean, his eyes snapping with the vim of the
fight. "Glad you see the truth of what I said. Come on. Mount quickly,
men."

Two minutes more and the entire party of blue-coats were spurring
swiftly northward up the winding gorge, the pack-horses lumbering
alongside. Eagerly Dean and Bruce in the lead looked right and left for
a game trail leading up the slope, for well they knew that the moment
their reinforcements came the warriors would dash into the ravine and,
finding their antagonists fled, would pursue along the banks. It would
never do to be caught in such a trap. A gallop of a quarter of a mile
and, off to the right, a branch ravine opened out to higher ground, and
into this the leaders dove and, checking speed, rode at the trot until
the ascent grew steep. Five minutes more and they were well up toward
the head of the gulch and presently found themselves nearly on a level
with the hillsides about them. Here, too, were scattered pine-trees and
a few scrub-oak. The timber, then, was close at hand. Signaling halt to
the climbing column, Dean and Bruce, springing from saddle, scrambled up
the bank to their right and peered cautiously back down over the
tumbling waves of the foothills, and what they saw was enough to blanch
the cheek of even veteran Indian fighters.

Far over to the east, beyond an intervening ridge and under the dun
cloud of dust, the earth was black for miles with herds of running
buffalo. Far down to the southeast, here, there and everywhere over the
land, the slopes were dotted with little knots of Indian braves--they
could be nothing else--all riding like mad, coming straight toward them.
Machpealota probably had launched his whole force on the trail of the
luckless troopers.



CHAPTER XIX.


That night there was rejoicing at the new stockade. For over a week not
a courier had managed to slip through in either direction. Alarmed for
the safety of the little garrison, the commanding officer of the post
away up at the gorge of the Big Horn River had sent two troops of
cavalry to scout the slopes of the mountains and look into the state of
affairs at Warrior Gap. They found countless fresh pony tracks all along
the foothills east of the Greasy Grass and in the valleys of the many
forks of the Deje Agie--the Crow name for Tongue River--but not an
Indian did they see. They marched in among the welcoming officers and
men at the bustling post to find themselves hailed as heroes. "We've
been cut off from the world for at least ten days," said the commandant.
"Our couriers have been killed, captured or driven back. Even our
half-breed scouts refuse to make further trial. They say Red Cloud's
people cover the land in every direction. Our woodchoppers only work
under heavy guard. The contractors, freighters and workmen threaten to
strike unless they get their money. The sutler refuses them further
credit. The quartermaster has paid out every cent and says his
requisition for ten thousand dollars was ordered filled, and the money
ought to have been here a week ago. All will have to stop if the money
doesn't come. We're safe enough. The Sioux don't dare come within range
of our breech-loaders. But we can't finish the barracks in time for
winter at this rate."

A stout-hearted soldier was the commanding officer at Warrior Gap. He
had with him now four strong companies of infantry and a troop of horse.
He had, he said, but one anxiety, so far as holding the fort was
concerned--some few of the officers and quite a number of the soldiers,
as has been told, were burdened with their wives and children. If these
could only be moved under strong guard to Frayne on the Platte, he could
snap his fingers in the face of Red Cloud and his whole gang until they
too got breech-loaders. "It's only a question of time!" said he. "Sooner
or later the Interior Department will be fool enough to arm the redskins
all over the land with magazine rifles, and then there will be lively
work for the war office. Any day," said he, further, "we may expect the
coming of a whole regiment from the Platte posts, and then Mr. Lo will
have to light out. Meantime, if we hadn't this trouble about the
workmen, and could get rid of the women and children, we'd be all
right."

So back to the Big Horn rode the squadron to report all safe at Warrior
Gap, barring the blockade, and almost on the same date out there started
from Laramie, on the long march up the Platte and over across the
sage-covered deserts, a strong force of foot and dragoons; and up from
the Sweetwater, far to the southwest, came this venturesome little party
of ten, bringing the much-demanded money, and all the while, with his
far-riding, far-seeing scouts in every direction, Machpealota, perched
in the mountains back of the building post, warily watched the
dispositions and daily work, and laid his plans accordingly. Not a
warrior was permitted to show himself near the stockade, but in a
sleepless cordon, five miles out, they surrounded the Gap. Not a
messenger had managed to elude their vigilance by day, not one had
succeeded in slipping into the little camp by night. Yet, with every
succeeding morn the choppers and fatigue parties pushed farther out from
the stockade, in growing sense of security, and the Indians let them
come.

Full a week before the Laramie column could possibly reach the
mountains, however, Red Cloud was warned of their coming, their numbers,
and composition--so many horse soldiers, so many "heap walks."
Unmolested, the squadron from Fort C. F. Smith, the Big Horn River post,
was permitted to retrace its steps. In fancied safety, born of
confidence in that wonderful new breech-loader, the little command at
the Gap was lulled to indifference to their surroundings. Then, sending
large numbers of his young men to round up the buffalo toward the
Platte, but keeping still his stern and vengeful eye upon the prey
almost at his feet, the red chief made his final and fatal plans.

       *       *       *       *       *

There came a cloudless morning when the cavalry troop escorted a young
officer up the rocky heights to the west, finding everywhere indications
of recent Indian occupancy, but not a redskin barred their way. Without
opposition of any kind, without so much as a glimpse of the foe, were
they permitted to climb to Signal Rock, and from that point, with
powerful glasses, the officers swept the glorious range of foothills,
the deep valley of the Tongue, the banks of the Piney and the Crazy
Woman, the far-spreading upland prairie rolling away like some heaving
ocean suddenly turned to earth, east and southeast to the dim horizon,
and there they saw, or thought they saw, full explanation of their
recent freedom from alarm of any kind. There to the south, full thirty
miles away, the land was overlaid by a dull, heavy, dun-colored cloud,
and traversed by black streaks or blotches that were recognized at once
as running buffalo. Red Cloud and his braves then were drawn away in
search of other game, and, light of heart and foot, the troopers trotted
back to the waiting stockade, to meet there late that evening, as the
weird tattoo of the drums and fifes was echoing back from the rocky
heights, the first messenger through in nearly fifteen days-a half-breed
Sioux from the distant posts along the Platte, bearing a written message
from the commanding officer at Frayne, which the veteran commandant at
Warrior Gap read with infinite comfort:

"Seven companies of infantry and three more troops of cavalry are on the
way and should reach you by Saturday week. The General seems thoroughly
alive to the situation, and we, too, are hoping for orders to move out
and help you give that infernal old scoundrel the thrashing he deserves.
All has been quiet hereabouts since that one party made its dash on Hal
Folsom's ranch. Of course you know the story of Lizette, and of course
Red Cloud must have known that Burning Star was head devil in that
enterprise, though Chaska was the victim. I take much comfort in the
fact that it was I who sent young Dean and his troop round by way of the
Laramie. Folsom and his people would have been murdered to a man if I
hadn't, and yet I hear that absurd old ass at Emory put Dean in arrest
for not coming directly home. Pecksniff should have been retired ten
years ago--for imbecility.

"We had a tremendous storm in the mountains to the south two days ago,
and a courier has just galloped out from Emory, inquiring for news of
Dean. It seems he was sent with a big sum in currency for your
quartermaster, and ordered to slip through by way of the Sweetwater, as
Red Cloud was known to be covering the direct road. Somehow it leaked
out before he started, and a gang of desperadoes gathered to jump him at
Cañon Springs. The storm jumped them, for two of their dead and a dozen
horses were rolled out on the flats. Dean must have got through all
right, for Bat saw their trail fifteen miles above us. Of course, he'll
have to make night marches; but, unless Red Cloud gets wind of his
coming and corrals him, he should reach you almost as soon as this.
Michel, the bearer, has your dispatches and orders. Retained copies are
here. Good luck, old man, and may we meet within the fortnight and wind
up Red Cloud once and for all time."

This was all, but more than enough. Riding night and day in wide détour,
Michel had made his way to the lately beleaguered spot, and what he
brought was joyous news, indeed. Within the coming week the post would
have no more to fear. Within a day or two the contractors, then, would
have their money, and that would tap the sutler's stores and joy would
reign supreme. Enviously the soldiers eyed the artisans. Not for weeks
could their paymaster be looked for, while the funds for the civilians
might reach them on the morrow, provided Red Cloud did not interfere. He
couldn't and wouldn't, said the commander, because he and his braves
were all off to the southeast, hunting buffalo. He could and might, said
Michel that night at ten o'clock, after taps had sent the garrison to
bed, for by the time he left Frayne there were other riders up from Gate
City and all that garrison had learned that Lieutenant Dean was taking
something like fifty thousand dollars in greenbacks up to the Gap, with
only ten men to guard it, and Major Burleigh was wild with anxiety lest
he shouldn't get through, and had been nearly crazy since he heard of
Dean's narrow escape at Cañon Springs. The officer of the day who heard
this story took it, with the teller, to the post commander, and that
veteran sat up late and cross-questioned long. Michel's English might be
broken, but not his statement. The last arrival at Frayne before he left
was one of Major Burleigh's own men from Gate City. He said the General
and his staff were expected at Emory the next day, investigating
matters, for old Stevens had got stampeded because his sergeant-major
was assaulted and old Mr. Folsom knocked out and a drunken captain by
the name of Newhall had been making trouble, and it had all told on
Major Burleigh, who had taken to his bed with nervous prostration.

So, while the garrison went to rest happy, the commanding officer waked
long, and finally slept soundly and might have slept late, but that just
at dawn, full half an hour before the time for reveille, there came a
sharp knocking at the door of his log-hut, and the imperative voice of
the officer of the day.

"Colonel! colonel, I say! There's sharp firing out here in the hills to
the south!"

The peaks to the west were just tinging with purple and red, reflected
from the eastward sky, and a faint light was beginning to steal down
into the deep valley in which the cantonment lay sleeping, when the
veteran commander came hurrying out, half-dressed, and hied him, with
his attendant officer, to the southern angle of the stockade. There on
the narrow ledge or platform built under the sharp tops of the upright
logs, were grouped the silent, grave-faced guard, a dozen men intently
listening. Thither presently came running others of the officers or men,
suddenly awakened by sense of something unusual going on. Far away among
the wooded heights to the south, echoing from the rocky palisades to the
west, could be heard the pop, pop of distant musketry, punctuated
sometimes with louder bang as of large caliber rifles closer at hand.
Little time was there in which to hazard opinion as to the cause. One or
two men, faint-hearted at the thought of the peril of Indian battle and
hopeful of influencing the judgment of their superiors, began the murmur
of "Big hunt," "Buffalo drive," etc., glancing furtively at the colonel
the while as though to observe the effect. But an imperative "Silence,
you idiots!" from the officer of the day put sudden end to their
conjectures. Only a moment did the commander listen. Then, quick and
startling, came the order, "Sound to arms!" and within the minute the
stirring peal of the cavalry trumpet was answered by the hoarse thunder
of the snare-drum, beating the long roll. Out from their "dog tents" and
half-finished log huts came the bewildered men. Often as the alarm had
sounded on the frontier there was a thrill and ring about it this time
that told of action close at hand. Out from the little huts, hurrying
into their frock coats and belting on their swords as they glared about
them for the cause of the uproar, came the officers, old and young, most
of them veterans of many hard-fought fields of the war days--one or two,
only, youngsters fresh from the Point. At many a doorway and unglazed
window appeared the pallid faces of women and children, some of them
weeping in mingled fright and distress. In front of the log guardhouse
the sergeant quickly formed the two reliefs not on post. On their
designated parades the companies rapidly fell in, while stern-voiced
non-commissioned officers rebuked the laggards and aided them into their
belts, and each first sergeant took rapid note of his men. No need to
call the roll, a skulker would have been detected and kicked into the
ranks at the instant. Over under the rough board shelter of the
quartermaster's employees the workmen came tumbling out in shirt
sleeves, many of them running to the nearest officer and begging for a
gun and a place in the fight, for now the firing was loud and lively.
Down by the swift-flowing stream the tethered horses of the cavalry
plunged and neighed in excitement, and the mules in the quartermaster's
corral set up their irrepressible bray. For five minutes there was
clamor, but no confusion. Then disciplined silence reigned again, all
but the nearing volleying at the south. Presently, at rapid trot the
cavalry, some fifty strong, came clattering up the stony trail from the
stream, and with carbines advanced disappeared through the main gateway
in a cloud of dust. Two companies were told off to man the loopholes of
the stockade. Two others under the command of a senior captain faced by
the right flank, and in double-quick time danced away in the wake of the
cavalry. Eagerly the watchers climbed the wooden walls or to the tower
of the half-finished guardhouse, and, as the red light strengthened in
the east and the mountain sides became revealed, studied with their
glasses or with straining eyes the southward vista through the hills.
They saw the troop form line to the front at the gallop as it swept out
over the open ground four hundred yards away, saw its flankers scurry to
the nearest shoulder of bluff, saw their excited signals and
gesticulations, and presently a sheaf of skirmishers shot forward from
the advancing line and breasted the low ridge eight hundred yards out
from the fort, and then there came floating back the sound of ringing,
tumultuous cheer as the skirmishers reached the crest and darted
headlong at some unseen object beyond, and after them went the reserve,
cheering too. And now the sound of firing became fierce and incessant,
and messengers came galloping back to the commander of the steadily
advancing infantry, and they, too, were seen to throw forward heavy
skirmish lines and then resume the march. And then, down over the ridge
came a little knot of horsemen, made up of three men riding close
together, the outer ones supporting between them the comrade in the
center. Before they were within four hundred yards the young adjutant,
gazing through his glasses at the colonel's side, exclaimed: "It's
Dean--dead or wounded!" and one of the surgeons rushed forward to meet
the party. "He's weak, sir, almost gone from loss of blood," exclaimed
Trooper Conroy, himself bleeding from a gash along the cheek. A faint
smile drifted over the young fellow's pallid face, as the adjutant, too,
galloped up. A feeble hand indicated the bulging saddle pocket. A faint
voice faltered, "There's ten thousand dollars in that packet. We had to
fight our way through," and then the brave blue eyes closed and strong
arms lifted the almost lifeless form from the saddle as Marshall swooned
away.



CHAPTER XX.


A day had dawned on the Big Horn never to be forgotten by those who
watched the conflict from the stockade, never to be recalled by those
who went forth to fight. Broad daylight had come and the sun was peeping
over the far horizon as strong arms bore the unconscious officer within
the post, and the commander eagerly questioned the men who came with
him. Their story was quickly told. They had fled before overpowering
numbers of the Sioux the night before, had made their way through the
timber in the darkness and come ahead all night, groping their way from
ridge to ridge until at the peep of day they found themselves in sight
of familiar landmarks, and could see the gleam of the waters of the Fork
dancing away under the dawn. And then, as they essayed to ride on they
found the Indians all around them. Whichever way they turned the foe
appeared, but only in scattered parties and small numbers. Not once did
more than half a dozen appear in sight, and then confident of speedy
succor from the fort, they had decided to make a dash for it, and so
rode boldly out into the open. But now a score of warriors popped up and
barred the way, while others far out at flank or rear kept up long range
fire. One man was shot through the body and fainted and had to be borne
along. Then the lieutenant was shot in the leg, but no one knew it until
they saw his boot was running over with blood, and he was growing
ghastly white, even though he kept encouraging and directing. But when
at last the cavalry met them and brushed the Indians away from the
front, Captain Drum, who rode at their head, ordered Mr. Dean taken
right into the post while he dashed on to punish the Sioux, "and he is
giving them hell, too," said the excited trooper, "for there couldn't
have been more than a hundred Indians all told."

Ah, not in sight, perhaps, poor lads!--not in sight of horse, foot or
fort; for if there were only a hundred, how came it that the fire grew
fiercer still, and that presently every musket in the infantry skirmish
line, too, was blazing on the foe. By this time cavalry and infantry
both had disappeared over the curtaining ridge, and the colonel's face
grew grave and haggard as he listened. Three-fifths of his little
garrison were out there battling against unknown numbers. They had gone
to rescue the detachment and bring it safely in. That rescue was
accomplished. The precious package for which so much had been risked was
here--but what detained the command? Why did they not return? Beyond
doubt far more Indians were out there now than when first the firing
began. "Gallop out, Mr. Adjutant, and tell the major to withdraw his
line and fall back on the stockade," was the order--and with a lump in
his throat the young officer mounted again and started. He was a pet in
the garrison, only in his second year of commission. They saw him gallop
through the gate, saw him ride gallantly straight for the curtaining
ridge beyond which the smoke was rising heavily now, saw him breasting
the slope, his orderly following, saw him almost reach it, and then
suddenly the prairie seemed to jet fire. The foremost horse reared,
plunged, and went rolling over and over. They saw--plainly saw through
their glasses, and a shriek of agony and horror went up from among the
women at the sight--half a dozen painted savages spring out from behind
the ledge, some on pony back, some afoot, and bear down on the stricken
form of the slender young rider now feebly striving to rise from the
turf; saw the empty hand outstretched, imploring mercy; saw jabbing
lances and brandished war-clubs pinning the helpless boy to earth and
beating in the bared, defenseless head; saw the orderly dragged from
under his struggling horse and butchered by his leader's side; saw the
bloody knives at work tearing away the hot red scalps, then ripping off
the blood-soaked clothing, and, to the music of savage shouts of glee
and triumph, hacking, hewing, mutilating the poor remains, reckless of
the bullets that came buzzing along the turf from the score of
Springfields turned loose at the instant among the loopholes of the
stockade. It was eight hundred yards away in the dazzling light of the
rising sun. Old Springfields did not carry as do the modern arms.
Soldiers of those days were not taught accurate shooting as they are
now. It was too far for anything but chance, and all within a minute or
two the direful tragedy was over, and the red warriors had darted back
behind the ridge from which they came.

"My God! sir," gasped the officer who stood at the side of the
awe-stricken post commander, "I believe it's Red Cloud's entire band,
and they've got our poor boys surrounded! Can't we send help?"

"Send help! Merciful heaven, man, who's to help us? Who's to protect
these poor women and children if we go? I have but two companies left.
It's what those fiends are hoping--have been planning--that I'll send
out my last man to the aid of those already gone, and then they'll dart
in on the fort, and what will become of these?"

Great drops of sweat were pouring down the colonel's face as he turned
and pointed to the huts where now, clinging to one another in terror,
many poor wives and children were gathered, and the air was filled with
the sobbing of the little ones. Up from the stockade came two young
officers, their faces set and rigid, their eyes blazing. "In God's name,
colonel," cried the foremost, "let me take my men and clear that ridge
so that our people can get back. One charge will do it, sir."

But solemnly the commander uplifted his hand. "Listen," said he, "the
battle is receding. They are driving our poor fellows southward, away
from us. They are massed between them and us. It would only be playing
into their hands, my boy. It's too late to help. Our duty now is here."

"But good God, sir! I can't stay without raising a hand to help. I
beg--I implore!"

"Go back to your post at once, sir. You may be needed any minute. Look
there! Now!"

And as he spoke the colonel pointed to the southeast. Over the scene
beyond the divide to the south hung the bank of pale-blue smoke. Out on
the slope lay the ghastly remains of the young adjutant and his faithful
comrade who, not ten minutes before, had galloped forth in obedience to
their orders and met their soldier fate. Out to the southeast the ridge
fell gradually away into the general level of the rolling prairie, and
there, full a thousand yards distant, there suddenly darted into view
three horsemen, troopers evidently, spurring madly for home.

"They've cut their way through! Thank God!" almost screamed the
spectators at the parapet. But their exultation died an instant later.
Over the ridge, in swift pursuit came a dozen painted, feathered braves,
their ponies racing at lightning speed, their arrows and bullets
whizzing along the line of flight. The horse of the foremost trooper was
staggering, and suddenly went plunging headlong, sending his rider
sprawling far out on the turf. He was up in a second, dire peril nerving
him to desperate effort. His comrades veered at his cry for help and
glanced back over their shoulders. One, unnerved at sight of the dashing
foemen in pursuit, clapped spurs again, and bending low, rode madly on.
The other, gallant fellow! reined about in wide, sweeping circle, and
turned back to meet his running comrade. They saw him bend to lend a
helping hand, saw him bend still lower as three of the Indians leaped
from their ponies and, kneeling, loosed their rifles all at once; saw
him topple out of saddle, and his stricken horse, with flapping rein,
trot aimlessly about a moment before he, too, went floundering in his
tracks; saw the other soldier turn to face his fate by his dying
comrade's side, fighting to the last, overwhelmed and borne down by the
rush of red warriors. Strong men turned aside in agony, unable to look
on and see the rest--the brutal, pitiless clubbing and stabbing, the
fearful hacking of lance and knife--but others still, in the fascination
of horror, gazed helplessly through the smoke drifting upward from the
blazing loopholes, and once a feeble cheer broke forth as one shot took
effect and a yelling Indian stretched out dead upon the sward. Then for
a brief moment all eyes centered on the sole survivor who came sweeping
down the slope, straight for the stockade. Almost it seemed as though he
might yet escape, despite the fact that his horse, too, was lurching and
stumbling and his pursuers were gaining rapidly, defiant of the fire of
the little fort. Reckless of order and discipline, a dozen soldiers
nearest the gate rushed out upon the open bench, shouting encouragement
and sending long range, chance shots. But with every stride the fleeing
steed grew weaker, stumbled painfully and slackened speed, and soon they
saw him slowing down despite the frantic jabbing of the spurs, and with
drooped head and bleeding nostrils giving up the fight. And then, at
sound of the triumphant yells and jeers of his pursuers, the poor wretch
in saddle threw one fearful glance behind him, one despairing look
toward the comrades and the refuge still a quarter of a mile away, and
with shaking hand he turned the brown revolver on his own temple and
pulled trigger, and then went tumbling earthward, a corpse. There at
least was one scalp the Sioux could covet in vain, for with shouts of
vengeance, the little squad of infantry, deaf to all orders or the
clamor of the bugle recall, dashed out over the level bench, firing
furiously as they ran, and, whether from the superstitious awe with
which the Indians view the suicide, or the dread of close combat with
the gallant band of blue-coats, the mounted warriors turned and scurried
away across the prairie, and were presently out of range beyond the
ridge again. Then, and not till they had reached and lifted and borne
the lifeless form of the trooper, did the little party condescend to
answer the repeated summons from the fort. Then at last they slowly
returned, unrebuked, for no man had the heart to chide their daring.

Only once more was there further sight of the one-sided battle. Half a
mile or more beyond the bare divide there rose against the southern sky
a bold, oblong height or butte, studded with bowlders and stunted pine,
and watchers at the fort became aware as the sun climbed higher that the
smoke cloud, thinning gradually but perceptibly, was slowly drifting
thither. The fire, too, grew faint and scattering. The war-whoops rang
and re-echoed among the rocks, but all sound of cheering had long since
died away. At last, an hour after the fury of the fight began, the
colonel, gazing in speechless grief, through his field-glass, muttered
to the officer at his side:

"Some of them are still left. They are fighting for their lives along
that butte."

Only a few, though. One by one the dark dots among the bowlders ceased
to stir and move about. Little by little the fire slackened, and all but
occasional scattered shots died utterly away. Then other forms,
feathered and bedizened, were seen rushing in numbers up the distant
hillside, and that meant all was over, and the brutal knives were busily
at work. Little by little all sound of conflict, all sight of
combatants, disappeared entirely, and the unclouded sunshine streamed
down upon a scene on which the silence of death indeed had fallen. When
at last, late that afternoon, the watchers reported a vast body of
Indians drifting away eastward toward the distant Powder River, and
venturesome scouts stole out to reconnoiter, backed by skirmish lines
from the stricken post, they found the grassy slopes beyond that
curtaining ridge one broad field of death, strewn with the stripped and
hacked and mangled forms of those who had so gallantly dashed forth to
the aid of comrade soldiery at the break of day, so torn and mutilated
and disfigured that only a limited few were ever identified. Officers
and men, one after another, had died in their tracks, victims of Red
Cloud and the Ogallalla Sioux.

And all for what? Late that night the quartermaster in wild agitation
sought his colonel's door, a package in his hands. "For God's sake, sir,
look at this!" he cried.

The cords had just been cut, the seals just broken, the stout paper
carefully opened and the contents of the precious packet exposed to
view. It held no money at all, nothing but layer on layer of waste and
worthless paper!



CHAPTER XXI.


A week went by at Fort Emory, and not a word came back from Dean. The
furious storm that swept the hills and swelled the rivers was the talk
of every army post within two hundred miles, while in the gambling halls
and saloons of Laramie, Cheyenne and Gate City men spoke of it in low
tones and with bated breath. If ever the bolts of heaven were launched
to defeat a foul crime it was right there at Cañon Springs, for the
story was all over Wyoming by this time how the worst gang of cutthroats
that ever infested the wide West had galloped in strong force to that
wild, sequestered nook to murder Dean and his whole party of the hated
"blue bellies," if need be, but at all hazards to get the precious
package in his charge. Fifty thousand dollars in government greenbacks
it contained, if Hank Birdsall, their chosen leader, could be believed,
and hitherto he had never led them astray. He swore that he had the
"straight tip," and that every man who took honest part in the fight,
that was sure to ensue, should have his square one thousand dollars.
Thirty to ten, surrounding the soldiers along the bluffs on every side,
they counted on easy victory. But the warning thunder had been enough
for the young troop leader, and prompted him to break camp and get out
of the gorge. They were starting when Birdsall's scouts peered over the
bank and the outlaw ordered instant pursuit, just in time to meet the
fury of the flood and to see some of his fellows drowned like rats in a
sewer.

But who betrayed the secret? What officer or government employé revealed
the fact that Dean was going with so much treasure?--and what could have
been his object? Birdsall had taken to the mountains and was beyond
pursuit. "Shorty," one of his men, rescued from drowning by the mail
carrier and escort coming down from Frayne, confessed the plot and the
General was now at Emory investigating. Major Burleigh had taken to his
bed. Captain Newhall was reported gone to Denver. Old John Folsom lay
with bandaged head and blinded eyes in a darkened room, assiduously
nursed by Pappoose and Jessie, who in turn were devotedly attended by
Mrs. Fletcher. Possessed of some strange nervous excitement, this
energetic woman was tireless in her effort to be of use. Minus ten of
their very best, "C" Troop still camped at Emory, the General holding it
for possible escort duty, and, to his huge delight, young Loomis was
assigned to command it until Dean should return. There came a day when
the news arrived from Frayne that the Laramie column had crossed the
Platte and marched on for the Big Horn, and then John Folsom began to
mend and was allowed to sit up, and told the doctor he had need to see
Major Burleigh without delay, but Burleigh could not leave his bed, said
the physician in attendance--a very different practitioner from
Folsom's--and the old man began to fret and fume, and asked for writing
materials. He wrote Burleigh a note, and the doctor forbade his
patient's reading anything. Major Burleigh, said he, was a very sick
man, and in a wretchedly nervous condition. Serious consequences were
feared unless utter quiet could be assured.

Then Folsom was pronounced well enough to be taken out for a drive, and
he and Pappoose had the back seat together, while Jessie, with Harry
Loomis to drive, sat in front, and Jess was shy and happy, for Loomis
had plainly lost his heart to his comrade's pretty sister. Marshall had
now been gone nine days and could soon be expected home, said everybody,
for with a big force going up there the Indians would scatter and "the
boys" would have no trouble coming back. And so this lovely summer
afternoon every one seemed bright and joyous at the fort, listening to
the band and wondering, some of the party at least, how much longer it
would be before they could hope to hear from the absent, when there
arose sudden sounds of suppressed commotion in the camp of "C" Troop. A
courier was coming like mad on the road from Frayne--a courier whose
panting horse reined up a minute, with heaving flanks, in the midst of
the thronging men, and all the troop turned white and still at the news
the rider briefly told:--three companies at Warrior Gap were massacred
by the Sioux, one hundred and seventy men in all, including Sergeant
Bruce and all "C" Troop's men but Conroy and Garret, who had cut their
way through with Lieutenant Dean and were safe inside the stockade,
though painfully wounded. This appalling story the girls heard with
faces blanched with horror. Passionate weeping came to Jessie's relief,
but Pappoose shed never a tear. The courier's dispatches were taken in
to the colonel, and Folsom, trembling with mingled weakness and
excitement, followed.

It was an impressive scene as the old soldier read the sad details to
the rapidly growing group of weeping women, for that was Emory's
garrison now, while the official reports were hurried on to catch the
General on his way to Cheyenne. Some one warned the band leader, and the
musicians marched away to quarters. Some one bore the news to town where
the flags over the hotel and the one newspaper office were at once
lowered to half staff, although that at Emory, true to official
etiquette and tradition, remained until further orders at the peak,
despite the fact that two of the annihilated companies were from that
very post. Some one bore the news to Burleigh's quarters at the depot,
and, despite assertions that the major could see no one and must not be
agitated or disturbed, disturbed and agitated he was beyond
per-adventure. Excitedly the sick man sprang from his bed at the tidings
of the massacre and began penning a letter. Then he summoned a young
clerk from his office and told him he had determined to get up at once,
as now every energy of the government would doubtless be put forth to
bring the Sioux to terms. It was the young clerk who a few weeks back
had remarked to a fellow employé how "rattled" the old man was getting.
The major's doctor was not about. The major began dictating letters to
various officials as he rapidly dressed, and what happened can best be
told in the clerk's own words: "For a man too sick to see any one two
hours before," said he, "the major had wonderful recuperative powers,
but they didn't last. He was in the midst of a letter to the chief
quartermaster and had got as far as to say, 'The deplorable and tragic
fate of Lieutenant Dean points, of course, to the loss of the large sum
intrusted to him,' when I looked up and said, 'Why, Lieutenant Dean
ain't dead, major; he got in all right,' and he stared at me a minute as
if I had stabbed him. His face turned yellow-white and down he went like
a log--had a fit I s'pose. Then I ran for help, and then the doctor came
and hustled everybody out."

But not till late that night did these details reach "Old Pecksniff" at
the post. A solemn time was that veteran having, for many of the women
were almost in hysterics and all were in deep distress. Two of their
number, wives of officers, were widowed by the catastrophe, and one lay
senseless for hours. It was almost dark when Mr. Folsom and the girls
drove homeward, and his face was lined and haggard. Pappoose nestled
fondly, silently at his side, holding his hand and closely scanning his
features, as though striving to read his thoughts. Jessie, comforted now
by the knowledge that Marshall was rapidly recovering, and the words of
praise bestowed upon him in the colonel's letters, was nevertheless in
deep anxiety as to the future. The assurance that the Sioux, even in
their overwhelming numbers, would not attack a stockade, was not
sufficient. Marshall would be on duty again within a very few days, the
colonel said. His wounds would heal within the week, and it was only
loss of so much blood that had prostrated him. Within a few days, then,
her loved brother would be in saddle and in the field against the
Indians. Who could assure her they would not have another pitched
battle? Who could say that the fate that befell the garrison at Warrior
Gap might not await the troop when next it rode away? And poor Jess had
other anxieties, too, by this time. Loomis was burning with eagerness
for orders to lead it instantly to join the field column, and importuned
Colonel Stevens, even in the midst of all the grief and shock of the
early evening. Almost angrily the veteran colonel bade him attend to his
assigned duties and not demand others. "C" Troop should not with his
advice and consent be sent north of the Platte. "First thing you know,
sir, after they've got all the troops up along the Big Horn you'll see
the Sioux in force this side of the river, murdering right and left, and
not a company to oppose them. No, sir, more than enough of that troop
have already been sacrificed! The rest shall stay here."

And well was it, for one and all, that "Old Pecksniff" held firm to his
decision. It was one of his lucid intervals.

Late that evening, after ten o'clock, there came the sound of hoof-beats
on the hard road and the crack of the long-lashed mule-whip, and the
fort ambulance clattered up to Folsom's gate, and the colonel himself,
his adjutant by his side, came nervously up the gravel walk. Folsom met
them at his door. Instinctively he felt that something new and startling
was added to the catalogue of the day's disastrous tidings. Pecksniff's
face was eloquent of gravest concern, mingled with irrepressible
excitement.

"Let me see you in private, quick," he said. "Mr.--Ah--Mr. Adjutant,
will you kindly remain in the parlor," and, taking Folsom by the elbow,
Pecksniff led impetuously into the library. The girls had gone aloft
only a moment before, but, dreading news of further evil, Pappoose came
fluttering down.

"Go in and welcome the adjutant, dear," said Folsom hurriedly. "The
colonel and I have some matters to talk of." Obediently she turned at
once, and, glancing up the stairs, noted that Mrs. Fletcher's door must
have been suddenly opened, for the light from her room was now streaming
on the third-floor balusters. Listening again! What could be the secret
of that woman's intense watchfulness? In the parlor the young staff
officer was pacing up and down, but his face lighted at sight of Elinor.

"Do you know--Is there anything new?--anything worse?" she quickly
asked, as she gave her slim young hand.

"Not concerning our people," was the significant answer. "But I fear
there's more excitement coming."

Barely waiting for Elinor to withdraw, "Pecksniff" had turned on Folsom.
"You know I opposed the sending of that party? You know it was all
ordered on Burleigh's urging and representations, do you not?"

"Yes, I heard so," said Folsom. "What then?"

"You know he planned the whole business--sent 'em around by Cañon
Springs and the Sweetwater?"

"Yes, I heard that, too," said Folsom, still wondering.

"You know some one must have put that Birdsall gang on the scent, and
that Burleigh has had alleged nerve prostration ever since, and has been
too ill to see any one or to leave his bed."

"Yes, so we were told."

"Well, he's well enough to be up and away--God knows where, and here is
the reason--just in from the north," and, trembling with excitement,
Pecksniff pointed to the closing paragraph of the letter in his hand:

     "Cords, seals and wrapping were intact when handed to the
     quartermaster, but the contents were nothing but worthless paper.
     It must have been so when given to Lieutenant Dean."

Folsom's eyes were popping from his head. He sank into a chair, gazing
up in consternation.

"Don't you see, man!" said Pecksniff, "some one in the depot is short
ten thousand dollars or so. Some one hoped to cover this shortage in
just this way--to send a little squad with a bogus package, and then
turn loose the biggest gang of ruffians in the country. They would have
got it but for the storm at Cañon Springs, and no one would have been
the wiser. They couldn't have got it without a murderous fight. No one
would ever dare confess his complicity in it. No statement of theirs
that there wasn't a cent in the sack could ever be believed. Some one's
shortage would be covered and his reputation saved. The plot failed, and
God's mercy was over Dean's young head. He'd 'a been murdered or ruined
if the plan worked--and now Burleigh's gone!"



CHAPTER XXII.


Yes, Burleigh was gone, and there was confusion at the depot. At six the
doctor had come forth from his room, saying he was better, but must not
be disturbed. At seven the major, carrying a satchel, had appeared at
his office, where two clerks were smoking their pipes, innocent of all
thought of their employer's coming. It was after hours. They had no
business there at the time. Smoking was prohibited in the office, yet it
was the major who seemed most embarrassed at the unexpected meeting. It
was the major who hastily withdrew. He was traced to the railway, and it
was speedily found that he had sent word to the division superintendent
that the General had telegraphed for him to join him at once at
Cheyenne, and a special engine and caboose would be needed. At a quarter
past seven this had started full speed. It was eleven when the discovery
was made. Meantime Folsom and Stevens had consulted together. Folsom had
told of the large sum he had loaned Burleigh and the conditions
attached, and between them a dispatch, concisely setting forth their
suspicions, was sent the General at Cheyenne, with orders to "rush," as
they were determined if possible to head off the fugitive at that point.
Back came the wire ten minutes before midnight that the General had left
Cheyenne for Laramie by stage that evening, and must now be near the
Chugwater and far from telegraphic communication. Then Stevens wired the
sheriff at Cheyenne and the commanding officer of the new post of Fort
Russell to stop Burleigh at all hazards, and at two in the morning the
answer came that the major had reached Cheyenne about midnight and they
would search everywhere for him. That was the last until long after the
rising of another sun.

Events and excitements, alarms and rumors followed each other with
startling rapidity during the day. In glaring headlines the local paper
published the details of the massacre at the Gap, lauding the valor and
devotion of the soldiers, but heaping abuse upon the commander of the
post, who, with other troops at his disposal, had looked on and lifted
no hand to aid them. Later, of course, it was proved that the veteran
had foiled old Red Cloud's villainous plan to lure the whole garrison
into the open country and there surround and slowly annihilate it, while
then, or at their leisure later, his chosen ones should set fire to the
unprotected stockade and bear off those of the women or children whose
years did not commend them to the mercy of the hatchet. Soldiers and
thinking men soon saw the colonel was right and that the only mistake he
had made was in allowing any of the garrison to go forth at all. But
this verdict was not published, except long after as unimportant news
and in some obscure corner. The Laramie column, so the news ran, was
hastening down the Powder River to strike Red Cloud. The Indians would
be severely punished, etc., etc. But old Folsom's face grew whiter yet
as he read that such orders had been sent and that the General himself
was now at Laramie directing matters. "In God's name," urged he, "if you
have any influence with the General, tell him not to send a foot column
chasing horsemen anywhere, and above all not to follow down the Powder.
Next thing you know Red Cloud and all his young men will have slipped
around their flank and come galloping back to the Platte, leaving the
old men and women and worn-out ponies to make tracks for the 'heap
walks' to follow."

And Stevens listened dumbly. Influence he had never had. Folsom might be
right, but it was a matter in which he was powerless. When a depot
quartermaster, said he, could dictate the policy that should govern the
command of a colonel of the fighting force, there was no use in
remonstrance. Noon came and no news from the Cheyenne sheriff. The
commanding officer at Russell wired that he, too, was stripped of his
troops and had not even a cavalry courier to send after the General with
the startling news that Major Burleigh had vanished with large sums, it
was believed, in his possession. At one o'clock came tidings of the
fugitive. He, together with two other men, had spent the late hours of
the night at the lodgings of one of the party in Cheyenne, and at dawn
had driven away in a "rig" hired at a local stable, ostensibly to follow
the General to Laramie. They had kept the road northwestward on leaving
town--were seen passing along the prairie beyond Fort Russell, but
deputies, sworn in at once and sent in pursuit, came back to say the rig
had never gone as far as Lodge Pole. At six P. M. came further tidings.
Lieutenant Loring, engineer officer of the department, had reached
Cheyenne and was in consultation with the commanding officer at Russell.
The rig had been found at Sloan's ranch, far up Crow Creek, where the
party had taken horses and ridden westward into the Black Hills. In
anticipation of a big reward, the sheriff had deputies out in pursuit.
From such information as they could gather it was learned that the name
of one of the parties gone with Burleigh was Newhall, who claimed to be
a captain in the army, "out there looking after investments"--a captain
who was too busy, however, to go and see the few fellows of his cloth at
the new post and who was not known to them by sight at all. The
engineer, Mr. Loring, was making minute inquiries about this fellow, for
the description given him had excited not a little of his interest.

And so the sun of the second day went down on Gate City and Emory, and
everybody knew Burleigh was gone. The wildest rumors were afloat, and
while all Fort Emory was in mourning over the tragedy at Warrior Gap,
everybody in town seemed more vividly concerned in Burleigh and the
cause of his sudden flight. As yet only certain army officers and Mr.
Folsom knew of the startling discovery at the stockade--that the package
was a bogus affair throughout. But all Gate City knew Burleigh had drawn
large sums from the local bank, many citizens had heard that John Folsom
was several thousand dollars the poorer for his sudden going, and all
interest was centered in the coming from Chicago of an expert, summoned
by wire, to open the huge office safe at the quartermaster's depot The
keys had gone with Burleigh. At the last moment, after loading up with
all the cash his own private safe contained, for that was found open and
practically empty in its corner of his sitting-room, and when he had
evidently gone to the office to get the funds there stored, he was
confounded by the sight of the two employés. He could have ordered them
to leave and then helped himself, but conscience had made a coward of
him, even more than nature. He saw accusers in every face, and fled.
Burleigh had lost his nerve.

Two days went by and excitement was at its height. All manner of evil
report of Burleigh was now afloat. The story of the bogus package had
been noised abroad through later messengers and dispatches from the Gap.
Lieutenant Loring had come to Fort Emory under the instructions of the
department commander, and what those instructions were no man could find
out from the reticent young officer. If ever a youth seemed capable of
hearing everything and telling nothing it was this scientist of a
distinguished corps that frontiersmen knew too little of. What puzzled
Folsom and old Pecksniff was the persistence with which he followed up
his inquiries about Captain Newhall. He even sought an interview with
Pappoose and asked her to describe the rakish traveler who had so
unfavorably impressed her. She was looking her loveliest that evening.
Jessie was radiant once more. A long letter had come from Marshall--sad
because of the fate that had befallen his companions, stern because of
the evidence of the deep-laid plot that so nearly made him a victim, but
modestly glad of the official commendation he had received, and
rejoicing over the surgeon's promise that he would be well enough to
make the march with a command ordered back to Frayne. Red Cloud's people
had scattered far and wide, said he. "God grant they may not turn back
to the south." He was coming home. He would soon be there. The papers
had told their readers this very morning that the General had plainly
said his force was too small to risk further assault upon the Sioux.
Alarmed at the result of its policy, the Bureau had recommended
immediate abandonment of Warrior Gap and the withdrawal of the troops
from the Big Horn country. The War Department, therefore, had to hold
its hand. The Indians had had by long, long odds the best of the fight,
and perhaps would be content to let well enough alone. All this had
tended to bring hope to the hearts of most of the girls, and Loring's
welcome was the more cordial because of this and because of his now
known championship of Marshall's cause. From being a fellow under the
ban of suspicion and the cloud of official censure, Marshall Dean was
blossoming out as a hero. It was late in the evening when Folsom brought
the young engineer from the hotel and found Elinor and Jessie in the
music-room, with Pecksniff's adjutant and Loomis in devoted attendance.
It was nearly eleven when the officers left--two returning to the fort,
Loring lingering for a word with Folsom at the gate. The night was still
and breathless. The stars gleamed brilliantly aloft, but the moon was
young and had early gone to bed. A window in the third story softly
opened, as the two men stopped for their brief conference--the one so
young-looking, sturdy and alert, despite the frost of so many winters;
the other so calm and judicial, despite his youth.

"Up to this afternoon at five no trace of them has been found," said
Loring. "Day after to-morrow that safe-opener should reach us. If you
have influence with Colonel Stevens you should urge him to have a guard
at the quartermaster's depot, even if he has to strip the fort. The
General cannot be reached by wire."

"Why?" asked Folsom, looking up in alarm. "You don't suppose he'd come
back to rob his own office?"

"He is not the man to take a risk, but there are those with him not so
careful, and the hand that sent Birdsall's gang in chase of Dean could
send them here, with the safe-key. Those few clerks and employés would
be no match for them."

"By heaven, I believe you're right!" cried Folsom. "Which way are you
going now?"

"Back to the hotel by way of the depot," was the answer. "Will you go?"

"One moment. I do not travel about just now without a gun," said Folsom,
stepping within doors, and even the low sound of their voices died away
and all was still as a desert. The old trader did not return at once.
Something detained him--Miss Folsom, probably, reasoned the engineer, as
he stood there leaning on the gate. Aloft a blind creaked audibly, and,
gazing upward, Loring saw a dark, shadowy shutter at the third-story
window swing slowly in. There was no wind to move it. Why should human
hands be so stealthy? Then a dim light shone through the slats, and the
shade was raised, and, while calmly watching the performance, Loring
became aware of a dim, faint, far-away click of horse's hoofs at the
gallop, coming from the north.

"If that were from the eastward, now," thought he, "it might bring
stirring news." But the sound died away after a moment, as though the
rider had dived into sandy soil.

Just then Folsom reappeared, "I had to explain to my daughter. She is
most reluctant to have me go out at night just now."

"Naturally," said Loring calmly. "And have you been way up to the third
story? I suppose Miss Folsom has gone to her room."

"The girls have, both of them--but not to the third story. That's Mrs.
Fletcher's room."

"Ah, yes. The woman, I believe, who accidentally scared your horse and
threw you?"

"The very one!" he answered. "I'm blessed if I know what should have
taken her out at that hour. She says she needed air and a walk, but why
should she have chosen the back-gate and the alley as a way to air and
sunshine?"

"Would you mind taking me through that way?" asked the engineer
suddenly. "It's the short cut to the depot, I understand."

"Why, certainly. I hadn't thought of that," said Folsom. "Come right
on."

And so, while the hoof-beats up the road grew louder, the two turned
quickly back to the rear of the big frame house. "That coming horse
brings news," muttered Loring to himself, as he turned the corner. "We
can head him off, but I want to see this situation first."

Looking away southeastward from the porch of Folsom's homestead, one
could see in the daytime a vista of shingled roofs and open yards, a
broad valley, with a corral and inclosures on the southern edge of the
town, but not a tree. To-night only dim black shadows told where roof
and chimney stood, and not a sign could they see of the depot. Loring
curiously gazed aloft at the rear and side windows of the third story.
"They command quite a view, I suppose," said he, and even as he spoke
the sash of the southeast room was softly raised, the blind swung
slightly outward. That woman watching and listening again! And it was
she whose sudden and startling appearance at the rear gate had led to
Folsom's throw so early the morning Burleigh and his mysterious friend
were found missing from their quarters just after dawn--the very morning
Dean, with his treasure package and little escort, rode forth from Emory
on that perilous mission--the very morning that Birdsall and his
murderous gang set forth from Gate City in pursuit.

And now those hoof-beats up the road were coming closer, and Folsom,
too, could hear and was listening, even while studying Loring's face.
Suddenly a faint gleam shot across the darkness overhead. Glancing
quickly upward, both men, deep in shadow, saw that the eastern window on
the southern side was lighted up. Out in the alleyway, low yet clear, a
whistle sounded--twice. Then came cautious footsteps down the back
stairs. The bolt of the rear door was carefully drawn. A woman's form,
tall and shrouded in a long cloak, came swiftly forth and sped down the
garden walk to that rear gate. "Come on, quick!" murmured the engineer,
and on tiptoe, wondering, the two men followed. They saw her halt at the
barred gate. Low, yet distinct she spoke a single name: "George!" And
without, in the alley, a voice answered: "I'm here! open, quick!"

"Swear that you are alone!"

"Oh, stop that damned nonsense! Of course I'm alone!" was the sullen
reply, and at the sound of the voice Loring seemed fairly to quiver. The
gate was unbarred. A man's form, slender and shadowy, squeezed in and
seemed peering cautiously about. "You got my note?" he began. "You know
what's happened?"

But a woman's muffled scream was the answer. With a spring like a cat
Loring threw himself on the intruder and bore him down. In an instant
Folsom had barred the gate, and the woman, moaning, fell upon her knees.

"Mercy! Mercy!" she cried. "It is all my fault. I sent for him."

"Take your hands off, damn you, or you'll pay for this!" cried the
undermost man. "I'm Captain Newhall, of the army!"

"You're a thief!" answered Loring, through his set teeth. "Hand over the
key of that safe!"

The sound of hoof-beats at the front had suddenly ceased. There was a
sputter and scurry in the alley behind. Full half a dozen horses must
have gone tearing away to the east. Other lights were popping in the
windows now. Folsom's household was alarmed. Attracted by the scream and
the sound of scuffle, a man came hurrying toward them from the front.

"Halt! Who are you?" challenged Folsom, covering him with his revolver.

"Don't shoot. I'm Ned Lannion--just in from the ranch. Have you heard
anything of Hal, sir?"

"Of Hal?" gasped Folsom, dropping his pistol in dismay. "In God's name,
what's wrong?"

"God only knows, sir. Mrs. Hal's nigh crazy. He's been gone two days."



CHAPTER XXIII.


Five days later the women and children from Warrior Gap, most of them
bereaved, all of them unnerved by the experiences of that awful day,
arrived at old Fort Frayne, escorted by a strong command of infantry and
all that was left of the cavalry troop at the stockade. A sad procession
it was as it slowly forded the Platte and ascended the winding road to
the post, where sorrowing, sympathetic army women met and ministered to
them. With them, too, came such of the wounded as could be moved, and at
the head of the little squad of horse rode Lieutenant Dean, whom the
post commander and several officers greeted almost effusively.

Yet almost the first question was, "Did you see any Indians?"

"Not one," answered Dean. "They seem to have drawn away from the Big
Horn road entirely. Why do you ask?" he added anxiously.

"There were signal fires out at Eagle Butte last night, and I've just
had a letter from old Folsom at the ranch on the Laramie. He begs us to
send a guard at once, and I haven't a horseman. There's been the devil
to pay at young Folsom's place."

Dean's face went a shade paler. "What's happened?" he asked.

"A dozen of his best horses run off by Birdsall's gang, probably to
replace those they lost in the flood, and Hal himself was shot and left
for dead in the hills. He'd have died but for an Ogallalla girl and a
couple of half-breeds who had a hunting lodge out near the Peak. There
are letters for you at the office."

There were two--one from Loomis, at Emory; one from Jessie, of all
places in the world, at Folsom's ranch. This he read first.

     "We got here late night before last, after such an exciting
     journey, Marshall dear," said she, "and I can't begin to tell you
     all the strange things that have happened, for Mr. Folsom says the
     messenger must start for Fort Frayne in twenty minutes. That
     villain, Major Burleigh, who dared to speak ill of you, turned out
     to be as bad as I ever said he was. They haven't caught him yet,
     but they've got Captain Newhall. Mr. Folsom and Mr. Loring did
     that--caught him in the backyard of our house, down by the gate,
     and in some way Mrs. Fletcher induced him to come there, for he had
     the key of the safe at the quartermaster's depot, and was going to
     get the money Major Burleigh dared not take when he fled. I can't
     understand it at all, and Pappoose doesn't like to talk about it.
     But Mr. Folsom was robbed of lots of money by Major Burleigh. Mrs.
     Fletcher is mixed up in it in such a queer way, I can't explain
     how. She was nearly crazy when we came away, and Mr. Folsom was so
     good and kind to her, left a nurse with her, and made her stay at
     the house, although she wanted to pack her things and go to the
     hotel or the jail, she didn't care which; but he wouldn't let her.

     "And right in the midst of it all Ned Lannion, who came with news
     before, galloped in to tell how Halbert Folsom had been missing two
     days and Mrs. Folsom was crazy with fear, so Mr. Folsom left
     Lieutenant Loring to attend to all the matters about the robbery
     and started at once for the ranch, and Pappoose, of course,
     insisted on going with him, and I would not be left behind. And
     here we are. Now I can see the hills where you had the fight and
     wore Elinor's picture, and it was right out there among them that
     Halbert was found. Horse thieves had run off his best horses--the
     same gang of murderers that, they say, planned to trap you and that
     you outwitted. Oh! Marshall, was ever a girl so proud of her
     brother!--and they shot Hal and he was found and taken care of by
     some Indian people, tame ones, and one was a girl, Lizette, who had
     fallen in love with him four years ago. Wasn't it romantic? And
     she's gone again, but Hal is safe here, although Mrs. Folsom is
     more than half-crazy, and now old Mr. Folsom is worried to death,
     and says we must start back for home to-morrow. It's seventy-five
     miles and we don't want to go at all--only I'm so eager to see you,
     and I heard--at least Mr. Loomis told me you'd be back any day, and
     he has your troop till you come, and he's so fond of you--Oh,
     here's Pappoose to say this must go at once."

The colonel sat watching the young fellow as he read. "Bad news, Dean?"
he queried.

"Every kind of news, sir. It's all a whirl. The devil seems to have
broken loose in Wyoming. Let me skim through Loomis' note.

     "DEAR DEAN: In case the letter sent yesterday passes you
     on the way, I add a line to say that if ever I said a mean thing
     about Loring when we were in the corps, I take it back. I thought
     him a prig when we wore the gray. He rather 'held us under' anyhow,
     being a class ahead, you know, but the way he has panned out here
     and wiped up Wyoming with the only men I ever knew that tried to
     wrong you is simply wonderful. He's nabbed three of the Birdsall
     gang and is away now after Burleigh. The news from Folsom's ranch
     is more reassuring. Hal was shot by horsethieves who were running
     off stock, and was found and taken care of by friendly Indians, but
     Mrs. Hal had an awful scare and sent for the old man, who went, of
     course--both young ladies going with him. They were miles away
     before we knew it at the fort. I tried to pursuade old Pecksniff
     that he ought to let me go with twenty troopers to guard the ranch
     and scout the Laramie, and he threatened to put me in arrest. Of
     all the double-dashed, pig-headed old idiots he's the worst. I
     don't want people at the ranch to be scared, but if the Sioux only
     would make some demonstration this way that would give me a chance.
     I'd try to earn a little of the reputation that you're winning, old
     boy, and no man knows better how much you deserve it than

     "Your friend and classmate, HANK L."

     "P. S.--Loring took ten of the troop into the Black Hills to beat
     up Burleigh, but he said if they struck Indian sign he meant to
     make for Folsom's ranch. Now, if we could only meet there!"

The sun was well down at the west. The day's march had been long and
tedious, as only cavalry marches are when long wagon trains have to be
escorted. Dean had not yet fully recovered strength, but anxiety lent
him energy.

"If Mr. Folsom says there is need of cavalry guard at the Laramie, it is
because he dreads an other Indian visit, colonel. I have nine men in
good shape. Our horses are fresh, or will be after a few hours' rest.
May I push on to-night?"

And to the young soldier's surprise the elder placed a trembling hand
upon his shoulder and looked him earnestly in the eyes. "Dean, my boy,
it's my belief you cannot start too soon. Do you know who Lizette is?"

"I've heard the story," said Marshall briefly. "She must have been
hovering about there for some time."

"Yes, and now her people know it, and it will rekindle their hatred. The
moment I heard of this I sent old Bat to watch the crossing at La Bonté.
Not an hour ago this came in by the hand of his boy," and the colonel
held out a scrap of paper. It a rude pictograph, a rough sketch,
map-like, of a winding river--another and smaller one separated from the
first by a chain of mountains. The larger one was decorated by a
flag-pole with stars and stripes at the top and a figure with musket and
bayonet at the bottom. The smaller one by a little house, with smoke
issuing from the chimney, and a woman beside it. Above all, its head
over the mountains pointing toward the house, its tail extending north
of the bigger stream, was a comet--the "totem" or sign of the Ogallalla
lover of Lizette. The story was told at a glance. Burning Star was
already south of the Platte and lurking in the mountains near Folsom's
ranch.

That night, toward ten o'clock, an anxious council was held. Halbert
Folsom, fevered by his severe wound, was lying half-unconscious on his
bed, his unhappy wife wandering aimlessly about at times, wringing her
hands and weeping, evidently unbalanced by the terrors that had beset
her of late and the tidings of that awful Indian revenge along the Big
Horn. Silent, helpful, almost commanding, Elinor spent the hours
sometimes at her brother's bedside, then at that of her sister-in-law
when the poor creature could be induced to lie still a moment. The burly
little son and heir, long since sound asleep in his cradle, was watched
over by Jessie, whose heart fluttered in dread she dare not say of what.
Twice that afternoon she had seen whispered conferences between old
Folsom and Lannion. She knew that for some better reason than that he
was overpersuaded by Pappoose, Mr. Folsom had not carried out his
project of sending them back to Gate City. She saw that he made frequent
visits to the cellar and had changed the arrangement of the air ports.
She noted that the few ranch hands hung about the premises all day,
their rifles ever within reach, and that often Mr. Folsom took the
glasses and searched the road to Frayne. She saw that earth was being
heaped up in places against the ranch where the walls were thin or made
of boarding. She saw that water and provisions were being stored in the
cellar, and she knew that it could all mean only one thing--that the
Indians were again in force in the neighborhood, and that an Indian
siege was imminent.

And all this time Pappoose, though very brave, was so still and so
intent upon her duties. Even when supper was served for the ranch people
in the kitchen that evening, as the sun went down, Jess noted that two
of the men kept constantly in saddle, riding round the buildings and
anxiously scanning the open prairie on every side. There were only six
men, all told now, including Folsom (of course not counting Hal, who was
defenseless), altogether too small a number to successfully protect so
large a knot of buildings against an insidious and powerful foe, and
even of these six there were two who seemed so unstrung by tidings of
the massacre as to be nearly nerveless.

Darkness settled down upon the valley, and, though calm and collected,
Folsom seemed oppressed by the deepest anxiety. Every now and then he
would step forth into the night and make a circuit of the buildings,
exchange a word in low tone with some invisible guardian, for, heavily
armed, the employés were gathered at the main building, and the wife and
children of the chief herdsman were assigned to a room under its roof.
Particularly did Folsom pet and encourage the dogs, two of them splendid
mastiffs in whom Hal took unusual pride. Then he would return to his
son's bedside, bend anxiously over him and lay a loving hand on
Pappoose's lustrous hair. It must have been ten o'clock and a night wind
was rising, making the occasional cry of the coyotes even more weird and
querulous, when they heard the sudden, fierce challenge of Trooper, the
keenest, finest of the mastiffs, and instantly his bark was echoed by
the rush and scurry of every canine on the place. The men on the porch
sprang to their feet and Folsom hastened out to join them. The dogs had
charged in the darkness toward the northeast, and somewhere out in that
direction were now all furiously barking. Aloft the skies were heavily
clouded. The moon was banked and not a glimmer of light shone on earth
or heaven. Suddenly, afar out over the prairie, beyond where the dogs
were challenging, there was heard the sound of a pony's neigh, an eager
appeal for welcome and shelter, and Folsom sprang confidently forward,
his powerful tones calling off the dogs. They came back, growling,
sniffing, only half-satisfied, still bristling at the unseen visitor.
"War ponies never neigh," said Folsom. "Who are you, brothers--friends?"
he called, in the Sioux tongue, and a faint voice answered from the
darkness, a pony came loping dimly into view, almost running over him,
and in another minute an Indian girl, trembling with fear and
exhaustion, had toppled from the saddle and clasped the old trader's
hand.

"Good God! Lizette," he cried, "you again? What is wrong?" for her head
was drooping, her knees giving way beneath her, as the poor child
whispered her answer:

"Sioux coming--plenty braves! Hide--quick!"

And Folsom bore her in his arms within.



CHAPTER XXIV.


Never unless sure of its ground and the weakness of the adversary does
the modern Indian band attack at night. Folsom and his people well knew
that. Yet not five minutes after the Indian girl, faint with exhaustion
and dread, was carried within doors, the big mastiff challenged again.
The dogs charged furiously out to the northeast and would not be
recalled. For nearly half an hour they kept up their angry clamor. Time
and again during the night, suspicious and excited, they dashed out
again and again, and once one of them, venturing further than his
fellows, broke suddenly into loud cries of mingled pain and rage, and
when at last he came whining piteously back to the ranch it was found
that he was bleeding from a gash along the flank, where an Indian arrow
had seared him. Only by fits and starts did any man sleep. Hour after
hour Folsom's little garrison was on the alert. The women had all been
moved to the deep, dry cellar, Mrs. Hal moaning over her baby, utterly
unnerved, Jessie silent, but white and tremulous; the herdsman's wife,
an Amazon, demanded the right to have a gun and fight by her husband's
side; Lizette, the Indian girl, faint and starved, asked nothing but to
be allowed to crouch at the door of the room where Halbert lay, fevered
and unconscious, and Pappoose, scorning danger, flitted from her
brother's bedside to her father's log-barricade at the east porch. In
dread anxiety the hours dragged by, and at last Lannion reached forth
his hand and pulled the shirt sleeve of his comrade Jake, half-dozing at
his side. In an instant the latter was kneeling at his post. "What is
it?" he queried, and Lannion, pointing to the first faint, pallid gleam
in the eastern sky, whispered: "Time to be up, man. It's coming."

For half an hour, except for the rushing of the Laramie, a silence
almost unearthly had brooded over the prairie, and even the dogs seemed
lulled to sleep. But now, as the cold light crept slowly over the
distant range, and a soft flush began to overspread the pallor of the
dawn, far out over the valley the yelp of a coyote began again and all
men strained their ears and listened, while strong hands grabbed the
growling dogs and pinned them to earth, for, beginning at the east, the
cry was taken up on every side. Folsom's ranch seemed beleaguered by the
gaunt, half-famished wolves of the upland prairies. "Look to your
sights, now, men! Down into the cellar, Pappoose!" exclaimed Folsom,
kindling with fierce excitement. "I've been the friend of all that tribe
for thirty years, but when they break faith with me and mine that ends
it! Look to your sights and make every shot count!" he cautioned, as he
made the rounds of the little shelters thrown up during the past two
days. "We can stand off a hundred of 'em if you only keep your grit."

Again the clamor as of coyotes ceased. It was only the Indian signal
"Ready," and every ranchman knew that with the rising sun, if not
before, the swoop would come. Again as the light broadened the dogs were
loosed and presently were challenging all four points of the compass.
The unseen foe was on every hand.

Perched as it was on a little rise, the ranch stood forth conspicuous
over the valley. At the foot of the slope to the south lay the corral
and some of the buildings, about one hundred yards away, where the
shallow Laramie curled and lapped beneath their walls, and now the dogs
seemed to concentrate their attention on that side. Folsom, rifle in
hand, was kneeling on the porch, listening intently. Two of the hands
were with him. Jake and Lannion, experienced and reliable, had been
given independent posts on the other front, and just as objects could be
dimly recognized along the flats, there burst upon the ears of the
little garrison a sudden chorus of exultant yells. A tongue of flame
leaped upward from beyond the huts lately occupied by the ranchmen. The
half-used haystacks caught and held one moment the fiery messenger, and
then in a broad glare that reddened the flood of the Laramie for miles
and lighted up the ranch like a sunburst, gave forth a huge column of
blaze and smoke that could be seen far over the Black Hills of Wyoming,
and all the valley seemed to spring to instant life. On every side arose
the stirring war-cry of the Sioux, the swift beat of pony hoofs, the
ring of rifle, and brave John Folsom's heart sank within him as he
realized that here was no mere marauding party, but a powerful band
organized for deliberate vengeance. The Laramie plains were alive with
darting, yelling, painted horsemen, circling about the ranch, hemming it
in, cutting it off from the world.

The bullets came whistling through the morning air, biting fiercely into
the solid logs, spattering the chinking, smashing pane after pane. Some
of the dogs came howling and whining back for shelter, though the
mastiffs held their ground, fiercely barking and bounding about, despite
the whistles and calls from the besieged who sought to save them to the
last, but not once as yet had the ranch replied with a shot. Down in the
cellar women clung together or clasped their wailing children and
listened fearfully to the clamor. In Hal's room the fevered sufferer
awoke from his stupor and, demanding his rifle, struggled to rise from
the bed, and there John Folsom found Pappoose, pale and determined,
bending over her weakened brother and holding him down almost as she
could have overpowered a child. Lifting his son in his strong arms, he
bore him to the cellar and laid him upon a couch of buffalo robes.
"Watch him here, my child," he said, as he clasped her in his arms one
moment. "But on no account let any one show above ground now. There are
more of them than I thought, yet there is hope for us. Somebody is
vexing them down the Laramie."

Bounding up the steps, the veteran was almost back at his post upon the
porch when there came a sound that seemed to give the lie to his last
words and that froze the hope that had risen in his breast--the sudden
rumble and thunder of at least two hundred hoofs, the charging yell of
an Indian band, the sputter and bang of rifles close at hand, and then a
rush of feet, as, with faces agonized by fear, three of the men came
darting within. "It's all up! There's a million Indians!" they cried.
Two of the demoralized fellows plunged into the passage that led to the
cellar. One burst into childish wailing and clung to Folsom's knees.

"Let go, you coward!" yelled the old man in fury, as he kicked himself
loose, then went bounding out upon the porch. God, what a sight!
Sweeping up the gentle slope, brandishing rifles and lances and
war-clubs, racing for their hapless prey, came fifty Ogallallas, Burning
Star among the leaders. Bullets could not stop them now. The two men who
had stood to their posts knelt grim and desperate, and Lannion's last
shot took effect. Within fifty yards of the walls Burning Star's rushing
pony went down on his nose, and in the fury of his pace, turned sudden
and complete somersault, crushing his red rider under him, and
stretching him senseless on the turf. An inspiration, almost God given,
seemed to flash upon the old trader at the instant. Bareheaded, in his
shirt sleeves, throwing upward and forward his empty hands, he sprang
out as though to meet and rebuke his assailants. "Hold!" he cried, in
the tongue he knew so well "Are my brothers crazed? Look! I am no enemy
It is your friend! It is old John!" And even in the rage of their
charge, many Indians at sight of him veered to right and left; many
reined up short within ten paces of the unarmed man; two sprang from
their ponies and threw themselves between him and their brethren,
shouting to be heard. And then in the midst of furious discussion, some
Indians crying out for the blood of all at the ranch in revenge for
Chaska, some demanding instant surrender of every woman there in
expiation for Lizette, some urging that old John be given respectful
hearing, but held prisoner, there came lashing into their midst a young
brave, crying aloud and pointing down the now well-lighted valley where,
darting about a mile away, a few Indians were evidently striving to head
off the coming of some hostile force. Leaving two or three of their
number trying to restore consciousness to the stricken chief, and a
dozen, Folsom's advocates among them, to hold possession of the ranch,
away scurried most of the warriors at top speed to the aid of their
outlying scouts.

Meantime, under cover of the fierce argument, Jake and Lannion had
managed to crawl back within the building. Folsom himself, in such calm
as he could command, stood silent while his captors wrangled. The
warriors who pleaded for him were Standing Elk, a sub chief of note,
whose long attachment to Folsom was based on kindnesses shown him when a
young man, the other was Young-Shows-the-Road, son of a chief who had
guided more than one party of whites through the lands of the Sioux
before the bitterness of war arose between the races. They had loved
Folsom for years and would not desert him now in the face of popular
clamor. Yet even their influence would have failed but for the sound
that told of hotter conflict still among the foothills along the
opposite side of the valley. With straining ears, Folsom listened, hope
and fear alternating in his breast. The mingling yells and volleying
told that the issue was in doubt. Man after man of his captors galloped
away until not half a dozen were left. Now, Jake and Lannion could have
shot them down and borne him within, but to what good? Escape from the
ranch itself was impossible! Such action would only intensify the Indian
hate and make more horrible the Indian vengeance. For twenty minutes the
clamor continued, then seemed to die gradually away, and, with fury in
their faces, back at full gallop came a dozen of the braves. One glance
was enough. They had penned their foe among the rocks, but not without
the loss of several at least of their band, for the foremost rode with
brandished war-club straight at Folsom, and despite the leap of his two
champions to save, felled the old trader with one stunning blow, then
gave the savage order to burn the ranch.

By this time the sun was just peering into the valley. The smoke and
flame from the corral were dying or drifting away. Eagerly half a dozen
young braves rushed for faggots and kindling with which to do his
bidding, and a cry of despair went up from within the walls. Recklessly
now Lannion and his comrade opened fire from the loopholes and shot down
two of the dancing furies without, sending every other Indian to the
nearest cover. But the arrows that came whistling speedily were
firebrands. The besiegers gained in force with every moment. Poor old
Folsom, slowly regaining senses as he lay bound and helpless down by the
stream, whither his captors had borne him, heard the jeers and shouts of
triumph with which the Indians within the corral were rapidly making
their fire darts, when suddenly there rose on the morning air a sound
that stilled all others, a sound to which the Indians listened in
superstitious awe, a sound that stopped the hands that sought to burn
out the besieged and paralyzed just long enough all inspiration of
attack. Some of the Indians, indeed, dropped their arms, others sprang
to the ponies as though to take to flight. It was the voice of Lizette,
chanting the death song of the Sioux.

An hour later, once more in force, the band was gathered for its rush
upon the ranch. Jake, gallant fellow, lay bleeding at his post. Hope of
every kind was well-nigh dead. The silence without was only portent of
the storm so soon to burst. Pappoose, grasping her brother's rifle,
crouched facing the narrow entrance to the cellar. Jessie clung to the
baby, for Mrs. Hal, only dimly conscious, was moaning by her husband's
side, while Lizette in silence was kneeling, watching them with strange
glitter in her eyes. Suddenly she started, and with hand to ear,
listened intently. Then she sprang to an air port and crouched there,
quivering. Then again the ground began to tremble under the distant
thunder of pony feet, louder and louder every second. Again came the
rush of the Indian braves, but with it no exultant yell, only cries of
warning, and as this sound swept over and beyond their walls, there
followed another, the distant, deep-throated trooper cheer, the crack of
carbine, the rising thunder of the cavalry gallop, and then the voice of
Ned Lannion rang jubilantly over the dull clamor.

"Up! Up, everybody! Thank God, it's Dean and the boys!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Long years after, in the camps and stockades and the growing towns of
the far West that almost marvelous rescue was the theme of many an
hour's talk. The number of men who took part in it, the number of hardy
fellows who personally guided the troops or else stood shoulder to
shoulder with Ned Lannion at the last triumphant moment, increased so
rapidly with the growing moons that in time the only wonder was that
anything was left of the Sioux. Official records, however, limited the
number of officers and men engaged to a select few, consisting entirely
of Lieutenant Loring, United States Engineers, Lieutenant Loomis, --th
Infantry, a few men from scattered troops, "pickups" at Frayne and
Emory, with Lieutenant Marshall Dean and fifty rank and file of Company
"C."

Loring, it will be remembered, had taken a small detachment from Emory
and gone into the hills in search of Burleigh. Loomis, fretting at the
fort, was later electrified by a most grudgingly given order to march to
the Laramie and render such aid as might be required by the engineer
officer of the department. Dean, with only fifteen men all told, had
dashed from Frayne straight for the ranch, and, marching all night, had
come in sight of the valley just as it was lighted afar to the eastward
by the glare of the burning buildings. "We thought it was all over,"
said he, as he lay there weak and languid, a few days later, for the
wound reopened in the rush of the fight, "but we rode on to the Laramie,
and there, God be thanked! fell in with Loomis here and "C" Troop,
heading for the fire. No words can tell you our joy when we found the
ranch still standing and some forty Sioux getting ready for the final
dash. That running fight, past the old home, and down the valley where
we stirred up Loring's besiegers and sent them whirling too--why, I'd
give a fortune, if I had it, to live it over again!"

But Loring, after all, had the most thrilling story to tell--of how he
wormed a clew to Burleigh's hiding place out of a captured outlaw and
beat up the party in a nook of the hills, nabbed the major asleep, but
was warned that all the Birdsall "outfit" would rally to the rescue, and
so sent a courier to Emory for "C" Troop, and, making wide _détour_ to
avoid the gang, ran slap into the Sioux in the act of firing Folsom's
ranch. Then he had to take to the rocks in the fight that followed, and
had a desperate siege of a few hours, even Burleigh having to handle a
gun and fight for his life. "I spotted him for a coward that day we
stumbled on Red Cloud's band up by the Big Horn. You remember it, Dean,
I thought him a villain when I learned how he was trying to undermine
you. Time proved him a thief and a scoundrel, but, peace to his ashes,
he died like a gentleman after all, with two Indian bullets through him,
and just as rescue came. He had time to make full confession, and it was
all pretty much as I suspected. The note Dean picked up at Reno, that so
stampeded him, told how a blackmailing scoundrel was on his way to Emory
to expose him unless headed off by further huge payments. It was the
fellow who called himself Newhall."

"The fellow who gave the tip to Birdsall's people?" said old Folsom at
this juncture, raising a bandaged head from his daughter's lap. "Who was
he, really?"

"Burleigh knew all the time and I suspected the moment I heard Miss
Folsom's description, and was certain the instant I laid eyes on him. He
was a rascally captain cashiered at Yuma the year before, and I was
judge advocate of the court."

"And Mrs. Fletcher?" asked Pappoose, extending one hand to Jess, while
the other smoothed the gray curls on her fathers forehead.

"Mrs. Fletcher was his deserted wife, one of­ those women who have known
better days."

The ranch is still there, or was twenty years ago, but even then the
Sioux were said to raise more hair in the neighborhood than Folsom did
cattle. The old trader had been gathered to his fathers, and Mrs. Hal to
hers, for she broke down utterly after the events of '68. Neither
Pappoose nor Jessie cared to revisit the spot for some time, yet, oddly
enough, both have done so more than once. The first time its chronicler
ever saw it was in company with a stalwart young captain of horse and
his dark-eyed, beautiful wife nine years after the siege. Hal met us, a
shy, silent fellow, despite his inches. "Among other things," said he,
"Lieutenant and Mrs. Loomis are coming next week. I wish you might all
be here to meet them."

"I know," said Mrs. Dean, "we are to meet at Cheyenne. But, Hal, where's
your wife?"

He looked shyer still. "She don't like to meet folks unless----"

"There's no unless about it," said the lady with all her old decision as
she sprang from the ambulance, and presently reappeared, leading by the
hand, reluctant, yet not all unhappy, Lizette. Some people said Hal
Folsom had no business to marry an Indian girl before his wife was dead
three years, but all who knew Lizette said he did perfectly right, at
least Pappoose did, and that settled it. As for Loring--But that's
enough for one story.


THE END.





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+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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