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Title: The Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop
Author: Garland, Hamlin, 1860-1940
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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                      THE CAPTAIN OF THE GRAY-HORSE TROOP

                               By HAMLIN GARLAND


SUNSET EDITION

HARPER & BROTHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON

COPYRIGHT, 1901. BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY

COPYRIGHT 1902. BY HAMLIN GARLAND


[Illustration]



CONTENTS


I. A CAMP IN THE SNOW

II. THE STREETER GUN-RACK

III. CURTIS ASSUMES CHARGE OF THE AGENT

IV. THE BEAUTIFUL ELSIE BEE BEE

V. CAGED EAGLES

VI. CURTIS SEEKS A TRUCE

VII. ELSIE RELENTS A LITTLE

VIII. CURTIS WRITES A LONG LETTER

IX. CALLED TO WASHINGTON

X. CURTIS AT HEADQUARTERS

XI. CURTIS GRAPPLES WITH BRISBANE

XII. SPRING ON THE ELK

XIII. ELSIE PROMISES TO RETURN

XIV. ELSIE REVISITS CURTIS

XV. ELSIE ENTERS HER STUDIO

XVI. THE CAMP AMONG THE ROSES

XVII. A FLUTE, A DRUM, AND A MESSAGE

XVIII. ELSIE'S ANCIENT LOVE AFFAIR

XIX. THE SHERIFF'S MOB

XX. FEMININE STRATEGY

XXI. IN STORMY COUNCILS

XXII. A COUNCIL AT NIGHT

XXIII. THE RETURN OF THE MOB

XXIV. THE GRAY-HORSE TROOP

XXV. AFTER THE STRUGGLE

XXVI. THE WARRIOR PROCLAIMS HIMSELF

XXVII. BRISBANE COMES FOR ELSIE

XXVIII. A WALK IN THE STARLIGHT

XXIX. ELSIE WARNS CURTIS

XXX. THE CAPTURE OF THE MAN

XXXI. OUTWITTING THE SHERIFF

XXXII. AN EVENTFUL NIGHT

XXXIII. ELSIE CONFESSES HER LOVE

XXXIV. SEED-TIME

XXXV. THE BATTLE WITH THE WEEDS

XXXVI. THE HARVEST-HOME

XXXVII. THE MINGLING OF THE OLD AND THE NEW



THE CAPTAIN OF THE GRAY-HORSE TROOP



I

A CAMP IN THE SNOW


Winter in the upper heights of the Bear Tooth Range is a glittering
desolation of snow with a flaming blue sky above. Nothing moves, nothing
utters a sound, save the cony at the mouth of the spiral shaft, which
sinks to his deeply buried den in the rocks. The peaks are like marble
domes, set high in the pathway of the sun by day and thrust amid the
stars by night. The firs seem hopeless under their ever-increasing
burdens. The streams are silenced--only the wind is abroad in the waste,
the tireless, pitiless wind, fanged like ingratitude, insatiate as fire.

But it is beautiful, nevertheless, especially of a clear dawn, when the
shadows are vividly purple and each rime-wreathed summit is smit with
ethereal fire, and each eastern slope is resplendent as a high-way of
powdered diamonds--or at sunset, when the high crests of the range stand
like flaming mile-stones leading to the Celestial City, and the lakes
are like pools of pure gold caught in a robe of green velvet. Yet always
this land demands youth and strength in its explorer.

King Frost's dominion was already complete over all the crests, over
timber-line, when young Captain Curtis set out to cross the divide which
lay between Lake Congar and Fort Sherman--a trip to test the virtue of a
Sibley tent and the staying qualities of a mountain horse.

Bennett, the hairy trapper at the head of the lake, advised against it.
"The snow is soft--I reckon you better wait a week."

But Curtis was a seasoned mountaineer and took pride in assaulting the
stern barrier. "Besides, my leave of absence is nearly up," he said to
the trapper.

"Well, you're the doctor," the old trapper replied. "Good luck to ye,
Cap."

It was sunrise of a crisp, clear autumn morning when they started, and
around them the ground was still bare, but by noon they were wallowing
mid-leg deep in new-fallen snow. Curtis led the way on foot--his own
horse having been packed to relieve the burdens of the others--while
Sergeant Pierce, resolute and uncomplaining, brought up the rear.

"We must camp beside the sulphur spring to-night," Curtis said, as they
left timber-line and entered upon the bleak, wind-swept slopes of
Grizzly Bear.

"Very well, sir," Pierce cheerily replied, and till three o'clock they
climbed steadily towards the far-off glacial heights, the drifts ever
deepening, the cold ever intensifying. They had eaten no food since
dawn, and the horses were weak with hunger and weariness as they topped
the divide and looked down upon the vast eastern slope. The world before
them seemed even more inhospitable and wind-swept than the land they had
left below them to the west. The air was filled with flying frost, the
sun was weak and pale, and the plain was only a pale-blue sea far, far
below to the northeast. The wind blew through the pass with terrible
force, and the cold nipped every limb like a famishing white wolf.

"There is the sulphur spring, sir," said Pierce, pointing towards a
delicate strand of steam which rose from a clump of pines in the second
basin beneath them.

"Quite right, sergeant, and we must make that in an hour. I'd like to
take an observation here, but I reckon we'd better slide down to camp
before the horses freeze."

The dry snow, sculptured by the blast in the pass, made the threadlike
path an exceedingly elusive line to keep, and trailing narrowed to a
process of feeling with the feet; but Curtis set his face resolutely
into the northeast wind and led the way down the gulch. For the first
half-mile the little pack-train crawled slowly and hesitatingly, like a
bewildered worm, turning and twisting, retracing its way, circling huge
bowlders, edging awful cliffs, slipping, stumbling, but ever moving,
ever descending; and, at last, while yet the sun's light glorified the
icy kings behind them, the Captain drew into the shelter of the clump of
pines from which the steam of the warm spring rose like a chimney's
cheery greeting.

"Whoa, boys!" called Curtis, and with a smile at Pierce, added, "Here we
are, home again!"

It was not a cheerful place to spend the night, for even at this level
the undisturbed snow lay full twelve inches deep and the pines were
bowed with the weight of it, and as the sun sank the cold deepened to
zero point; but the sergeant drew off his gloves and began to free the
horses from their packs quite as if these were the usual conditions of
camping.

"Better leave the blankets on," remarked the young officer. "They'll
need 'em for warmth."

The sergeant saluted and continued his work, deft and silent, while
Curtis threw up a little tent on a cleared spot and banked it snugly
with snow. In a very short time a fire was blazing and some coffee
boiling. The two men seemed not to regard the cold or the falling night,
except in so far as the wind threatened the horses.

"It's hard luck on them," remarked Curtis, as they were finishing their
coffee in the tent; "but it is unavoidable. I don't think it safe to try
to go down that slide in the dusk. Do you?"

"It's dangerous at any time, sir, and with our horses weak as they are,
it sure would be taking chances."

"We'll make Tom Skinner's by noon to-morrow, and be out of the snow,
probably." The young soldier put down his tin cup and drew a map from
his pocket. "Hold a light, sergeant; I want to make some notes before I
forget them."

While the sergeant held a candle for him, Curtis rapidly traced with a
soft pencil a few rough lines upon the map. "That settles that
water-shed question;" he pointed with his pencil. "Here is the dividing
wall, not over there where Lieutenant Crombie drew it. Nothing is more
deceptive than the relative heights of ranges. Well, now take a last
look at the horses," he said, putting away his pencil, "and I'll unroll
our blankets."

As they crawled into their snug sleeping-bags Curtis said again, with a
sigh, "I'm sorry for the ponies."

"They'll be all right now, Captain; they've got something in their
stomachs. If a cayuse has any fuel in him he's like an engine--he'll
keep warm," and so silence fell on them, and in the valley the cold
deepened till the rocks and the trees cried out in the rigor of their
resistance.

The sun was filling the sky with an all-pervading crimson-and-orange
mist when the sergeant crawled out of his snug nest and started a fire.
The air was perfectly still, but the frost gripped each limb with
benumbing fury. The horses, with blankets awry, stood huddled close
together in the shelter of the pines not far away. As the sergeant
appeared they whinnied to express their dependence upon him, and when
the sun rose they turned their broadsides to it gratefully.

The two men, with swift, unhesitating action, set to work to break camp.
In half an hour the tent was folded and packed, the horses saddled, and
then, lustily singing, Curtis led the way down upon the floor of the
second basin, which narrowed towards the north into a deep and wooded
valley leading to the plains. The grasp of winter weakened as they
descended; December became October. The snow thinned, the streams sang
clear, and considerably before noon the little train of worn and hungry
horses came out upon the grassy shore of a small lake to bask in genial
sunshine. From this point the road to Skinner's was smooth and easy,
and quite untouched of snow.

As they neared the miner's shack, a tall young Payonnay, in the dress of
a cowboy, came out to meet them, smiling broadly.

"I'm looking for you, Captain."

"Are you, Jack? Well, you see me. What's your message?"

"The Colonel says you are to come in right off. He told me to tell you
he had an order for you."

A slouching figure, supporting a heap of greasy rags, drew near, and a
low voice drawled, weakly: "Jack's been here since Friday. I told him
where you was, but he thought he'd druther lay by my fire than hunt ye."

Curtis studied the squat figure keenly. "You weren't looking for the job
of crossing the range yourself, were you?"

The tramplike miner grinned and sucked at his pipe. "Well, no--I can't
say that I was, but I like to rub it into these lazy Injuns."

Jack winked at Curtis with humorous appreciation. "He's a dandy to rub
it into an Injun, don't you think?"

Even Skinner laughed at this, and Curtis said: "Unsaddle the horses and
give them a chance at the grass, sergeant. We can't go into the fort
to-night with the packs. And, Skinner, I want to hire a horse of you,
while you help Pierce bring my outfit into the fort to-morrow. I must
hurry on to see what's in the wind."

"All right, Captain, anything I've got is yours," responded the miner,
heartily.

The bugles were sounding "retreat" as the young officer rode up to the
door of Colonel Quinlan's quarters and reported for duty.

"Good-evening, Major," called the Colonel, with a quizzical smile and a
sharp emphasis on the word major.

"Major!" exclaimed Curtis; "what do you mean--"

"Not a wholesale slaughter of your superiors. Oh no! You are Major by
the grace of the Secretary of Indian Affairs. Colonel Hackett, of the
War Department, writes me that you have been detailed as Indian agent at
Fort Smith. You'll find your notification in your mail, no doubt."

Curtis touched his hat in mock courtesy. "Thanks, Mr. Secretary; your
kindness overwhelms me."

"Didn't think the reform administration could get along without you, did
you?" asked the Colonel, with some humor. He was standing at his gate.
"Come in, and we'll talk it over. You seem a little breathless."

"It does double me up, I confess. But I can't consistently back out
after the stand I've made."

"Back out! Well, not if I can prevent it. Haven't you hammered it into
us for two years that the army was the proper instrument for dealing
with these redskins? No, sir, you can't turn tail now. Take your
medicine like a man."

"But how did they drop onto me? Did you suggest it?"

The Colonel became grave. "No, my boy, I did not. But I think I know who
did. You remember the two literary chaps who camped with us on our trial
march two years ago?"

The young officer's eyes opened wide. "Ah! I see. They told me at the
time that they were friends of the Secretary. That explains it."

"Your success with that troop of enlisted Cheyennes had something to do
with it, too," added the Colonel. "I told those literary sharps about
that experience, and also about your crazy interest in the sign-language
and Indian songs."

"You did? Well, then you _are_ responsible, after all."

The Colonel put his hand on his subordinate's shoulder. "Go and do the
work, boy! It's better than sitting around here waiting promotion. If I
weren't so near retirement I'd resign. I have lived out on these cursed
deserts ever since 1868--but I'll fool 'em," he added, with a grim
smile. "I'm going to hang on to the last, and retire on half-pay. Then
I'll spend all my time looking after my health and live to be
ninety-five, in order to get even."

Curtis laughed. "Quite right, Colonel," and, then becoming serious, he
added, "It's my duty, and I will do it." And in this quiet temper he
accepted his detail.

Captain George Curtis, as the Colonel had intimated, was already a
marked man at Fort Sherman--and, indeed, throughout the western division
of the army. He feared no hardship, and acknowledged no superior on the
trail except Pierce, who was as invincible to cold and snow as a grizzly
bear, and his chief diversions were these trips into the wild. Each
outing helped him endure the monotony of barrack life, for when it was
over he returned to the open fire of his study, where he pored over his
maps, smoking his pipe and writing a little between bugle-calls. In
this way he had been able to put together several articles on the
forests, the water-sheds, and the wild animals of the region he had
traversed, and in this way had made himself known to the Smithsonian
Institution. He was considered a crank on trees and Indians by his
fellow-officers, who all drank more whiskey and played a better hand at
poker than he; "but, after all, Curtis is a good soldier," they often
said, in conclusion. "His voice in command is clear and decisive, and
his control of his men excellent." He was handsome, too, in a firm,
brown, cleanly outlined way, and though not a popular officer, he had no
enemies in the service.

His sister Jennie, who had devotedly kept house for him during his
garrison life, was waiting for him at the gate of his little yard, and
cried out in greeting:

"How _did_ you cross the range in this weather? I was frightened for
you, George. I could see the storm raging up there all day yesterday."

"Oh, a little wind and snow don't count," he replied, carelessly. "I
thought you'd given up worrying about me."

"I have--only I thought of poor Sergeant Pierce and the horses. There's
a stack of mail here. Do you know what's happened to you?"

"The Colonel told me."

"How do you like it?"

"I don't know yet. At this moment I'm too tired to express an opinion."

From the pile of mail on his desk he drew out the order which directed
him to "proceed at once to Fort Smith, and as secretly as may be. You
will surprise the agent, if possible--intercepting him at his desk, so
that he will have no opportunity for secreting his private papers. You
will take entire charge of the agency, and at your earliest convenience
forward to us a report covering every detail of the conditions there."

"Now that promises well," he said, as he finished reading the order. "We
start with a fair expectancy of drama. Sis--we are Indian agents! All
this must be given up." He looked round the room, which glowed in the
light of an open grate fire. The floor was bright with Navajo blankets
and warm with fur rugs, and on the walls his books waited his hand.

"I don't like to leave our snug nest, Jennie," he said, with a sigh.

"You needn't. Take it with you," she replied, promptly.

He glanced ruefully at her. "I knew I'd get mighty little sympathy from
you."

"Why should you? I'm ready to go. I don't want you trailing about over
these mountains till the end of time; and you know this life is fatal to
you, or any other man who wants to do anything in the world. It's all
very well to talk about being a soldier, but I'm not so enthusiastic as
I used to be. I don't think sitting around waiting for some one to die
is very noble."

He rose and stood before the fire. "I wish this whole house could be
lifted up and set down at Fort Smith; then I might consider the matter."

She came over, and, as he put his arm about her, continued earnestly:
"George, I'm serious about this. The President is trying to put the
Indian service into capable hands, and I believe you ought to accept;
in fact, you can't refuse. There is work for us both there. I am
heartily tired of garrison life, George. As the boys say, there's
nothing in it."

"But there's danger threatening at Smith, sis. I can't take you into an
Indian outbreak."

"That's all newspaper talk. Mr. Dudley writes--"

"Dudley--is he down there? Oh, you are a masterful sly one! Your
touching solicitude for the Tetongs is now explained. What is Dudley
doing at Smith besides interfering with my affairs?"

"He's studying the Tetong burial customs--but he isn't there at
present."

"These Smithsonian sharps are unexpectedly keen. He'd sacrifice me and
my whole military career to have you study skulls with him for a few
days. Do you know, I suspect him and Osborne Lawson of this whole
conspiracy--and you--you were in it! I've a mind to rebel and throw
everything out o' gear."

Jennie gave him a shove. "Go dress for dinner. The Colonel and his wife
and Mr. Ross are coming in to congratulate you, and you must pretend to
be overjoyed."

As he sat at the head of his handsome table that night Curtis began to
appreciate his comforts. He forgot the dissensions and jealousies, the
cynical speculations and the bitter rivalries of the officers--he
remembered only the pleasant things.

His guests were personable and gracious, and Jennie presided over the
coffee with distinction. She was a natural hostess, and her part in the
conversation which followed was notable for its good sense, but Mr.
Ross, the young lieutenant, considered her delicate color and shining
hair even more remarkable than her humor. He liked her voice, also, and
had a desire to kick the shins of the loquacious Colonel for absorbing
so much of her attention. Mrs. Quinlan, the Colonel's wife, was, by the
same token, a retiring, silent little woman, who smiled and nodded her
head to all that was said, paying special attention to the Colonel's
stories, with which all were familiar; even Mr. Ross had learned them.

At last the Colonel turned to Curtis. "You'll miss this, Curtis, when
you're exiled down there at old Fort Smith among the Tetongs. Here we
are a little oasis of civilization in the midst of a desert of
barbarians; down there you'll be swallowed up."

"We'll take civilization with us," said Jennie. "But, of course, we
shall miss our friends."

"Well, you'll have a clear field for experiment at Smith. You can try
all your pet theories on the Tetongs. God be with them!--their case is
desperate." He chuckled gracelessly.

"When do you go?" asked Mrs. Quinlan.

"At once. As soon as I can make arrangements," replied Curtis, and then
added: "And, by-the-way, I hope you will all refrain from mentioning my
appointment till after I reach Fort Smith."

The visitors did not stay late, for their host was plainly preoccupied,
and as they shook hands with him in parting they openly commiserated
him. "I'm sorry for you," again remarked the Colonel, "but it's a just
punishment."

After they were gone Curtis turned to his sister. "I must leave here
to-morrow morning, sis."

"Why, George! Can't you take time to breathe and pack up?"

"No, I must drop down on that agent like a hawk on a June-bug, before he
has a chance to bury his misdeeds. The Colonel has given out the news of
my detail, and the quicker I move the better. I must reach there before
the mail does."

"But I want to go with you," she quickly and resentfully replied.

"Well, you can, if you are willing to leave our packing in Pierce's
hands."

"I don't intend to be left behind," she replied. "I'm going along to see
that you don't do anything reckless. I never trust a man in a place
requiring tact."

Curtis laughed. "That's your long suit, sis, but I reckon we'll need all
the virtues that lie in each of us. We are going into battle with
strange forces."



II

THE STREETER GUN-RACK


There is a good wagon-road leading to old Fort Smith from Pinon City,
but it runs for the most part through an uninteresting country, and does
not touch the reservation till within a few miles of the agency
buildings. From the other side, however, a rough trail crosses a low
divide, and for more than sixty miles lies within the Tetong boundaries,
a rolling, cattle country rising to grassy hills on the west.

For these reasons Curtis determined to go in on horseback and in
civilian's dress, leaving his sister to follow by rail and buckboard;
but here again Jennie promptly made protest.

"I'll not go that way, George. I am going to keep with you, and you
needn't plan for anything else--so there!"

"It's a hard ride, sis--sixty miles and more. You'll be tired out."

"What of that? I'll have plenty of time to rest afterwards."

"Very well. It is always a pleasure to have you with me, you stubborn
thing," he replied, affectionately.

It had been hard to leave everything at the Fort, hard to look back from
the threshold upon well-ordered books and furniture, and harder still
to know that rude and careless hands would jostle them into heaps on the
morrow, but Jennie was accustomed to all the hardships involved in being
sister to a soldier, and, after she had turned the key in the lock, set
her face to the south cheerfully. There was something of the missionary
in her, and she had long burned with a desire to help the red people.

They got off at a squalid little cow-town called "Riddell" about noon of
the second day, and Curtis, after a swift glance around him, said: "Sis,
our chances for dinner are poor."

The hotel, a squat, battlemented wooden building, was trimmed with
loafing cowboys on the outside and speckled with flies on the inside,
but the landlord was unexpectedly attractive, a smiling, courteous host,
to whom flies and cowboys were matters of course. It was plain he had
slipped down to his present low level by insensible declinations.

"The food is not so bad if it were only served decently," said Jennie,
as they sat at the table eying the heavy china chipped and maimed in the
savage process of washing.

"I hope you won't be sorry we've left the army, sis."

"I would, if we had to live with these people," she replied, decisively,
looking about the room, which was filled with uncouth types of men,
keen-eyed, slouchy, and loud-voiced. The presence of a pretty woman had
subdued most of them into something like decorum, but they were not
pleasant to look at. They were the unattached males of the town, a mob
of barkeepers, hostlers, clerks, and railway hands, intermixed with a
half-dozen cowboys who had ridden in to "loaf away a day or two in
town."

"The ragged edge of the cloth of gold," said Curtis, as he glanced round
at them. "Civilization has its seamy side."

"This makes the dear old Fort seem beautiful, doesn't it?" the girl
sighed. "We'll see no more green grass and well-groomed men."

An hour later, with a half-breed Indian boy for a guide, they rode away
over the hills towards the east, glad to shake the dust of Riddell off
their feet.

The day was one of flooding sunlight, warm and golden. Winter seemed far
away, and only the dry grass made it possible to say, "This is autumn."
The air was without dust or moisture--crystalline, crisp, and
deliciously invigorating.

The girl turned to her brother with radiant face. "This is living! Isn't
it good to escape that horrid little town?"

"You'd suppose in an air like this all life would be clean and sweet,"
he replied. "But it isn't. The trouble is, these people have no inner
resource. They lop down when their accustomed props are removed. They
come from defective stock."

The half-breed guide had the quality of his Indian mother--he knew when
to keep silence and when to speak. He led the way steadily, galloping
along on his little gray pony, with elbows flapping like a rooster about
to take flight.

There was a wonderful charm in this treeless land, it was so lonely and
so sinister. It appealed with great power to Curtis, while it appalled
his sister. The solitary buttes, smooth of slope and grotesque of line;
the splendid, grassy hollows, where the cattle fed; the burned-up mesas,
where nothing lived but the horned toad; the alkaline flats, leprous and
ashen; the occasional green line of cottonwood-trees, deep sunk in a dry
water-course--all these were typical of the whole vast eastern
water-shed of the continental divide, and familiar to the young officer,
for in such a land he had entered upon active service.

It was beautiful, but it was an ill place for a woman, as Jennie soon
discovered. The air, so dry, so fierce, parched her skin and pinched her
red lips. The alkali settled in a gray dust upon her pretty hair and
entered her throat, increasing her thirst to a keen pain.

"Oh, George! here is a little stream," she cried out.

"Courage, sis. We will soon get above the alkali. That water is rank
poison."

"It looks good," she replied, wistfully.

"We'll find some glorious water up there in that clump of willows," and
a few minutes' hard riding brought them to a gurgling little brook of
clear, cold water, and the girl not merely drank--she laved away all
traces of the bitter soil of the lower levels.

At about four o'clock the guide struck into a transverse valley, and
followed a small stream to its source in a range of pine-clad hills
which separate the white man's country from the Tetong reservation. As
they topped this divide, riding directly over a smooth swell, Curtis
drew rein, crying out, "Wait a moment, Louie."

They stood on the edge of a vast dip in the plain, a bowl of amethyst
and turquoise. Under the vivid October sun the tawny grass seemed to be
transmuted into something that shimmered, was translucent, and yet was
firm, while the opposite wall, already faintly in shadow, rose by two
degrees to snow-flecked mountains, faintly showing in the west and
north. On the floor of this resplendent amphitheatre a flock of cattle
fed irregularly, luminous as red and white and deep-purple beads. The
landscape was silent--as silent as the cloudless sky above. No bird or
beast, save the cattle, and the horses the three travellers rode, was
abroad in this dream-world.

"Oh, isn't it beautiful!" exclaimed Jennie.

Curtis sat in silence till the guide said: "We must hurry. Long ways to
Streeter."

Then he drew a sigh. "That scene is typical of the old time. Nothing
could be more moving to me. I saw the buffaloes feed like that once.
Whose are the cattle?" he asked of the boy.

"Thompson's, I think."

"But what are they doing here--that's Tetong land, isn't it?"

The guide grinned. "That don't make no difference to Thompson. All same
to him whose grass he eats."

"Well, lead on," said Curtis, and the boy galloped away swiftly down the
trail. As they descended to the east the sun seemed to slide down the
sky and the chill dusk rose to meet them from the valley of the Elk,
like an exhalation from some region of icy waters. Night was near, but
Streeter's was in sight, a big log-house, surrounded by sheds and
corrals of various sorts and sizes.

"How does Mr. Streeter happen to be so snugly settled on Indian land?"
asked Jennie.

"He made his location before the reservation was set aside. I believe
there are about twenty ranches of the same sort within the lines,"
replied Curtis, "and I think we'll find in these settlers the chief
cause of friction. The cattle business is not one that leads to
scrupulous regard for the rights of others."

As they clattered up to the door of the ranch-house a tall young fellow
in cowboy dress came out to meet them. He was plainly amazed to find a
pretty girl at his door, and for a moment fairly gaped with lax jaws.

"Good-evening," said Curtis. "Are you the boss here?"

He recovered himself quickly. "Howdy--howdy! Yes, I'm Cal Streeter.
Won't you 'light off?"

"Thank you. We'd like to take shelter for the night if you can spare us
room."

"Why, cert. Mother and the old man are away just now, but there's plenty
to eat." He took a swift stride towards Jennie. "Let me help you down,
miss."

"Thank you, I'm already down," said Jennie, anticipating his service.

The young man called shrilly, and a Mexican appeared at the door of the
stable. "Hosy, come and take these horses." Turning to Jennie with a
grin, he said: "I can't answer for the quality of the grub, fer Hosy is
cooking just now. Mother's been gone a week, and the bread is wiped out.
If you don't mind slapjacks I'll see what we can do for you."

Jennie didn't know whether she liked this young fellow or not. After his
first stare of astonishment he was by no means lacking in assurance.
However, she was plains-woman enough to feel the necessity of making the
best of any hospitality when night was falling, and quickly replied:
"Don't take any trouble for us. If you'll show me your kitchen and
pantry I'll be glad to do the cooking."

"Will you? Well, now, that's a sure-enough trade," and he led the way
into the house, which was a two-story building, with one-story wings on
either side. The room into which they entered was large and bare as a
guard-room. The floor was uneven, the log walls merely whitewashed, and
the beams overhead were rough pine boles. Some plain wooden chairs, a
table painted a pale blue, and covered with dusty newspapers, comprised
the visible furniture, unless a gun-rack which filled one entire wall
could be listed among the furnishings. Curtis brought a keen gaze to
bear on this arsenal, and estimated that it contained nearly a score of
rifles--a sinister array.

Young Streeter opened a side door. "This is where you are to sleep. Just
make yourself to home, and I'll rub two sticks together and start a
fire."

After Jennie left the room, the young fellow turned abruptly. "Stranger,
what might I call you?"

"My name is Curtis. I'm going over to visit the agency."

"She your wife?" He pointed his thumb in Jennie's direction.

"No, my sister."

"Oh! Well, then, you can bunk with me in this room." He indicated a door
on the opposite side of the hall. "When she gets ready, bring her out to
the kitchen. It's hard lines to make her cook her own grub, but I tell
you right now I think she'd better."

As Jennie met her brother a few moments later, she exclaimed, "Isn't he
handsome?"

"M--yes. He's good-looking enough, but he's just a little
self-important, it seems to me."

"Are you going to let him know who you are?"

"Certainly not. I want to draw him out. I begin to suspect that this
house is a rendezvous for all the interests we have to fight. These guns
are all loaded and in prime order."

"What a big house you have here," said Jennie, ingratiatingly, as she
entered the kitchen. "And what a nice kitchen."

"Oh, purty fair," replied the youth, busy at the stove. "Our ranch ain't
what we'd make it if these Injuns were out o' the way. Now, here's the
grub--if you can dig up anything you're welcome."

He showed her the pantry, where she found plenty of bacon and flour, and
some eggs and milk.

"I thought cattlemen never had milk?"

"Well, they don't generally, but mother makes us milk a cow. Now, I'll
do this cooking if you want me to, but I reckon you won't enjoy seein'
me do it. I can't make biscuits, and we're all out o' bread, as I say,
and Hosy's sinkers would choke a dog."

"Oh, I'll cook if you'll get some water and keep a good fire going."

"Sure thing," he said, heartily, taking up the water-pail to go to the
spring. When he came back Jennie was dabbling the milk and flour. He
stood watching her in silence for some minutes as she worked, and the
sullen lines on his face softened and his lips grew boyish.

"You sure know your business," he said, in a tone of conviction. "When I
try to mix dough I get all strung up with it."

She replied with a smile. "Is the oven hot? These biscuit must come out
just right."

He stirred up the fire. "A man ain't fitten to cook; he's too blame long
in the elbows. We have an old squaw when mother is home, but she don't
like me, and so she takes a vacation whenever the old lady does. That
throws us down on Hosy, and he just about poisons us. A Mexican can't
cook no more'n an Injun. We get spring-poor by the time the old lady
comes back." Jennie was rolling at the dough and did not reply to him.
He held the door open for her when she was ready to put the biscuit in
the oven, and lit another bracket-lamp in order to see her better.

"Do you know, you're the first girl I ever saw in this kitchen."

"Am I?"

"That's right." After a pause he added: "I'm mighty glad I didn't get
home to eat Hosy's supper. I want a chance at some of them biscuit."

"Slice this bacon, please--not too thick," she added, briskly.

He took the knife. "Where do you hail from, anyway?" he asked,
irrelevantly.

"From the coast," she replied.

"That so? Born there?"

"Oh no. I was born in Maryland, near Washington."

"There's a place I'd like to live if I had money enough. A feller can
have a continuous picnic in Washington if he's got the dust to spare, so
I hear."

"Now you set the table while I make the omelette."

"The how-many?"

"The omelette, which must go directly to the table after it is made."

He began to pile dishes on the table, which ran across one end of the
room, but found time to watch her as she broke the eggs.

"If a feller lives long enough and keeps his mouth shut and his eyes
open he'll learn a powerful heap, won't he? I've seen that word in the
newspaper a whole lot, but I'll be shot if I ever knew that it was jest
aigs."

Jennie was amused, but too hungry to spend much time listening. "You may
call them in," she said, after a glance at the biscuit.

The young man opened the door and said, lazily, "Cap, come to grub."

Curtis was again examining the guns in the rack, "You're well heeled."

"Haff to be, in this country," said the young fellow, carelessly. "Set
down anywhere--that is, I mean anywhere the cook says."

Jennie didn't like his growing familiarity, but she dissembled. "Sit
here, George," she said, indicating a chair at the end. "I will sit
where I can reach the coffee."

"Let me do that," said Calvin. "Louie, I guess you're not in this game,"
he said to the boy looking wistfully in at the door.

"Oh, let him come--he's as hungry as we are. Let him sit down,"
protested Jennie.

Young Streeter acquiesced. "It's all the same to me, if _you_ don't
object to a 'breed," he said, brutally. Louie took his seat in silence,
but it was plain he did not enjoy the insolence of the cowboy.

Curtis was after information. "You speak of needing guns--there isn't
any danger, I hope?"

"Well, not right now, but we expect to get Congress to pass a bill
removing these brutes, and then there may be trouble. Even now we find
it safer to go armed. Every little while some Injun kills a beef for us,
and we want to be prepared to skin 'em if we jump 'em up in time. I
wouldn't trust one of 'em as far as you could throw a yearling bull by
the tail."

"Are they as bad as that?" asked Jennie, with widely open eyes.

"They're treacherous hounds. Old Elk goes around smiling, but he'd let a
knife into me too quick if he saw his chance. Hark!" he called, with
lifted hand.

They all listened. The swift drumming of hoofs could be heard, mingled
with the chuckle of a carriage. Calvin rose. "That's the old man, I
reckon," and going to the door he raised a peculiar whoop. A voice
replied faintly, and soon the buggy rolled up to the door and the
new-comer entered the front room. A quick, sharp voice cried out:

"Whose hat is that? Who's here?"

"A feller on his way to visit the agent. He's in there eatin' supper."

A rapid, resolute step approached the door, and Curtis looked up to meet
the keen eyes of a big, ruddy-faced man of fifty, with hair and beard
as white as wool. His eyes were steel-blue and penetrating as fire.

"Good-evening, sir. Good-evening, madam. Don't rise. Keep your seats.
I'll just drop my coat and sit down with you."

He was so distinctly a man of remarkable quality that Curtis stared at
him in deep surprise. He had expected to see a loose-jointed, slouchy
man of middle-age, but Joseph Streeter was plainly a man of decision and
power. His white hair did not betoken weakness or age, for he moved like
one in the full vigor of his late manhood. To his visitors he appeared
to be a suspicious, irascible, and generous man.

"Hello!" he called, jovially, "biscuit! Cal, you didn't do these, nor
Hosy, neither."

Cal grinned. "Well, not by a whole row o' dogs. This--lady did 'em."

Streeter turned his vivid blue eyes on Jennie. "I want to know! Well,
I'm much obliged. When did you come?" he asked of Curtis.

"About an hour ago."

"Goin' far?"

"Over to the agency."

"Friend of the agent?"

"No, but I have a letter of introduction to him."

Streeter seemed to be satisfied. "You'll find him a very accommodating
gentleman."

"So I hear," said Curtis, and some subtle inflection in his tone caused
Streeter to turn towards him again.

"What did I understand your name was?"

"Curtis."

"Where from?"

"San Francisco."

"Oh yes. I think I heard Sennett speak of you. Those biscuit are mighty
good. I'll take another. Couldn't persuade you to stay here, could I?"
He turned to Jennie.

Jennie laughed. "I'm afraid not--it's too lonesome."

Cal seized the chance to say: "It ain't so lonesome as it looks now.
We're a lively lot here sometimes."

Streeter gave him a glance which stopped him. "Cal, you take Hosy and go
over to the camp and tell the boys to hustle in two hundred steers. I
want to get 'em passed on to-morrow afternoon, or next day sure."

Calvin's face fell. "I don't think I need to go. Hosy can carry the
orders just as well as me," he said, boyishly sullen.

"I want _you_ to go!" was the stern answer, and it was plain that
Streeter was commander even of his reckless son.

As he rose from the table, Calvin said, in a low voice, to Jennie, "I'll
be here to breakfast all right, and I'll see that you get over to the
agency."

Streeter the elder upon reflection considered that his guests had not
sufficiently accounted for themselves, and, after Calvin left, again
turned a penetrating glance on Curtis, saying, in a peculiar way, "Where
did you say you were from?"

"San Francisco," replied Curtis, promptly, and cut in ahead with a
question of his own. "You seem to be well supplied with munitions of
war. Do you need all those guns now?"

"Need every shell. We're going to oust these devils pretty soon, and
they know it, and they're ugly."

"What do you mean by ousting 'em?"

"We're pushing a bill to have 'em removed."

"Where to?"

"Oh, to the Red River reservation, or the Powder Valley; we're not
particular, so that we get rid of 'em."

Jennie tingled with indignation as Streeter outlined the plans of the
settlers and told of his friction with the redmen, but Curtis remained
calm and smiling.

"You'll miss their market for your beef, won't you?"

"Oh, that's a small item in comparison with the extra range we'll get,"
and thereupon he entered upon a long statement of what the government
ought to do.

Jennie rose wearily, and the old man was all attention.

"I suppose you are tired and would like to go to bed?"

"We are rather limp," confessed Curtis, glad to escape the searching
cross-examination which he knew would follow Jennie's retirement.

When they were alone the two young people looked at each other in
silence, Jennie with big, horrified eyes, Curtis with an amused
comprehension of his sister's feeling. "Isn't he a pirate? He doesn't
know it, but his state of mind makes him indictable for murder on the
high seas."

"George, I don't like this. We are going to have trouble if this old man
and his like are not put off this reservation."

"Well, now, we won't put him off to-night, especially as he is a gallant
host. But this visit here has put me in touch with the cattlemen. I feel
that I know their plans and their temper very clearly."

"George, I will not sleep here in this room alone. You must make up a
cot-bed or something. These people make me nervous, with their guns and
Mexican servants."

"Don't you worry, sis. I'll roll up in a blanket and sleep across your
door-sill," and this he did, acknowledging the reasonableness of her
fears.



III

CURTIS ASSUMES CHARGE OF THE AGENT


During the night Curtis was quite sure he heard a party of men ride up
to the door, but in the morning there remained no signs of them.

They were early on their feet, and Calvin, true to his promise, was
present to help get breakfast. He had shaved some time during the night,
and wore a new shirt with a purple silk handkerchief looped about his
neck, and Jennie found it hard to be as cold and severe with him as she
had resolved upon. He was only a big, handsome boy, after all.

"I'm going to send that half-breed back and take you over to the fort
myself," he said to Curtis.

"No, I can't have that," Curtis sharply replied. "If you care to ride
with us over to the fort I've no objection, but Louie will carry out his
contract with us." The truth was, he did not care to be under any
further obligation to the Streeters.

Breakfast was a hurried and rather silent meal. As they rose, Jennie
said, apologetically: "I fear I can't stop to do up the dishes. It is a
long, hard ride to the fort."

"That's right," replied Calvin, "it's close on thirty-five miles. Never
you mind about the dishes. Hosy will swab 'em out."

As they were mounting, the elder Streeter said, hospitably: "If you
return this way, Mr. Curtis, make my ranch your half-way house." He
bowed to Jennie. "My wife will be here then, miss, and you will not be
obliged to cook your own meals."

"Oh, I didn't mind; I rather enjoyed it," responded Jennie.

Calvin was delayed at the start, and came thundering after with a
shrill, cowboy yell, his horse running close to the ground with ears
viciously laid back. The boy made a fine figure as he swept past them
with the speed of an eagle. His was the perfection of range
horsemanship. He talked, gesticulated, rolled cigarettes, put his coat
on or off as he rode, without apparent thought of his horse or of the
ground he crossed.

He knew nothing but the life of a cattleman, and spoke quite frankly of
his ignorance.

"The old man tried to send me to school once. Packed me off to St. Joe.
I stayed a week. 'See here, old man, don't do that again,' I says. 'I
won't stand for it.' Hell! You might as well tie up a coyote as shut me
in a school-room."

He made a most picturesque guide as he rode ahead of them, always in
view, completing a thousand typical combinations of man and horse and
landscape--now suppling in his saddle to look down and a little backward
at some "sign," now trotting straight towards a dark opening among the
pines, now wheeling swiftly to mount a sudden ascent on the trail.
Everything he did was as graceful and as self-unconscious as the
movements of a panther. He was a living illustration of all the cowboy
stories the girl had read. His horse, his saddle, his peculiar,
slouching seat, the roll of clothing behind his saddle, his spurs, his
long-heeled boots--every detail was as it should be, and Jennie was glad
of him, and of Louis, too.

"Yes, it's all here, Jennie," replied Curtis--"the wild country, the
Indian, the gallant scout, and the tender maiden."

"I'm having a beautiful ride. Since we left the wagon-road it really
seems like the primitive wilderness."

"It is. This little wedge of land is all these brave people have saved
from the flood. They made their last stand here. The reflux from the
coast caught them here, and here they are, waiting extinction."

The girl's eyes widened. "It's tragic, isn't it?"

"Yes, but so is all life, except to Calvin Streeter, and even he wants
what he can't get. He told me this morning he wanted to go to Chicago
and take a fall out of a judge who fined him for carrying a gun. So even
he has his unsatisfied ambition. As he told me about it he snarled like
a young tiger."

At about one o'clock, Calvin, who was riding ahead, halted on the crest
of a timbered ridge and raised a shout.

"He's topped the divide!" called Curtis to Jennie, who was riding
behind. "We'll soon be in."

"I'm glad of it. I'm tired."

When they reached the spot where Calvin waited they could look down into
the main valley of the Elk, and the agency, a singular village of
ancient barracks, sheds, corrals, and red-roofed storehouses was almost
beneath them. All about on the low hills the criss-crossing trails gave
evidence that the Tetongs were still a nation of horsemen. Theirs was a
barren land, a land of pine-clad, precipitous hills and deep valleys,
which opened to the east--a region of scant rains and thin, discouraged
streams.

The sight of the officers' whitewashed quarters and the parade-ground
brought a certain sadness to Curtis.

"The old garrison don't look as it did when I was here in 188-," he
said, musingly. "Army days in the West are almost gone. The Indian war
is over. What a waste of human life it was on both sides! Yes, Louie, go
ahead."

As they alternately slid and trotted down the trail, native horsemen
could be seen coming and going, their gay blankets sparkling in the
clear air. Others on foot were clustered about the central building,
where the flag hung droopingly on a tall staff. As they passed the
corral, groups of young Tetongs smiled and nudged each other, but
offered no greeting. Neither did the older men, though their keen eyes
absorbed every detail of the stranger's dress and bearing. It was plain
that they held every white man in suspicion, especially if he came
attended by a cowboy.

Calvin was elaborately free and easy with them all, eager to show his
wide acquaintanceship. "Hello, Two Horns; hello, Hawk," he called to a
couple of fine-looking men of middle age. They did not reply. "Hello,
Gray Wolf, you old sardine; want to try another horse-race?"

Gray Wolf, evidently something of a wag, smilingly replied: "You bet.
Got new pony--heap fast."

Calvin wheeled and spurred into the bunch of young fellows, who
scattered with shouts of laughter, while the Captain and Jennie followed
Louie, their guide, to the agency gate.

They were met at the fence before the office by two men, one a
middle-aged man, with a dirty-gray beard and fat, bloated cheeks, who
said, blandly: "Good-morning, sir. Good-morning, miss; nice day."

Curtis dismounted. "Are you Mr. Sennett?"

"I am--what can I do for you?" He turned to his companion, a tall young
man, with innocent gray eyes and a loose, weak mouth: "This is my son
Clarence. Clarence, take the lady's horse."

"Thank you," said the Captain, as he stepped inside the gate. "I am
Captain Curtis, of the cavalry, detailed to take charge of this agency.
You have just left the office--have you the keys in your pocket? If so,
please surrender them to me. It is an unpleasant duty, but I am ordered
to assume absolute control at once."

The man's red skin faded to a yellow-gray--the color of his beard. For a
moment he seemed about to fall, then the blood came surging back; his
cheeks grew purple with its weight.

"I'll be damned if I submit. It is an outrage!"

"You can't afford to make any trouble. I am sorry to do this, but I am
under orders of the department to take you unawares, and on no account
to let you return to your office."

Sennett began to bluster. "Show me your authority."

"My authority is in this paper." He drew the order from his pocket. "If
you think a moment you will see that instant acquiescence is best."

While Sennett stormed, the two chiefs, Elk and Two Horns, drew near, and
lifting his hand, Curtis, using the sign language swiftly, said to them:

"I am your new agent. The Great Father has heard that the old agent is
bad. I am here to straighten matters out. I am Swift Eagle--don't you
remember? I came with Bear Robe. I was only second lieutenant then."

The faces of the old chiefs lit up with pleasure. "Ay, we remember! We
shake your hands. We are glad you have come."

Curtis then asked: "Who is your interpreter--one you can trust, one who
can read this paper."

The two men looked at each other for a moment. Elk said, "Joe?"

Two Horns shook his head; then, catching sight of a man who was
regarding the scene from a door-way not very distant, he said, in
English: "Him--Nawson. Hay, my friend," he called, "come here!"

This observer at once responded to Two Horns' sign. As he came up the
chief said: "My friend, here is a paper from Washington; read it for
us."

Curtis said: "I am Captain Curtis, of the cavalry, detailed to act as
agent here. This is my commission."

The stranger extended his hand. "I'm glad to meet you, Captain Curtis,
very glad, indeed." As they shook hands he added: "I've read your
articles on the sign language, et cetera, with great pleasure. My name
is Lawson."

Curtis smiled. "Are you Osborne Lawson? I'm mighty glad to meet you.
This is my sister, Mr. Lawson."

Mr. Lawson greeted Jennie with grace, and she liked him at once. His
manner was direct and his voice pleasing. He was tall, lean, and a
little stooping, but strong and brown. "Now, Captain, what can I do for
you?" he asked, turning briskly.

"I want you to read this paper to the chiefs here, and then I intend to
put a guard on the door. Mr. Sennett is not to be permitted to re-enter
his office. These are harsh measures, but I am not responsible for
them."

Lawson looked thoughtful. "I see." After reading the paper he said to
the chiefs: "It is as this man has said. The Great Father has sent him
here to take charge of the office. The old agent is cut off--he is not
allowed to go back to his office for fear he may hide something. Have
Crow put a guard on the door. The new agent will try to find out why you
have not received your rations. This is the secret of this paper, and
here is the signature of the Secretary. This is a true thing, and you
must now obey Captain Curtis. I know him," he said, looking round him.
"He is my friend; you can trust him. That is all."

"Good! Good!" said the chiefs. "We understand."

A short, dark Tetong in a frayed captain's uniform came up. "I am chief
of the police," he signed. "What shall I do?"

"Guard the door of the office and of the issue house. Let no one but
those I bring enter. Will you do as I say?" he asked.

"Ay!" replied the officer, whose name was Crow.

"Then all is said; go guard the door."

Sennett and his son had withdrawn a little from the scene and were
talking in low voices. They had placed themselves in the worst possible
light, and they felt it. As Curtis reached this point in his orders,
Sennett started to cross the road.

"Wait a moment, gentlemen," called Curtis. "My orders are very strict. I
must precede you. There is a certain desk in your library, Mr. Sennett,
which I must search."

Sennett flamed out into wild oaths. "You shall not search my private
papers."

"Silence!" called Curtis. "Another oath and I'll put you in the
guard-house."

"Do you suppose I'm going to submit to this without protest? You treat
me like a criminal."

"So far as my orders go, that's what you are," said Curtis. "I give you
the benefit of the doubt so long as you act the gentleman, but you must
respect the presence of my sister, or I'll gag you." After a pause he
added, in a gentler tone: "I don't pretend to judge your case. I am
merely obeying the orders of the department."

"I have powerful friends in Washington. You will regret this," snarled
Sennett. But his son was like one smitten dumb; his breathing was
troubled, and his big, gray eyes were childish in their wide appeal.

Lawson then spoke. "Can I do anything further, Captain? Command me
freely."

"No, I think not, except to see that my horses are taken care of and my
guide fed. I suppose there is a mess or boarding-house where my sister
can get something to eat."

"Won't you come to dinner with me?" asked Lawson. "Mrs. Wilcox, some
artist friends, and I are messing over in one of the old quarters, and
our mid-day dinner is waiting."

Curtis smiled grimly. "Thank you, I am on duty. I must dine with Mr.
Sennett. Jennie will accept your invitation thankfully."

As Curtis walked over to the agency house with Sennett and his son,
Jennie looked anxious. "They may do something to him."

Lawson smiled. "Oh no, they won't. They are quite cowed, but I'll
suggest a guard." He turned to Two Horns and said, in Dakota: "Father,
the old agent is angry. The new agent is a brave man, but he is only one
against two."

"I understand," said the old man, with a smile, and a few minutes later
a couple of policemen were sitting on the door-step of the agent's
house. It was a sunny place to sit, and they enjoyed being there very
much. One of them understood English, and the other was well able to
tell an angry word when he heard it spoken.

The drowsy hush of mid-day again settled down upon the little cluster of
buildings--news, even when it passes swiftly among red people, makes no
noise. It walks with velvet foot, it speaks in a murmur; it hastens, but
conceals its haste.



IV

THE BEAUTIFUL ELSIE BEE BEE


As Jennie entered the mess-house she uttered a little cry of amazement.
Outwardly, it was a rude barrack of whitewashed cottonwood logs, but its
interior glowed with color and light. Bright rugs were on the floor, and
a big divan in one corner displayed a monstrous black bear-skin. A
capacious fireplace, which dated back to the first invasion of the army,
filled one end of the hall, which had been enlarged by the removal of a
partition. Oil-paintings, without frames, were tacked against the walls,
and the odor of fresh pigments lingered in the air.

"This is our general meeting-place," explained Lawson.

"It smells like a studio," Jennie replied, after a glance around her.

A plain, quiet little woman, with a look of inquiry on her face,
appeared at the dining-room door, and Lawson called out:

"Mrs. Wilcox, this is Miss Curtis, who will stay with us for a few
days." As they greeted each other he added: "There is a story to tell,
but we are late, and it can wait. Where is Elsie?"

"Still at work. She never _would_ come to her meals if we didn't call
her."

"I'm disposed to try it some day. Will you take charge of Miss Curtis
while I go fetch the delinquent?"

Under Mrs. Wilcox's direction Jennie prepared for luncheon in an
adjoining room, wondering still at the unexpected refinement of the
furnishings, and curious to see the artist.

As she re-entered the sitting-room a tall girl rose languidly to meet
her, and Lawson said: "Miss Curtis, this is Miss Brisbane, the painter
of the pictures you see about."

Miss Brisbane bowed in silence, while Jennie cried out: "Oh! did you do
them? I think they are beautiful!"

The sincerity of her voice touched the young artist, and she said: "I'm
glad you like them--sometimes I think they're pretty 'bum.'"

A slang word on the red lips of the handsome girl seemed wofully out of
place to Jennie, who stared at her with the eager curiosity of a child.
She was slender and dark, with an exquisite chin, and her hands, though
slim and white, were strong and capable. Her eyes were very dark, of a
velvety brown-black, and her hair was abundant and negligently piled
upon her small head. Altogether she had a stately and rather foreign
presence, which made Jennie feel very dowdy and very commonplace.

Mrs. Wilcox hurried them all out into the dining-room, where a pretty
table was spread for six people. Jennie's attention was absorbed by the
walls, which were also lightened with sketches of small, red babies in
gay cradles, and of glowing bits of tawny plain and purple butte.

"Did you do all of these beautiful things?" she asked.

Lawson interposed. "She did, Miss Curtis. Be not deceived. Miss
Brisbane's languid manner springs from her theory of rest. When work is
finished she 'devitalizes'--I think that is the word--and becomes a rag.
But she's a horrible example of industry, spineless as she now appears."

Miss Brisbane remained quite unmoved by Lawson's words; smiling
dreamily, her red lips, as serene as those of a child, softly shaped
themselves to say: "The strung bow needs relaxation."

"I think you are right," said Jennie, with sudden conviction.

Elsie opened her eyes wide and murmured, "Thank you."

Jennie went on: "Now my trouble is just that. I'm always nerved up. I
can't relax. Won't you teach me how?"

"With pleasure. Are you going to live here?" asked Elsie, with faint
accession of interest.

"As long as my brother does."

"I suppose you've come to teach these ragamuffins?"

Lawson here answered for Jennie. "Miss Curtis is a sister to Captain
Curtis, who has come to displace your uncle."

Miss Brisbane looked up blankly. "I don't understand."

Lawson became explicit, and as she listened the girl's hands clinched.

"How abominable!" she cried, with eyes aflame.

"Not at all. If Mr. Sennett is an honest employé of the government, he
should be willing to be searched--if he isn't, then no measure is too
harsh. He'll get a thorough raking over, if my impression of the new
agent is correct."

"My father would not put a dishonest man in this place," insisted Elsie,
"and I don't believe Uncle Sennett has done wrong."

"Well, now, we'll suspend judgment," retorted Lawson, who knew just when
to change his tone. "Captain Curtis is an officer of known ability, and
no one can accuse him of prejudice. His living doesn't depend upon
pleasing either Mr. Sennett or your father. Undoubtedly the government
has good reasons for sending him here, and I for one am willing to
accept his judgment."

Elsie rose in swift resolution. "I say it is an outrage! I am going to
see that Uncle Sennett is not persecuted."

Lawson laid his hand on her arm and his voice was sternly quiet. "I
think you would better finish your tea. Whatever protest you feel called
upon to make can be made later. If you like," he added, in a gentler
voice, "I will represent you in the matter and go with you to see
Captain Curtis during the afternoon. I don't think we should trouble him
now."

Elsie resumed her seat without either accepting or rejecting his offer,
and the meal continued in some constraint, although Lawson summoned his
best humor to cover Elsie's passionate outburst.

A few minutes later Elsie sullenly retired to her studio, and Lawson
said: "I am going out to see what is going on, Miss Curtis; please make
yourself at home here."

When the door closed behind him Jennie turned to Mrs. Wilcox. "Why does
Mr. Lawson use that tone with Miss Brisbane--are they engaged?"

Mrs. Wilcox laughed. "That's just what none of us knows. Sometimes I
think they are husband and wife--he lectures her so."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Curtis joined the mess in the evening he was weary and a little
sombre. Vastly preoccupied with his difficult task at the office, he had
given but little attention to Jennie's announcement of having been taken
into the bosom of an artistic family messing at the barracks, and when
Elsie met him in a regal gown, glittering and changeful, he pulled
himself up in surprise and admiration.

Elsie, on her part, was eager to see him and ready to do battle, but as
he faced her, abrupt, vigorous of movement, keen-eyed and
composed--almost stern of countenance--she was a little daunted. He was
handsomer than she had expected, and older. His head was impressive, his
frame muscular, and his movements graceful. Plainly he was a man of
power, one it would be politic to treat with respect.

As they took up their napkins at the table Lawson opened out: "Well,
Captain, we don't want to seem inquisitive, but we are dying to know
what you've been doing this afternoon. We feel on the outside of it
all."

"Yes," Elsie quickly added, "we want to know whether there is to be a
revolution, or only a riot."

Curtis turned to her smilingly and replied: "You'll all be disappointed.
I've been looking over accounts and holding humdrum audience with my
clerks--a very busy but very quiet afternoon--nothing doing, as the
phrase goes."

"Where is Uncle Sennett?" inquired Elsie. "I tried to find him, but your
men would not let me into the office."

"You shouldn't have tried," interjected Lawson.

"Is he your uncle?" asked Curtis.

"He's my father's sister's husband--but that doesn't matter; I'd defend
him if he were a stranger. I think he has been shamefully treated. The
idea of searching his private desk!"

Curtis looked at her keenly. "I am under orders," he said. "Mr. Sennett
is nothing to me, one way or the other. The question for answer is--has
he abused his office?"

"He has not!" exclaimed Elsie. "I _know_ he has not. He is not a man to
cheat and steal; he is not a strong man, but he is kind and generous."

"Too kind and too generous," muttered Lawson.

"I'm sorry to say that the records are against him," replied Curtis,
"and his action is against him. He and his son have gone to Pinon
City--riding very like fugitives. I had no orders to hold them; indeed,
I was glad to let them go."

Elsie bit her lips. "He has gone to get aid," she said at last, "and
when he comes back you will take a different tone with him."

Curtis laughed. "I believe he did say he'd have my hide, or something
like that."

Lawson put in a word. "He'll do it, too, if the cattle interest can
influence the Secretary. Don't tell us any more than is proper,
Captain, but--how do you find his accounts?"

"In very bad shape. The chiefs say he has been holding back rations and
turning in bad beef for some time."

"You'd take the word of a nasty Indian against my uncle, or _any_ white
man, I can see that," said Elsie, in withering scorn.

Curtis turned upon her a most searching glance. "Miss Brisbane, I don't
understand your attitude towards me. As a soldier on special duty,
detailed almost against my will, I have no prejudice in this affair. It
is my duty to see that the treaties of the government are carried out.
You seem to think I am started on a line of persecution of your uncle--"
he checked himself. "I beg you will not pursue the subject any further."
He turned to Lawson with an effort to put aside unpleasant conversation.
"Please don't ask me disagreeable questions when I am curious to know
the meaning of this artistic invasion of my territory. Who is
responsible for these pictures?"

Lawson hastened to explain. "This plague of artists is due to me
entirely, Captain Curtis. I am doing some studies of the Tetongs, and
Miss Brisbane came out to make some illustrations for me. In fact, she
suggested coming here rather than to the upper agencies, because of her
uncle's presence. Our coming brought others."

"I am very glad you came," said Curtis, heartily, "and I will do all in
my power to further your work. Please do not allow my coming to change
your plans in the slightest degree."

Lawson continued: "Intending to stay some months, we concluded to set up
a mess and be comfortable--and permit me to say, we hope you'll eat with
us until your own goods arrive."

"Thank you; I accept with pleasure, for I don't enjoy camping in the
tent of my angry predecessor--this company is more to my mind."

Elsie's red lips were tremulous with indignation. "You can't blame Mr.
Sennett for being angry. You would be if treated in the same way. There
is no justice in it. _I_ would never have surrendered those keys to
you."

Curtis patiently repeated, "My orders were peremptory."

"You can't take shelter behind that plea. Your acts are atrocious, and I
shall write to my father in Washington and have you investigated." She
was beautiful as flame in the glow of her wrath.

Curtis seemed struck with a new idea. "Are you the daughter of
ex-Senator Brisbane?"

She braced herself. "Well, suppose I am?"

"Oh, nothing at all--only it explains."

"What does it explain?"

"Your attitude. It is quite natural for a daughter of Andrew Brisbane to
take sides against these people." He was not in a mood to be gallant,
and his glance quelled the angry girl.

With flushed face and quivering lips she sprang to her feet. "I will not
stay to be insulted," she said.

Curtis rose as she swept from the room, but checked his instinctive
words of apology and returned to his seat in silence.

Mrs. Wilcox relieved the painful pause by saying, "Captain Curtis, you
must not misjudge Elsie. She is a much better girl than she seems."

Lawson was troubled as he said, "She has lashed herself into a great
rage over this affair, but as a matter of fact she don't care a hang for
Sennett."

"I can't apologize for doing my duty," said Curtis, "even to Miss
Brisbane."

"Certainly not," replied Lawson, though he was deeply hurt by Elsie's
display of unreason.

As soon as he decently could, he followed her to her studio, where he
found her lying in sullen dejection on the big divan. "Bee Bee, you are
missing a good dinner," he began, gently.

She was instantly ready to fight. "I suppose you blame me for this
scene."

"I think you are hasty, and a little unreasonable. I know Curtis by
reputation, and he is above any petty malice."

"You are taking his side against me!"

"Not at all, Bee Bee, I am merely trying to show you--"

"He looked at me as no man ever dared to look before, and I hate him. He
thinks because he has a little authority he can lord it over us all
here. I shall write to father at once, telling him just how this little
prig of a lieutenant--"

"Captain," interrupted Lawson--"for distinguished service."

His smile made her furious. She flung herself back on the divan. "Go
away. I hate you, too."

Lawson, at the end of his patience, went out and closed the door behind
him. "What is the matter with the girl?" he said to Mrs. Wilcox. "I've
seen her in temper, but never like this. She has taken the most violent
antagonism to Curtis."

"She'd better let that young man alone," replied Mrs. Wilcox, sagely.
"He has a very firm mouth."



V

CAGED EAGLES


The word had gone out among all the red people that the old agent was
entirely "cut off," and that a soldier and a sign-talker had come to
take his place, and so each little camp loaded its tepees on wagons or
lashed them to the ponies and came flocking in to sit down before the
Little Father and be inspired of him.

The young men came first, whirling in on swift ponies, looking at a
distance like bands of cowboys--for, though they hated the cattlemen,
they formed themselves on Calvin Streeter as a model. Each wore a wide,
white hat and dark trousers, and carried a gay kerchief slung round his
neck. All still wore moccasins of buckskin, beautifully beaded and
fringed, and their braided hair hung low on their breasts.

The old men, who jogged in later in the day, still carried blankets,
though they, too, had adopted the trousers and calico shirts of the
white man. Several of the chieftains preserved their precious
peace-pipes, and their fans and tobacco pouches, as of old, and a few of
those who had been in Washington came in wrinkled suits of army-blue.
The women dressed in calico robes cut in their own distinctive style,
with wide sleeves, the loose flow of the garment being confined at the
waist with a girdle. As this was a time of great formality, several of
the young girls returned to their buckskin dresses trimmed with elk
teeth, which they highly prized.

As a race they were tall and strong, but the men, from much riding, were
thin in the shanks and bowed out at the knee. They had lost the fine
proportions for which they were famed in the days when they were
trailers a-foot. "Straight as an Indian" no longer applied to them, but
they were all skilled and picturesque horsemen. Lacking in beauty and
strength, they possessed other compensating qualities which still made
them most interesting to an artist. Their gestures were unstudiedly
graceful, and their roughhewn faces were pleasant in expression. Ill
words or dark looks were rare among them.

In all external things they were quite obviously half-way from the tepee
to the cabin. Their homes consisted of small hovels of cottonwood logs,
set round with tall tepees and low lodges of canvas, used for
dormitories and kitchens in summer. A rack for drying meat rations was a
part of each family's possessions. They owned many minute ponies, and
their camps abounded in dogs of wolfish breed which they handled not at
all, for they were, as of old, merely the camp-guard.

Such were the salient characteristics of the Tetongs, westernmost
representatives of a once powerful race of hunters, whose home had been
far to the east, in a land of lakes, rivers, and forests. They were not
strangers to the young soldier; he knew their history and their habits
of thought. He now studied them to detect change and found
deterioration. "I am your friend," he said to them each and all. "I
come to do you good, to lead you in the new road. It is a strange road
to me also, for I, too, am a soldier and a hunter; but together we will
learn to make the earth produce meat for our eating. Put your hand in
mine."

He was plunged at once into a wilderness of work, but in his moments of
leisure the face of Elsie Brisbane came into his thought and her
resentment troubled him more than he cared to acknowledge. He well knew
that her birth and her training put her in hopeless opposition to all he
was planning to do for the Tetongs, and yet he determined to demonstrate
to her both the justice and the humanity of his position.

He knew her father's career very well. He had once travelled for two
days on the same railway train with him, and remembered him as a
boastful but powerful man, whose antagonism no one held in light esteem.
Andrew Brisbane had entered the State at a time when its mineral wealth
lay undeveloped and free to the taker, and having leagued himself with
men less masterly than himself but quite as unscrupulous, had set to
work to grasp and hold the natural resources of the great Territory--he
laid strong fists upon the mines and forests and grass of the wild land.
Once grasped, nothing was ever surrendered.

It mattered nothing to him and his kind that a race of men already lived
upon this land and were prepared to die in defence of it. By adroit
juggling, he and his corporation put the unsuspecting settler forward to
receive the first shock of the battle, and, when trouble came, loudly
called upon the government to send its troops "in support of the
pioneers." In this way, without danger to himself, the shrewd old Yankee
had acquired mineral belts, cattle-ranges, railway rights, and many
other good things, and at last, when the Territory was made a State, he
became one of its senators.

Naturally, he hated the red people. They were pestilential because,
first of all, they paid no railway charges, and also for the reason that
they held the land away from those who would add to his unearned
increment and increase the sum total of his tariff receipts. His
original plan was broadly simple. "Sweep them from the earth," he
snarled, when asked "What will we do with the Indians?" But his policy,
modified by men with hearts and a sense of justice, had settled into a
process of remorseless removal from point to point, from tillable land
to grazing land, from grazing land to barren waste, and from barren
waste to arid desert. He had no doubts in these matters. It was good
business, and to say a thing was not good business was conclusive. The
Tetong did not pay--remove him!

Elsie in her home-life, therefore, had been well schooled in race
hatred. Tender-hearted where suffering in a dog or even a wolf was
concerned, she remained indifferent when a tribe was reported to be
starving. Nothing modified her view till, as an art student in Paris,
she came into contact with men who placed high value on the redman as
"material." She found herself envied because she had casually looked
upon a few of these "wonderful chaps," as Newt Penrose called them, and
was often asked to give her impressions of them. When she returned to
New York she was deeply impressed by Maurice Stewart's enormous success
in sculpturing certain types of this despised race. A little later
Wilfred J. Buttes, who had been struggling along as a painter of bad
portraits, suddenly purchased a house in a choice suburb on the strength
of two summers' work among the mountain Utes.

Thereupon Elsie opened her eyes. Not that money was a lure to her, for
it was not, but she was eager for notice--for the fame that comes
quickly, and with loud trumpets and gay banners. In conversation with
Lawson one day she learned that he was about to do some pen-portraits of
noted Tetong chieftains, and at once sprang to her opportunity. She
admired and trusted Lawson. His keen judgment, his definiteness of
speech awed her a little, and with him she was noticeably less assertive
than with the others of her artist acquaintances. So here now she sat,
painting with rigor and immense satisfaction the picturesque rags and
tinsel ornaments of the Tetongs. To her they were beggars and tramps, on
a scale with the lazzaroni of Rome or Naples. That they were anything
more than troublesome models had not been borne in on her mind.

She had never professed special regard for her uncle the agent--in fact,
she covertly despised him for his lack of power--but, now that the issue
was drawn, she naturally flew to the side of those who would destroy the
small peoples of the earth. She wrote to her father a passionate letter.

"Can't you stop this?" she asked. "No doubt Uncle Henry will go direct
to Washington and make complaint. This Captain Curtis is insufferable.
I would leave here instantly only I am bound to do some work for Mr.
Lawson. We must all go soon, for winter is coming on, but I would like
to see this upstart humbled. He treats me as if I were a
school-girl--'declines to argue the matter.' Oh! he is provoking. His
sister is a nice little thing, but she sides with him, of course--and so
does Lawson, in a sense; so you see I am all alone. The settlers are
infuriated at Uncle Sennett's dismissal, and will support you and Uncle
Henry."

In the days that followed she met Curtis's attempts at modifying her
resentment with scornful silence, and took great credit to herself that
she did not literally fly at his head when he spoke of his work or his
wards. Her avoidance of him became so painful that at the end of the
third day he said to his sister: "Jennie, I think I will go to the
school mess after this. Miss Brisbane's hostility shows no signs of
relenting, and the situation is becoming decidedly unpleasant."

"George!" said Jennie, sternly. "Don't you let that snip drive you away.
Why, the thing is ridiculous! She is here on sufferance--your
sufferance. You could order them all off the reservation at once."

"I know I could, but I won't. You know what I mean--I can't even let
Miss Brisbane know that she has made me uncomfortable. She's a very
instructive example of the power of environment. She has all the
prejudices and a good part of the will of her father, and represents her
class just as a little wild-cat represents its species. She's a
beautiful girl, and yet she is to me one of the most unattractive women
I ever knew."

Jennie looked puzzled. "You are a little hard on her, George. She _is_
unsympathetic, but I think she says a lot of those shocking things just
to hurt you."

"That isn't very nice, either," he said, quietly. "Well, our goods are
on the way, and by Thursday we'll be independent of any one. But maybe
you are right--it would excite comment if I left the mess. I will join
you all at meals until we are ready to light our own kitchen fire."

Thereafter he saw very little of the artists. By borrowing a few
necessaries of his head farmer he was able to camp down in the house
which Sennett had so precipitately vacated. He was busy, very busy,
during the day; but when his work was over and he sat beside his fire,
pipe in hand, Elsie's haughty face troubled him. His life had not taken
him much among women, and his love fancies had been few. His duties as
an officer and his researches as a forester and map-builder had also
aided to keep him a bachelor. Once or twice he had been disturbed by a
fair face at the post, only to have it whisked away again into the
mysterious world of happy girlhood whence it came.

And now, at thirty-four, he was obliged to confess that he was as far
from marriage as ever--farther, in fact, for an Indian reservation
offers but slender opportunity in way of courtship for a man of his
exacting tastes.

He was not quite honest with himself, or he would have acknowledged the
pleasure he took in watching Elsie's erect and graceful figure as she
rode past his office window of a morning. It was pleasant to pause at
the open door of her studio for a moment and say "Good-morning," though
he received but a cold and formal bow in return. She was more alluring
at her easel than in any other place, for she had several curious and
very pretty tricks in working, and seemed like a very intent child, with
her brown hair loosening over her temples, her eyes glowing with
excitement, while she dabbed at the canvas with a piece of cheese-cloth
or a crumb of bread. She dragged her stool into position with a quick,
amusing jerk, holding her brush in her teeth meanwhile. Her blouses were
marvels of odd grace and rich color.

The soldier once or twice lingered in silence at the door after she had
forgotten his presence, and each time the glow of her disturbing beauty
burned deeper into his heart, and he went away with drooping head.

Mrs. Wilcox took occasion one day to remonstrate with her niece. "Elsie,
you were very rude to Captain Curtis again to-day. He was deeply hurt."

"Now, aunt, don't _you_ try to convert me to a belief in that tin
soldier. He gets on my nerves."

"It would serve you right if he ordered us off the reservation. Your
remarks to-day before that young Mr. Streeter were very wrong and very
injudicious, and will be used in a bad cause. Captain Curtis is trying
to keep the peace here, and you are doing a great deal of harm by your
hints of his removal."

"I don't care. I intend to have him removed. I have taken a frightful
dislike to him. He is a prig and a hypocrite, and has no business to
come in here in this way, setting his low-down Indians up against the
settlers."

"That's just what he is trying _not_ to do, and if you weren't so
obstinate you'd see it and honor him for his good sense."

"Aunt, don't _you_ lecture me," cried the imperious girl. "I will not
allow it!"

In truth, Mrs. Wilcox's well-meant efforts at peace-making worked out
wrongly. Elsie became insufferably rude to Curtis, and her letters were
filled with the bitterest references to him and his work.

Lawson continued most friendly, and Curtis gladly availed himself of the
wide knowledge of primitive psychology which the ethnologist had
acquired. The subject of Indian education came up very naturally at a
little dinner which Jennie gave to the teachers and missionaries soon
after she opened house, and Lawson's remarks were very valuable to
Curtis. Lawson was talking to the principal of the central school. "We
should apply to the Indian problem the law of inherited aptitudes," he
said, slowly. "We should follow lines of least resistance. Fifty
thousand years of life proceeding in a certain way results in a certain
arrangement of brain-cells which can't be changed in a day, or even in a
generation. The red hunter, for example, was trained to endure hunger,
cold, and prolonged exertion. When he struck a game-trail he never left
it. His pertinacity was like that of a wolf. These qualities do not make
a market-gardener; they might not be out of place as a herder. We must
be patient while the redman makes the change from the hunter to the
herdsman. It is like mulching a young crab-apple and expecting it to
bear pippins."

"Patience is an unknown virtue in an Indian agent," remarked the
principal of the central school--"present company excepted."

"Do you believe in the allotment?" asked Miss Colson, one of the
missionaries for kindergarten work, an eager little woman, aflame with
religious zeal.

"Not in its present form," replied Lawson, shortly. "Any attempt to make
the Tetong conform to the isolated, dreary, lonesome life of the Western
farmer will fail. The redman is a social being--he is pathetically
dependent on his tribe. He has always lived a communal life, with the
voices of his fellows always in his ears. He loves to sit at evening and
hear the chatter of his neighbors. His games, his hunting, his toil, all
went on with what our early settlers called a 'bee.' He seldom worked or
played alone. His worst punishment was to be banished from the camping
circle. Now the Dawes theorists think they can take this man, who has no
newspaper, no books, no letters, and set him apart from his fellows in a
wretched hovel on the bare plain, miles from a neighbor, there to
improve his farm and become a citizen. This mechanical theory has failed
in every case; nominally, the Sioux, the Piegans, are living this
abhorrent life; actually, they are always visiting. The loneliness is
unendurable, and so they will not cultivate gardens or keep live-stock,
which would force them to keep at home. If they were allowed to settle
in groups of four or five they would do better."

Miss Colson's deep seriousness of purpose was evident in the tremulous
intensity of her voice. "If they had the transforming love of Christ in
their hearts they would feel no loneliness."

A silence followed this speech; both men mentally shrugged their
shoulders, but Jennie came to the rescue.

"Miss Colson, did you ever live on a ranch, miles from any other
stove-pipe?"

"No, but I am sure that with God as my helper I could live in a
dungeon."

"You should have been a nun," said Lawson. "I don't mind your living
alone with Christ, but I think it cruel and unchristian to force your
solitary way of life on a sociable redman. Would Christ do that? Would
He insist on shutting the door on their mythology, their nature lore,
their dances and ceremonies? Would He not go freely among them, glad of
their joy, and condemning only what was hurtful? Is there any record
that He ever condemned an innocent pleasure? How do you know but they
are as near the Creator's design as the people of Ohio?"

The teacher's pretty face was strained and white, and her wide-set eyes
were painful to see. She set her slim hands together. "Oh, I can't
answer you now, but I know you are wrong--wickedly wrong!"

Jennie again broke the intensity of the silence by saying: "Two big men
against one little woman isn't fair. I object to having the Indian
problem settled over cold coffee. Mr. Lawson, stop preaching!"

"Miss Colson is abundantly able to take care of herself," said Slicer,
and the other teachers, who had handed over their cause to their ablest
advocate, chorused approval.

Curtis, who sat with deeply meditative eyes fixed on Miss Colson, now
said: "It all depends on what we are trying to do for these people.
Personally, I am not concerned about the future life of my wards. I want
to make them healthy and happy, here and now."

"Time's up!" cried Jennie, and led the woman out into the safe harbor of
the sitting-room.

After they had lighted their cigars, Lawson said privately to Curtis:
"Now there's a girl with too much moral purpose--just as Elsie is
spoiled by too little. However, I prefer a wholesome pagan to a morbid
Christian."

"It's rather curious," Curtis replied. "Miss Colson is a pretty girl--a
very pretty girl; but I can't quite imagine a man being in love with
her. What could you do with such inexorable moral purpose? You couldn't
put your arm round it, could you?"

"You'd have to hang her up by a string, like one of these toy angels the
Dutch put atop their Christmas-trees. The Tetongs fairly dread to see
her coming--they think she's deranged."

"I know it--the children go to her with reluctance; she doesn't seem
wholesome to them, as Miss Diehl does. And yet I can't discharge her."

"Naturally not! You'd hear from the missionary world. Think of it! 'I
find Miss Colson too pious, please take her away.'" Both men laughed at
the absurdity of this, and Lawson went on: "I wished a dozen times
during dinner that Elsie Bee Bee had been present. It would have given
her a jolt to come in contact with such inartistic, unshakable
convictions."

"She would have been here, only her resentment towards me is still very
strong."

"She has it in for you, sure thing. I can't budge her," said Lawson,
smiling. "She's going to have you removed the moment she reaches
Washington."

"I have moments when I think I'd like to be removed," said Curtis, as he
turned towards Mr. Slicer and his other guests. "Suppose we go into the
library, gentlemen."



VI

CURTIS SEEKS A TRUCE


"Our artists are going to flit," remarked Jennie, one evening, as they
were taking seats at luncheon.

He looked up quickly. "Are they?"

"Yes, Miss Brisbane is going back to Washington, and Mr. Lawson will
follow, no doubt."

He unfolded his napkin with unmoved countenance. "Well, they are wise;
we are likely to have a norther any day now."

The soldier had all the responsibilities and perplexities he could
master without the addition of Elsie Brisbane's disturbing lure. The
value of her good opinion was enormously enhanced by the news of her
intended departure, and for a day or two Curtis went about his duties
with absent-minded ineffectiveness; he even detected himself once or
twice sitting with his pen in his hand creating aimless markings on his
blotting-pad. Wilson, the clerk, on one occasion waited full five
minutes for an answer while his chief debated with himself whether to
call upon Miss Brisbane at the studio or at the house. He began to find
excuses for her--"A man who is a villain in business may be a very
attractive citizen in private life--and she may have been very fond of
Sennett. From her point of view--anyhow, she is a lovely young girl,
and it is absurd to place her among my enemies." The thought of her face
set in bitter scorn against him caused his heart to contract painfully.
"I've been too harsh. These people are repugnant to one so dainty and
superrefined. There are excuses for her prejudice. I can't let her go
away in anger." And in this humble mood he stopped at the door of her
studio one morning, prepared to be very patient and very persuasive.

"Good-morning, Miss Brisbane. May I come in?"

"Certainly, if my work will interest you," she replied; "you'll excuse
my going on. I want to finish this portrait of Little Peta to-day."

"By all means--I do not intend to interrupt." He took a seat to the
front and a little to the left of her, and sat in silence for a few
moments. Her brown hair, piled loosely on her head, brought out the
exquisite fairness of her complexion, and the big, loose sleeve of her
blouse made her hand seem like a child's, but it was strong and steady.
She was working with her whole mind, breathing quickly as she mixed her
colors, holding her breath as she put her brush against the canvas. She
used the apparently aimless yet secure movement of the born painter.
With half-closed eyes and head a little to one side, with small hand
lifted to measure and compare, she took on a new expression, a
bewitching intentness, which quite transformed her.

"I hear you are going away," said Curtis at last, speaking with some
effort, uncertain of her temper.

"Yes, we break up and vacate to-morrow."

"Why break up? You will want to come back next spring. Leave the place
as it is."

She gave him a quick, keen glance, and put her head again on one side to
squint.

"I have no intention of returning."

"Have you exhausted Indian subjects?"

"Oh no!" she exclaimed, with sudden, artistic enthusiasm. "I have just
begun to see what I want to do."

"Then why not come back?" She did not reply, and he resumed, with tender
gravity: "I hope I haven't made it so unpleasant for you that you are
running away to escape _me_?"

She turned with a sharp word on her tongue, but he was so frank and so
handsome, and withal so humble, that she instantly relented. She was
used to this humility in men and knew the meaning thereof, and a flush
of gratified pride rose to her face. The proud soldier had become a
suitor like the others.

"Oh no--you have nothing to do with it," she replied, carelessly.

"I am glad of that. I was afraid you might think me unsympathetic, but I
am not. I am here this morning to offer you my cordial assistance, for I
am eager to see this people put into art. So far as I know, they have
never been adequately treated in painting or in sculpture."

"Thank you," she said, "I don't think I shall go very far with them.
They are very pleasant on canvas, but there are too many disagreeable
things connected with painting them. I don't see how you endure the
thought of living here among them." She shuddered. "I hate them!"

"I don't understand that hardness in you, Miss Brisbane," he replied.

"I'm sure it isn't mysterious. I hate dirt and rags, even when painted.
Now Little Peta here is quite different. She is a dear little thing. See
her sigh--she gets so tired, but she's patient."

"You are making a beautiful picture of her. Your skill is marvellous."
His method of approach was more adroit than he realized; she softened
yet again.

"Thank you. I seem to have hit her off very well."

"Will you exhibit in Washington this winter?" he asked, with boyish
eagerness.

"I may--I haven't quite decided," she said, quite off guard at last.

"If you do I wish you would let me know. I may be able to visit the
exhibition and witness your triumph."

She began to suspect his motives. "Oh, my little row of paintings
couldn't be tortured into a triumph. I've stolen the time for them from
Mr. Lawson, whose illustrations I have neglected." She was again cold
and repellent.

"Miss Brisbane, this whole situation has become intolerable to me." He
rose and faced her, very sincere and deeply earnest. "I do not like to
have you go away carrying an unpleasant impression of me. What can I do
to change it? If I have been boorish or presuming in any way I sincerely
beg your pardon."

She motioned to Peta. "You can go now, dear, I've done all I can
to-day."

Curtis took up his hat. "I hope I have not broken up your sitting. It
would be unpardonable in me."

She squinted back at the picture with professional gravity. "Oh no; I
only had a few touches to put in under the chin--that luminous shadow is
so hard to get. I'm quite finished."

She went behind a screen for a few moments, and when she reappeared
without her brushes and her blouse she was the society young lady in
tone and manner.

"Would you like to look at my sketches?" she asked. "They're jolly
rubbish, the whole lot, but they represent a deal of enthusiasm."

Her tone was friendly--too friendly, considering the point at which he
had paused, and he was a little hurt by it. Was she playing with him?

His tone was firm and his manner direct as he said: "Miss Brisbane, I am
accustomed to deal directly with friends as well as enemies, and I like
to have people equally frank with me. I know you are angry because of my
action in the case of your uncle. I do not ask pardon for that; I was
acting there in line of my duty. But if I have spoken harshly or without
due regard to your feelings at any time I ask you to forgive me."

He made a powerful appeal to her at this moment, but she wilfully
replied: "You made no effort to soften my uncle's disgrace."

"I didn't know he was your uncle at that time," he said, but his face
grew grave quickly. "It would have made no difference if I had--my
orders were to step between him and the records of the office. So far as
my orders enlightened me, he was a man to be watched." He turned towards
the door. "Is there anything I can do to help you reach the station
to-morrow? My sister and I would gladly drive you down."

She was unrelenting, but very lovely as she replied: "Thank you; you are
very kind, but all arrangements are made."

"Good-afternoon, Miss Brisbane."

"Good-bye, Captain Curtis."

"She is hard--hard as iron," he said, as he walked away. "Her father's
daughter in every fibre."

He was ashamed to acknowledge how deeply he felt her rejection of his
friendship, and the thought of not seeing her again gave him a sudden
sense of weakness and loneliness.

Elsie, on her part, was surprised to find a new nerve tingling in her
brain, and this tremor cut into the complete self-satisfaction she
expected to feel over her refusal of the peace-pipe. Several times
during the afternoon, while superintending her packing, she found
herself standing in an attitude of meditation--her inward eye reverting
to the fine, manly figure he made, while his grave, sweet voice vibrated
in her ears. She began to see herself in an unpleasant light, and when
at the dinner-table Lawson spoke of Curtis, she listened to him with
more real interest than ever before.

"He is making wonderful changes here," Lawson was saying. "Everywhere
you go you see Tetongs working at fence-building, bridge-making,
cabin-raising, with their eagle feathers fluttering in the winds, their
small hands chapped with cold. They are sawing boards and piling grain
in the warehouse and daubing red paint on the roofs. They are in a
frenzy of work. Every man has his rations and is happy. In some way he
has persuaded the chiefs to bring in all the school-children, and the
benches are full of the little shock-heads, wild as colts."

"A new broom, etc.," murmured Elsie.

"His predecessor never was a new broom," retorted Lawson, quickly.
"Sennett always had a nasty slaunch to him. He never in his life cleaned
the dirt from the corners, and I don't see exactly why you take such
pains in defending him."

"Because he is my uncle," she replied.

"Uncle Boot-jack! That is pure fudge, Bee Bee. You didn't speak to him
once a week; you privately despised him--anybody could see that. You are
simply making a cudgel of him now to beat Curtis with--and, to speak
plainly, I think it petty of you. More than this, you'd better hedge,
for I'm not at all sure that Sennett has not been peculating."

Elsie stopped him with an angry gesture. "I'll not have you accusing him
behind his back."

Lawson threw out his hands in a gesture of despair. "All right! But make
a note of it: you'll regret this taking sides with a disreputable old
bummer against an officer of Captain Curtis's reputation."

"You are not my master!" she said, and her eyes were fiercely bright. "I
do not wish to hear you use that tone to me again! I resent it!" and she
struck the floor with her foot. "Henceforth, if we are to remain
friends, you will refrain from lecturing me!" and she left the room with
a feeling of having done two men a wrong by being unjust to herself, and
this feeling deepened into shame as she lay in her bed that night. It
was her first serious difference with Lawson and she grew unhappy over
it. "But he shouldn't take sides against me like that," she said, in an
attempt to justify her anger.

On the second morning thereafter Lawson came into the office and said:
"Well, Captain, we leave you this morning."

Curtis looked up into his visitor's fine, sensitive face, and exclaimed,
abruptly--almost violently: "I'm going to miss you, old man."

"My heart's with you," replied Lawson. "And I shall return next spring."

"Bring Miss Brisbane with you."

"I'd like to do so, but she is vastly out of key--and I doubt.
Meanwhile, if I can be of any use to you in Washington let me know."

"Thank you, Lawson, I trust you perfectly," Curtis replied, with a glow
of warm liking.

As he stood at the gate looking up into Elsie's face, she seemed very
much softened, and he wished to reach his hand and stay her where she
sat; but the last word was spoken, and the wagon rolled away with no
more definite assurance of her growing friendship than was to be read in
a polite smile.

Jennie was tearful as she said: "After all, they were worth while."

Curtis sighed as he said: "Sis, the realities of our position begin to
make themselves felt. Play-spells will be fewer now that our artists are
gone."

"They certainly broke our fall," replied Jennie, soberly. "Osborne
Lawson is fine, and I don't believe Elsie Bee Bee is as ferocious as she
pretends to be."

"It's her training. She has breathed the air of rapacity from
childhood. I can't blame her for being her father's child."

Jennie looked at him as if he were presented from a new angle of vision.
"George, there _is_ a queer streak in you--for a soldier; you're too
soft-hearted. But don't you get too much interested in Elsie Bee Bee;
she's dangerous--and, besides, Mr. Lawson wears an air of command."



VII

ELSIE RELENTS A LITTLE


The feeling against the redmen, intensified throughout the State by the
removal of Sennett, beat against Curtis like a flood. Delegations of
citizens, headed by Streeter and Johnson, proceeded at once to
Washington, laden with briefs, affidavits, and petitions, and there laid
siege to Congress as soon as the members began to assemble. The twenty
original homesteaders were taken as the text for most impassioned
appeals by local orators, and their melancholy situation was skilfully
enlarged upon. They were described as hardy and industrious patriots,
hemmed in by sullen savages, with no outlet for trade and scant
pasturage for their flocks--in nightly fear of the torch and the
scalping-knife.

To Curtis, these settlers were by no interpretation martyrs in the cause
of civilization--they were quite other. His birth, his military
training, and his natural refinement tended to make him critical of
them. They were to him, for the most part, "poor whites," too pitiless
to be civilized, and too degenerate to have the interest of their
primitive red neighbors. "The best of them," he said to Jennie, "are
foolhardy pioneers who have exiled their wives and children for no good
reason. The others are cattlemen who followed the cavalry in order to
fatten their stock under the protection of our guidon."

The citizens of Pinon City wondered why their delegates made so little
impression on the department, but Streeter was not left long in doubt.

The Secretary interrupted him in the midst of his first presentation of
the matter.

"Mr. Streeter, you are a cattleman, I believe?"

Streeter looked a little set back. "I am--yes, sir, Mr. Secretary."

The Secretary took up a slip of paper. "Are you the Streeter located on
the reservation itself?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, you are an interested witness. How can you expect me to take your
word against that of Captain Curtis? He tells me the Tetongs are
peaceful, and quick to respond to fair treatment. The department has
absolute confidence in Captain Curtis, and you are wasting time in the
effort to discredit him. The tribe will _not_ be removed. Is there any
other question you would like to raise?"

Streeter took his dismissal hard. He hurried at once to Brisbane, his
face scarlet with rage. "He turned me down," he snarled, "and he's got
to suffer for it. There's a way to get at him, and you must find it."

Brisbane was too crafty to promise any definite thing. "Now wait a
moment, neighbor; never try to yank a badger out of his den--wait and
catch him on the open plain. We must sound the Committee on Indian
Affairs, and then move on the House. If we can't put through our removal
bill we'll substitute the plan for buying out the settlers. If that
don't work I've a little scheme for cutting down the reservation. We
must keep cool--and don't mention my name in the matter. What we want to
do is to pave the way for my return to the Senate next fall; then I can
be of some real service to you. I am now entirely out of it, as you can
see, but I'll do what I can."

Streeter went away with a feeling that Brisbane was losing his vigor,
and a few days later returned to the West, very bitter and very
inflammatory of speech. "The bill is lost. It will be smothered in
committee," he said to Calvin.

Brisbane, after leaving Streeter that day, went home to dinner with an
awakened curiosity to know more about this young man in whom the
department had such confidence. Lawson was dining at his table that
night, and it occurred to him to ask a little more fully about Curtis.

"See here, Lawson, you were out there on the Fort Smith reservation,
weren't you? Wasn't that where you and Elsie camped this summer?"

Elsie replied, "Yes, papa. We were there when Uncle Sennett was
dismissed."

Brisbane started a little. "Why, of course you were; my memory is
failing me. Well, what about this man Curtis--he's a crank on the Indian
question, like yourself, isn't he?"

Lawson smiled. "We believe in fair play, Governor. Yes, he's friendly to
the Indians."

"And a man of some ability, I take it?"

"A man of unusual ability. He is an able forester, a well-read
ethnologist, and has made many valuable surveys for the War
Department."

"His word seems to have great weight with the department."

"Justly, too, for he is as able a man as ever held an agent's position.
A few men like Curtis would solve the Indian problem."

Elsie, who had been listening in meditative silence, now spoke.
"Nevertheless, his treatment of Uncle Sennett was brutal. He arrested
him and searched all his private papers--don't you remember?"

Brisbane looked at Lawson solemnly and winked the eye farthest from his
daughter. Lawson's lips quivered with his efforts to restrain a smile.
Turning then to Elsie, Brisbane said: "I recall your story now--yes, he
was pretty rigorous, but I'm holding up the department for that; the
agent wasn't to blame. He was sent there to do that kind of a job, and
from all accounts he did it well."

Elsie lifted her eyebrows. "Does that excuse him? He kept repeating to
me that he was under orders, but I took his saying so to be just a
subterfuge."

"Mighty little you know about war, my girl. To be a soldier means to
obey orders from general down to corporal. Moreover, your uncle has
given me a whole lot of trouble, and I wouldn't insist on a relationship
which does us no credit. I've held his chin above water about as long as
I'm going to."

Elsie was getting deeper into the motives and private opinions of her
father than ever before, and, as he spoke, her mind reverted to the
handsome figure of the young soldier as he stood before her in the
studio, asking for a kindlier good-bye. His head was really beautiful,
and his eyes were deep and sincere. She looked up at her father with
frowning brows. "I thought you liked Mr. Sennett? He told me you got
him his place."

Brisbane laughed. "My dear chicken, he was a political choice. He was
doing work for our side, and had to be paid."

"Do you mean you knew the kind of a man he was when you put him there?"

Brisbane pulled himself up short. "Now see here, my daughter, you're
getting out of your bailiwick."

"But I want to understand--if you knew he was stealing--"

"I didn't know it. How should I know it? I put him there to keep him
busy. I didn't suppose he was a sot and a petty plunderer. Now let's
have no more of this." Brisbane was getting old and a trifle irritable,
but he was still master of himself. "I don't know why I should be taken
to task by my own daughter."

Elsie said no more, but her lips straightened and her eyes grew
reflective. As the coffee and cigars came in, she left the two men at
the table and went out into the music-room. It seemed very lonely in the
big house that night, and she sat down at the piano to play, thinking to
cure herself of an uneasy conscience. She was almost as good a pianist
as a painter, and the common criticism of her was on this score. "Bee
does everything _too_ well," Penrose said.

She played softly, musingly, and, for some reason, sadly. "I wonder if I
have done him an injustice?" she thought. And then that brutal leer on
her father's face came to disturb her. "I wish he hadn't spoken to me
like that," she said. "I don't like his political world. I wish he
would get out of it. It isn't nice."

In the end, she left off playing and went slowly up to her studio, half
determined to write a letter of apology. Her "work-shop," which had been
added to the house since her return from Paris, was on a level with her
sitting-room, which served as a reception hall to the studio itself. Her
artist friends declared it to be too beautiful to work in, and so it
seemed, for it was full of cosey corners and soft divans--a glorious
lounging-place. Nevertheless, its walls were covered with pictures of
her own making. Costly rugs and a polished floor seemed not to deter her
from effort. She remained a miracle of industry in spite of the scoffing
of her fellows, who were stowed about the city in dusty lofts like
pigeons.

Proud and wilful as she seemed, Elsie had always prided herself on being
just, and to be placed in the position of doing an honorable man a wrong
was intolerable. The longer she dwelt upon her action the more uneasy
she became. Her vision clarified. All that had been hidden by her absurd
prejudice and reasonless dislike--the soldier's frank and manly
firmness, Lawson's reproaches, her aunt's open reproof--all these grew
in power and significance as she mused.

Taking a seat at her desk, she began a letter, "Captain Curtis, Dear
Sir--" But this seemed so palpably a continuance of her repellent mood
that she tore it up, and started another in the spirit of friendliness
and contrition which had seized upon her:

     "DEAR CAPTAIN CURTIS,--I have just heard something which
     convinces me that I have done you an injustice, and I hasten
     to beg your pardon. I knew my uncle Sennett only as a child
     knows a man of middle age--he was always kind and good and
     amusing to me. I had no conception of his real self. My present
     understanding of him has changed my feeling towards your
     action. I still think you were harsh and unsympathetic, but I
     now see that you were simply doing the will of the department.
     So far I apologize. If you come to Washington I hope you will
     let us know."

As she re-read this it seemed to be a very great concession indeed; but
as she recalled the handsome, troubled face of the soldier, she decided
to send it, no matter what he might think of her. As she sealed the
letter her heart grew lighter, and she smiled.

When she re-entered the library her father was saying: "No, I don't
expect to get him removed. The present administration and its whole
policy must be overthrown. Curtis is only a fly on the rim of the wheel.
He don't count."

"Any man counts who is a moral force," Lawson replied, with calm
sincerity. "Curtis will bother you yet."



VIII

CURTIS WRITES A LONG LETTER


The stage-driver and mail-carrier to Fort Smith was young Crane's Voice,
and this was his first trip in December. He congratulated himself on
having his back to the wind on the fifty-mile ride up the valley. A
norther was abroad over the earth, and, sweeping down from arctic
wildernesses, seemingly gathered power as it came. It crossed two vast
States in a single night and fell upon the Fort Smith reservation with
terrible fury about ten o'clock in the morning.

Crane's Voice did not get his mail-sack till twelve, but his ponies were
fed and watered and ready to move when the bag came. He did not know
that it contained a letter to warm the heart of his hero, the Captain,
but he flung the sack into his cart and put stick to his broncos quite
as manfully as though the Little Father waited. The road was smooth and
hard and quite level for thirty miles, and he intended to cover this
stretch in five hours. Darkness would come early, and the snow, which
was hardly more than a frost at noon, might thicken into a blizzard. So
he pushed on steadily, fiercely, silently, till a sinister dusk began to
fall over the buttes, and then, lifting his voice in a deep, humming,
throbbing incantation, he sang to keep off spirits of evil.

Crane's Voice was something of an aristocrat. As the son of Chief Elk he
had improved his opportunities to learn of the white man, and could
speak a little English and understand a good deal more than he
acknowledged, which gave him a startling insight at times into the words
and actions of the white people. It was his report of the unvarying
kindliness and right feeling of Captain Curtis which had done so much to
make the whole tribe trust and obey the new agent.

Crane's Voice was afraid of spirits, but he shrank from no hardship. He
was proud of his blue uniform, and of the revolver which he was
permitted to wear to guard the mail. No storm had ever prevented him
from making his trip, and his uncomplaining endurance of heat, cold,
snow, and rain would have been counted heroic in a military scout. His
virtues were so evident even to the cowboys that they made him an
exception by saying, "Yes, Crane is purty near white," and being
besotted in their own vanity, they failed to see the humor of such a
phrase in the mouth of a drunken, obscene, lawless son of a Missouri
emigrant. As a matter of fact there were many like Crane in the tribe,
only the settlers never came in personal contact with them.

Crane found his road heavy with drifts as he left the main valley and
began to climb, and he did not reach the agency till long after Curtis
had gone to bed, but he found his anxious mother waiting for him,
together with the captain of police, who took the bag of mail to the
office. As he drove into the big corral out of the wind the boy said, in
his quaint English: "Me no like 'um blizzard. Fleeze ears like buffalo
horn."

Curtis came to the office next morning with a heavy heart. He knew how
hard the bitter cold pressed upon his helpless wards, and suffered
acutely for sympathy. He spoke to all of those he met with unusual
tenderness, and asked minutely after the children, to be sure that none
were ill or hungry.

As Wilson, his clerk, laid the big package of letters and papers on his
table, the pale-blue, square envelope which bore Elsie's handwriting was
ostentatiously balanced on top. Wilson, the lovelorn clerk, sighed to
think he had no such missive in his mail that gloomy morning. Looking
in, a half-hour later, he found Curtis writing busily in answer to that
letter, all the rest of his mail being untouched. "I thought so," said
he; "I'd neglect any business for a sweet little envelope like that,"
and he sighed again.

Curtis had opened the letter eagerly, but with no expectation of
comfort. As he read he forgot the storm outside. A warm glow crept into
his blood. Lover-like, he got from the letter a great deal more than
Elsie had intended to say. He seized his pen to reply at once--just a
few lines to set her mind at rest; but his thought ran on so fast, so
full of energy, that his writing became all but illegible:

     "DEAR MISS BRISBANE,--You have given me a great pleasure by
     your letter, and I am replying at once to assure you that I did
     not lay your words up against you, because I felt you did not
     fully understand the situation. Your letter gives me courage to
     say that I think you are unjust in your attitude towards these
     primitive races--and I also hope that as fuller understanding
     comes you will change your views.

     "Here they are, fenced in on the poorest part of this bleak
     reservation, on the cold slope of the range, exposed to the
     heat and drought of summer and the storms of winter. This
     morning, for example, the wind is rushing up the converging
     walls of this valley--which opens out to the northeast, you
     remember--and the cold is intense. I am just sending out
     messengers to see that no children are freezing. Everything is
     hard as iron, and the Indians, muffled in their blankets, are
     sitting beside their fires glum as owls, waiting the coming of
     the sunshine.

     "I must tell you something which happened since you went
     away--it may correct your views of the Tetongs. It is my policy
     to give all hauling and wood contracts to the Indian instead of
     the white man, and when I told the white who has been putting
     in the wood that I was about to let the contract to the reds he
     laughed and said, 'You can't get 'em to do that work!' But I
     felt sure I could. I called them together and gave them fifty
     axes and told them how much wood I wanted. A few days later I
     thought I'd ride over to see how they were getting along. As I
     drew near I heard the most astonishing click-clack of
     axe-strokes, shouts, laughter, the falling of trees, and when I
     came in sight I 'trun up both hands.' They had hundreds of
     cords already cut--twice as much, it seemed, as I could use. I
     begged them to stop, and finally got them to begin to haul. In
     the end I was obliged to take sixty cords more than I needed.

     "You cannot understand what a pleasure it is for me to see
     ancient lies about these people destroyed by such experiences
     as this. It was pathetic to me to find the Two Horns, the
     Crawling Elk, and other proud old warriors toiling awkwardly
     with their axes, their small hands covered with blisters; but
     they laughed and joked about it, and encouraged each other as
     if they were New-Englanders at a husking-bee. My days and
     nights are full of trouble, because I can do so little for
     them. If they were on tillable land I could make them
     self-supporting in two years, but this land is arid as a
     desert. It is fair to look upon, but it will not yield a living
     to any one but a herder.

     "Your attitude towards the so-called _savage_ races troubles me
     more than I have any right to mention. The older I grow the
     less certain I am that any race or people has a monopoly of the
     virtues. I do not care to see the 'little peoples' of the world
     civilized in the sense in which the word is commonly used. It
     will be a sorrowful time to me when all the tribes of the earth
     shall have cottonade trousers and derby hats. You, as an
     artist, ought to shrink from the dead level of utilitarian
     dress which the English-speaking race seems determined to
     impose on the world. If I could, I would civilize only to the
     extent of making life easier and happier--the religious
     beliefs, the songs, the native dress--all these things I would
     retain. What is life for, if not for this?

     "My artist friends as a rule agree with me in these matters,
     and that is another reason why your unsympathetic attitude
     surprises and grieves me. I know your home-life has been such
     as would prejudice you against the redman, but your training in
     Paris should have changed all that. You consider the Tetongs
     'good material'--if you come to know them as I do you will find
     they are _folks_, just like anybody else, with the same rights
     to the earth that we have. Of course, they _are_ crude and
     unlovely--and sometimes they are cruel; but they have an
     astonishing power over those who come to know them well.

     "Pardon this long letter. You may call me a crank or any hard
     name you please, but I am anxious to have you on the right side
     in this struggle, for it is a struggle to the death. The
     tragedy of their certain extinction overwhelms me at times. I
     found a little scrap of canvas with a sketch of Peta on it--may
     I keep it? My sister is quite well and deep in 'the work.' She
     often speaks of you and we are both hoping to see you next
     year."

It was foolish for him to expect an immediate reply to this epistle, but
he did--he counted the days which lay between its posting and a
possible date for return mail. Perhaps, had he been in Washington,
diverted by Congress, cheered by the Army and Navy Club, and entertained
by his friends, he would not have surrendered so completely to the
domination of that imperious girl-face; but in the dead of winter,
surrounded by ragged, smoky squaws and their impatient, complaining
husbands, with no companionship but his sister and Wilson, the love-sick
clerk, his thought in every moment of relaxation went back to the
moments he had spent in Elsie's company. Nature cried out, "It is not
good for man to be alone," but the iron ring of circumstance held him a
prisoner in a land where delicate women were as alien as orange blossoms
or tea-roses.

Outwardly composed, indefatigable, stern in discipline and judicial of
report, he was inwardly filled with a mighty longing to see again that
slim young girl with the big, black, changeful eyes. He made careful
attempt to conceal his growing unrest from Jennie, but her sharp eyes,
accustomed to every change in his face, detected a tremor when Elsie's
name was mentioned, and her ears discovered a subtle vibration in his
voice which instructed her, though she did not attain complete
realization of his absorbing interest. She was sympathetic enough to
search out Elsie's name in the social columns of the Washington papers,
and it was pitiful to see with what joy the busy Indian agent listened
to the brief item concerning "Miss Brisbane's reception on Monday," or
the description of her dress at the McCartney ball.

Jennie sighed as she read of these brilliant assemblages. "George, I
wonder if we will ever spend another winter in Washington?"

"Oh, I think so, sis--some time."

"Some time! But we'll both be so old we won't enjoy it. Sometimes I feel
that we are missing everything that's worth while."

He did not mention Elsie's letter, and as the weeks passed without any
reply he was very glad he had kept silence. Jennie had her secret, also,
which was that Elsie was as good as engaged to Lawson. No one knew this
for a certainty, but Mrs. Wilcox was quite free to say she considered it
a settled thing.

Jennie was relieved to know how indifferent her brother was to Miss
Colson, the missionary, who seemed to be undergoing a subtle
transformation. With Jennie she was always moaning and sighing, but in
the presence of her lord, the agent, she relaxed and became quite
cheerful and dangerously pretty. The other teachers--good, commonplace
souls!--went their mechanical way, with very little communication with
the agent's household, but Miss Colson seized every opportunity to
escape her messmates. "They are so material," she said, sighfully; "they
make spiritual growth impossible to me."

Jennie was not deceived. "You're a cat, that's what you are--a nice,
little, scared cat; but you're getting over your scare," she added, as
she watched the devotee in spirited conversation with her brother.

Elsie's reply to Curtis's long letter was studiedly cool but polite. "I
feel the force of what you say, but the course of civilization lies
across the lands of the 'small peoples.' It is sorrowful, of course, but
they must go, like the wolves and the rattlesnakes." In this phrase he
recognized the voice of Andrew J. Brisbane, and it gave him a twinge to
see it written by Elsie's small hand. The letter ended by leaving
matters very adroitly at an equipoise. It was friendlier than she had
ever been in conversation, yet not so womanly as he had hoped it might
be. As he studied it, however, some subtler sense than sight detected in
its carefully compounded phrases something to feed upon, and though he
did not write in answer to it, he had a feeling that she expected him to
do so.

Meanwhile the tone of the opposition grew confident. The settlers were
convinced that Congress would accede to their wishes and remove the
Tetongs, and they began to treat the redmen with a certain good-natured
tolerance, as if to say, "Well, you'll soon be settled for, anyway."

Calvin Streeter came often to the agency, and not infrequently stayed to
dinner with Curtis, paying timid court to Jennie, who retained enough of
her girlhood's coquetry to enjoy the handsome cowboy's open-eyed
admiration, even though she laughed at him afterwards in response to her
brother's jesting. Calvin vastly improved under the stress of his desire
to be worthy of her. He caught up many of the Captain's nice mannerisms,
and handled his fork and napkin with very good grace indeed. He usually
came galloping across the flat, his horse outstretched at full speed,
his hat-rim uprolled by the wind, his gay neckerchief fluttering, his
hands holding the reins high--a magnificent picture of powerful young
manhood. As he reached the gate it was his habit to put his horse on his
haunches with one sudden, pitiless wrench on the Mexican bit and drop to
the ground, and in dramatic contrast with his approach call out in
smooth, quiet voice:

"Howdy, folks, howdy! Nice day."

These affectations pleased Jennie very much, though she finally
complained of his cruelty in reining in his horse so sharply.

"All right, miss, I won't do it no more," he said, instantly.

He quite regularly invited them to the dances given round about, and
Jennie was ready to go, but Curtis, being too deeply occupied, could not
spare the time, and that debarred Jennie, though Calvin could see no
good reason why it should. "I'll take care of you," said he, but the
girl could not trust herself to his protection.

His was not a secretive nature, and he kept Curtis very well informed as
to the feeling of the settlers, reporting, as he did, their
conversations as well as their speeches, with great freedom and
remarkable accuracy.

In this way the agent learned that the cattlemen had agreed to use
caution in dealing with him. "He's a bad man to monkey with," was the
sentiment Calvin reported to be current among the settlers on the West
Fork. Young Crane's Voice also circulated this phrase, properly
translated into Dakota, to his uncles Lame Paw and Two Horns, and so the
tribe came to understand that they had a redoubtable defender in Swift
Eagle, as they called the agent in their own tongue.

From every source they heard good things of him, and they came to love
him and to obey him as they had never loved and obeyed even their
best-regarded chief. The squaws made excuse to come in and shake hands
with him and hear his laughter, and the children no longer hid or turned
away when he came near--on the contrary, they ran to him, crying "Hello,
Hagent!" and clung to his legs as he walked. The old men often laid
their arms across his shoulders as they jokingly threatened to pull out
the hairs of his face, in order to make him a redman. His lightest wish
was respected. The wildest young dare-devil would dismount and take a
hand at pushing a wagon or lifting a piece of machinery when Curtis
asked it of him.

"If I only had the water that flows in these three little streams," he
often said to Jennie, "I'd make these people self-supporting."

"We'll have things our own way yet," replied Jennie, always the
optimist.



IX

CALLED TO WASHINGTON


One day Curtis announced, with joyful face:

"Sis, we are called to Washington. Get on your bonnet!"

She did not light up as he had expected her to do. "I can't go, George,"
she replied, decisively and without marked disappointment.

He seemed surprised. "Why not?"

"Because I have my plans all laid for giving my little 'ingines' such a
Christmas as they never had, and you must manage to get back in time to
be 'Sandy Claws.'"

"I don't see how I can do it. I am to appear before the Committee on
Indian Affairs relative to this removal plan, and there may be other
business requiring me to remain over the holidays."

"I don't like to have you away. I suppose you'll see Mr. Lawson and Miss
Brisbane," she remarked, quietly, after a pause.

"Oh yes," he replied, with an assumption of carelessness. "I imagine
Lawson will appear before the committee, and I hope to call on Miss
Brisbane--I want to see her paintings." He did not meet his sister's
eyes as squarely as was his wont, and her keen glance detected a bit
more color in his face than was usual to him. "You must certainly
call," she finally said. "I want to know all about how they live."

Many things combined to make this trip to Washington most pleasurable to
the soldier. He was weary with six weeks of most intense application to
a confused and vexatious situation, and besides he had not been East for
several years, and his pocket was filled with urgent invitations to
dinner from fellow-officers and co-workers in science, courtesies which
he now had opportunity to accept; but back of all and above all was the
hope of meeting Elsie Brisbane again. He immediately wrote her a note,
telling her of his order to report at the department, and asking
permission to call upon her at her convenience.

It was a long ride, but he enjoyed every moment of it. He gave himself
up to rest. He went regularly to his meals in the dining-car; he smoked
and dreamed and looked out with impersonal, shadowy interest upon the
flying fields and the whizzing cities. He slept long hours and rose at
will. Such freedom he had known only on the trail; here luxury was
combined with leisure. In Chicago a friend met him and they lunched at a
luxurious club, and afterwards went for a drive. That night he left the
Western metropolis behind and Washington seemed very near.

As the train drew down out of the snows of the hill country into the
sunshine and shelter of the Potomac Valley his heart leaped. This was
home! Here were the little, whitewashed cabins, the red soil, the
angular stone houses--verandaed and shuttered--of his native town. It
was pleasant to meet the darkies swarming, chirping like crickets,
around the train. They shadowed forth a warmer clime, a less insistent
civilization than that of the West, and he was glad of them. They
brought up in his mind a thousand memories of his boy-life in an old
Maryland village not far from the great city, which still retained its
supremacy in his mind. He loved Washington; to him it was the centre of
national life.

The great generals, the great political leaders were there, and the
greatest ethnologic bureau in all the world was there, and when the
gleaming monument came into view over the wooded hills he had only one
regret--he was sorrowful when he thought of Jennie far away in the bleak
valley of the Elk.

It was characteristic of him that he took a cab to the Smithsonian
Society rather than to the Army and Navy Club, and was made at home at
once in the plain but comfortable "rooms of the Bug Sharps." He had just
time to report by telephone to the Department of the Interior before the
close of the official day. Several letters awaited him. One was from
Elsie, and this he read at once, finding it unexpectedly cordial:

     "My father is writing you an invitation to come to us
     immediately. You said you would arrive in Washington on the
     17th, either on the 11 A.M. train or the one at 3 P.M. In
     either case we will look for you at 6.30 to dine with us before
     you get your calendar filled with engagements. I shall wait
     impatiently to hear how you are getting on out there. It is all
     coming to have a strange fascination for me. It is almost like
     a dream."

This letter quickened his pulse in a way which should have brought shame
to him, but did not. The Senator's letter was ponderously polite. "I
hope, my dear Captain Curtis, you will be free to call at once. My
daughter and Lawson--"

At that word a chill wind blew upon the agent's hope. Lawson! "I had
forgotten the man!" he said, almost aloud. "Ah! that explains her frank
kindliness. She writes as one whose affections are engaged, and
therefore feels secure from criticism or misapprehension." That
explained also her feeling for the valley--it was the scene of her
surrender to Lawson. The tremor went out of his nerves, his heart
resumed its customary beating, steady and calm, and, setting his lips
into a straight line, he resumed the Senator's letter, which ended with
these significant words: "There are some important matters I want to
talk over in private."

A note from Lawson urged him to take his first breakfast in the city
with him. "I want to post you on the inside meaning of certain
legislation now pending. I expect to see you at the Brisbanes'."

Curtis made his toilet slowly and with great care, remitting nothing the
absence of which would indicate a letting down of military neatness and
discipline. He wore the handsome undress uniform of a captain, and his
powerful figure, still youthful in its erectness, although the lines
were less slender than he wished, was dignified and handsome--fit to be
taken as a type of mature soldier. He set forth, self-contained but
eager.

The Brisbane portico of rose granite was immensely imposing to a dweller
in tents and cantonments, such as Curtis had been for ten years, but he
allowed no sign of his nervousness to appear as he handed his overcoat
and cap to the old colored man in the vestibule.

As he started down the polished floor of the wide hall, stepping over a
monstrous tiger-skin, he saw Elsie in the door of the drawing-room, her
back against the folded portière. Her slender figure was exquisitely
gowned in pale-green, and her color was iridescent in youthful sparkle.
He thought once again--"Evening dress transforms a woman." She met him
with a smile of welcome.

"Ah, Captain, this is very good of you, to come to us so soon."

"Not at all," he gallantly replied. "I would have come sooner had
opportunity served."

"Father, this is Captain Curtis," she said, turning her head towards a
tall man who stood within.

Brisbane came forward, greeting Curtis most cordially. He was grayer
than Curtis remembered him, and a little stooping from age. His massive
head was covered with a close-clipped bristle of white hair, and his
beard, also neatly trimmed, was shaped to a point, from the habit he had
of stroking it with his closed left hand in moments of deep thought. His
skin was flushed pink with blood, and his urbane manner denoted pride
and self-sufficiency. He was old, but he was still a powerful
personality, and though he shook hands warmly, Curtis felt his keen and
penetrating glance as palpably as an electric shock.

Lawson's voice arose. "Well, Captain, I hardly expected to see you so
soon."

As the two men clasped hands Elsie again closely compared them. Curtis
was the handsomer man, though Lawson was by no means ill-looking, even
by contrast. The soldier more nearly approached the admirable male type,
but there was charm in the characteristic attitudes and gestures of the
student, who had the assured and humorous manner of the onlooker.

A young woman of indeterminate type who was seated in conversation with
Mrs. Wilcox received Curtis with impassive countenance, eying him
closely through pinch-nose glasses. Mrs. Wilcox beamed with pleasure,
and inquired minutely concerning the people at the agency, and
especially she wished to know how little Johnny and Jessie Eagle were.
"I quite fell in love with the tots, they were so cunning. I hope they
got the toys I sent."

Brisbane gave Curtis the most studious attention, lounging deep in his
big chair. Occasionally he ponderously leaned forward to listen to some
remark, with his head cocked in keen scrutiny--actions which did not
escape the Captain's notice. "He's sizing me up," he thought. "Well, let
him."

Elsie also listened, curiously like her father in certain inclinations
of the head--intent, absorbed; only Lawson seemed indifferent to the
news the agent guardedly recited.

Brisbane broke his silence by saying: "I infer you're on the side of the
redskin?"

"Decidedly, in this connection."

"Quite aside from your duty?"

"Entirely so. My duty in this case happened to be my inclination. I
could have declined the detail, but being a believer in the army's
arrangement of Indian affairs, I couldn't decently refuse."

Brisbane settled back into his chair and looked straight at his visitor.

"You think the white man the aggressor in this land question?"

Curtis definitely pulled himself up. "I am not at liberty to speak
further on that matter."

Mrs. Wilcox interrupted smilingly. "Andrew, don't start an argument now.
Dinner is served, and I know Captain Curtis is hungry."

Elsie rose. "Yes, papa, leave your discussion till some other time, when
you can bang the furniture."

Curtis expected to take Miss Cooke in to dinner, but Elsie delighted him
by saying, "You're to go in with me, Captain."

"I am very glad of the privilege," he said, with deliberate intent to
please her; his sincerity was unquestionable.

Curtis would have been more profoundly impressed with the spaciousness
of the hall and the dining-room had they been less like the interior of
a hotel. The whole house, so far as its mural decoration went, had the
over-stuffed quality of a Pullman car (with the exception of the
pictures on the walls, which were exceedingly good), for Brisbane had
successfully opposed all of Elsie's new-fangled notions with regard to
interior decoration; he was of those who insist on being masters in
their houses as well as in their business offices, and Elsie's manner
was that of an obedient daughter deferring to a sire who had not ceased
to consider her a child.

Seated at Elsie's right hand, with Mrs. Wilcox between himself and the
head of the table, Curtis was fairly out of reach of Brisbane, who was
dangerously eager to open a discussion concerning the bill for the
removal of the Tetongs.

Elsie turned to him at once to say: "Do you know, Captain Curtis, I
begin to long to return to the West. All my friends are enthusiastic
over the studies I made last year, and I've decided to go back next
spring. How early could one come out?"

"Any time after the first of May--in fact, that is the most beautiful
month in the year; the grass is deliciously green then. I'm glad to know
you think of returning. Jennie will also rejoice. It seems too good to
be true. Will Mr. Lawson also return?"

"Oh yes. In fact, I go to complete his work--to do penance for
neglecting him last summer." And in her tone, he fancied, lay a covert
warning, as though she had said: "Do not mistake me; I am not coming out
of interest in you."

He needed the word, for under the spell of her near presence and the
charm of her smile, new to him, the soldier was beginning to glow again
and to soften, in spite of his resolution to be very calm.

She went on: "I am genuinely remorseful, because Mr. Lawson has not been
able to bring his paper out as he had planned."

"I will see that you have every possible aid," he replied,
matter-of-factly. "The work must be done soon."

"How handsome he is!" the girl thought, as she studied his quiet face.
"His profile is especially fine, and the line of his neck and
shoulders--" an impulse seized her, and she said:

"Captain, I'd like to make a sketch of you. Could you find time to sit
for me?"

"That's very flattering of you, but I'm afraid my stay in Washington is
too short and too preoccupied."

Her face darkened. "I'm sorry. I know I could make a good thing of
you."

"Thank you for the compliment, but it is out of the question at present.
Next summer, if you come out, I will be very glad to give the time for
it. And that reminds me, you promised to show me your pictures when I
came, and your studio."

"Did I? Well, you shall see them, although they are not as good as I
shall do next year. One has to learn to handle new material. Your
Western atmosphere is so different from that of Giverney, in which we
all paint in Paris; then, the feeling of the landscape is so different;
everything is so firm and crisp in line--but I am going to get it!
'There is the mystery of light as well as of the dark,' Meunnot used to
say to us, and if I can get that clear shimmer, and the vibration of the
vivid color of the savage in the midst of it--"

She broke off as if in contemplation of the problem, rapt with question
how to solve it.

"There speaks the artist in you, and it is fine. But I'd like you to see
the humanitarian side of life, too," he replied.

"There is none," she instantly replied, with a curious blending of
defiance and amusement. "I belong to the world of Light and Might--"

"And I to the world of Right--what about that?"

"Light and Might make right."

"Your team is wrongly harnessed--Light and Right are co-workers. Might
fears both Light and Right."

Mrs. Wilcox, who had been listening, fairly clapped her hands. "I'm glad
to have you refute her arguments, Captain. She is absolutely heartless
in her theories--in practice she's a nice girl."

Elsie laughed. "What amuses me is that a soldier, the embodiment of
Might, should dare to talk of Right."

Curtis grew grave. "If I did not think that my profession at bottom
guarded the rights of both white men and red, I'd resign instantly. Our
army is only an impartial instrument for preserving justice."

"That isn't the old-world notion," put in Lawson from across the table.

"It is _our_ notion," stoutly replied Curtis. "Our little army to-day
stands towards the whole nation as a police force relates itself to a
city--a power that interferes only to prevent aggression of one interest
on the rights of another."

Brisbane's big, flat voice took up the theme.

"That's a very pretty theory, but you'll find plenty to claim that the
army is an instrument of oppression."

"I'll admit it is sometimes wrongly used," Curtis replied. "We who are
in the field can't help that, however. We are under orders. Of course,"
he added, modestly, "I am only a young soldier. I have seen but ten
years of service, and I have taken part in but one campaign--a war I
considered unavoidable at that time."

"You would hold, then, that an officer of the army has a right to
convictions?" queried Brisbane, in the tone of the lawyer.

"Most certainly. A man does not cease to think upon entering the army."

"That's dangerous doctrine."

"It's the American idea. What people would suffer by having its army
intelligent?"

Lawson coughed significantly. "Bring forth the black-swathed
axe--treason has upreared her head."

It was plain that Brisbane was lying in wait for him. Curtis whispered
to Elsie:

"Rescue me! Your father is planning to quiz me, and I must not talk
before I report to the department."

"I understand. We will go to my studio after dinner." And with Lawson's
aid she turned the conversation into safe channels.

It was a very great pleasure to the young soldier to sit once more at
such a board and in pleasant relation to Elsie. It was more than he had
ever hoped for, and he surprised her by his ability to take on her
interests. He grew younger in the glow of her own youth and beauty, and
they finished their ices in such good-fellowship that Mrs. Wilcox was
amazed.

"We will slip away now," Elsie said, in a low tone to Curtis, and they
both rose. As they were about to leave the room Brisbane looked up in
surprise. "Where are you going? Don't you smoke, Captain? Stay and have
a cigar."

Elsie answered for him. "Captain Curtis can come back, but I want him to
see my studio now, for I know if you get to talking politics he will
miss the pictures altogether."

"She has a notion I'm growing garrulous," Brisbane retorted, "but I deny
the charge. Well, let me see you later, Captain; there are some things I
want to discuss with you."

"Grace, you are to come, too," Elsie said to her girl friend, and led
the way out into the hall.

Miss Cooke stepped to Curtis's side. "You've been in Washington
before?" she asked, with an inflection which he hated.

"Oh yes, many times. In fact, I lived here till I was sixteen. I was
born in Maryland, not far from here."

"Indeed! Then you know the city thoroughly?"

"Certain sides of it. Exteriorly and officially I know it; socially, I
am a stranger to it. My people were proud and poor. A good old family in
a fine old house, and very little besides."

Elsie led the way slowly up the big staircase, secretly hoping Miss
Cooke would find it too cool for her thin blood. She wished to be alone
with Curtis, and this wish, obscure as it was, grew stronger as she set
a chair for him and placed a frame on an easel.

"You really need daylight to see them properly."

"Am I to make remarks?"

"Certainly; tell me just what you think."

"Then let me preface my helpful criticisms by saying that I don't know
an earthly thing about painting. We had drawing, of a certain kind, at
the academy, and I used to visit the galleries in New York when occasion
served. Now you know the top and the bottom of my art education."

"It's cold in here, Elsie," broke in Miss Cooke, whom they had quite
forgotten. "Is the steam turned on?"

"Wrap my slumber-robe around you," Elsie carelessly replied. "Now here
is my completed study of Little Peta. What do you think of that? Is it
like her?"

"Very like her, indeed. I think it excellent," he said, with unaffected
enthusiasm. "She was a quaint little thing. She is about to be married
to young Two Horns--a white man's wedding."

Elsie's eyes glowed. "Oh, I wish I could see that! But don't let her
wear white man's clothing. She'd be so cunning in her own way of dress.
I wish she had not learned to chew gum."

"None of us quite live up to our best intentions," he replied, laughing.
"Peta thinks she's gaining in grace. Most of the white ladies she knows
chew gum."

The pictures were an old story to Miss Cooke, who shivered for a time in
silence and at last withdrew. Elsie and Curtis were deep in discussion
of the effect of white man's clothing on the Tetongs, but each was aware
of a subtle change in the other as the third person was withdrawn. A
delicious sense of danger, of inward impulse warring with outward
restraint, added zest to their intercourse. He instantly recalled the
last time he stood in her studio feeling her frank contempt of him. "I
am on a different footing now," he thought, with a certain exultation.
It was worth years of hardship and hunger and cold to stand side by side
with a woman who had not merely beauty and wealth but talent, and a
mysterious quality that was more alluring than beauty or intellect. What
this was he could not tell, but it had already made life a new game to
him.

She, on her part, exulted with a sudden sense of having him to herself
for experiment, and every motion of his body, every tone of his voice
she noted and admired.

He resumed: "Naturally, I can say nothing of the technique of these
pictures. My praise of them must be on the score of their likeness to
the people. They are all admirable portraits, exact and spirited, and
yet--" He hesitated, with wrinkled brows.

"Don't spare me!" she cried out. "Cut me up if you can!"

"Well, then, they seem to me unsympathetic. For example, the best of
them all is Peta, because you liked her, you comprehended her, partly,
for she was a child, gentle and sweet. But you have painted old Crawling
Elk as if he were a felonious mendicant. You've delineated his rags, his
wrinkled skin, his knotted hands, but you've left the light out of his
eyes. Let me tell you something about that old man. When I saw him first
he was sitting on the high bank of the river, motionless as bronze, and
as silent. He was mourning the loss of his little grandchild, and had
been there two days and two nights wailing till his voice had sunk to a
whisper. His rags were a sign of his utter despair. You didn't know that
when you painted him, did you?"

"No, I did not," she replied, softly.

"Moreover, Crawling Elk is the annalist and story-teller of his tribe.
He carries the 'winter count' and the sacred pipe, and can tell you of
every movement of the Tetongs for more than a century and a half. His
mind is full of poetry, and his conceptions of the earth and sky are
beautiful. He knows little that white men know, and cares for very
little that the white man fights for, but his mind teems with lore of
the mysterious universe into which he has been thrust, and which he has
studied for seventy-two years. In the eyes of God, I am persuaded there
is no very wide difference between old Crawling Elk and Herbert
Spencer. The circle of Spencer's knowledge is wider, but it is as far
from including the infinite as the redman's story of creation. Could you
understand the old man as I do, you would forget his rags. He would loom
large in the mysterious gloom of life. Your painting is as prejudiced in
its way as the description which a cowboy would give you of this old
man. You have given the color, the picturesque qualities of your
subjects, but you have forgotten that they are human souls, groping for
happiness and light."

As he went on, Elsie stared at the picture fixedly, and it changed under
her glance till his deeply passionate words seemed written on the
canvas. The painting ceased to be a human face and became a mechanical
setting together of features, a clever delineation of the exterior of a
ragged old man holding a beaded tobacco-pouch and a long red pipe.

"This old 'beggar,'" Curtis continued, "never lights that pipe you have
put in his hands without blowing a whiff to the great spirits seated at
the cardinal points of the compass. He makes offerings for the health of
his children--he hears voices in the noon-day haze. He sits on the
hill-top at dawn to commune with the spirits over his head. As a beggar
he is picturesque; as a man, he is bewildered by the changes in his
world, and sad with the shadow of his children's future. All these
things, and many more, you must learn before you can represent the soul
of the redman. You can't afford to be unjust."

She was deeply affected by his words. They held conceptions new to her.
But his voice pierced her, strangely subdued her. It quivered with an
emotion which she could not understand. Why should he care so much
whether she painted her subjects well or ill? She was seized with
sudden, bitter distrust.

"I wish I had not shown you my studies," she said, resentfully.

His face became anxious, his voice gentle. "I beg your pardon; I have
presumed too far. I hope, Miss Brisbane, you will not take what I say
too much to heart. Indeed, you must not mind me at all. I am, first of
all, a sort of crank; and then, as I say, I don't know a word about
painting; please forget my criticisms."

She understood his mood now. His anxiety to regain her good-will was
within her grasp, and she seized the opportunity to make him plead for
himself and exonerate her.

"You have torn my summer's work to flinders," she said, sullenly,
looking down at a bit of charcoal she was grinding into the rug beneath
her feet.

He was aghast. "Don't say that, I beg of you! Good Heavens! don't let my
preachment discourage you. You see, I have two or three hobbies, and
when I am once mounted I'm sure to ride right over somebody's garden
wall." He rose and approached her. "I shall never forgive myself if I
have taken away the smallest degree of your enthusiasm. My aim--if I had
an aim--was to help you to understand my people, so that when you come
out next summer--"

"All that is ended now," she said, sombrely. "I shall attempt no more
Indian work!"

This silenced him. He took time to consider what this sudden depression
on her part meant. As he studied her he saw her lip quiver, and anxiety
suddenly left him. His tone was laughter-filled as he called: "Come,
now, Miss Brisbane, you're making game of me by taking my criticisms so
solemnly. I can see a smile twitching your lips this moment. Look at
me!"

She looked up and broke into a laugh. He joined in with her, but a flush
rose to his face.

"You fooled me completely. I reckon you should have been an actress
instead of a painter."

She sobered a little. "Really, I _was_ depressed for a moment. Your tone
was so terribly destructive. Shall we go down?"

"Not till you say you'll forgive me and forget my harangue."

She gave him her hand. "I'll forgive you, but I'm going to remember the
harangue. I--rather liked it. It made me think. Strange to say, I like
people who make me think."

Again his heart leaped with the blood of exultant youth. "She is coming
to understand me better!" he thought.

"You must see my other pictures by daylight," she was saying. "Mr.
Lawson likes this one particularly." They had moved out into the little
reception-room. "I did it in Giverney--we all go down sooner or later to
paint one of Monet's pollard willows. These are my 'stunts.'"

Lawson! Yes, there was the secret of her increasing friendliness. As the
fiancée of Lawson she could afford to lessen her reserve towards his
friend.

And so it happened that, notwithstanding her cordial welcome and her
respectful consideration of his criticism, he went away with a feeling
of disappointment. That her beauty was more deeply enthralling than he
had hitherto realized made his disquiet all the greater. As he stepped
out upon the street, she seemed as insubstantial as a dream of his
imaginative youth, far separated from any reality with which he had any
durable association.



X

CURTIS AT HEADQUARTERS


Curtis was frankly exclamatory at the size and splendor of Lawson's
apartments. He had accepted the invitation to take breakfast with him
without much thought as to the quality of the breakfast or where it
would be eaten, until he found himself entering the hall of a superb
apartment hotel.

"Why, see here, Lawson," he exclaimed, as he looked about his friend's
suite, "this is too much for any bachelor--it's baronial! I must revise
my judgments. I had a notion you were a hard-working ethnologic sharp."

"So I am," replied Lawson, smiling with frank enjoyment of his visitor's
amazement. "I've been at work two hours at my desk. If you don't believe
it, there's the desk."

The room was filled with books, cases of antique pottery, paintings of
Indians, models of Pueblo dwellings, and other things in keeping, and
was made rich in color by a half-dozen very choice Navajo blankets in
the fine old weaves with the vegetable dyes so dear to the collector.
The long table was heaped with current issues of the latest magazines,
and dozens of books, with markers set to guard some valuable passages,
were piled within reach. It was plainly the library of a student and man
of letters.

Lawson's lean, brown face at once assumed a different aspect to Curtis.
It became more refined, more scholarly, and distinctly less shrewd and
quizzical, and the soldier began to understand the writer's smiling
defiance of Western politicians and millionaire cattle-owners. Plainly a
man of large fortune, with high social connections, what had Lawson to
fear of the mountain West? The menace of the greedy cattlemen troubled
him no more than the howl of the blizzard.

In the same measure that Lawson's power was revealed to him the heart of
the agent sank. He could not but acknowledge that here was the fitting
husband and proper home for Elsie--"while I," he thought, "have only a
barrack in a desolate Indian country to offer her," and he swung deep in
the trough of his sea of doubt.

A map on the wall, lined with red, caught his eye, and he seized upon it
for diversion.

"What is this?" he asked.

"That's my trail-map," replied Lawson. "The red lines represent my
wanderings."

Curtis studied it with expert eyes. "You have ploughed the Arizona
deserts pretty thoroughly."

"Yes, I've spent three summers down in that country studying
cliff-dwellings. It's a mighty alluring region. Last summer I broke away
and got back into the north, but I am greatly taken with the hot
sunshine and loneliness of the desert."

Curtis turned sharply. "What I can't understand, Lawson, is this: How
can you pull up and leave such a home?"--he indicated the room with a
sweep of his hand--"and go out on the painted desert or down the Chaco
and swelter in the heat like a horned toad?"

Lawson smiled. "It _is_ absurd, isn't it? Man's an unaccountable beast.
But come! Breakfast is waiting, and I hope you're hungry."

The dining-room was built on a scale with the library, and the mahogany
table, sparsely covered with dishes, looked small and lonely in the
midst of the shining floor. This feature of the beautiful room impressed
Curtis, and as they took seats opposite each other he remarked, "If I
were not here you would be alone?"

"Yes, quite generally I breakfast alone. I entertain less than you would
think. I'm a busy man when at home."

"Well, the waste of room is criminal, Lawson, that's all I have to
say--criminal. You'll be called upon to answer for it some time."

"I've begun to think so myself," replied the host, significantly.

They talked mountain ranges and Pueblo dwellers, and the theoretical
relation of the mound-builders to the small, brown races of the Rio
Grande Valley, touching also on the future of the redman; and all the
while Curtis was struggling with a benumbing sense of his hopeless
weakness in the face of a rival like Lawson. He gave up all thought of
seeing Elsie again, and resolutely set himself to do the work before
him, eager to return to his duties in the Western foot-hills.

Lawson accompanied him to the Interior Department and introduced him to
the Secretary, who had the preoccupied air of a business man rather than
the assumed leisure of the politician. He shook hands warmly, and asked
his visitors to be seated while he finished a paper in hand. At last he
turned and pleasantly began:

"I'm glad to meet you, Captain. Yours is a distinguished name with us.
We fully recognize the value of your volunteer service, and hope to make
the best use of you. Our mutual friend, Lawson here, threatens to make
you Secretary in my stead." Here he looked over his spectacles with a
grave and accusing air, which amused Lawson greatly.

"Not so bad as that, Mr. Secretary," he laughed. "I merely suggested
that Captain Curtis would make an excellent President."

"Oh, well, it all comes to the same thing." He then became quite
serious. "Now, Captain, I would suggest that you put this whole matter
as you see it, together with your recommendations, into the briefest,
most telling form possible, and be ready to come before the committee
to-morrow. Confer with the commissioner and be ready to meet the queries
of the opposition. Brisbane is behind the cattlemen in this controversy,
and he is a strong man. I agree entirely with you and Lawson that the
Tetongs should remain where they are and be helped in the way you
suggest. Be ready with computations of the cost of satisfying claims of
the settlers, building ditches, etc. Come and see me again before you
return. Good-morning," and he bent to his desk with instant absorption.

Lawson again led the way across the square in search of the
commissioner's office. The large, bare waiting-room was filled with a
dozen or more redmen, all wearing new blue suits and wide black hats.
They were smoking in contemplative silence, with only an occasional word
spoken in undertone. It was plain they were expecting an audience with
the great white chief.

Several of them knew Lawson and cried out: "Ho! Ho!" coming up one by
one to shake hands, but they glowed with pleasure as Curtis began to
sign-talk with them.

"Who are you?" he asked of one. "Oh! Northern Cheyenne--I thought so.
And you--you are Apache?" he said to another. "I can tell that, too.
What are you all waiting for? To see the commissioner? Have you had a
good visit? Yes, I see you have nice new suits. The government is good
to you--sometimes." They laughed at his sharp hits. "Well, don't stay
too long here. The white man will rob you of your good clothes. Be
careful of fire-water."

One old man, whose gestures were peculiarly flowing and dignified,
thereupon signed: "When the white man come to buy our lands we are great
chiefs--very tall; when we ask for our money to be paid to us, then we
are small, like children." This caused a general laugh, in which Curtis
joined. They all wanted to know who he was, and he told them. "Ah! we
are glad for the Tetongs. They have a good man. Tell the commissioner we
are anxious to council and go home--we are weary of this place."

Lawson, meanwhile, had entered the office and now reappeared. "Mr. Brown
will see you at once, Captain."

The acting commissioner wore the troubled look of a man sorely
overworked and badly badgered. He breathed a sigh of ostentatious relief
as he faced his two visitors, who came neither to complain nor to ask
favors. He studied Curtis contemplatively, his pale face set in sad
lines.

"I'm leaning on you in this Tetong business," he began. "I have so many
similar fights all over the West, I can't give you the attention you
deserve. It seems as though our settlers were insane over Indian lands.
I honestly believe, if we should lay out a reservation on the staked
plains there'd be a mad rush for it. 'The Injun has it--let's take it
away from him,' seems to be the universal cry. I am pestered to death
with schemes for cutting down reservations and removing tribes. It would
seem as if these poor, hunted devils might have a thumb-nail's breadth
of the continent they once entirely owned; but no, so long as an acre
exists they are liable to attack. I'm worn out with the attempt to
defend them. I'll have nervous prostration or something worse if this
pressure continues. Yesterday nearly finished me. What kind of pirates
do you raise out there, anyway?"

Curtis listened with amazement to this frank avowal, but Lawson only
laughed, saying, in explanation: "This is one of the commissioner's poor
days. He'll fight till the last ditch--"

"Irrigating ditch!" supplemented the commissioner. "Yes, there's another
nightmare. Beautiful complication! The government puts the Indian on a
reservation so dry that water won't run down hill, and then Lawson or
some other friend of the Indian comes in here and insists on irrigating
ditches being put in, and then I am besieged by civil engineers for
jobs, and wild-eyed contractors twist my door-knobs off. Captain Curtis,
keep out of the Indian service if you have any conscience."

"That's exactly why I recommended him," said Lawson--"because he _has_ a
conscience."

"It'll shorten his life ten years and do no material good. Well, now,
about this Tetong imbroglio."

Immediately he fell upon the problem with the most intense application,
and Curtis had a feeling that his little season of plain speaking had
refreshed him.

Lawson went his way, but Curtis spent the remainder of the day in the
commissioner's office, putting together his defence of the Tetongs,
compiling figures, and drawing maps to show the location of grass and
water. He did not rise from his work till the signal for closing came,
and even then he gathered his papers together and took them home to his
room in the club in order to put the finishing touches to them.

While dressing for his dinner with Lieutenant Kirkman, a classmate and
comrade, he began to wonder how soon he could decently make his
dinner-call on the Brisbanes. It was shameful in him, of course, but he
had suddenly lost interest in the Kirkmans. The day seemed lost because
he had not been able to see Elsie. There was a powerful longing in his
heart, an impatience which he had not experienced since his early
manhood. It was a hunger which had lain dormant--scotched but not
killed--for now it rose from its mysterious lair with augmented power to
break his rest and render all other desires of no account.

That night, after he returned from the Kirkmans', where he had enjoyed
an exquisite little dinner amid a joyous chatter reviving old-time
memories, he found himself not merely wide-awake, but restless. His
brain seemed determined to reveal itself to him completely. Pictures of
his early life and the faces and homes of his friends in the West came
whirling in orderless procession like flights of swift birds--now a
council with the Sioux; now a dinner of the staff of General Miles;
visions of West Point, a flock of them, came also, and the faces of the
girls he had loved with a boy's fancy; and then, as if these were but
whisks of cloud scattering, the walls of great mountain ranges appeared
behind, stern and majestic, sunlit for a moment, only to withdraw
swiftly into gray night; and when he seized upon these sweeping
fragments and attempted to arrange them, Elsie's proud face, with its
dark, changeful eyes and beautiful, curving lips, took central place,
and in the end obscured all the rest.

The Kirkman home, the cheer, the tenderness of the husband towards his
dainty little wife, the obvious rest and satisfaction of the man,
betokening that the ultimate of his desires had been reached, also came
in for consideration by the restless brain of the soldier-mountaineer.
"I shall never be at peace till I have wife and child, that I now
realize," he acknowledged to himself in the deep, solitary places of his
thought.

Then he rose and took up the papers which he had been preparing, and as
he went over them again he came to profounder realization than ever
before of the mighty tragedy whose final act he seemed about to witness.
His heart swelled with a great tenderness towards that fragment of a
proud and free people who sat in wonder before the coming of an infinite
flood of alien races, helpless to stay it, appalled by the breadth and
power of the stream which swept them away. He felt himself in some sense
their chosen friend--their Moses, to lead them out of the desolation in
which they sat bewildered and despairing. Thinking of them and of plans
to help them, he grew weary at last, his brain ceased to grind, and he
slept.



XI

CURTIS GRAPPLES WITH BRISBANE


The hearing took place at ten o'clock, but Curtis had opportunity for a
little helpful consultation with Lawson before the chairman called the
committeemen to order. The session seemed unimportant--perfunctory. The
members sat for the most part silent, ruminating, with eyes fixed on the
walls or upon slips of paper which they held abstractedly in their
hands. Occasionally some one of them would rouse up to ask a question,
but, in general, their attitudes were those of bored and preoccupied
business men. They came and went carelessly in response to calls of
their clerks, and Curtis perceived that they had very little real
interest in the life or death of the redmen. He would have been
profoundly discouraged had not the chairman been alert and his questions
to the point. After his formal statement had been taken and the hearing
was over, the chairman approached Curtis informally and showed a very
human sympathy for the Tetongs.

"Yes, I think we can hold this raid in check," he said, in answer to
Curtis, and added, slowly, "I am very glad to find a man of your quality
taking up this branch of service." He paused, and a smile wrinkled his
long, Scotch face. "They accuse me of being a weak sentimentalist,
because I refuse to consider the redman in the light of a reptile. I was
an abolitionist"--the smile faded from his eyes and his thin lips
straightened--"in days when it meant something to defend the negro, and
in standing for the rights of the redman I am merely continuing my
life-work. It isn't a question of whether I know the Indian or not,
though I know him better than most of my critics; it's a question of his
dues under our treaties. We considered him a man when we bought his
land, and I insist he shall be treated the same now. I should like to
hear from you--unofficially, of course--whenever you have anything to
say. Lawson's testimony"--he laid a caressing hand on Lawson's
shoulder--"is worth more to me than that of a thousand land speculators.
He's a comfort to us, for we know he is disinterested, and has nothing
to gain or lose in any question which concerns the reds, and we find
very much the same about you, Captain Curtis, and I am determined that
you shall have free hand."

Curtis shook hands with the old man with a sense of security. Here, at
least, was a senator of the old school, a man to be depended upon in
time of trouble. He began also to realize Lawson's power, for he seemed
to be the personal friend of every honest official connected with the
department.

As the two young men stepped out into the hall they came face to face
with Elsie and her father.

"Are we too late?" cried the girl. "Is the hearing over?"

"My part of it is," answered Curtis--"at least for to-day. They may
recall me to-morrow."

Brisbane was visibly annoyed. "I didn't suppose you would come on till
eleven; that's the word I got over the 'phone. I particularly wanted to
hear your deposition," he added, sourly.

"Papa has an idea your opposition to this bill is important," Elsie
said, lightly, as Curtis edged away from Brisbane.

Brisbane followed him up. "Well, now that your hearing is over, suppose
you get into our carriage and go home with us to lunch?'

"Please do!" said Elsie, with flattering sincerity.

Curtis hesitated, and was made captive. "It is a great temptation," he
said, looking at Lawson.

Elsie saw him yielding and cried out: "Oh, you must come--and you, too,
Osborne."

Lawson was plainly defeated. "I can't do it. I have a couple of New York
men to lunch at the club, and I couldn't think of putting them off."

"Oh, I'm so sorry; we would have made a nice little lunch party."

"There are other days coming!" he replied, as lightly as possible.

As they drove away Curtis had a premonition that his impending interview
would be disagreeable, for Brisbane sat in silence, his keen eyes full
of some sinister resolution. He was, in fact, revolving in his mind a
plan of attack. He realized the danger of attempting to bribe such a man
even indirectly, but a poor and ambitious soldier might be removed by
gentler means, through promotion; and friendly pressure might be brought
to bear on the War Department to that effect. Having set himself to the
task of clearing the reservation of the Tetongs, a man of Brisbane's
power did not hesitate long over the morality of methods, and having
decided upon promotion as his method of approaching Curtis, the old man
distinctly softened, and made himself agreeable by extending the drive
and affably pointing out the recent improvements in the city. "Our
Capitol is as good as any now," he said. "Our new buildings are up to
the standard."

The young soldier refused to be drawn into any blood-heating
discussions, being quite content to sit facing Elsie, feeling obscurely
the soft roll of the wheels beneath him, and absorbing the light and
color of the streets. "This is my city," he said; "I spent my boyhood,
here. I went to West Point from here."

"It _is_ beautiful," replied Elsie, and at the moment a spark of some
mysterious flame sprang from each to the other. They were young, and the
air was soft and sweet. Thereafter everything gave the young soldier
pleasure. The whistling of the darkies, the gay garments of the
shoppers, the glitter of passing carriages, the spread of trees against
the bright sky--everything assumed a singular grace. His courage rose,
and he felt equal to any task.

As they entered the big house Elsie said: "You're to come right up to
the studio. I want to show you a canvas I finished yesterday. I had an
inspiration--I think you brought it to me."

As she led the way up the wide and splendidly carved stair-way the
soldier's elation sank away, for each step emphasized the girl's pride
and power, and by contrast threw the poor Indian agent into hopeless
shadow. He hardly heard what she said, till she led him before her easel
and said:

"There is yesterday's work. I've been trying for days to get a certain
effect of color, and, behold! I caught it flying this morning. What
puzzles me in your country is the enormously high value of your earth in
reference to the sky. The sky is so solid."

As he took in the significance of the canvas Curtis exclaimed:

"It is very beautiful. It is miraculous. How do you do it?"

"I'm glad you like it. My problem there was to represent the difference
in value between Chief Elk, who is riding in the vivid sunlight, and his
wife and Little Peta, who are just in the edge of that purple
cloud-shadow. The difference between white in sunlight and white in
shadow is something terrific in your dry air. Contrasts are enough to
knock you down. This gray, Eastern studio light makes all my sketches
seem false, but I know they are not."

"They are very true, it seems to me."

"When I close my eyes and hark back to the flooding light of the valley
of the Elk, then I can do these things; I can't if I don't. I have to
forget all my other pictures. This is nearer my impression than anything
else I've done."

"It has great charm," he said, after a pause, "and it also reminds me of
my duty. I must return at once to the West."

"When do you go--actually?"

"Actually, I leave to-morrow at three o'clock; unless I receive word to
the contrary, to-morrow morning."

"So soon? You are making a very short stay. Can't you remain over the
holidays? Some friends of mine are coming on from New York. I'd like
you to meet them."

"I think I must return. Jennie is preparing to give her little 'Ingines'
a Christmas-tree, and I am told that my 'Sandy Claws' would add greatly
to their joy, so I am making special effort to reach there on the 23d."

She looked at him musingly. "You really are interested in those ugly
creatures? I don't understand it."

"To be really frank, I don't understand your lack of sympathy," he
replied, smiling a little. "It isn't at all feminine."

She took a seat on the divan before she spoke again. "Oh, women are such
posers. You think I am quite heartless, don't you?"

"No, I don't think that, but I do think you are a little unjust to these
people, whose thought you have made very little effort to comprehend."

"Why should I? They are not worth while."

"Do you speak now as an artist?" he asked, gravely.

"But they are so gross and so cruel!"

"I don't deny but they are, sometimes, both gross and cruel, but so are
civilized men. The scalp-dance no more represents them than a bayonet
charge represents us. It isn't just to condemn all for the faults of a
few. You wouldn't destroy servant-girls because some of them are ugly
and untidy, would you?"

"The cases are not precisely similar."

"I'll admit that, but the point is here: as an artist you can't afford
to dispose of a race on the testimony of their hereditary enemies. You
wouldn't expect a sympathetic study of the Greek by the Saracen, would
you?"

"It isn't that so much, but they are so perfectly unimportant. They have
no use in the world. What does it matter if they die, or don't?"

"Perhaps not so much to them; but to me, if I can help them and fail to
do it, it matters a great deal. We can't afford to be unjust, for our
own sake. The bearer of the torch should not burn, he should illumine."

"I don't understand that," she said, genuinely searching for his
meaning.

"There is where you disappoint me," he retorted. "Most women quiver with
altruistic passion the moment they see helpless misery. If you saw a
kitten fall into a well what would you do?"

"I should certainly try to save it."

"Your heart would bleed to see it drown?"

She shivered at the thought. "Why, of course!"

"And yet you can share in your father's exterminating vengeance as he
sweeps ten thousand redmen into their graves?"

"The case is different--the kitten never did any harm."

"The wrong is by no means all on the redman's side. But even if it were,
Christ said, 'Love them that hate you,' and as a Christian nation we
should not go out in vindictive warfare against even those who
despitefully use us. I haven't a very high seat in the synagogue. I have
a soldier's training for warfare, but I acknowledge the splendor of
Christ's precepts and try to live up to them. I always liked Grant's
position as regards the soldier. But more than that--I like these red
people. They are a good deal more than rude men. It is a great pleasure
to feel their trust and confidence in me. It touches me deeply to have
them come and put their palms on me reverently, as though I were
superhuman in wisdom, and say: 'Little Father, we are blind. We cannot
see the way. Lead us and we will go.' At such times I feel that no other
work in the world is so important. If human souls are valuable anywhere
on earth they are valuable here; no selfish land-lust should blind us to
see that."

As he spoke, the girl again felt something large and sweet and powerful,
like a current of electrical air which came out of wide spaces of human
emotion and covered her like a flood. She was humbled by the high
purpose and inexplicable enthusiasm of the man before her.

"I suppose you consider me cruel and heartless!" she cried out. "But I
am not to blame for being what I am."

"If you are not free, who is? You have it all--youth, wealth, beauty.
Nothing enslaves you but indifference."

She was thinking that Lawson had never moved her so, and wishing Curtis
were less inexorable in his logic, when he checked himself by saying: "I
beg your pardon again. I came to see your pictures, not to preach
forgiveness of sins. I here pull myself up short."

"I think you could make me feel personal interest in brickbats or--or
spiders," she said, with a quaint, relaxing smile. "You were born to be
a preacher, not a soldier."

"Do you think so? I've had a notion all along that I was a fairly good
commander and a mighty poor persuader; what I don't intend to be is a
bore." He rose and began to walk slowly round the walls, studying the
paintings under her direction. He was struggling with obscure impulses
to other and more important speech, but after making the circuit of the
room he said, as though rendering a final verdict:

"You have great talent; that is evident. What do you intend to do with
it? It should help some one."

"You are old-fashioned," she replied. "In our modern day, art is content
to add beauty to the world; it does not trouble itself to do good. It is
_un_moral."

"Perhaps I _am_ a preacher, after all, for I like the book or picture
that has a motive, that stands for something. Your conception of art's
uses is French, is it not?"

"I suppose it is; clearly, it isn't Germanic. What would you have me
do--paint Indians to convince the world of their sufferings?"

"Wouldn't that be something like the work Millet did? Seems to me I
remember something of that sort in some book I have read."

She laughed. "Unfortunately, I am not Millet; besides, he isn't the god
of our present idolatry. He's a dead duck. We paint skirt-dancers and
the singers in the cafés now. Toiling peasants are 'out.'"

"You are a woman, and a woman ought--"

"Please don't hand me any of that stupid rot about what a woman _ought_
to be, and isn't. What I am I am, and I don't like dirty, ragged people,
no matter whether they are Roman beggars or Chinese. I like clean,
well-dressed, well-mannered people and no one can make me believe they
are less than a lot of ill-smelling Indians."

"Miss Brisbane, you must not do me an injustice," he earnestly
entreated. "It was not my intention to instruct you to-day. I am
honestly interested in your pictures, and had no thought of renewing an
appeal. I was tempted and fell. If you will forgive me this time, I'll
never preach again."

"I don't say I object to your preachment. I think I rather like it. I
don't think I ever met a man who was so ready to sacrifice his own
interest for an idea. It's rather amusing to meet a soldier who is ready
to knock one down with a moral war-club." She ended with a mocking
inflection of voice.

His face lost its eager, boyish expression. "I'm delighted to think I
have amused you," he said, slowly. "It makes amends."

"Please don't be angry," she pleaded. "I didn't mean to be flippant."

"Your words were explicit," he replied, feeling at the moment that she
was making a mock of him, and this duplicity hurt him.

She put forth her sweetest voice. "Please forgive me! I think your work
very noble, only I can't understand how you can exile yourself to do it.
Let us go down; it is time for lunch, and papa is waiting for you, I
know."

It was unaccountable that a mocking tone, a derisive smile from this
chance acquaintance, should so shake the soldier and so weaken him, but
he descended the stair-way with a humiliating consciousness of having
betrayed his heart to a fleering, luring daughter of wealth.

At the door of the library the girl paused. "Papa, are you asleep?"

The abrupt rustle of a newspaper preceded Brisbane's deep utterance.
"Not at all--just reading the _Star_. Come in, Captain. Is lunch nearly
ready?" he asked of Elsie.

"I think so. They are a little late. I'll go see."

As she left the room Brisbane cordially rumbled on. "Sit down, Captain.
I'm sorry I missed your talk to-day. I am curious to know what your
notion is about the Tetongs. Of course, I understood you couldn't go
into the case the other night, but, now that your testimony is all in, I
hope you feel free to give me your reasons for opposing our plan for a
removal of the tribe."

Curtis took a seat, while Brisbane stretched himself out in a big chair
and fixed his cold, gray-blue eyes on the soldier, who hesitated a
moment before replying, "I don't think it wise to go into that matter,
Senator."

"Why not?"

"Well, we differ so radically on the bill, and your interests make it
exceedingly difficult for you to be just in the case. Nothing would be
gained by argument."

"You think you know what my interests are?" There was a veiled sarcasm
in the great man's smile.

"I think I do. As a candidate for re-election to the Senate you can't
afford to antagonize the cattle and mining interests of your State, and,
as I am now officially the representative of the Tetongs, I sincerely
hope you will not insist on a discussion of the motives involved." The
young officer spoke firmly, but with impressive dignity and candor.

Brisbane's ambiguous manner took a sudden shift to cordiality, and,
leaning forward, he said:

"Curtis, I like you. I admire your frankness. Let me be equally plain.
You're too able a man to be shelved out there on a bleak reservation.
What was your idea of going into the Indian service, anyway?"

The young officer remained on guard despite this genial glow. "I
considered it my duty," he replied. "Besides, I was rusting out in
garrison, and--but there is no need to go into my motives. I am agent,
and shall stand firmly for the right of my wards so long as I am in
position to do so."

"But you're wasting your life. Suppose you were offered a chance to go
to--well, say West Point, as an instructor on a good salary?"

"I would decline the appointment."

"Why?"

"Because at this time I am needed where I am, and I have started on a
plan of action which I have a pride in finishing."

Brisbane grew distinctively less urbane. "You are bent on fighting me,
are you?"

"What do you mean?" asked Curtis, though he knew.

"You are dead set against the removal of the Tetongs?"

"Most certainly I am!"

Elsie re-entered the room during this rapid interchange of phrase, but
neither of the men heard her, so intent were they upon each other.

"Young man, do you know who you are fighting?" asked Brisbane, bristling
like a bear and showing his teeth a little. Curtis being silent, he
went on: "You're lined up against the whole State! Not only the
cattlemen round about the reservation, but a majority of the citizens
are determined to be rid of those vagabonds. Anybody that knows anything
about 'em knows they're a public nuisance. Why should they be allowed to
camp on land which they can't use--graze their mangy ponies on lands
rich in minerals--"

"Because they are human beings."

"Human beings!" sneered Brisbane. "They are nothing but a greasy lot of
vermin--worthless from every point of view. Their rights can't stand in
the way of civilization."

"It is not a question of whether they are clean or dirty, it is a
question of justice," Curtis replied, hotly. "They came into the world
like the rest of us, without any choice in the matter, and so far as I
can see have the same rights to the earth--at least, so much of it as
they need to sustain life. The fact that they make a different use of
the soil than you would do isn't a sufficient reason for starving and
robbing them."

"The quicker they die the better," replied Brisbane, flushing with
sudden anger. "The only good Injun is a dead Injun."

At this familiar phrase Curtis took fire. "Yes, I expected that accursed
sentence. Let me tell you, Mr. Brisbane, I never knew a redman savage
enough to utter such a sentiment as that. The most ferocious utterance
of Geronimo never touched the tigerish malignity of that saying. Sitting
Bull was willing to live and let live. If your view represents
civilization, I want none of it. The world of the savage is less cruel,
less selfish."

Brisbane's face writhed white, and a snarling curse choked his utterance
for a moment. "If you weren't my guest," he said, reaching a clutching
hand towards Curtis, "I'd cut your throat."

Elsie, waiting in strained expectancy, cried out: "Father! What are you
saying? Are you crazy?"

Curtis hastily rose, very white and very quiet. "I will take care not to
put myself in your way as guest again, sir."

"You can't leave too quick!" roared the old man, his face twitching with
uncontrollable wrath. "You are a traitor to your race! You'd sacrifice
the settlers to the interests of a greasy red vagabond!"

"Father, be quiet! You are making a scene," called Elsie, and added,
sadly: "Don't go, Captain Curtis; I shall be deeply mortified if you do.
Father will be sorry for this."

Brisbane also rose, shaking with a weakness pitiful to see. "Well, sir,
you can go, for I know now the kind of sneak you are. Let me tell you
this, young man: you'll feel my hand before you are a year older. You
can't come into my house and insult me in the presence of my daughter.
Get out!" His hands were moving uncontrollably, and Elsie discovered
with a curious pang that she was pitying him and admiring the stern
young soldier who stood quietly waiting for an opportunity to speak. At
last he said:

"Miss Brisbane, I beg your pardon; I should not have said what I did."
He turned to Brisbane. "I am sorry I spoke so harshly, sir. You are an
older man than I, and--"

"Never mind my age," replied Brisbane, his heat beginning to cool into
self-contained malice. "I desire no terms of friendship with you. It's
war now--to the knife, and the knife to the hilt. You think you are safe
from me, but the man that lines up against me generally regrets it to
the day of his death."

"Very well, sir, I am not one to waste words. I shall do my duty to the
Tetongs regardless of you or your friends." He turned to Elsie. "Miss
Brisbane, I ask you to remember that I honestly tried to avoid a
controversy."

Six months before Elsie would have remained passive while her father
ordered Curtis from the door, but now she could not even attempt to
justify his anger, and the tears glistened on her lashes as she said:
"Father, why can't you accept Captain Curtis's hand? These ragamuffin
redmen aren't worth quarrelling about. No one ever went away from us
like this, and it breaks my heart to have it so. Don't go, Captain
Curtis. Father, ask his pardon."

The old man turned towards her. "Go to your room. I will see that this
young squirt finds the door!"

Elsie shrank from the glare of his eyes. "Father, you are brutal! You
hurt me."

"Do as I say!" he snarled.

"I will _not_!" She faced him, tall and resolute. "I am not a child. I
am the mistress of this house." She turned and walked towards the door.
"Captain Curtis, I beg _your_ pardon; my father has forgotten himself."

Brisbane took a step towards Curtis. "Get out! And you, girl, leave the
room."

The girl's face whitened. "Have you no sense of decency?" she said, and
her voice cut deep down into his heart and he flinched. "Captain Curtis
is my guest as well as yours." She extended her hand. "Please go! It is
best."

"It is the most miserable moment of my life," he replied, as they moved
down the hall, leaving Brisbane at the door of the study. "I will do any
honorable thing to regain your good-will."

"You have not lost it," she replied. "I cannot blame you--as I should,"
she added, and the look on her face mystified him.

"May I see you again before I leave for the West?"

"Perhaps," she softly replied. "Remember he is old--and--"

"I will try not to bear anger," he replied.

And as he turned away it seemed that she had leagued herself with him
against her own father, and this feeling deepened as she ran up the
stairs heedless of the voice whose commands had hitherto been law to
her.

The young officer walked down the sunny avenue towards the White House
with a curious feeling of having just passed through a bitter and
degrading dream. He was numb and cold. Around him the little negro
newsboys were calling the one-o'clock editions of the "_Styah_," and the
pavements were swarming with public servants hastening to lunch,
punctual as clocks, while he, having been ordered from the house of his
host, was mechanically returning to his club.

There was something piercingly pathetic in the thought of the good cheer
he had anticipated, and the lost pleasure of sitting opposite Elsie
made his heart ache. At the moment his feet stumbled in the path of
duty. Surely he was a long way from the single-minded map-builder who
had crossed the Sulphur Spring Divide.



XII

SPRING ON THE ELK


Spring came early in that latitude, and Curtis was profoundly thankful
that his first winter had proven unusually short and mild, for it
enabled him to provide for his people far better than he had dared to
hope. The rations were insufficient at best, and for several days of
each alternate week the grown people were hungry as well as cold, though
no one actually perished from lack of food. Beyond the wood contract and
the hauling of hides each month there was very little work to be done
during the winter, not enough to buy the tobacco the men longed for.

They believed in Swift Eagle, however, for he visited every cluster of
huts each month, and became acquainted with nearly every family during
the winter. No agent had ever taken the like pains to shake the old
women by the hand, or to speak as kindly to the old men who sat beside
the fire, feeble and bent with rheumatism. The little children all ran
to him when he came near, as if he were a friend, and that was a good
sign, too. Some of the old chiefs complained, of course--there was so
little else for them to do; but they did not blame the Little Father.
They were assured of his willingness to do whatever lay within his
power to mitigate their poverty. Jennie, who was often at the beds of
those who suffered, had won wide acceptance of her lotions by an amused
tolerance of the medicine-men, whose mystic paraphernalia interested her
exceedingly. The men of magic came at last to sing their curious songs
and perform their feats of healing in her presence. "Together we will
defeat the evil spirits," they said, and the health of the tribe
continued to be very good, in spite of unsanitary housing and the evil
influence of the medicine-men. When the missionaries came to have the
native doctors suppressed Curtis said: "My policy is to supplant, not to
suppress."

The bill which called for the removal of the Tetongs to another
reservation was reported killed. The compromise measure for buying out
the settlers was "hung up" in the committee-room, and this delay on the
part of Congress exasperated the settlers beyond reason, and at a
convention held early in April at Pinon City, Joseph Streeter brazenly
shouted, "If the government does not remove these Injuns before the
first of July we'll make it hot for all concerned," and his threat was
wildly cheered and largely quoted thereafter as the utterance of a man
not afraid of Congress or anybody else.

Seed-time came without any promise of change, and the white settlers on
the reservation went sullenly to their planting, and the cattlemen drove
their herds across the boundaries upon the Tetong range as they had been
doing for many years. "We are in for another season of it," they said,
with the air of being martyrs in the cause of civilization.

Curtis immediately sent warning commands to all the outside ranchers to
keep clear of the reservation, and also notified Streeter, Johnson, and
others of the settlers on the Elk and the Willow that their cattle must
not be allowed to stray beyond certain lines, which he indicated. These
orders, according to Calvin, made the settlers "red-headed as
wood-peckers. They think you're drawin' the lines down pretty fine."

"I mean to," replied Curtis. "You original settlers are here by right
and shall have full opportunity to graze your stock, but those on the
outside must keep out. I will seize and impound all stock that does not
belong on this land."

Calvin reported this statement to the outside men, and its audacity
provoked the most violent threats against the agent, but he rode about
unaccompanied and unarmed; but not without defence, for Calvin said to
one of the loudest of the boasters, "The man who jerks a gun on Curtis
runs a good chance of losing a lung or two," and the remark took effect,
for Calvin had somehow acquired a reputation for being "plumb sassy when
attack-ted."

Curtis had the army officer's contempt of personal injury, and, in
pursuance of his campaign against the invading stockmen, did not
hesitate to ride into their round-up camps alone, or accompanied only by
Crow Wing, and no blusterer could sustain his reputation in the face of
the agent's calm sense of command.

"I am not speaking personally," he said once, to an angry camp of a
dozen armed men. "I am here as an officer of the United States army,
detailed to special duty as an Indian agent, and I am in command of
this reservation. It is of no use to bluster. Your cattle _must_ be kept
from the Tetong range."

"The grass is going to waste there," the boss argued.

"That does not concern you. It is not the fault of the Tetongs that they
have not cattle enough to fill the range."

In the end he had his way, and though the settlers and ranchers hated
him, they also respected him. No one thought of attempting to bribe or
scare him, and political "pull" had no value in his eyes.

Jennie, meanwhile, had acquired almost mythic fame as a marvellously
beautiful and haughty "queen." Calvin was singularly close-mouthed about
her, but one or two of the cowboys who had chanced to meet her with the
agent spread the most appreciative reports of her beauty and of the
garments she wore. She was said to be a singer of opera tunes, and that
she played the piano "to beat the Jews." One fellow who had business
with the agent reported having met her at the door. "By mighty! she's
purty enough to eat," he said to his chum. "Her cheeks are as pink as
peaches, and her eyes are jest the brown I like. She's a 'glad rag,' all
right."

"Made good use o' your time, didn't ye?" remarked his friend.

"You bet your life! I weren't lettin' nothin' git by me endurin' that
minute or two."

"I bet you dursn't go there again."

"I take ye--I'll go to-morrow."

"Without any business, this time? No excuse but jest to see her? You
'ain't got the nerve."

"You'll see. I'm the boy. There ain't no 'rag' gay enough to scare me."

It became a common joke for some lank, brown chap to say carelessly, as
he rose from supper, "Well, I guess I'll throw a saddle onto my
bald-faced sorrel and ride over and see the agent's sister." In reality,
not one of them ever dared to even knock at the door, and when they came
to the yards with a consignment of cattle they were as self-conscious as
school-boys in a parlor and uneasy as wolves in a trap, till they were
once more riding down the trail; then they "broke loose," whooping
shrilly and racing like mad, in order to show that they had never been
afraid. Calvin continued to call, and his defence of the agent had led
to several sharp altercations with his father.

The red people expanded and took on cheer under the coming of the
summer, like some larger form of insect life. They were profoundly glad
of the warmth. The old men, climbing to some rounded hill-top at dawn,
sat reverently to smoke and offer incense to the Great Spirit, which the
sun was, and the little children, seeing the sages thus in deep
meditation, passed quietly by with a touch of awe.

As the soft winds began to blow, the dingy huts were deserted for the
sweeter and wholesomer life of the tepee, which is always ventilated,
and which has also a thousand memories of battle and the chase
associated with its ribbed walls, its yellowed peak, and its smouldering
fires. The sick grew well and the weak became strong as they passed once
more from the foul air of their cabins to the inspiriting breath of the
mountains, uncontaminated by any smoke of white man's fire. The little
girls went forth on the hills to gather flowers for the teachers, and
the medicine-men, taking great credit to themselves, said: "See! our
incantations again prevailed. The sun is coming back, the grass is
green, and the warm winds are breathing upon the hills."

"Ay, but you cannot bring back the buffalo," said those who doubted, for
there are sceptics among the redmen as elsewhere. "When you do that,
then we will believe that you are really men of magic."

But the people did not respond cheerfully to Curtis when he urged them
to plant gardens. They said: "We will do it, Little Father, but it is of
no use. For two years we tried it, and each year the hot sun dried our
little plants. Our corn withered and our potatoes came to nothing. Do
not ask us to again plough the hard earth. It is all a weariness to no
result."

To Jennie, Curtis said: "I haven't the heart to push them into doing a
useless thing. They are right. I must wait until we have the water of
the streams for our own use."

The elder Streeter was very bitter, Calvin reported. "But he ain't no
idyot. He won't make no move that the law don't back him up in; but some
o' these other yaps are talkin' all kinds of gun-play. But don't you
lose any flesh. They got to git by me before they reach you."

Curtis smiled. "Calvin, you're a loyal friend, but I am not a bit
nervous."

"That's all right, Captain, but you can't tell what a mob o' these
lahees will do. I've seen 'em make some crazy plays--I sure have; but
I'll keep one ear lapped back for signs of war."



XIII

ELSIE PROMISES TO RETURN


One beautiful May day Curtis came into the house with shining face.

"Sis, our artists are coming back," he called to Jennie from the hall.

"Are they? Oh, isn't that glorious!" she answered, running to meet him.
"When are they to reach here? Whom did you hear from?"

"Lawson. They can't come till some time in June, however."

Jennie's face fell. "In June! I thought you meant they were coming
now--right away--this week."

"Lawson furthermore writes that he expects to bring a sculptor with
him--a Mr. Parker. You remember those photographs he showed us of some
statues of Indians? Well, this is the man who made the figures. His wife
is coming as chaperon for Miss Brisbane."

"She still needs a chaperon, does she?"

"It would seem so. Besides, Mrs. Parker goes everywhere with her
husband."

"I hope she'll be as nice as Mrs. Wilcox."

"I don't think Lawson would bring any crooked timber along--there must
be something worth while in them."

"Well, I am delighted, George. I confess I'm hungry for a message from
the outside world; and during the school vacation we can get away once
in a while to enjoy ourselves."

The certainty of the return of the artistic colony changed Curtis's
entire summer outlook. Work had dragged heavily upon him during February
and March, and there were moments when his enthusiasm ebbed. It was a
trying position. He began to understand how a man might start in his
duties with the most commendable desire, even solemn resolution, to be
ever kindly and patient and self-respecting, and end by cursing the
redmen and himself most impartially. Misunderstandings are so easy where
two races are forced into daily contact, without knowledge of each
other's speech, and with only a partial comprehension of each other's
outlook on the world. Some of the employés possessed a small vocabulary
of common Tetong words, but they could neither explain nor reason about
any act. They could only command. Curtis, by means of the sign language,
which he had carried to marvellous clearness and swiftness, was able to
make himself understood fairly well on most topics, but nevertheless
found himself groping at times in the obscure caverns of their thinking.

"Even after a man gets their thought he must comprehend the origin of
their motives," he said to Wilson, his clerk. "Everything they do has
meaning and sequence. They have developed, like ourselves, through
countless generations of life under relatively stable conditions. These
material conditions are now giving way, are vanishing, but the mental
traits they formed will persist. Think of this when you are impatient
with them."

Wilson took a pessimistic view. "I defy the angel Gabriel to keep his
temper if he should get himself appointed clerk. If I was a married man
I could make a better mark; but there it is--they can't see me." He
ended with a deep sigh.

Curtis took advantage of Lawson's letter to write again to Elsie, and
though he considered it a very polite and entirely circumspect
performance, his fervor of gladness burned through every line, and the
girl as she read it fell to musing on the singularity of the situation.
He was in her mind very often, now; the romance and the poetry of the
work he was doing began at last to appeal to her, and the knowledge that
she, in a sense, shared the possibilities with him, was distinctly
pleasurable. She had perception enough to feel also the force of the
contrast in their lives, he toiling thanklessly on a barren, sun-smit
land, in effort to lead a subject race to self-supporting freedom, while
she, dabbling in art for art's sake, sat in a secure place and watched
him curiously.

"How well he writes," she thought, returning to his letter. His
sentences clutched her like strong hands, and she could not escape them.
As she read she drew again the splendid lines of his head in profile,
and then, a sentence later, it seemed that he was looking straight into
her eyes, grave of countenance, involved in some moral question whose
solution he considered essential to his happiness and to the welfare of
his people. Surely he was a most uncommon soldier. When she had finished
reading she was sincerely moved to reply. She had nothing definitely in
mind to say, and yet somehow she visualized him at his desk waiting an
answer. "The worst of it is, we seem to have no topic in common except
his distressing Indians," she said, as she returned to her work. "Even
art to him means painting the redmen sympathetically."

But he could not be put aside. He was narrow and one-sided, but he was
sincere and manly--and handsome. That was the very worst of it; he was
too attractive to be forgotten. Therefore she took up her pen again,
being careful to keep close to artistic motives. She spoke of the
success of her spring exhibition, and said: "It has confirmed me in the
desire to go on valiantly in the same line. That is the reason I am
coming back to the Tetongs. I feel that I begin to know
them--artistically, I mean; not as you know them--and I need your
blazing sunlight to drink up the fogs that I brought from Holland and
Belgium. The prismatic flare of color out there pleases me. It's just
the white ray split into its primary colors, but I can get it. I'm going
to do more of those canvases of the moving figure blended with the
landscape; they make a stunning technical problem in vibration as well
as in values; and then the critics shout over them, too. I sold the one
you liked so well, and also five portraits, and feel vastly encouraged.
Owen Field was over from New York and gave me a real hurrah. I am going
to exhibit in New York next fall if all goes well with me among the
Tetongs."



XIV

ELSIE REVISITS CURTIS


Jennie thought her brother the handsomest man in the State as they
walked up and down the station platform waiting for the express train
which was bringing Elsie and Lawson and a famous Parisian-American
sculptor and his wife. Curtis was in undress uniform, and in the midst
of the slouching crowd of weather-beaten loafers he seemed a man of
velvet-green parade grounds and whitewashed palings, commanding lines of
polished bayonets.

He was more profoundly stirred at the thought of Elsie's coming than he
cared to admit, but Jennie's delight was outspoken. "I didn't know how
hungry for a change I was," she said. "They will bring the air of the
big city world with them."

The whistle of the far-off train punctuated her sentences. "Oh, George,
doesn't it seem impossible that in a few moments the mistress of that
great Washington home will descend the car-steps to meet us?"

"Yes, I can't believe it," he replied, and his hands trembled a little
as he nervously buttoned his coat.

The train came rapidly to a stop, with singing rods, grinding brakes,
and the whiz of escaping steam. Some ordinary mortals tumbled out, and
then the wonderful one!

"There they are!" cried Jennie. "And, oh--aren't her clothes maddening!"

Lawson, descending first, helped Elsie to the platform with an accepted
lover's firm touch. She wore a blue-cloth tailored suit which fitted
marvellously, and her color was more exquisite than ever. Admiring
Jennie fairly gasped as the simple elegance of Elsie's habit became
manifest, and she had only a glance for the sculptor and his wife.

Elsie, with hands extended, seized upon them both with cordial
intensity. A little flurry of hand-shakings followed, and at last Mr.
and Mrs. Jerome Parker were introduced. He was a tall man with a bush of
yellow beard, while she was dark and plain; but she had a pleasant
smile, and her eyes were nice and quiet.

"Do you know, I'm overjoyed to get back!" said Elsie to Curtis. "I don't
know why I should be, but I've been eagerly looking for the Cleft Butte
all day. Jerome will tell you that I expressed a sort of proprietorship
in every prairie-dog."

"We are very glad to have you here again," replied Curtis. "And now that
you _are_ here, we must get your belongings together and get away. We
are to camp to-night at the Sandstone Spring."

"A real camp?"

"A real camp. We could drive through, of course, but it would be
tiresome, and then I thought you'd enjoy the camp."

"Of course we shall. It's very thoughtful of you."

"Everything will be ready for us. I left Two Horns to look after it."

"Then it will be _right_," said Lawson, who was beaming with placid
joy. "Isn't it good to breathe this air again? It was stifling hot in
Alta City. I never knew it to be hotter in the month of June."

While they talked, Crane's Voice was collecting the trunks, and in a few
minutes, with Elsie by his side, Curtis drove his three-seated buckboard
out upon the floor of the valley, leaving the squalid town behind.
Lawson and Mrs. Parker occupied the middle seat, and Jennie and the tall
sculptor sat behind. They were all as merry as children. Elsie took off
her hat and faced the sun with joyous greeting.

"Isn't this glorious? I've dreamed of this every night for a month."

"That's one thing the Tetong has--good, fresh air, and plenty of it,"
said Lawson.

"A thin diet, sometimes," Curtis replied. He turned to Elsie. "Your
studio is all ready for you, and I have spoken to a number of the head
men about you. You'll not lack sitters. They are eager to be
immortalized at your convenience."

"You are most kind--I am going to work as never before."

"You mustn't work too hard. I have a plan for an outing. One of my
districts lies up in the head-waters of the Willow. I propose that we
all go camping up there for a couple of weeks."

"Do you hear that, Osborne?" she called, turning her head.

"I did not--what is it?"

Curtis repeated his suggestion, and Parker shouted with joy. "Just what
I want to do," he said.

Curtis went on: "We'll find the redman living there under much more
favorable conditions than down in the hot valley. We have a saw-mill up
in the pines, and the ladies can stay in the superintendent's house--"

"Oh no!" interrupted Elsie. "We must camp. Don't think of putting us
under a roof." A little later she said, in a low voice: "Father is in
Chicago, and expects to be out here later. I mean, he's coming to make a
tour of the State."

"How is his health?" Curtis asked, politely.

Her face clouded. "He's not at all well. He is older than he realizes. I
can see he is failing, and he ought not to go into this senatorial
fight." After a pause she said: "He was quite ill in March, and I nursed
him; he seemed very grateful, and we've been very good friends since."

"I'm glad of that," he replied, and bent closely to his driving.

"You drive well, Captain."

"An Indian agent needs to be able to do anything."

"May I drive?"

"You will spoil your gloves."

"Please! I'll take them off. I'm a famous whip." She smiled at him with
such understanding as they had never before reached, as she stripped her
gloves from her hands and dropped them at her feet. "Now let me take the
reins," she said. He surrendered them to her unhesitatingly.

"I believe you can drive," he said, exultantly.

Her hands were as beautiful as her face, strong and white, and
exquisitely modelled; but he, looking upon them with keen admiration,
caught the gleam of a diamond on the engagement finger. This should not
have chilled him, but it did. Then he thought:

"It is an engagement ring. She is now fairly bound to Lawson," and a
light that was within him went out. It was only a tiny, wavering flame
of hope, but it had been burning in opposition to his will all the year.

As she drove, they talked about the grasses and flowers, the mountain
range far beyond, the camping trip, and a dozen other impersonal topics
which did not satisfy Curtis, though he had no claim to more intimate
phrase. She, on her part, was perfectly happy, and retained her hold of
the reins and the whip in spite of his protest.

"You must not spoil your beautiful hands," he protested; "they are for
higher things. Please return the lines to me."

"Oh no! Please! Just another half-hour--till we reach that butte. I'm
stronger than you think. I am accustomed to the whip."

She had her way in this, and drove nearly the entire afternoon. When he
took the reins at last, her fingers were cramped and swollen, but her
face was deeply flushed with pleasure.

"I've had a delicious drive," she gratefully remarked.

At the foot of a tall butte Curtis turned his team and struck into a
road leading to the left. This road at once descended upon a
crescent-shaped, natural meadow enclosed by a small stream, like a babe
in a sheltering arm. All about were signs of its use as a
camping-ground. Sweat lodges, broken tepee-poles, piles of blackened
stones, and rings of bowlders told of the many fires that had been
built. Willows fringed the creek, while to the south and west rose a
tall, bare hill, on which a stone tower stood like a sentinel warrior.

Elsie cried out in delight of the place. "Isn't it romantic!" Already
the sun, sinking behind the hill, threw across the meadow a mysterious
purple gloom, out of which a couple of tents gleamed like gray bowlders.

"There is your house to-night," said Curtis. "See the tents?"

"How tiny they look!" Elsie exclaimed, in a hushed voice, as though
fearing to alarm and put them to flight.

"They are small, but as night falls you will be amazed to discover how
snug and homelike they can become."

Two Horns came to meet them, and Parker cried out, "Hello! see the big
Indian!"

The chief greeted Lawson with a deep and hearty "Hah! Nawson--my friend.
How! How!" And Lawson, with equal ceremony, replied, in Dakota:

"I am well, my brother; how is it with you?"

"My heart is warm towards you."

Elsie gave him her hand, and he took it without embarrassment or
awkwardness. "I know you; you make pictures," he said, in his own
tongue.

"Jerusalem, but he's a stunner!" said Parker. "Hello, old man! How you
vass, ain't it?" and he clapped the old man on the shoulder.

Two Horns looked at him keenly, and the smile faded from his face. "Huh!
Big fool," he said to Lawson.

"You mustn't talk to an Indian like that, Parker, if you expect to have
his friendship," said Lawson. "Two Horns hates over-familiarity."

"Oh, he does, does he?" laughed Parker. "Kind of a Ward McAllister,
hey?"

Lawson, a little later, said, privately: "That was a bad break, Parker;
you really must treat these head men with decent respect or they'll
hoodoo you so you can't get any models. Two Horns is a gentleman, and
you must at least equal him in reserve and dignity or he will report you
a buffoon."

Parker, who had done his figures from models procured in Paris from
Buffalo Bill's show, opened his eyes wide.

"Lawson, you're joking!"

"You'll find every word I tell you true. I advise you to set to work now
and remove your bad impression from Two Horns, who is one of the three
principal chiefs. You can't come out here and clap these people on the
back and call 'em 'old hoss.' That will do in some of the stories you
read, but realities are different. You'll find money won't command these
people, either."

"I thought they liked to be treated as equals?"

"They do, but they don't like to have a stranger too free and easy. You
haven't been introduced yet."

While Crane's Voice attended to the teams, Jennie and Two Horns worked
at getting supper. Their comradeship was charming to see, and the
Parkers looked on with amazement. Two Horns, deft, attentive, careful,
anticipated every want. Nothing could be finer than the perfectly
cheerful assistance he rendered the pretty cook. His manner was like
that of an elder brother rather than that of a servant.

"I didn't suppose Indians ever worked around a camp, and especially
with a woman," remarked Parker.

"What you don't know about Indians is still a large volume, Parker,"
retorted Lawson. "If you stay around with this outfit for a few weeks
you'll gather a great deal of information useful for a sculptor of
redmen."

Elsie took Lawson mildly to task for his sharp reply.

Lawson admitted that it made him impatient when a man like Parker opened
his mouth on things he knew nothing about. "You never can tell what your
best friend will do, can you? Parker is decidedly fresh. If he keeps on
he'll become tiresome."

Elsie presumed on her enormous experience of three months on the
reservation, and gave Parker many valuable hints of how to wheedle the
Tetongs in personal contact.

"It seems I'm being schooled," he complained.

"You need it," was Lawson's disconcerting reply.

As night fell, and the fire began to glow in the cool, sweet dark with
increasing power, they all sat round the flame and planned the trip into
the mountains.

"I have some Tetongs up there who are disposed to keep very clear of the
agency. Red Wolf is their head man. You may all go with me and see my
council with him if you like."

"Oh! that will be glorious fun!" cried Elsie.

But Parker asked, a little anxiously, "You think it safe?" which amused
Curtis, and Parker hastened to explain: "You've no idea what a bad
reputation these Tetongs have. Anyhow, I would not feel justified in
taking Mrs. Parker into any danger."

"She is quite safe," replied Curtis. "I will answer for the action of my
wards."

"Well, if you are quite sure!"

"How far away Washington seems now!" remarked Elsie, after a silence. "I
feel as if I had gone back to the very beginning of things."

"It seems the end of things for the Tetongs," replied Lawson. "We forget
that fact sometimes when we are anxious to have them change to our ways.
Barring out a few rudenesses, their old life was a beautiful adaptation
of organism to environment. Isn't that so, Curtis?"

"It certainly had its idyllic side."

"But they must have been worried to death for fear of getting scalped,"
said Parker.

"Oh, they didn't war much till the white man came to disturb them, by
crowding one tribe into another tribe's territory. Their 'wars' were
small affairs--hardly more than skirmishes. That they were infrequent is
evident from the importance given small forays in their 'winter
counts.'"

One by one the campers began to yawn, and Jennie and Mrs. Parker
withdrew into the tent reserved for the women, but Lawson and Elsie and
Curtis still remained about the fire. The girl's eyes were wide with
excitement. "Isn't it delicious to be a little speck of life in this
limitless world of darkness? Osborne, why didn't we camp last year?"

"I proposed it, but Mattie would not hear to it. I have a notion that
you also put my suggestion aside with scorn."

She protested that he was mistaken. "It is the only way to get close to
these wild people. I begin to understand them as I sit here beside this
fire. What do you suppose Two Horns is thinking about as he sits over
there smoking?"

As they talked, Lawson began to yawn also, and at last said: "Elsie Bee
Bee, I am sleepy, and I know Curtis is."

"Not at all," protested Curtis. "I'm just coming to myself. As the
camp-fire smoulders the night is at its best. Besides, I'm in the midst
of a story."

"Well, I didn't sleep very well last night," began Lawson,
apologetically. "I think--if you don't mind--"

"Go to bed, Sleepy Head," laughed Elsie. "We'll excuse you."

"I believe I will," and off he went, leaving the two young people alone.

"Go on!" cried Elsie. "Tell me all about it."

Curtis glowed with new fire at this proof of her interest. "Well, there
we were, Sergeant Pierce, Standing Elk, and myself, camped in Avalanche
Basin, which at that time of the year is as full of storms as a cave is
of bats." A yelping cry on the hill back of them interrupted him. "There
goes a coyote! Now the night is perfect," he ended, with a note of
exultant poetry.

She drew a little nearer to him. "I don't enjoy that cry as well as you
do," she said, with a touch of delicious timidity in her voice. "That's
the woman of it, isn't it?"

"I know how harmless he is." After a pause, he slowly said: "This is the
farthest reach of the imaginable--that you should sit here beside my
fire in this wild land. It must seem as much of a dream to you as your
splendid home was to me."

"I didn't suppose these things could shake me so. How mysterious the
world is when night makes it lone and empty! I never realized it before.
That hill behind us, and the wolf--and see those willows by the brook.
They might be savages creeping upon us, or great birds resting, or any
silent, threatening creature of the darkness. If I were alone my heart
would stand still with awe and fear of them."

"They are not mysterious to me," he made answer. "Only in the sense that
space and dusk are inexplicable. After all, the wonder of the universe
is in our brains, like love, rather than in the object to which we
attribute mystery or majesty. To the Tetong, the simplest thing
belonging to the white race is mysterious--a button, a cartridge, a
tin-plate. 'How are they made? What are they built for?' he asks. So,
deeply considered, all nature is inexplicable to us also. We white
children of the Great Ruler push the mystery a little further back, that
is all. Once I tried to understand the universe; now I am content to
enjoy it."

"Tell me, how did you first become interested in these people?"

He hesitated a little before he replied. "Well, I was always interested
in them, and when I got out among the Payonnay I tried to get at their
notions of life; but they are a strange people--a secretive people--and
I couldn't win their confidence for a long time. One day while on a
hunting expedition I came suddenly upon a crew of wood-choppers who had
an old man tied to a tree and were about to burn him alive--"

"Horrible! Why?"

"No reason at all, so far as I could learn. His wife sat on the ground
not far away, wailing in deep despair. What treatment she had suffered I
do not know. Naturally, I ordered the men to release the old man, and
when they refused I cut his bands. The ruffians were furious with rage,
and threatened to tie me up and burn me, too. By this time I was too
angry to fear anything. 'If you do, you better pulverize the buttons on
my uniform, for the United States government will demand a head for
every one of them.' Had I been a civilian they would have killed me."

"They wouldn't have dared!" Elsie shuddered.

"Such men dare do anything when they are safe from discovery--and there
is always the Indian to whom a deed of that sort can be laid."

"Did they release the old man?"

"Yes; and he and his wife camped along with me for several days, and
their devotion to me was pathetic. Finally I came to understand that he
considered himself dead, so far as his tribe was concerned. 'My life
belongs to you,' he said. I was just beginning the sign language at that
time and I couldn't get very far with him, but I made him understand
that I gave his life back to him. He left me at last and returned to the
tribe. Thereafter, every redman I met called me friend, and patiently
sat while I struggled to learn his language. As I grew proficient they
told me things they had concealed from all white men. I ceased to be an
enemy. I became an adviser, a chief."

"Did you ever see the old man again?"

"Oh yes. He was my guide on several hunting expeditions. Poor old Siyeh,
he died of small-pox. 'The white man's disease,' he called it, bitterly.
He wanted to see me, but when he understood that I would be endangered
thereby, he said: 'It is well--I will die alone; but tell him I fold my
hands on my breast and his hand is between my palms.'" The soldier's
voice grew hard and dry as the memory of the old man's death returned
upon him.

Elsie shuddered with a new emotion. "You make my head whirl--you and the
night. Did that determine your course with regard to them?"

"Yes. I resolved to get at their hearts--their inner thoughts--and my
commanders put me forward from time to time as interpreter, where I
could serve both the army and the redman. In some strange way all the
Northwest tribes came to know of me, and I could go where few men could
follow me. It is curious, but they never did seem strange to me. From
the first time I met an Indian I felt that he was a man like other
men--a father, a son, a brother, like anybody else. Naturally, when the
plan for enlisting redmen into the cavalry came to be worked out, I was
chosen to command a troop of Shi-an-nay. I received my promotion at that
time. My detail as Indian agent came from the same cause, I suppose. I
was known to be a friend of the redman, and the department is now
experimenting with 'Curtis of the Gray-Horse Troop,'" he added, with a
smile. "Such is the story of my life."

"How long will you remain Indian agent?"

"Till I can demonstrate my theory that, properly led, these people can
be made happy."

"I am afraid you will live here until you are old," she said, and there
was a note of undefinable regret in her voice. "I begin to feel that you
really have a problem to solve."

"It lies with us, the dominant race," he said, slowly, "whether the red
race shall die or become a strand in the woof of our national life. It
is a question of saving our own souls, not of making them grotesque
caricatures of American farmers. I am not of those who believe in
teaching creeds that are dying out of our own life; to be clean, to be
peaceful, to be happy--these are the precepts I would teach them."

"I don't understand you, and I think I would better go to bed," she
said, with a return to her ordinary manner. "Good-night."

"Good-night," he replied, and in the utterance of those words was
something that stirred her unaccountably.

"He makes life too serious, and too full of responsibility," she
thought. "I don't like to feel responsible. All the same, he is fine,"
she added, in conclusion.



XV

ELSIE ENTERS HER STUDIO


Elsie, being young and of flamelike vitality, was up and ready for a
walk while Two Horns was building the fire, and was trying to make him
understand her wish to paint him, when Curtis emerged from his tent.

"Good-morning, Captain," she called. "I'm glad you've come. Please tell
Two Horns I want to have him sit for me."

Curtis, with a few swift gestures, conveyed her wishes to Two Horns, who
replied in a way which made Curtis smile.

Elsie asked, "What does he say?"

"He says, 'Yes, how much?'"

"Oh, the mercenary thing!"

"Not at all," replied Curtis. "His time is worth something. You artists
think the redmen ought to sit for nothing."

Two Horns ran through a swift and very graceful series of signs, which
Curtis translated rapidly.

"He says: 'I have heard of you. You painted Elk's daughter. I hear you
sell these pictures and catch a great pile of money. I think it is right
you pay us something when we stand before you for long hours, while you
make pictures to sell to rich men in Washington. Now, I drive a team; I
earn some days two dollars driving team. If I stop driving team, and
come and sit for you, then I lose my two dollars.'"

As he finished, Two Horns smiled at Elsie with a sly twinkle in his eyes
which disconcerted her. "You sabbe?" he ended, speaking directly to her.

"I sabbe," she said, in reply.

"Good!" He held out his hand and she took it, and the bargain was
sealed. He then returned to his work about the camp.

"Isn't it glorious!" the girl cried, as she looked about her. "It's
enough to do an artist all over new." The grass and the willows sparkled
with dew-drops. The sky, cloudless save for one long, low,
orange-and-purple cape of glory just above the sunrise, canopied a
limitless spread of plain to the north and east, while the high butte to
the back was like the wall of a temple.

"Oh, let's take a run up that hill," Elsie said, with sudden change of
tone. "Come!" and, giving Curtis no time to protest, she scuttled away,
swift as a partridge. He followed her, calling:

"Wait a moment, please!"

When he overtook her at the foot of the first incline she was
breathless, but her eyes were joyous as a child's and her cheeks were
glowing.

"Let me help you," he said; "and if you slip, don't put your hand on the
ground; that is the way men get snake-bitten."

"Snakes!" She stopped short. "I forgot--are there rattlesnakes here?"

"There is always danger on the sunny side of these buttes at this time
of the year, especially where the rocks crop out."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"You didn't give me time."

"Do you really think there is danger?"

"Not if you walk slowly and follow me; I'll draw their poison. After
they bite me they'll have no virus left for you."

She began to smile roguishly. "You are tired--you want an excuse to
rest."

"If I thought you meant that, I'd run up to the summit and back again to
show you that I'm younger than my years."

She clapped her hands. "Do it! It will be like the knight in the
story--the glove-and-lion story."

"No. On reflection, I will not run; it would compromise my dignity. We
will climb soberly, side by side, like Darby and Joan on the hill of
life."

With a demure countenance she took his hand, and they scrambled briskly
up the slope. When they reached the brow of the hill she was fairly done
up, while he, breathing easily, showed little fatigue, although she had
felt his powerful arm sustaining her many times on the steeper slopes.
She could not speak, and he smilingly said, "I hope I haven't hurried
you?"

"You--are--strong," she admitted, brokenly. "I'm not tired, but I can't
get breath."

At length they reached the summit and looked about. "What is the meaning
of those little towers of stone?" she asked, after a moment's rest.

"Oh, they have different meanings. Sometimes they locate the springs of
water, sometimes they indicate the course of a trail. This one was put
here by a young fellow to mark the spot from whence he saw a famous herd
of buffalo--what time he made a wonderful killing."

"I suppose all this land has been the hunting-ground of these people for
ages. Do you suppose they had names for hills like this, and were fond
of them like white people?"

"Certainly. They had a geography of their own as complete in its way as
ours, and they are wonderfully sure of direction even now. They seldom
make a mistake in the correlative positions of streams or mountains,
even when confused by a white man's map."

"It _is_ wonderful, isn't it--that they should have lived here all those
years without knowing or caring for the white man's world?"

"They don't care for it now--but I see Two Horns signalling that
breakfast is ready, so we had better go."

"Let's run down!"

"Wait!" He caught her. "It will lame you frightfully, I warn you."

"Oh no, it won't."

"Very well, experience is a fine school. If you must run down, we'll go
down the shadowed side. Now I'll let you get half-way down and beat you
in, after all. One, two, three--go!"

With her skirt caught up in her hand, she started down the hill in
reckless flight. She heard his shout and the thud of his prodigious
leaps, and just as she reached the level he overtook her and
relentlessly left her far behind. Discouraged and panting, she fell
into a walk and waited for him to return, as she knew he would.

"Oh, these skirts!" she said, resentfully. "What chance has a woman with
yards of cloth binding her? I nearly tumbled headlong."

He did not make her suffer for her defeat, and they returned to camp gay
as a couple of children. Lawson smiled benevolently, like an aged uncle,
while Elsie told him of their climb. Said he: "When you're as old as I
am you will wait for wonders to come your way; you will not seek them."

The breakfast was made merry by Jennie, who waged gentle warfare on
Parker, whose preconceived ideas of the people resident on an Indian
reservation had been shaken.

"Why, you're very decent," he admitted at last.

"They are all like us--nit," replied Jennie. "We're marked 'special.'"

"Couldn't be any more like you, sis," said Curtis.

"_You_ shouldn't say that."

"Well, it needed saying, and no one else seemed ready to do it. If
Calvin had been here!"

"Who is Calvin?" asked Mrs. Parker.

"I know!" cried Elsie. "He's one of the handsomest young cowboys you
ever saw. If you want to do a cow-puncher, Parker, he's your model."

"I certainly must see him. If I don't do a cowboy or a bucking bronco
I'm a failure."

As they were ready to start, Elsie again took her place beside Curtis,
but Lawson insisted on sitting behind with Jennie. "It's hard luck,
Parker, to have to sit with your wife," he said, compassionately.

"Oh, well! I'm used to disappointments," Parker replied, in resigned
calm.

Elsie felt the need of justifying herself. "Are you complaining? Am I
the assistant driver, or am I not? If I am, here is where I belong."

"When I was coaching in Scotland once--" began Lawson.

"Oh, never mind Scotland!" interrupted Elsie. "See that chain of peaks?
Aren't they gorgeous! Do we camp there?"

"Yes," replied Curtis. "Just where that fan-shaped belt of timber
begins, I hope to set our tent. The agency is just between those dark
ridges."

"It is strange," Elsie said, after a pause. "Last year I was _wondering_
at everything; now I am looking for familiar things."

"That is the second stage," he answered. "The third will be sympathy."

"What will the fourth be?"

"Affection."

"And the fifth?"

"Devotion."

She laughed. "You place too high a value on your Western land."

"I admit there is to me great charm in these barren foot-hills and the
great divide they lead up to," he soberly answered.

As they talked, the swift little horses drummed along the hard road, and
by the time the agency flag-pole came in view they had passed over their
main points of difference, and were chatting gayly on topics not
controversial. Elsie was taking her turn with the reins, her face
flushed with the joy and excitement of it, while Jennie and Mrs.
Parker, shrieking with pretended fear, clung to their seats with
frenzied clasp.

Curtis was as merry as a boy, and his people, seeing him come in smiling
and alert, looked at each other in amazement, and Crow Wing said:

"Our Little Father has found a squaw at last."

Whereas, as her lover, Curtis had been careful to consider the effect of
every word, he now went to Elsie's service as frankly as Lawson himself,
and his thoughtfulness touched her deeply. Her old studio had been put
in order, and contained all needful furniture, and her sleeping
apartment looked very clean and very comfortable indeed.

Jennie apologized. "Of course, it's like camping compared to your own
splendid home, but George said you wouldn't mind that, being an artist.
He has an idea an artist can sleep in a palace one night and a pigsty
the next, and rejoice."

"He isn't so very far wrong," Elsie valiantly replied. "Of course, the
pigsty is a little bit extreme. This is good enough for any one. You are
very kind," she added, softly. "It was good of him to take so much
trouble."

"George is the best man I ever knew," replied Jennie. "That's why I've
never been able to leave him for any other man." She smiled shrewdly.
"I'll admit that eligible men have been scarce, and my chances have been
few. Well, I must run across and look after dinner. You're to eat with
us till you get settled. _We_ insist on being hosts this time."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Surely," said Curtis, as they rose from the table, "being Indian agent
is not the grim, vexatious experience I once considered it. If the charm
of such company should get reckoned in as one of the perquisites of the
office, the crush of applicants would thicken into a riot. I find it
hard to return to my work in the office."

"Don't be hasty; we may turn out to be nuisances," responded Elsie.



XVI

THE CAMP AMONG THE ROSES


During the remainder of the day the agent found office work most
difficult. His mind wandered to other and pleasanter things, and at last
he began to make out a list of the necessaries for the camping trip.

The next day, about four o'clock, Crow Wing and Crawling Elk came into
his office bringing a young Tetong, who said he had been struck on the
head by a sheep-herder.

Curtis was instantly alert. "Sit down--all of you!" he commanded. "Now,
Yellow Hand, tell your story."

Yellow Hand, a tall and sinister-looking fellow, related his adventure
sullenly. "I was riding the line of the reservation, as Crawling Elk had
told me and as you commanded, when I came upon this sheep-man driving
his flocks across the river. I hollered to him to keep away, but he kept
on pushing the sheep into the river; then I tried to drive them back.
This made him angry and he threw a rock at me, and struck me here." He
touched his bandaged head. "I had no gun, so I came away."

"Did you throw rocks at him?" asked Curtis.

"No, I was on my horse."

"You rode among his sheep?"

"Yes."

"Well, that was wrong. You should have reported to me and I would have
sent a policeman. You must not make trouble with these men. Come to me
or report to Grayman, your head man over there. The ranchers are angry
at Washington, and we must be careful not to make them angry at us. I
will send Crow back with you and he will remove this man."

As they went out Curtis said to Wilson: "This is the second assault they
have made on our boys. They seem determined to involve us in a shooting
scrape, in order to influence Congress. We must be very careful. I am
afraid I ought not to take this camping trip just now."

"Don't put too much importance on these little scraps, Major. Yellow
Hand is always getting into trouble. He's quarrelsome."

"I'd disarm a few of these reckless young fellows if it would do any
good."

"It wouldn't. They'd simply borrow a gun of some one, and it won't do to
disarm the whole tribe, for if you do these cowboys will swarm in here
and run us all out."

"Well, caution every one to be careful. I'm particularly anxious just
now, on account of our visitors."

"I don't think you need to be, Major. You take your trip with your
friends. I'll guarantee nothing serious happens down here. And as you
are not to leave the reservation, I don't see as the department can have
any roar coming."

Nevertheless, it was with some misgiving that Curtis made his final
arrangements for the start. Crane's Voice and Two Horns had interested
Elsie very much; therefore he filled their places with other men, and
notified them to be in readiness to accompany the expedition, an order
which pleased them mightily. Mary, the mother of Crane's Voice, was to
go along as chief cook, under Jennie's direction, while Two Horns took
general charge of the camp.

Elsie burdened herself with canvases. "I don't suppose I'll paint a
picture while I'm gone, but I'm going to make a bluff at it on the
start," she said, as she came out and took her place with the driver
amid the mock lamentations of Lawson and Parker and Jennie.

"Can any of you drive--no!" replied Elsie, in German fashion. "Then I am
here."

"I like her impudence," said Lawson.

As they drove up the valley, Curtis outlined his plan for using the
water on a huge agency garden. "I would lay it out in lots and mark
every lot with the name of a family, and require it to be planted and
taken care of by that family. There are sites for three such gardens,
enough to feed the entire tribe, but so long as a few white men are
allowed to use up all the water nothing can be done but continue to feed
the Tetongs in idleness, as we are now doing."

As they rose the grass grew greener, and at last Elsie began to discover
wild roses growing low in damp places, and at noon, when they stopped
for lunch, they were able to eat in the shade of a murmuring aspen, with
wild flowers all about them. The stream was swift and cold and clear,
hardly to be classed with the turbid, sluggish, discouraged current
which seeped past the agency.

"It is a different world up here," Elsie said, again and again. "I can't
believe we are only a half-day's drive from the agency. I never saw more
delicious greens."

Mrs. Parker, being an amateur botanist, was filled with delight of the
thickening flowers. "It is exactly as if we had begun in August and were
moving backward towards spring. I feel as though violets were near. It
is positively enchanting."

"You'll camp beside violets to-night," replied Curtis.

Lawson pretended to sleep. Parker smoked a pipe while striding along
behind the wagon. Elsie drove, and of course Curtis could not leave her
to guide the team alone. Necessarily, they talked freely on many topics,
and all restraint, all reserve, were away at last. It is difficult to
hold a formal and carefully considered conversation in a jolting
buckboard climbing towards a great range of shining peaks, and every
frank speech brought them into friendlier relation. Considered in this
light, the afternoon assumed vast importance.

At last, just on the edge of a small lake entirely enclosed by sparse
pines, they drew into camp. To the west the top of a snow mountain could
be seen, low down, and against it a thin column of blue smoke was
rising. The water, dark as topaz and smooth as oil, reflected the
opposite shore, the yellow sky, and the peak with magic clearness, and
Elsie was seized with a desire to do something.

"Where is my paint-box? Here is the background for some action--I don't
know what--something primeval."

"An Indian in a canoe, _à la_ Brush; or a bear coming down to drink, _à
la_ Bierstadt," suggested Parker.

"Don't mention that old fogy," cried Elsie.

Lawson interposed. "Well, now, those old chaps had something to say--and
that's better than your modern Frenchmen do."

She was soon at work, with Lawson and Parker standing by her side,
overlooking her panel and offering advice.

"There's no color in that," Parker said, finally. "It's a
black-and-white merely. Its charm is in things you can't paint--the feel
of the air, the smell of pine boughs."

"Go away--both of you," she commanded, curtly, and they retreated to the
camp, where Curtis was setting the tents, and Jennie, old Mary, and Two
Horns, with swift and harmonious action, were bringing appetizing odors
out of various cans and boxes, what time the crackle of the fire
increased to a gentle roar. There they sat immovably, shamelessly
waiting till the call for supper came.

They were all hungry, and Jennie's cooking received such praise as comes
from friends who speak and devour--Parker nearly devoured without
speaking, so lank and empty was he by reason of his long walk. Elsie
seemed to have forgotten her life of luxury, and was reverted to a
primitive stage of culture wherein she found everything enjoyable. Her
sketch, propped up against a basket by Curtis, was admired unreservedly.
Altogether, the trouble and toil of civilized life were forgotten
tyrants, so far as these few souls were concerned. They came close to
the peace and the care-free tranquillity of the redman, whose ideals
they had come to destroy.

As soon as supper was eaten and the men had lighted their cigars, the
whole party walked out to the edge of the little pond and lounged about
on blankets, and watched the light go out of the sky. Talk grew more
subdued as the beauty and the mystery of the night deepened. Elsie
listened to every sound, and asked innumerable questions of Curtis. She
insisted on knowing the name of every bird or beast whose call could be
heard. The young soldier's wood-craft both pleased and astonished her.
Mrs. Parker, with her lap full of botanical specimens, was absorbed in
the work of classifying them. Parker was a gentleman of leisure, with
nothing to do but watch the peaceful coming of the dusk and comment
largely on the universe.

It was natural that, as host, Curtis should enjoy a large part of
Elsie's company, but neither of them seemed to realize that Lawson was
being left quite unheeded in the background, but Jennie was aware of
this neglect, and put forth skilful effort to break the force of it.
Lawson himself seemed to be entirely unconscious of any loss or
threatening disaster.

A little later, as they sat watching the fire grow in power in the
deepening darkness, Curtis suddenly lifted his hand.

"Hark!"

All listened. Two Horns spoke first. "One man come, on horse."

"Some messenger for me, probably," said the Captain, composedly. "He is
coming fast, too."

As the steady drumming of the horse's hoofs increased in power, Elsie
felt something chill creep beneath the roots of her hair. Perhaps the
Indians had broken out in war against the whites! Perhaps--

A tall young Tetong slipped from his tired horse and approached the
Captain. In his extended hand lay an envelope, which gleamed in the
firelight. As Curtis took this letter the messenger, squatting before
him, began to roll a cigarette. His lean and powerful face was shadowed
by a limp sombrero and his eyes were hidden, but his lips were grave and
calm. A quirt dangled from his right wrist, and in the two braids of his
hair green eagle-plumes were twisted. The star on the lapel of his
embroidered vest showed him to be a police-officer. From the intensity
of his attitude it was plain he was studying his agent's face in order
to read thereon the character of the message he had brought.

Curtis turned the paper slowly and without excitement. With rapid signs
he dismissed the courier. "I have read it. You will camp with Two Horns.
Go get some food. Mary will give you meat."

Turning to his guests, he then said: "It is nothing special--merely some
papers I forgot to sign before leaving."

"By George! what a picture the fellow made, sitting there!" said Parker.
"It was like an illustration in a novel. Why don't you paint that kind
of thing, Bee Bee?"

"Because I can't," she replied. "Don't you suppose I saw it? I'd need
the skill of Zorn to do a thing as big and mysterious as that. Did you
see the intensity of his pose? He expected Captain Curtis to show
excitement or alarm. He was very curious to know what it was all
about--don't you think so?"

Curtis was amused. "Yes, I suppose he thought the paper more important
than it was. The settlers have kept the tribe guessing all the spring by
threats of running them off the reservation. Of course they wouldn't
openly resort to violence, but there are several irresponsibles who
would strike in the dark if they found opportunity."

In spite of his reassuring tone, a vague fear fell over the camping
party. Parker was frankly alarmed.

"If you think there is any danger, Captain, I want to get out o' here
quick. I'm not here to study the Tetong with his war-paint on."

"If there had been any danger, Mr. Parker, I would not have left my
office. I shall have a report similar to this every day while I am away,
so please be composed."

The policeman came back, resumed his squatting position before the fire,
and began a series of vigorous and dramatic gestures, to which the
Captain replied in kind, absorbed, intent, with a face as inscrutable as
that of the redman himself. The contrast between the resolute, handsome
young white man and the roughhewn Tetong was superb. "There's nothing in
it for me," said Parker, "but it's great business for a painter."

Elsie seized a block of paper, and with soft pencil began to sketch them
both against the background of mysterious blackness, out of which a pine
bole gleamed ashy white.

Suddenly, silently, as though one of the tree-trunks had taken on life,
another Tetong appeared in the circle of the firelight and stood with
deep-sunk eyes fastened on the Captain's face. Another followed, and
still others, till two old men and four young fellows ranged themselves
in a semicircle before their agent, with Crane's Voice and Two Horns at
the left and a little behind. The old men smoked a long pipe, but the
young men rolled cigarettes, taking no part in the council, listening
the while with eyes as bright as those of foxes.

It was all sinister and menacing to the Parkers, and all wondered till
Curtis turned to say: "They are my mill-hands--good, faithful boys,
too."

"Mill-hands!" exclaimed Parker. "They looked uncommonly like a scalping
party."

"That is what imagination can do. I thought your faces were extra
solemn," remarked Curtis, dryly; but Lawson knew that the agent was not
so untroubled as he pretended, for old Crow Killer had a bitter story to
relate of the passage of a band of cowboys through his camp. They had
stampeded his ponies and shot at him, one bullet passing so close to his
ear that it burned the skin, and he was angry.

"They wish to kill us, these cattlemen," he said, sombrely, in
conclusion. "If they come again we will fight."

Happily, his vehemence did not reach the comprehension of the women nor
the understanding of Parker, and Lawson smoked on as calmly as if these
tell-tale gestures were the flecking of shadows cast by the leaping
flames. At last the red visitors rose and vanished as silently as they
came. They seemed to pass through black curtains, so suddenly they
disappeared.

In spite of all reassurance, the women were a little reluctant to go to
bed--at least Mrs. Parker and Elsie were.

"I wish the men's tent were not so far off," Mrs. Parker said to Elsie,
plaintively.

"I'll ask them to move it, if you wish," returned Elsie, and when Jennie
came in she said: "Aren't you a little nervous to-night?"

Jennie looked surprised. "Why, no! Do you mean about sleeping in a
tent?"

"Yes," replied Mrs. Parker. "Suppose a wolf or a redman should come?"

Jennie laughed. "You needn't worry--we have a powerful guard. I never am
afraid with George."

"But the men are so far away! I wish their tent were close beside ours.
I'm not standing on propriety," Mrs. Parker added, as Jennie hesitated.
"I'm getting nervous, and I want Jerome where he can hear me if I call
to him."

Perceiving that Elsie shared this feeling in no small degree, Jennie
soberly conveyed their wish to Curtis.

"Very well, we'll move over. It will take but a moment."

As she heard the men driving the tent-pegs close beside her bed Mrs.
Parker sighed peacefully.

"_Now_ I can sleep. There is no comfort like a man in case of wolves,
Indians, and burglars," and the fact that the men were laughing did not
disturb her.

With a little shock, Elsie realized that Curtis and not Lawson was in
her mind as her defender. Of course, he was in command; that accounted
for it.

Nevertheless, as she listened to the murmur of their voices she detected
herself waiting for Curtis's crisp, clear bass, and not for the nasal
tenor of the man whose ring she wore. Her mind was filled, too, with the
dramatic figure the young officer made as he sat in gesture-talk with
his Tetong wards. In case of trouble the safest place on all the
reservation would be by his side, for his people loved and trusted him.
She did not go to sleep easily; the excitement, the strangeness of being
in a tent, kept her alert long after Jennie and Mrs. Parker were
breathing tranquilly on their cots.

One hears everything from a tent. It seems to stand in the midst of the
world. It is like being in a diving-bell under water. Life goes on
almost uninterruptedly. The girl heard a hundred obscure, singular,
sibilant sounds, as of serpents conferring. Mysterious footsteps
advanced, paused, retreated. Whispered colloquies arose among the
leaves, giving her heart disquiet. Every unfamiliar sound was a threat.
The voices of birds and beasts no longer interested her--they scared
her; and, try as she would to banish these fancies, her nerves thrilled
with every rush of the wind. It was deep night before she dropped
asleep.



XVII

A FLUTE, A DRUM, AND A MESSAGE


Elsie dreamed she was at the theatre. The opera was "Il Trovatore," and
at the moment when the prison song--that worn yet ever-mournful
cry--should have pulsed forth; but in its stead another strain came
floating from afar, a short phrase equally sad, which sank slowly, as a
fragment of cloud descends from sky to earth to become tears of dew on
the roses. Over and over again it was repeated, so sad, so sweet, so
elemental, it seemed that the pain of all love's vain regret was in it,
longing and sorrow and despair, without relief, without hope, defiant of
death.

Slowly the walls of the theatre faded. The gray light of morning crept
into the dreamer's eyes, and she was aware of the walls of her tent and
knew she had been dreaming. But the sorrowful song went on, with
occasional slight deviations of time and tone, but always the same.
Beginning on a high key, it fell by degrees, hesitating, momentarily
swooping upward, yet ever falling, till at last it melted in with the
solemn moan of the pines stirring above her head. Then she drowsed
again, and seemed to be listening to the wailing song with some one
whose hand she held. As she turned to ask whence the music came a
little shudder seized her, for the eyes looking into hers were not those
of Lawson. Curtis faced her, grave and sweet.

With this shock she wakened, but the song had ceased. She waited in
silence, hoping to hear it again. When fully aroused to her
surroundings, she was convinced that she had dreamed the music as well
as the hand-clasp, and a flush ran over her. "Why should I dream in that
way of _him_?"

She heard the soft lisp of moccasined feet outside the tent, and
immediately after the sound of an axe. Presently the fire began to
crackle, and the rising sun threw a flood of golden light against the
canvas wall. Jennie lifted her arms and yawned, and at last sat up and
listened. Catching Elsie's eye she said: "Good-morning, dear. How did
you sleep?"

"Deliciously--but did you hear some one singing just before sunrise?"

"No--did you?"

"I thought I did; but perhaps I dreamed it."

"Where did it seem to come from?"

"Oh, from away off and high up--the saddest song--a phrase constantly
repeated."

"Oh, I know. It was some young Tetong lover playing the flute. They
often do that when the girls are going for water in the morning. Isn't
it beautiful?"

"I never heard anything so sad."

"All their songs are sad. George says the primitive love-songs of all
races are the same. But Two Horns has the fire going, and I must get up
and superintend breakfast. You need not rise till I call."

Mrs. Parker began to stir. "Jerome! What time is it?"

The girls laughed as Jerome, in the other tent, replied, sweetly:

"Time to arise, Honey Plum."

Mrs. Parker started up and stared around, her eyes still misty with
slumber. "I slept the whole night through," she finally remarked, as if
in answer to a question, and her voice expressed profound astonishment.

"Didn't hear the wolves, did you, pet?" called Parker.

"Wolves! No. Did they howl?"

"Howl is no name for it. They tied themselves into double bow-knots of
noise."

"I don't believe it."

Elsie replied: "I didn't hear anything but the music. Did you hear the
singing?"

Lawson spoke. "You people have the most active imaginations. All I heard
was the wind in the pines, and an occasional moose walking by."

"Moose!" cried Mrs. Parker. "Why, they're enormous creatures."

Jennie began to laugh. "You people will need to hurry to be ready for
breakfast. I'm going to put the coffee on." She slipped outside. "Oh,
girls! Get up at once, it's glorious out here on the lake!"

Curtis was busy about the camp-fire. "Good-morning, sis. Here are some
trout for breakfast."

"Trout!" shouted Lawson, from the tent.

"Trout!" echoed Parker. "We'll be there," and the tent bulged and
flapped with his hasty efforts at dressing.

In gay spirits they gathered round their rude table, Parker and Jennie
particularly jocular. Curtis was puzzled by some subtle change in
Elsie. Her gaze was not quite so frank, and her color seemed a little
more fitful; but she was as merry as a child, and enjoyed every
makeshift as though it were done for the first time and for her own
amusement.

"What's the programme for to-day?" asked Parker.

"After I inspect the saw-mill we will hook up and move over the divide
to the head-waters of the Willow and camp with Red Wolf's band."

Parker coughed. "Well, now--of course, Captain, we are depending on
you."

Curtis smiled. "Perhaps you'd like to go back to the agency?"

"No, sirree, bob! I'm sticking right to your coat-tails till we're out
o' the woods."

Lawson interposed. "You wouldn't infer that Parker had ever had a
Parisian education, would you?"

Parker was not abashed. "I know what you mean. Those are all expressions
my father used. They stick to me like fly-paper."

"I've tried and tried to break him of his plebeian phrases, but I
cannot," Mrs. Parker said, with sad emphasis.

"I wouldn't try," replied Jennie. "I like them."

"Thank you, lady, thank you," Parker fervently made answer.

Curtis hurried away to look at the saw-mill. Lawson and Parker went
fishing, and Elsie got out her paint-box and started another sketch. The
morning was glorious, the air invigorating, and she painted joyously
with firm, plashing strokes. Never had she been so sure of her brush.
Life and art were very much worth while--only now and then a disturbing
wish intruded--it was only a vague and timid longing; but it grew a
little in power each time. Once she looked steadily and soberly at the
ring whose jewel sparkled like a drop of dew on the third finger of her
left hand.

A half-hour later Curtis came back, walking rapidly. Seeing her at work
he deflected from the straight trail and drew near.

"I think that is wonderful," he said, as he looked at her sketch. "I
don't see how you do so much with so few strokes."

"That always puzzles the layman," she replied. "But it's really very
simple."

"When you know how. I hope you're enjoying your trip with us?"

She flashed a smile that was almost coquettish upon him. "It is
glorious. I am so happy I'm afraid it won't last."

"We always feel that way about any keen pleasure," he replied, soberly.
"Now I can't keep the thought of your going out of my mind. Every hour
or two I find myself saying, 'It'll be lonesome business when these
artists leave us.'"

"You mustn't speak of anything sorrowful this week. Let's be as happy as
we can."

He pondered a fitting reply, but at last gave it up and said: "If you
are satisfied with your sketch, we'll start. I see the teams are ready."

"Oh yes, I'm ready to go. I just wanted to make a record of the
values--they are changing so fast now," and she began to wipe her
brushes and put away her panel. "I don't care where we go so we keep in
the pines and have the mountains somewhere in sight."

It must have been in remorse of her neglect of Lawson the preceding day
that Elsie insisted on sitting beside him in the back seat, while Mrs.
Parker took her place with the driver. The keen pang of disappointment
which crossed his heart warned Curtis that his loyalty to his friend was
in danger of being a burden, and the drive was robbed of all the blithe
intercourse of the day before. Parker and Jennie fought clamorously on a
variety of subjects in the middle distance, but Curtis was hardly more
than courteous to Mrs. Parker--so absorbed was he in some inner
controversy.

Retracing their course to the valley the two wagons crossed the stream
and crawled slowly up the divide between the Elk and the Willow, and at
one o'clock came down upon a sparse village of huts and tepees situated
on the bank of a clear little stream--just where it fell away from a
narrow pond which was wedged among the foot-hills like an artificial
reservoir. The year was still fresh and green here, and the air was like
May.

Dogs were barking and snarling round the teams, as a couple of old men
left the doors of their tepees and came forward. One of them was
gray-haired, but tall and broad-shouldered. This was Many Coups, a
famous warrior and one of the historians of his tribe. He greeted the
agent soberly, expressing neither fear nor love, asking: "Who are these
with you? I have not seen them before."

To this Curtis replied: "They are my friends. They make pictures of the
hills and the lakes and of chieftains like Many Coups."

Many Coups looked keenly at Elsie. "My eyes are old and poor," he slowly
said. "But now I remember. This young woman was at the agency last
year," and he put up his hand, which was small and graceful even
yet--the hand of an artist. "I make pictures also," he said.

When this was translated, Elsie said: "You shall make a picture of me
and I will make one of you."

At this the old man smilingly answered: "It shall be so."

"Where is Red Wolf?" asked Curtis.

"He is away with Tailfeathers to keep the cowboys from our land. We are
growing afraid, Little Father."

"We will talk more of that by-and-by--we must now camp. Call your people
together and at mid-afternoon we will council," replied Curtis.

Driving a little above the village, Curtis found a sheltered spot behind
some low-growing pines and not far from the lake, and there they
hastened to camp. The news flew from camp to camp that the Little Father
was come, but no one crowded unseasonably to look at him. "We will
council," Many Coups announced, and began to array himself for the
ceremony. Horsemen galloped away to call Red Wolf and others who lived
down the valley. Never before had an agent visited them in their homes,
and they were disposed to make the most of it.

By the time the white people had eaten their lunch all the red women
were in their best dresses. The pappooses were shining with the
scrubbing they had suffered and each small warrior wore a cunning
buckskin coat elaborate with beads and quills. A semicircular wall of
canvas was being erected to shield the old men from the mountain wind,
and a detail of cooks had started in upon the task of preparing the
feast which would end the council.

Said Curtis: "You will find in this camp the Tetong comparatively
unchanged. Red Wolf's band is the most primitive encampment I know." A
few minutes later he added, "Here comes Many Coups and his son in
official garb."

The two chieftains greeted their visitors as if they had not hitherto
been seen--with all the dignity of ambassadors to a foreign court.

"Please treat them with the same formality," warned Curtis. "It will pay
you for the glimpse of the old-time ceremony."

The younger man was unpainted, save for some small blue figures on his
forehead. On his head he wore a wide Mexican hat which vastly became
him. His face was one of the handsomest and most typical of his race.

"This young man is the son of Many Coups, and is called Blue Fox, or
'The Southern Traveller,' because he has been down where the Mexicans
are. His hat he got there, and he is very proud of it," explained
Curtis.

Jennie gave each of them a cup of coffee and a biscuit, of which they
partook without haste, discussing meanwhile the coming council.

"We did not know you were coming; some of our people will not get here
in time," said Many Coups.

"To-night, after the council, we wish to dance," said Blue Fox, meaning
it as a request.

"It is forbidden in Washington to dance in the old way."

"We have heard of that, but we will dance for your wives. They will be
glad to see it."

"Very well, you may dance, but not too long. No war-dance--only the
visitors' dance."

"Ay, we understand," said Many Coups as he rose and drew his blanket
about him. "In one hour we will come to council. Red Wolf will be there,
and Hump Shoulder and his son. It may be others will return in time."

The women were delighted at the promise of both a council and a dance,
and Lawson unlimbered his camera in order to take some views of both
functions, though he expressed some dissatisfaction.

"The noble redman is thin and crooked in the legs," he said to Curtis.
"Why is this?"

"All the plains Indians, who ride the horse almost from their babyhood,
are bow-legged. They never walk, and they are seldom symmetrically
developed."

"They are significant, but not beautiful," said Lawson.

As they walked about the camp Elsie exclaimed: "This is the way all
redmen should live," and, indeed, the scene was very beautiful. They
were far above the agency, and the long valleys could be seen descending
like folds in a vast robe reaching to the plain. The ridges were dark
with pines for a space, but grew smooth and green at lower levels, and
at last melted into haze. The camp was a summer camp, and all about, in
pleasant places among the pines, stood the tepees, swarming with happy
children and puppies. Under low lodges of canvas or bowers of pine
branches the women were at work boiling meat or cooking a rude sort of
cruller. They were very shy, and mostly hung their heads as their
visitors passed, though they soon yielded to Jennie, who could speak a
few words to them.

"There's nothing in them for sculpture," said Parker, critically. "At
least not for beauty. They might be treated as Raffaelle paints--for
character."

"They grow heavy early," Jennie added, "but the little girls are
beautiful--see that little one!"

The crier, a tall old man, toothless and wrinkled and gray, began to cry
in a hollow, monotonous voice, "Come to the council place," and Curtis
led his flock to their places in the midst of the circle.

The council began with all the old-time forms, with gravity and decorum.
Red Wolf was in the centre, with Many Coups at his left. The pipe of
peace went round, and those whose minds were not yet prepared for speech
drew deep inspirations of the fragrant smoke in the hope that their
thoughts might be clarified, and when they lifted their eyes they seemed
not to perceive their visitors or those who passed to and fro among the
tepees. The sun, westering, fell with untempered light on their heads,
but they faced it with the calm unconcern of eagles.

To please his guests, Curtis allowed the utmost formality, and did not
hasten, interrupt, or excise. The speeches were translated into English
by Lawson, and at each telling point or period in Red Wolf's speech the
women looked at each other in surprise.

"Did he really say that?" asked Elsie. "Didn't you make it up?"

"Rather good for a ragamuffin, don't you think?" said Lawson, as the old
man took his seat.

Many Coups spoke slowly, sadly, as though half communing with himself,
with nothing of the bombast the visitors had expected, and he grew in
dignity and power as his thought began to make itself felt through his
interpreter.

"He is speaking for his race," remarked Lawson to Elsie.

"By Jove! the old fellow is a good lawyer!" cried Parker. "I don't see
any answer to his indictment."

Curtis sat listening as though each point the old man made were new--and
this attitude pleased the chieftains very much.

The speech, in its general tenor, was similar to many others he had
heard from thoughtful redmen. Briefly he described the time when the
redmen were happy in a land filled with deer and buffalo, before the
white man was. "We lived as the Great Spirit made us. Then the white man
came--and now we are bewildered with his commands. Our eyes are blinded,
we know not where to go. We know not whom to believe or trust. I am old,
I am going to my grave troubled over the fate of my children. Agents
come and go. The good ones go too soon--the bad ones stay too long, but
they all go. There is no one in whose care to leave my children. It is
better to die here in the hills than to live the slave of the white man,
ragged and spiritless, slinking about like a dog without a friend. We do
not want to make war any more--we ask only to live as our fathers lived,
and die here in the hills."

As he spoke these final tragic words his voice grew deep and trembled,
and Elsie felt some strong force gripping at her throat, and burning
tears filled her eyes. In the city it was easy to say, "The way of
civilization lies over the graves of the primitive races," but here,
under the sun, among the trees, when one of those about to die looked
over and beyond her to the hills as though choosing his grave--the
utterance of the pitiless phrase was difficult in any tone--impossible
in the boasting shout of the white promoter. She rose suddenly and
walked away--being ashamed of her tears, a painful constriction in her
throat.

The speakers who followed spoke in much the same way--all but Blue Fox,
who sharply insisted that the government should help them. "You have put
us here on barren land where we can only live by raising stock. You
should help us fence the reservation, and get us cattle to start with.
Then by-and-by we can build good houses and have plenty to eat. This is
right, for you have destroyed our game--and you will not let us go to
the mountains to hunt. You must do something besides furnish us ploughs
in a land where the rain does not come."

In answer to all this, Curtis replied, using the sign language. He
admitted that Red Wolf was right. "The Tetongs have been cheated, but
good days are coming. I am going to help you. I am going to stay with
you till you are safely on the white man's road. We intend to buy out
the settlers, and take the water in the streams so that you may raise
potatoes for your children, and you will then be glad because your
gardens will bear many things good to eat. Do not despair, the white
people are coming to understand the situation now. You have many
friends who will help."

As Many Coups rose and shook hands with the agent he was smiling again,
and he said, "Your words are good."

The old crier went forth again calling: "Come to the dance-hall. The
white people desire to see you dance. Come clothed in your best
garments."

Then the drum began to utter its spasmodic signal, and the herald's
voice sounded faint and far off as he descended the path to the second
group of tepees.

"Shall we go now?" asked Mrs. Parker.

"Oh no, it will be two hours before they begin. The young men must go
and dress. We have time to sup and smoke a pipe."

"Oh! I'm so glad we're going to see a real Indian dance. I didn't
suppose it could be seen now--not the real thing."

Lawson smiled. "You'll think this is the real thing before you get
inside the door. I've known tenderfeet to weaken at the last moment."

Parker pretended to be a little nervous. "Suppose they should get hold
of some liquor."

"This band is too far away from the white man to have his vices,"
replied Curtis with a slight smile. He had wondered at Elsie's going,
but concluded she had grown weary of the old chief's speech.

"There is great charm in this life," said Lawson, as they all gathered
before their tent and sat overlooking the village and the lake. "I
sometimes wonder whether we have not complicated life without adding to
the sum of human happiness."

"I'm thinking of this in winter," said Elsie. "O-o-o! It must be
terrible! No furnace, no bath-tubs."

The others laughed heartily at the sincerity of her shudder, and Curtis
said:

"Well, now, you'd be surprised to know how comfortable they keep in
their tepees. In the old skin tepee they were quite warm even on the
coldest days. They always camp in sheltered places out of the wind, and
where fuel is plenty."

"At the same time I prefer my own way of living to theirs--when winter
comes."

"I know something of your logic," replied Curtis. "But I think I
understand the reluctance of these people when asked to give up the old
things. I love their life--their daily actions--this man coiling a
lariat--that child's outline against the tepee--the smell of their fresh
bread--the smoke of their little fires. I can understand a Tetong when
he says: 'All this is as sweet to me as your own life--why should I give
it up?' Feeling as I do, I never insist on their giving up anything
which is not an impediment. I argue with them, and show that some of
their ways are evil or a hinderance in the struggle for life under new
conditions, and they always meet me half-way."

"Supper is ready," called Jennie, and his audience rose.

While still at meat, the drum, which had been sounding at intervals,
suddenly took on a wilder energy, followed immediately by a high,
shrill, yelping call, which was instantly augmented by a half-dozen
others, all as savage and startling as the sudden burst of howling from
a pack of wolves. This clamor fell away into a deep, throbbing chant,
only to rise again to the yelping, whimpering cries with which it began.

Every woman stiffened with terror, with wide eyes questioning Curtis.
"What is all that?"

"The opening chorus," he explained, much amused. "A song of the chase."

The dusk was beginning to fall, and the tepees, with their small,
sparkling fires close beside, and the shadowy, blanketed forms
assembling slowly, silently, gave a wonderful remoteness and wildness to
the scene. To Curtis it was quite like the old-time village. The husky
voice of the aged crier seemed like a call from out of the years
primeval before the white race with its devastating energy and its
killing problems had appeared in the east. The artist in Elsie, now
fully awake, dominated the daughter of wealth. "Oh, this is beautiful! I
never expected to see anything so primitive."

Knowing that his guests were eager to view it all, Curtis led the way
towards the dance-lodge. Elsie was moved to take her place beside him,
but checked herself and turned to Lawson, leaving Mrs. Parker to walk at
the Captain's elbow.

To the ears of the city dwellers the uproar was appalling--full of
murder and sudden death. As they approached the lodge the frenzied
booming of the drum, the wild, yelping howls, the shrill whooping,
brought up in their minds all the stories of dreadful deeds they had
ever read, and Parker said to Jennie:

"Do you really think the Captain will be able to control them?"

Jennie laughed. "I'm used to this clamor; it's only their way of
singing."

Elsie said: "They must be flourishing bloody scalping-knives in there;
it is direful."

"Wait and see," said Lawson.

The dance-house was a large octagonal hut built of pine logs, partly
roofed with grass and soil. It was lighted by a leaping fire in the
centre, and by four lanterns on the walls, and as Curtis and his party
entered, the clamor (in their honor) redoubled. In a first swift glance
Elsie apprehended only a confused, jingling, fluttering mass of color--a
chaos of leaping, half-naked forms and a small circle of singers
fiercely assaulting a drum which sat on the floor at the right of the
door.

Then Red Wolf, calm, stately, courtly, came before them carrying his
wand of office and conducted them to seats at the left of the fire, and
the girl's heart ceased to pound so fiercely. Looking back she saw
Jennie shaking hands with one of the fiercest of the painted and
beplumed dancers, and recognized him as Blue Fox. Turning, she fixed her
eyes on a middle-aged man who was dancing as sedately as Washington
might have led the minuet, his handsome face calm of line and the clip
of his lips genial and placid. Plainly the ferocity did not extend to
the dancers; the singers alone seemed to express hate and lust and war.

The music suddenly ceased, and in an instant the girl's mind cleared.
She perceived that the singers were laughing as they rolled their
cigarettes, and that the savage warrior dancers were gossiping together
as they rested, while all about her sat plump young girls in gay
dresses, very conscious of the eyes of the young men. In her early life
Elsie had attended a country dance, and her changed impressions of this
mad, blood-thirsty revel was indicated in her tone as she said:

"Why, it's just an old-fashioned country hoe-down."

Curtis laughed. "I congratulate you on your penetration," he mockingly
said.

The old men came up to shake hands with the agent, and on being
presented to Elsie smiled reassuringly. Their manners were very good,
indeed. Several of them gravely made a swift sign which caused Curtis to
color and look confused, and when his answering sign caused them all to
look at Lawson, Elsie demanded to know what it was all about.

"Do you think you'd better know?" he asked.

"Certainly, I insist on knowing," she added, as he hesitated again.

He looked at her, but a little unsteadily. "They asked if you were my
bride, and I replied no, that you came with Lawson."

It was her turn to look confused. "The impudent things!" was all she
could find to say at the moment.

Red Wolf called out a few imperative words, the song began with its
imitation of the wolves at war as before, then settled into a pounding
chant--deep, resonant, and inspiriting. The dancers sprang forth--not
all, but a part of them--as though their names had been called, while a
curious little bent and withered old man crept in like a gnome and built
up the fire till it blazed brightly. As they danced the younger men
re-enacted with abrupt, swift, violent, yet graceful gestures the drama
of wild life. They trailed game, rescued lost warriors, and defeated
enemies.

"You see it proceeds with decorum," said Curtis to Elsie and Mrs.
Parker, as the dancers returned to their seats. "They enjoy it just as
white people enjoy a cotillion, and, barring the noise of the singers,
it is quite as formal and harmless."

A little boy in full dancing costume now came on with the rest, and the
visitors exclaimed in delight of his grace and dignity. He could not
have been more than six years of age. His companion, an old man of
seventy, was a good deal of a wag, and danced in comic-wise to make the
on-lookers laugh.

Parker was fairly hooking his chin over Curtis's shoulder to hear every
word uttered and to see all that went on, and Curtis was in the midst of
an explanation of the significance of the drama of the dance, when a
short, sturdy, bow-legged Tetong, dressed in a policeman's uniform,
pushed his way in at the door and thrust a letter at his agent's hand.

Instantly every eye was fixed on Curtis's bent head as he opened the
letter. The dancers took their seats, whispering and muttering, the drum
ceased, and the singers, turned into bronze figures, stared solemnly. A
nervous chill ran though Elsie's blood and Parker turned pale and cold.

"What's up--what's up?" he asked, hurriedly. "This is a creepy pause."

Lawson laid a hand on his arm and shut down on it like a vice.

Red Wolf brought a lantern and held it at the Captain's shoulder.

Jennie, leaning over, caught the words, "There's been a row over on the
Willow--"

Curtis calmly folded the paper, nodded and smiled his thanks to Red
Wolf, and then lifting his hand he signed to the policeman, in full view
of all the dancers:

"Go back and tell Wilson to issue just the same amount of flour this
week that he did last, and that Red Wolf wants a new mowing-machine for
his people. You need not return till morning." Then, turning to Red
Wolf, he said: "Go on with the dance; my friends are much pleased."

The tension instantly gave way, every one being deceived but Jennie, who
understood the situation and tried to help on the deception, but her
round face was plainly anxious.

Elsie, as she ceased to wonder concerning the forms and regulations of
the dance, grew absorbed in the swirling forms, the harsh clashing of
colors, the short, shrill cries, the gleam of round and polished limbs,
the haughty fling of tall head-dresses, and the lightness of the small
and beautifully modelled feet drumming upon the ground; but most of all
she was moved by the aloofness of expression on the faces of many of the
dancers. For the most part they seemed to dream--to revisit the
past--especially the old men. Their lips were sad, their eyes
pensive--singularly so--and mentally the girl said: "I must paint my
next portrait of this quality--an old man dreaming of the olden time. I
wonder if they really were happy in those days--happier than our
civilization can make them?" and thoughts came to her which shook her
confidence in the city and the mart. For the first time in her life she
doubted the sanctity of the steam-engine and the ore-crusher.

As they took their seats from time to time the older men smoked their
long pipes; only the young men rolled their cigarettes. To them the past
was a child's recollection, not the irrevocable dream of age. They were
the links between the old and the new.

As the time came to go, Curtis rose and addressed his people in signs.
"We are glad to be here," he said. "All my friends are pleased. My heart
is joyous when you dance. I do not forbid it. Sometimes Washington tells
me to do something, and I must obey. They say you must not dance the
war-dance any more, and so I must forbid it. This dance was pleasant--it
is not bad. My heart is made warm to be with you. I am visiting all my
people, and I must go to-morrow. Do not quarrel with the white man. Be
patient, and Washington will do you good."

Each promise was greeted by the old men with cries of: "Ay! Ay!" and the
drummers thumped the drums most furiously in applause. And so the agent
said, "Good-night," and withdrew.



XVIII

ELSIE'S ANCIENT LOVE AFFAIR


As they walked back to their camp Jennie took her brother's arm:

"What is it, George?"

"I must return to the agency."

"That means we must all go?"

"I suppose so. The settlers seemed determined to make trouble. They have
had another row with Gray Man's band, and shots have been fired.
Fortunately no one was hurt. We must leave here early. Say nothing to
any of our guests till we are safely on the way home."

Elsie, walking with Lawson, was very pensive. "I begin to understand why
Captain Curtis is made Indian agent. He understands these people,
sympathizes with them."

"No one better, and if the department can retain him six years he will
have the Tetongs comfortably housed and on the road to independence and
self-respect."

"Why shouldn't he be retained?"

"Well, your father may secure re-election to the Senate next winter."

"I know," she softly answered, "he dislikes Captain Curtis."

"More than that--in order to be elected, he must pledge himself to have
Curtis put out o' the way."

"That sounds like murder," she said.

"Oh no; it's only politics--politics and business. But let's not talk of
that--let us absorb the beauty of the night. Did you enjoy the dance?"

"Very much. I am hopeless of ever painting it though--it is so full of
big, significant shadows. I wish I knew more about it."

"You are less confident than you were last year." He looked at her
slyly.

"I see more."

"And feel more?" he asked.

"Yes--I'm afraid I'm getting Captain Curtis's point of view. These
people aren't the mendicants they once seemed. The expression of some of
those faces to-night was wonderful. They are something more than tramps
when they discard their rags."

"I wish you'd come to my point of view," he said, a little irrelevantly.

"About what?"

"About our momentous day. Suppose we say Wednesday of Thanksgiving
week?"

"I thought you were going to wait for me to speak," she replied.

He caught his breath a little. "So I will--only you won't forget my gray
hairs, will you?"

"I don't think I will--not with your broad daily hints to remind me. But
you promised to be patient and--just friendly."

He ignored her sarcasm. "It would be rather curious if I _should_ become
increasingly impatient, wouldn't it? I made that promise in entire good
faith, but--I seem to be changing."

"That's what troubles me," she said. "You are trying to hurry me."

At this moment they came close to the Parkers and she did not continue.
He had given her another disturbing thought to sleep on, and that was,
"Would it hurt him much if I should now return his ring?"

Mrs. Parker was disposed to discuss the dance, but Jennie said:

"We must all go to sleep. George says we are to move early to-morrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

The walls of the tent could hardly be seen when the sound of the
crackling flames again told that faithful Two Horns was feeding the
camp-fire. Crane's Voice could be heard bringing in the horses, and in a
few moments Curtis called out in a low, incisive voice:

"Everybody turn out; we must make an early start across the range."

The morning was gray, the peaks hidden in clouds, and the wind chill as
the women came from their beds. Two Horns had stretched some blankets to
keep off the blast, but still Elsie shivered, and Curtis roundly
apologized. "I'm sorry to get you up so early. It spoils all the fun of
camping if you're obliged to rise before the sun. An hour from now and
all will be genial. Please wait for my explanation."

Breakfast was eaten in discomfort and comparative silence, though
Parker, with intent to enliven the scene, cut a few capers as awkward as
the antics of a sand-hill crane. Almost before the smoke of the tepee
fires began to climb the trees the agent and his party started back over
the divide towards the mill, no one in holiday mood. There was a certain
pathos in this loss of good cheer.

Once out of sight of the camp, Curtis turned and said: "Friends, I'm
sorry to announce it, but I must return to the agency to-night and I
must take you all with me. Wilson has asked me to hasten home, and of
course he would not do so without good reason."

"What is the matter?" asked Elsie.

"The same old trouble. The cattlemen are throwing their stock on the
reservation and the Tetongs are resenting it."

"No danger, I hope," said Parker, pop-eyed this time with genuine
apprehension.

"Oh no--not if I am on hand to keep the races apart. Now I'm going to
drive hard, and you must all hang on. I want to pull into the agency
before dark."

The wagon lurched and rattled down the divide as Curtis urged the horses
steadily forward. With his foot in the brake, he descended in a single
hour the road which had consumed three long hours to climb. Conversation
under these conditions was difficult and at times impossible.

Jennie, intrepid driver herself, clutched her brother's arm at times, as
the vehicle lurched, but Curtis made it all a joke by shouting, "It is
always easy to slide into Hades--the worst is soon over."

Once in the valley of the Elk the road grew better, and Curtis asked
Elsie if she wished to drive. She, being very self-conscious for some
reason, shook her head, "No, thank you," and rode for the most part in
silence, though Lawson made a brave effort to keep up a conversation.

By eleven o'clock not even Curtis and Lawson together could make the
ride a joke. The women were hungry and tired, and distinctly saddened by
this sudden ending of their joyous outing.

"I wish these rampant cowboys could have waited till we had our
holiday," Jennie grumbled, as she stretched her tired arms.

"Probably they were informed of the Captain's plans and seized the
opportunity," suggested Parker.

"I wonder if Cal is a traitor?" mused Jennie.

Two Horns and Crane's Voice came rattling along soon after Curtis
stopped for noon at their first camping-place, and in a few minutes
lunch was ready. Conversation still lagged in spite of inspiriting
coffee, and the women lay out on their rugs and blankets, resting their
aching bones, while the men smoked and speculated on the outcome of the
whole Indian question.

The teams were put to the wagons as soon as their oats were eaten and
the homeward drive begun, brisk and business-like, and for some
mysterious reason Curtis recovered his usual cheerful tone.

It was mid-afternoon when the agency was sighted, and the five-o'clock
bell had just rung as they drove slowly and with no appearance of haste
into the yard.

Wilson came out to meet them. "How-de-do? You made a short trip."

"How are things?" inquired Curtis.

"Nothing doing--all quiet," replied the clerk, but Curtis detected
something yet untold in the quiver of his clerk's eyelid.

"Well, I'm glad we got in."

Supper was eaten with little ceremony and very languid conversation, and
the artists at once sought their rooms to rest. The Parkers were too
tired to be nervous, and Curtis was absorbed with some private problem.

As Lawson and Elsie walked across the square in the twilight he
announced, meditatively:

"I'm going to be more and more impatient--that is now certain."

"Osborne, don't! Please don't take that tone; I don't like it."

"Why not, dear?" he asked, tenderly.

"Because--because--" She turned in a swift, overmastering impulse.
"Because if you do, I must give you back your ring." She wrung it from
her finger. "I think I must, anyhow."

As she crowded the gem into his lax hand he said: "Why, what does this
mean, Elsie Bee Bee?" His voice expressed pain and bewilderment.

"I don't know _what_ it means yet, only I feel that it isn't right now
to wear it. I told you when you put it on that it implied no promise on
my part."

"I know it, and it doesn't imply any now."

"Yes, it does. Your whole attitude towards me implies an absolute
engagement, and I can't rest under that. Take back your ring till I can
receive it as other girls do--as a binding promise. You _must_ do this
or I will hate you!" she added, with a sudden fury.

"Why, certainly, dearest--only I don't see what has produced this change
in you."

"I have not changed--you have changed."

He laughed at this. "The woman's last word! Well, I admit it. I have
come to love you as a man loves the woman he wishes to make his wife.
I'm going to care a great deal, Elsie Bee Bee, if you do not come to me
some time."

"Don't say that!" she cried, and there was an imploring accent in her
voice. "Don't you see I must not wear your ring till I promise all you
ask?"

They walked on in silence to the door. As they stood there he said: "I
feel as though I were about to say good-bye to you forever, and it makes
my heart ache."

She put both hands on his shoulders, then, swift as a bird, turned and
was gone. He felt that she had thought to kiss him, but he divined it
would have been a farewell kiss, and he was glad that she had turned
away. There was still hope for him in that indecision.

As for Elsie, life seemed suddenly less simple and less orderly. She
pitied Osborne, she was angry and dissatisfied with herself, and in
doubt about Curtis. "I'm not in love with him--it is impossible, absurd;
but my summer is spoiled. I shall go home at once. It is foolish for me
to be here when I could be at the sea-shore."

After a moment she thought: "Why am I here? I guess the girls were
right. I _am_ a crank--an irresponsible. Why should I want to paint
these malodorous tepee dwellers? Just to be different from any one
else."

As she sat at her open window she heard again the Tetong lover's flute
wailing from the hill-side across the stream, and the sound struck
straight in upon her heart and filled her with a mysterious longing--a
pain which she dared not analyze. Her mind was active to the point of
confusion--seething with doubts and the wreckage of her opinions.
Lawson's action had deeply disturbed her.

They had never pretended to sentiment in their relationship; indeed, she
had settled into a conviction that love was a silly passion, possible
only to girls in their teens. This belief she had attained by passing
through what seemed to her a fiery furnace of suffering at eighteen, and
when that self-effacing passion had burned itself out she had renounced
love and marriage and "devoted herself to art," healing herself with
work. For some years thereafter she posed as a man-hater.

The objective cause of all this tumult and flame and renunciation seemed
ridiculously inadequate in the eyes of others. He was the private
secretary of Senator Stollwaert at the time, a smug, discreet, pretty
man, of slender attainment and no great ambition. Happily, he had
afterwards removed to New York, or Washington would have been an
impossible place of residence for Elsie. She had met him once since her
return--he had had the courage to call upon her--and the familiar pose
of his small head and the mincing stride of his slender legs had given
her a feeling of nausea. "Is it possible that I once agonized over this
trig little man?" she asked herself.

To be just to him, Mr. Garretson did not presume in the least on his
previous intimacy; on the contrary, he seemed timid and ill at ease in
the presence of the woman whose beauty had by no means been foreshadowed
in her girlhood. He was not stupid; the splendor of her surroundings
awed him, but above all else there was a look on her face which too
plainly expressed contempt for her ancient folly. Her shame was as
perceptible to him as though expressed in spoken words, and his visit
was never repeated.

Of this affair Elsie had spoken quite freely to Lawson. "It only shows
what an unmitigated idiot a girl is. She is bound to love some one. I
knew quantities of nice boys, and why I should have selected poor Sammy
as the centre of all my hopes and affections I don't know. I dimly
recall thinking he had nice ears and hands, but even they do not now
seem a reasonable basis for wild passion, do they?"

Lawson had been amused. "Love at that age isn't a creature of reason."

"Evidently not, if mine was a sample."

"Ours now is so reasonable as to seem insecure and dangerous."

Her intimacy with Lawson, therefore, had begun on the plane of
good-fellowship while they were in Paris together, and for two years he
seemed quite satisfied. Of late he had been less contained.

After her outburst of anger at her father's ejectment of Curtis, she met
Lawson with a certain reserve not common to her. At the moment, she more
than half resolved that the time had come to leave her father's house
for Lawson's flat, and yet her will wavered. She said as little as
possible to him concerning that last disgraceful scene, as much on her
own account as to spare Curtis, but her restlessness was apparent to
Lawson and puzzled him. Two or three times during the summer he had
openly, though jocularly, alluded to their marriage, but she had put
him off with a keen word. Now that her father seemed intolerable, she
listened to him with a new interest. He became a definite possibility--a
refuge.

Encouraged by this slight change in her attitude towards him, Lawson
took a ring from his pocket one night and said, "I wish you'd wear this,
Elsie Bee Bee."

She drew back. "I can't do that. I'm not ready to promise anything yet."

"It needn't bind you," he pleaded. "It needn't mean any more than you
care to have it mean. But I think our understanding justifies a ring."

"That's just it," she answered, quickly. "I don't like you to be so
solemn about our 'understanding.' You promised to let me think it all
out in my own way and in my own time."

"I know I did--and I mean to do so. Only"--he smiled with a wistful look
at her--"I would have you observe that I have developed three gray hairs
over my ears."

She took the ring slowly, and as she put the tip of her finger into it a
slight premonitory shudder passed over her.

"You are sure you understand--this is no binding promise on my part?"

"It will leave you as free as before."

"Then I will wear it," she said, and slipped it to its place. "It is a
beautiful ring."

He bent and kissed her fingers. "And a beautiful hand, Elsie Bee Bee."

Now, lying alone in the soundless deep of the night, she went over that
scene, and the one through which she had just passed. "He's a dear,
good fellow, and I love him--but not like that." And the thought that it
was all over between them, and the decision irrevocably made, was at
once a pain and a pleasure. The promise, slight as it was, had been a
burden. "Now I am absolutely free," she said, in swift, exultant
rebound.



XIX

THE SHERIFF'S MOB


The next day was cloudless, with a south wind, and the little, crawling
brook which watered the agency seemed about to seethe. The lower
foot-hills were already sere as autumn, and the ponies came down to
their drinking-places unnaturally thirsty; and the cattle, wallowing in
the creek-bed, seemed at times to almost stop its flow. The timid trees
which Curtis had planted around the school-house and office were plainly
suffering for lack of moisture, and the little gardens which the Indians
had once more been induced to plant were in sore distress.

The torrid sun beat down into the valley from the unclouded sky so
fiercely that the idle young men of the reservation postponed their
horse-racing till after sunset. Curtis felt the heat and dust very
keenly on his guests' account, and was irritated over the assaults of
the cattlemen. "If they had but kept the peace we would still be in the
cool, sweet hills," he said to Lawson.

"This will not last," Lawson replied. "We'll get a mountain wind
to-night. The girls are wisely keeping within doors and are not yet
aware of the extreme heat."

"I hope you are a true prophet. But at this moment it seems as if no
cool wind could arise out of this sun-baked land."

"Any news from the Willow?"

"The trouble was in the West Fort. Some cowboys raided a camp of
Tetongs. No one was injured, and so it must pass for a joke."

"Some of those jokes will set something afire some of these hot days."

"But you know how hard it is to apprehend the ruffians; they come and go
in the night like wolves. They spoiled our outing, but I hope we may get
away again next week."

In the days which followed, Curtis saw little of Elsie, and when they
met she seemed cold and preoccupied. In conversation she seemed
listening to another voice, appeared to be pondering some abstract
subject, and Curtis was puzzled and vaguely saddened. Jennie took a far
less serious view of the estrangement. "It's just a mood. We've set her
thinking; she's 'under conviction,' as the revivalists used to say.
Don't bother her and she'll 'come through.'"

Curtis was at lunch on Wednesday when Wilson came to the door and said,
"Major, Streeter and a man named Jenks are here and want to see you."

"More stolen cattle to be charged up to the Indians, I suppose."

"I reckon some such complaint--they didn't say."

"Well, tell them to wait--or no--ask them to come over and lunch with
me."

Wilson soon returned. "They are very glum, and say they'll wait at the
office till you come."

"As they prefer. I will have finished in a few moments."

He concluded not to hasten, however, and the ranchers had plenty of time
to become impatient. They met him darkly.

"We want a word in private, Major," said Jenks, a tall, long-bearded man
of most portentous gravity.

Curtis led the way to an inner office and offered them seats, which they
took in the same oppressive silence.

The agent briskly opened the hearing. "What can I do for you,
gentlemen?"

Jenks looked at Streeter--Streeter nodded. "Go ahead, Hank."

Jenks leaned over aggressively. "Your damned Injuns have murdered one o'
my herders."

Curtis hardened. "What makes you think so?" he sharply asked.

"He disappeared more than a week ago, and no one has heard of him since.
I know he has been killed, and your Injuns done it. No one--"

"Wait a moment," interrupted Curtis. "Who was he?"

"His name is Cole--he was herdin' my sheep."

"Are you a sheep-man?"

"I am."

"Where do you live?"

"My sheep ranch is over on Horned Toad Creek."

"Where was this man when he disappeared?"

Jenks grew a little uneasy. "He was camped by the Mud Spring."

Curtis rose and called Wilson in. "Wilson, where is the Mud Spring?"

"Just inside our south line, about four miles from the school."

"I thought so," replied Curtis. "Your sheep were on the reservation. Are
you sure this man was murdered?"

"Him and the dog disappeared together, and hain't neither of 'em been
seen since."

"How long ago was this?"

"Just a week to-morrow."

"Have you made a search for him? Have you studied the ground closely?"

Streeter interposed. "We've done all that could be done in that line. I
_know_ he's killed. He told Cal about two weeks ago that he had been
shot at twice and expected to get wiped out before the summer was over.
There isn't a particle of doubt in my mind about it. The thing for you
to do is to make a demand--"

"I am not in need of instructions as to my duty," interrupted Curtis.
"Wilson, who is over from the Willow Creek?"

"Old Elk himself."

"Send him in. I shall take all means to help you find this herder,"
Curtis said to the ranchers, "but I cannot allow you to charge my people
with his death without greater reason than at present. We must move
calmly and without heat in this matter. Murder is a serious charge to
make without ample proof."

The Elk, smiling and serene, entered the door and stood for a moment
searching the countenances of the white men. His face grew grave as the
swift signs of his agent filled his mind with the story of the
disappearance of the herder.

"I am sorry; it is bad business," he said.

"Now, Crawling Elk, I want you to call together five or six of your best
trailers and go with these men to the place where the herder was last
seen and see if you can find any trace of him;" then, turning to
Streeter, he said: "You know Crawling Elk; he is the one chief against
whom you have no enmity. If Cole was murdered, his body will be found.
Until you have more proof of his death I must ask you to give my people
the benefit of the doubt. Good-day, gentlemen."

As they turned to go, two young reds were seen leaving the window. They
had watched Curtis as he signed the story to Crawling Elk. As the white
men emerged these young fellows were leaning lazily on the fence,
betraying no interest and very little animation, but a few minutes later
they were mounted and riding up the valley at full gallop, heavy with
news of the herder's death and Streeter's threats.

"Now, Elk," signed Curtis, "say nothing to any one but your young men
and the captain of police, whom I will send with you to bring me word."

After they had all ridden away, Curtis turned to Wilson and said, "I
didn't suppose I should live to see a sheep-man and a cattleman riding
side by side in this amicable fashion."

"Oh, they'll get together against the Indian, all right. They're mighty
glad of a chance to make any kind of common cause. That lazy herder has
jumped the country. He told me he was sick of his job."

"But the dog?"

"Oh, he killed the dog to keep him from being traced. There isn't a
thing in it, Major."

"I'm inclined to think you're right, but we must make careful
investigation; the people are very censorious of my policy."

Next morning Crawling Elk brought word that no trace of the man could be
found. "The grass is very dry," he explained, "and the trail is old. We
discovered nothing except some horses' hoof-marks."

"Keep searching till every foot of land is covered," commanded Curtis.
"Otherwise the white man will complain."

On Friday, just after the bell had called the people to resume work at
one o'clock, Crow, the police captain, rode into the yard on a pony
covered with ridges of dried sweat. His face was impassive, but his eyes
glittered as he lifted his hand and signed:

"The white man's body is found!"

"Where?" asked Curtis from the door-way.

"On the high ground near the spring. He has three bullet-holes in him.
Three cartridge-shells were found where the horses' hoof-marks were. The
ones who shot dismounted there and fired over a little knoll. There are
many white men over there now; they are very angry. They are coming
here--"

"Be silent! Come in here!" Once within the office, Curtis drew from Crow
Wing all he knew. He was just in the midst of giving his orders when
Wilson opened the door and said, quietly, though his voice had a
tremulous intensity:

"Major, step here a moment."

Curtis went to the door. He could not restrain a smile, even while a
cold chill went to his heart. Nothing could exceed the suddenness of the
change which had swept over the agency. As he had stood in the office
door ten minutes before, his ears had been filled with the clink-clank
of the blacksmiths' hammers, the shouts of drivers, and the low laughter
of young women on their way to the store. Crane's Voice was hitching up
his team, while Lost Legs and Turkey Tail were climbing to the roof of
the warehouse with pots of red paint. Peter Wolf was mending a
mowing-machine, and his brother Robert was cutting wood behind the
agency kitchen. All about he had observed groups of white-blanketed
Indians smoking cigarettes in the shade of the buildings, while a crowd
of nearly twenty others stood watching a game of duck-on-the-rock before
the agency store.

Now as he looked over the yards not a redman could be seen at his work.
On every side the people, without apparent haste, but surely, steadily,
and swiftly, were scattering. The anvil no longer cried out, the
teamsters were silent, all laughter had ceased, the pots of paint sat
scorching in the sun. There was something fiercely ominous as well as
uncanny in this sudden, silent dispersion of a busy, merry throng, and
Curtis, skilled in Indian signs, appreciated to the full the distrust of
the white man here expressed. He understood this panic. The settlers had
long threatened war. Now the pretext had come, and the sound of guns was
about to begin.

"Wilson," said Curtis, calmly, "if the settlers fire a shot they will
regret it. See Crane's Voice, if you can find him, and send him to me."
He turned to Crow and signed: "Go tell your people I will not let the
cowboys hurt them. Hurry! Call them all back. Tell them to go to work. I
will call the soldiers, if necessary, to keep the white man away. There
is no danger."

Crow was a brave and loyal man, and, weary as he was, hastened to carry
out his orders. The call for "assembly" was rung on the signal-bell, and
a few of the red employés responded. To them Curtis spoke reassuringly,
but his words were belied by Thomas Big Voice, the official interpreter,
who was so scared his knees shook.

Curtis sent Wilson to quiet the teachers and hurried immediately to the
studio, where Elsie was at work painting a portrait of old Chief Black
Bull. The old man sprang to his feet the instant he caught sight of his
agent's face.

"Friend, what is the matter?" he asked.

To Elsie, Curtis said: "Do not be alarmed."

"There is no danger," he signed to Black Bull. "The white man's body has
been found near the spring. He was shot by two men with horses. The
white men are coming to see me about it, but there is no need of alarm.
Tell your people to go quietly to their camps. I will protect them."

The old chief's face grew sterner as he flung his blanket over his arm.
"I go to see," he said. "The white men are very angry."

"Wait!" called Curtis. "Keep your people quiet right where they are. You
must help me. I depend on you. You must not alarm them."

"I will do as you command," Bull replied, as he went away, but it was
plain he apprehended violence.

"What is the matter?" inquired Elsie.

"The settlers have discovered the body of the herder who was killed, and
Crow brings word they are angry. I don't think there is any danger, but
I wish you and Jennie were at the fort for a few days. I don't like to
have you disturbed by these things."

It was their first meeting alone since their return from the
camping-trip, but Elsie was too much concerned with the serious
expression of his face to feel any embarrassment.

"You don't think there will be trouble?"

"No, only a distracting wrangle, which may prevent your getting models.
The Indians are nervous, and are even now getting out for the hills. But
I hope you will not be alarmed."

"I'm not a nervous person."

"I know you're not--that is the reason I dared to come and tell you what
was going on. I deeply regret--"

Wilson rapped on the door. "Major, you are needed. Bow-legs reports two
bodies of armed men riding up the valley; the dust of their horses'
hoofs can be seen. There are at least twenty men in the two squads,"
Wilson continued; "one came across from the West Fork, the other came
from the south. It looks like a prearranged invasion."

"Very well, Wilson, I'll be at the office in time to meet them."

Curtis turned on Elsie a look which went to her heart. His voice was low
as he said: "Let me take you over to Jennie. I presume these men are
coming to make a demand on me for the murderers. They may or may not
know who the guilty ones are, but their coming in force by
prearrangement has alarmed the people."

As she laid down her brushes and took up her hat she said, gleefully:
"Father won't be able to ask me what I know about war--will he? Will
they begin shooting at once?"

"I don't think they are likely to do anything as a body, but some
reckless cowboy may do violence to some Tetong, which will rouse the
tribe to retaliation. The settlers have too much sense to incite an
outbreak." At the door he said: "I wish you would go to Jennie. Tell her
not to get excited. I will let you know what it is all about as soon as
I find out myself. It may be all a mistake."

As he was crossing the road Lawson joined him, and when they reached the
gate before the office, several of the invaders had dismounted and were
waiting the agent's coming. There were eleven of them; all were deeply
excited, and two or three of the younger men were observably drunk and
reckless. Streeter, stepping forward, introduced a short, sullen-faced
man as "Sheriff Winters, of Pinon County."

"What name?" said Curtis, as he shook hands pleasantly.

"Sheriff Winters," repeated Streeter.

"What is the meaning of all this?" queried Curtis.

"We have come for the man that killed Ed Cole. We are a committee
appointed by a convention of three hundred citizens who are holding an
inquest over the body," said Winters. "We have come for the murderer."

"Do you know who committed the murder?"

"No, but we know it was an Injun."

"How do you know it?" They hesitated. "Do you come as an officer of the
law? Have you a warrant?"

"No, I have not, but we are determined--"

"Then I deny your right to be here. Your coming is an armed invasion of
federal territory," said Curtis, and his voice rang like steel.

"Here comes the other fellers," called some one in the crowd. Turning
his head, Curtis saw another squad of men filing down over the hill from
the north. He counted them and made out fifteen. Turning sharply to the
sheriff, he asked: "Who are those men?"

"I don't know."

"Are you responsible for their coming?"

"No, sir, I am not!" the sheriff replied, plainly on the defence.

As the second squad came galloping up, the sheriff's party greeted them
with nods and low words. Curtis heard one man ask: "Where's Charley? I
thought he was coming," and became perfectly certain that this meeting
had been prearranged. The new-comers mingled with the sheriff's party
quite indistinguishably and made no further explanation of their
presence.

The young officer burned hot with indignation. "Sheriff Winters, order
these men to retire at once. They have no business here!"

A mutter of rage ran over the mob and several hands dropped
ostentatiously upon pistols.

One loud-voiced young whelp called out an insulting word. "You go
to ----! We'll retire when we get an Injun, not before!"

"Shut up, you fool!" called the sheriff, and, turning to Jenks, began to
mutter in consultation. Curtis advanced a step, and raising his voice
addressed the entire mob.

"As commander of this reservation, I order you to withdraw. Your
presence here is unlawful and menacing. Retire to the boundary of the
reservation, and I will use every effort to discover the murderer. If he
is in the tribe I will find him and deliver him to the county
authorities."

At this one of the same young ruffians who had challenged him before
spurred his horse close to Curtis, and with his pistol in his hand
shouted: "Not by a d---- sight. We come to take it out o' these thieves,
and we're goin' to do it. Go ahead, Winters--say the word and well clean
out the whole tribe."

Curtis looked the youth in the eye. "My boy, I advise you to make war
slowly, even with your mouth."

Calvin Streeter, with his teeth clinched, crowded his horse forward and
struck the insolent hoodlum in the face with his hat. "Shut up, or I'll
pinch your neck off! Think you're sheriff?" The belligerent retired,
snarling wild curses.

Curtis addressed himself again to Winters, assuming a tone of respect
and confidence which he did not feel. "Mr. Winters, you are here as a
representative of the courts of Pinon County. I call upon you, as
sheriff, to disperse all these men, who are here without warrant of
law!"

The sheriff hesitated, for the cattlemen were now furious and eager to
display their valor. Many of them were of the roughest types of cowboys,
the profane and reckless renegades of older communities, and being
burdened with ammunition, and foolhardy with drink, they were in no mood
to turn tail and ride away. They savagely blustered, flourishing their
revolvers recklessly.

The sheriff attempted to silence them, and said, petulantly, to Curtis:
"If I hadn't come you'd 'a' had a mob of two hundred armed men instead
of twenty. I had hard work to keep 'em back. I swore in these ten men as
my deputies. This second crowd I don't know anything about. They just
happen to be here."

Curtis knew this to be a lie, but proceeded to cajole the sheriff by
recognizing him and his authority.

"In that case I shall act." Addressing the leader of the second party,
he said: "Sheriff Winters is the legal representative of the county; you
are an unlawful mob, and I once more command you to leave the
reservation, which is federal territory, under my command."

"No, you don't! We stay right here!" shouted several.

"We'll see whether the people of this State have any rights or not,"
said Jenks, deeply excited. "We won't allow you to shield your murdering
redskins under such a plea; we'll be judge and jury in this case."

Curtis turned sharply to the sheriff: "Officer, do your duty! Dispose of
this mob!" His tone was magnificently commanding. "I shall hold you
responsible for further trouble," said Curtis, turning a long look on
Winters, which stung.

The sheriff angrily addressed the crowd. "Get out o' this, boys. You're
twisting me all up and doing no good. Vamoose now! I've got all the help
I need. I'm just as much obliged, but you'd better clear out." Then to
his deputies, "Round 'em up, boys, and send 'em away."

Calvin's face wore a smile of wicked glee as he called out:

"Now you fellers git!" and spurring his horse into their midst he
hustled them. "Hunt your holes! You're more bother than you are worth.
Git out o' here!"

While the sheriff and his deputies alternately pleaded and commanded the
mob to withdraw, Lawson touched Curtis on the arm and pointed to the
crests of the hills to the west. On every smooth peak a mounted sentinel
stood, silent and motionless as a figure on a monument--watching the
struggle going on before the agency gate.

"Behind every hill young warriors are riding," said Lawson. "By sundown
every man and boy will be armed and ready for battle. If these noble
citizens knew what you have saved them from they would bless you."

The mob of cattlemen retreated slowly, with many fierce oaths and a
jangle of loud debate which Curtis feared each moment might break into a
crackle of pistol shots.

"That was a good stroke," said Lawson. "It sets up division, and so
weakens them. You will be able to handle the sheriff now."



XX

FEMININE STRATEGY


Having seen the horsemen ride away, Jennie and Elsie came across the
road tense with excitement.

"Tell us all about it? Have they gone?"

"Who are they?"

"We hope they are gone," Curtis replied, as lightly as he could. "It was
the sheriff of Pinon County and a lynching party. I have persuaded one
mob to drive away the other. They were less dangerous than they seemed."

"See those heads!" exclaimed Lawson, pointing out several employés who
were peering cautiously over roofs and around corners. "Not one has
retained his hat," he added. "If the danger sharpens, off will come
their shirts and trousers, and those belligerent white men will find
themselves contending with six hundred of the best fighters in the
world."

"We must temporize," said Curtis. "A single shot now would be disaster."
He checked himself there, but Lawson understood as well as he the
situation.

Jennie was not yet satisfied. "Has the sheriff come for some one in
particular?"

"No, he has no warrant, hasn't even a clew to the murder. He is really
at the lead of a lynching party himself, and has no more right to be
here than the men he is driving away."

"What ought he to do?" asked Elsie.

"He should go home. It is my business as agent to make the arrest. I
have only a half-dozen police, and I dare not attempt to force him and
his party to leave the reservation."

"The whole situation is this," explained Lawson. "They've made this
inquest the occasion for bringing all the hot-headed fools of the
country together, and this is a bluff which they think will intimidate
the Indians."

"They wouldn't dare to begin shooting, would they?" asked Elsie.

"You can't tell what such civilized persons will do," said Lawson. "But
Curtis has the sheriff thinking, and the worst of it is over."

"Here they come again!" exclaimed Wilson, who surprised Curtis by
remaining cool and watchful through this first mutiny.

At a swift gallop the sheriff and his posse came whirling back up the
road--a wild and warlike squad--hardly more tractable than the
redoubtables they had rounded up and thrown down the valley.

"I think you had better go in," said Curtis to Elsie. "Jennie, take her
back to the house for a little while."

"No, let us stay," cried Elsie. "I want to see this sheriff myself. If
we hear the talk we'll be less nervous."

Curtis was firm. "This is no place for you. These cowboys have no
respect for God, man, or devil; please go in."

Jennie started to obey, but Elsie obstinately held her ground.

"I will not! I have the right to know what is threatening me! I always
hated to go below in a storm."

In a cloud of dust--with snorting of excited horses, the posse, with the
sheriff at its head, again pulled up at the gate. The young men stared
at the two daintily dressed girls with eyes of stupefaction. Here was an
unlooked-for complication. A new element had entered the controversy.
The sheriff slid from his horse and gave a rude salute with his big
brown fist.

"Howdy, ladies, howdy." It was plain he was deeply embarrassed by this
turn of affairs.

Elsie seized Curtis by the arm and whispered: "Introduce me to
him--quick! Tell him who I am."

Curtis instantly apprehended her plan. "Sheriff Winters, this is Miss
Brisbane, daughter of ex-Senator Brisbane, of Washington."

The sheriff awkwardly seized her small hand, "Pleased to make your
acquaintance, miss," he said. "I know the Senator well."

Curtis turned to Jennie, who came forward--"And this is my sister."

"I've heard of you," the sheriff said, regaining his self-possession.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, ladies--"

Elsie looked at him and quietly said: "I hope you will not be hasty,
sheriff; my father will not sanction violence."

"You're being here makes a difference, miss--of course--I--"

Jennie spoke up: "You must be hungry, Mr. Sheriff," she said, and
smiling up at Calvin, added, "and so are your men. Why not picket your
horses and have some lunch with us?"

Curtis took advantage of the hesitation. "That's the reasonable thing,
men. We can discuss measures at our ease."

The cowboys looked at each other with significant glances. Several began
to dust themselves and to slyly swab their faces with their gay
kerchiefs, and one or two became noticeably redder about the ears as
they looked down at their horses' bridles.

Calvin broke the silence. "I don't let this chance slip, boys. I'm
powerful keen, myself."

"So'm I," echoed several others.

The sheriff coughed. "Well--really--I'm agreeable, but I'm afeerd it'll
be a powerful sight o' trouble, miss."

"Oh no, let us attend to that," cried Jennie. "We shall expect you in
fifteen minutes," and taking Elsie by the arm, she started across the
road.

As the cowboys followed the graceful retreating figures of the girls,
Lawson and Curtis looked at each other with eyes of amazement; Lawson
acknowledged a mighty impulse to laugh. "How unmilitary," he muttered.

"But how effective," replied Curtis, his lips twitching.

The cowboys muttered among themselves. "Say, is this a dream?"

"Who said pork-and-beans?"

"Does my necktie kiver my collar-button?" asked a third.

"Come, boys!" called Curtis, cheerily. "While the sheriff and I have a
little set-to, you water your ponies and dust off, and be ready for cold
potatoes. You're a little late for a square meal, but I think we can
ease your pangs."

With a patter of jocose remarks the cowboys rode off down towards the
creek, taking the sheriff's horse along with them.

Curtis turned to Lawson. "I wish you'd bring that code over to the
house, Lawson. I want to show that special clause to the sheriff."

Turning to Winters, he said: "Come, let's go across to my library and
talk our differences over in comfort."

The sheriff dusted his trousers with the broad of his hand. "Well, now,
I'm in no condition to sit down with ladies."

"I'll give you a chance to clean up," replied Curtis, who plainly saw
that the girls had the rough bordermen "on the ice and going," as Calvin
would say. A man can brag and swear and bluster out of doors, or in a
bare, tobacco-stained office; but in a library, surrounded by books, in
the hearing of ladies, he is more human--more reasonable. Jennie's
invitation had turned impending defeat to victory.

Curtis took Winters into his own bedroom and put its toilet articles at
his service and left him. As the sheriff came out into the Captain's
library five minutes later, it was plain he had washed away a large part
of his ferocity; his hair, plastered down smooth, represented the change
in his mental condition--his quills were laid. He was, in fact, fairly
meek.

Curtis confidentially remarked, in a low voice: "You see, sheriff, we
must manage this thing quietly. We mustn't endanger these women, and
especially Miss Brisbane. If the old Senator gets a notion his daughter
is in danger--"

Winters blew a whiff. "Great God, he'd tear the State wide open! No, the
boys were too hasty. As I say, I saw the irregularity, but if I hadn't
consented to lead a posse in here that whole inquest would have come
a-rampin' down on ye. I said to 'em, 'Boys,' I says, 'you can't do that
kind of thing,' I says. 'These Tetongs are fighters,' I says, 'and
you'll have a sweet time chasin' 'em over the hills--just go slow and
learn to peddle,' I says--"

Lawson, entering with the code, cut him short in his shameless
exculpation, and Curtis said, suavely: "Mr. Winters, I think you know
Mr. Lawson."

"We've crossed each other's trail once or twice, I believe," said
Lawson. "Here is the clause."

Curtis laid the book before the sheriff, who pushed a stubby forefinger
against the letters and read the paragraph laboriously. His thick wits
were moved by it, and he said: "Seems a clear case, and yet the
reservation is included in the lines of Pinon County. 'Pears like the
county'd ought 'o have some rights."

"Well, here comes the posse," said Curtis; "we'll talk it all over with
them after lunch. Come in, boys!" he called cheerily to the straggling
herders, who came in sheepishly, one by one, their spurs rattling, their
big, limp hats twisted in their hands. They had pounded the alkali from
each other's shirt, and their red faces shone with the determined
rubbing they had received. All the wild grace of their horsemanship was
gone, and as they sidled in and squatted down along the wall they were
anything but ferocious in manner or speech.

"Ah, now, this is all right," each man said, when Curtis offered chairs.
"You take the chair, Jim; you take it, Joe--this suits me."

Lawson was interested in their cranial development, and their alignment
along the wall gave a fine opportunity for comparison. "They were, for
the most part, shapeless and of small capacity," he said
afterwards--"just country bumpkins, trained to the horse and the
revolver, but each of them arrogated to himself the judicial mind of the
Almighty Creator."

The sheriff, leaning far back in the big Morris chair, wore a smirking
smile which seemed to say: "Boys, I'm onto this luxury all right.
Stuffed chair don't get me no back-ache. Nothing's too rich for _my_
blood--if I can get it."

The young fellows were transfixed with awe of Calvin, for, though the
last to enter the house, he walked calmly past the library door on into
the dining-room, and a moment later could be heard chatting with the
girls, "sassy as a whiskey-jack."

One big, freckled young fellow nudged his neighbor and said: "Wouldn't
that pull your teeth? That wall-eyed sorrel has waltzed right into the
kitchen to buzz the women. Say, his neck needs shortening."

"Does he stand in, or is it just gall?"

"It's nerve--nothing else. We ain't onto our job, that's all."

"Oh, he knows 'em all right. I heered he stands in with the agent's
sister."

"The hell he does! Lookin' that way? Well, I don't think. It's his
brass-bound cheek. Wait till we ketch him alone."

Cal appeared at the door. "Well, fellers, come in; grub's all spread
out."

"What you got to say about it?" asked Green.

"Think you're the nigger that rings the bell, don't ye?" remarked
Galvin. "We're waitin' for the boss to say 'when.'"

Not one of them stirred till Curtis rose, saying to the sheriff, "Well,
we'll take time later to discuss that; come right out and tame the
wolf."

The fact that Curtis accepted Calvin's call impressed the crowd deeply.

"You'd think he was one o' the fambly," muttered Galvin. "Wait till we
get a rope 'round his neck."

The table, looking cool and dainty in its fleckless linen, was set with
plates of cold chicken and ham, with pots of jelly and white bread at
each end of the cloth, beside big pitchers of cool milk. To the cowboys,
accustomed only to their rude camps and the crude housekeeping of the
settlers round about, this dainty cleanliness of dining-room was
marvellously subduing. They shuffled into their seats noisily, with only
swift, animal-like glances at the girls, who were bubbling over with the
excitement of feeding this band of Cossacks.

As they drank their milk and fed great slices of bread and jelly into
their mouths, fighting Indians seemed less necessary than they had
supposed. Whiskey and alkali dust, and the smell of sweating ponies,
were all forgotten in the quiet and sweetness of this pretty home. The
soft answer had turned wrath into shamefaced wonder and awkward
courtesy.

Curtis, sitting at the head of the board as host, plied the sheriff with
cold chicken, discussing meanwhile the difficulties under which the
Tetongs labored, and drew from that sorely beleaguered officer
admissions which he afterwards regretted. "That's so, I don't know as
I'd do any better in their places, but--"

Jennie, with a keen perception of her power over her guests, went from
one to the other, inquiring, in her sweetest voice: "Won't _you_ have
another slice of bread? Please do!"

Elsie, less secure of manner, followed her with the pitcher of milk,
while the young men bruised each other's shins beneath the table in
their zealous efforts to diminish the joy each one took in the alluring
presence of his cup-bearer.

Calvin sat near the end of the table, and his assured manner made the
others furious. "Look at that stoatin' bottle," growled Green, out of
the corner of his mouth; "he needs killin'."

"Ah, we'll fix that tommy-cod!" replied Galvin.

While the girls were at the upper end of the table the man on Calvin's
right leaned over and said:

"Say, Cal, 'pears like you got the run o' the house here."

Calvin, big with joy and pride, replied: "Oh, I ride round and picket
here once in a while. It pays."

"Well, I should say yes--carry all your cheek right with ye, don't ye?"

As the boys began to shove back, Curtis brought out a box of cigars and
passed them along the line.

"Take hearty, boys; they don't belong to the government; they're mine,
and you'll find them good."

As they were all helping themselves, the sheriff coughed loudly and
called out: "Boys, the Major and me has fixed this thing up. I won't
need but three of you; the rest can ride back and tell the gang on the
West Fork it's all right. Cal, you and Tom and Green stay with me. The
rest of you can go as soon as your dinner's settled."

The ones not chosen looked a little disappointed, but they made no
protest. As they rose to go out they all made powerful effort to do the
right thing; they lifted their eyes to the girls for a last glance and
grumbled:

"Much obliged, ladies!"

And in this humble fashion the ferocious posse of the sheriff retreated
from the house of their enemy.

Once outside, they turned on each other with broad grins. They
straightened--took on grace and security of manner again. They were
streaming with perspiration, and their neckerchiefs were moist with the
drip of it, but they lit their cigars nonchalantly, flung their hats
rakishly on their heads, and turned to take a last look at the house.

Elsie appeared at the door. "Boys!" she called, and her clear voice
transfixed every soul of them. "You mustn't do anything reckless. You
won't, will you?"

Galvin alone was able to reply. "No, miss, we won't. We won't do nothing
to hurt you nor the Major's sister--you needn't be scart."

"You can trust Captain Curtis; he will do what is right, I'm sure of
that. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," they answered, one by one. Nothing further was said till
they had crossed the road. Then one of the roughest-looking of the whole
gang turned and said: "Fellers, that promise goes. We got to keep that
mob from goin' to war while these girls are here. Ain't that right?"

"That's right!"

"Say, fellers, I'll tell you a job that would suit me--"

"Hain't got any work into it if it does."

"What is it?"

"I'd like to be detailed to guard these 'queens' from monkeys like you."

The others fell upon this reckless one with their hats and gloves till
he broke into a run, and all disappeared down the road in a cloud of
dust.



XXI

IN STORMY COUNCILS


Meanwhile the sentinels on the hills missed little of the movement in
the valley. They quivered with rage as the horsemen dismounted and
entered the agent's house, for that seemed a defeat for their friend;
but when the strangers remounted and rode away all were reassured, and
Two Horns said, "I will go down and see what it all means."

One by one the principal native employés reappeared. Crane's Voice came
out of the barn, where he had lain with his eyes to a crack in the wall,
and Peter Big-Voice and Robert Wolf stepped cautiously into view from
behind the slaughter-pen. Old Mary, the cook, suddenly blocked the
kitchen door-way, and, with tremulous lips, asked: "Cowboys gone?"

"Yes, all gone," replied Jennie, much amused.

"Good, good," replied the old woman.

"Where have you been, Mary?"

Her white teeth shone out in a sudden smile. "Ice-house--heap cold."

"What did you go in there for?"

"Cowboy no good--mebbe so shoot."

"They won't hurt you," said Jennie, gently. "Go to work again. The
Captain will take care of you."

"Little Father no got gun--cowboy heap gun."

"Little Father don't need gun now; you are all right," Jennie said, and
the old woman went to her work again, though nervously alert to every
sound.

From nowhere in particular, two sharp-eyed lads sauntered up the road to
play under the office window, so that if any loud word should be spoken
the tribe might know of it.

Jennie and Elsie discussed the situation while sitting at the library
window with a view of the agency front door.

"I can't for the life of me take a serious view of this episode," said
Jennie. "These cowboys wouldn't be so foolish as to fire a first shot.
They are like big, country school-boys."

"The Parkers!" cried Elsie, suddenly. "Where are the Parkers?"

Jennie gasped. "True enough! I had forgotten all about them. I don't
believe they have got back from their ride."

"They will be scared blue. We must send for them."

"I'll have Crane's Voice go at once," said Jennie. "I will go with him."

"Don't do that--not without letting the Captain know. How far is it?"

"Just over the hill--not more than five miles."

But even as she was hurrying across to the corral to find an angel for
this mission of mercy, she saw the Parkers coming down the hill-side,
moving slowly, for both were very bad riders. It was plain they had
heard nothing, and as she watched them approach Jennie cried:

"Don't say a word. They won't see anything suspicious."

There was something irresistibly funny in the calm stateliness of the
blond Parker as he led the way past the store which was deserted of its
patrons, past the school-house where the students were quivering with
excitement, and close beside the office behind whose doors Curtis was
still in legal battle with the sheriff.

Jennie met her visitors at the gate, her hands clinched in the effort to
control her laughter. "You are late. Are you hungry?" she asked.

"Famished!" said Parker. "I had to ride slow on Mrs. Parker's account."

"I like that!" cried Jennie. "As if any one could be a worse rider than
you are."

"How do women get off, anyway?" asked Parker, as he approached his
wife's pony.

"Fall off," suggested Jennie, and this seemed so funny that she and
Elsie went off into simultaneous hysterical peals of laughter.

"You are easily amused," remarked Parker, eying them keenly. "Laugh on;
it is good for digestion. Excuse me from joining; I haven't anything to
digest."

Putting his angular shoulder to Mrs. Parker's waist, he eased her to the
ground awkwardly but tenderly. Upon facing the girls again and
discovering them still in foolish mirth, Parker looked himself all over
carefully, then turned to his wife. "We seem to be affording these young
ladies a great deal of hearty pleasure, Mrs. Parker."

Mrs. Parker was not so dense. "What is the matter?" she asked, sharply.
"What has happened? This laughter is not natural--you are both
hysterical."

Both girls instantly became as grave as they had been hilarious a moment
before.

"Now I _know_ something is wrong," said Mrs. Parker. "Where is the
Captain? What made you laugh that way? Have the savages broken out?"

Jennie met Parker's eyes fairly popping from his head, and went off into
another shout. At last she paused and said, breathlessly: "Oh, you are
funny! Come into the house. We've been entertaining a lynching
party--all the Indians are in the hills and the sheriff's in the office
throttling the agent."

While the Parkers consumed their crusts of bread and scraps of cold
meat, Jennie told them what had happened.

Parker rose to the occasion. "We must get out o' here--every one of us!
We should never have come in here. Your brother is to blame; he deceived
us."

"He did not!" replied Jennie. "You shall not hold him responsible!"

"He knew the situation was critical," Parker hotly retorted. "He knew an
outbreak was likely. It was criminal on his part."

"Jerome Parker, you are a donkey," remarked Elsie, calmly. "Nothing has
really happened. If you're so nervous, go home. You can't sculp an
Indian, anyway--grasshoppers and sheep are in your line." She had
reverted to the plain talk of the studios. "Your nervousness amused us
for a while, but it bores us now. Please shut up and run away if you are
afraid."

"You're not very nice," said Mrs. Parker, severely.

"I don't think it's very manly of your husband when he begins to blame
Captain Curtis for an invasion of cowboys."

"You admitted you were scared," pursued Parker.

"Well, suppose we were, we didn't weep and complain; we set to work to
tide over the crisis."

Jennie put in a word. "If you'd feel safer in the camp of the enemy, Mr.
Parker, we'll set you down the valley with the settlers. I intend to
stay right here with my brother."

"So do I," added Elsie; "if there is danger it is safer here than with
the cowboys; but the mob is gone, and the Captain and Osborne will see
that we are protected."

Meanwhile the office resounded with the furious argument of the sheriff.
"The whole western part of the State is disgusted with the way in which
these Indians escape arrest. They commit all kinds of depredations, and
not one is punished. This has got to stop. We intend to learn this tribe
it can't hide thieves and murderers any longer." He ended, blustering
like a northwest wind.

"Produce your warrants and I'll secure the men," replied Curtis,
patiently. "You shall not punish a whole tribe on a pure assumption. You
must come to me with a proper warrant for a particular man, and when you
receive him from me you must prove his guilt in court. As the case now
stands, you haven't the slightest evidence that an Indian killed this
herder, and I will not give over an innocent man to be lynched by you."

As the sheriff stormed up and down the floor Lawson said, in a low
voice: "Delay--delay."

Curtis, who had been writing a note, slipped it to Lawson, who rose and
went out of the door. Curtis continued to parley.

"I appreciate your feeling in this matter, Mr. Sheriff, and I am willing
to do what is right. I have called a council of my head men to-night,
and I will ask them to search for the murderer. An Indian cannot keep a
secret. If one of the Tetongs killed your herder he will tell of it. I
again suggest that you go back to your people and assure them of my
willingness to aid in this affair. Give me three days in which to act."

"That crowd will not be satisfied unless we bring an Injun with us.
We've got to do that or they'll come rompin' in here and raise hell with
you. I propose to take old Crawling Elk himself and hold him till the
tribe--"

"If you attempt such a crime I will put you off the reservation,"
replied Curtis, sharply.

"Put me off! By ----, I think I see you doing that! Why, the whole State
would rise and wipe you and your tribe out of existence." He turned
threateningly and towered over Curtis, who was seated.

"Be quiet, and keep your distance, or I'll put you in irons! Sit down!"

These words were not spoken loudly, but they caused the sheriff's face
to blanch and his knees to tremble. There was a terrifying, set glare in
the officer's eyes as he went on:

"What do you suppose would be the consequences of firing upon a captain
of the United States army in the discharge of his duty, by a sheriff
acting outside the law? You have only three men out there, and one of
them is my friend, and you know the quality of Calvin Streeter. I am
still in command of this reservation, Mr. Sheriff."

Lawson re-entering at this moment, Curtis said: "Ask Streeter to come
in, will you, Mr. Lawson?"

Calvin entered smilingly. "Well, what's the up-shot?" he asked.

"It is this, Calvin. The sheriff has no warrant for anybody, not even
for a suspect. I have asked him to go back and wait till I can find some
clew to the murderer. Do you consider that reasonable?"

"It sounds fair," admitted Calvin, growing grave.

"Now the question of whether the State or county authority covers a
federal reservation or not is too big a question for us to settle. You
see that, Calvin?"

Calvin scratched his head. "It sure is too many fer me."

"Now I'll compromise in this case, Mr. Sheriff. You discharge the rest
of your deputies and send them away, while you and Calvin remain with me
to attend a council--not to arrest anybody, but to convince yourself of
my good-will in the matter. I will not permit you to be armed nor to
arrest any of my Indians until we know what we are doing. When we secure
evidence against any man I will arrest him myself and turn him over to
you. But I insist that you send away the men in the outer office."

Calvin spoke up. "I reckon the Major's right, sheriff. How ye goin' to
arrest a man if you don't know who he is? I reckon you better do as he
says. I ain't a-lookin' fer no fuss with the agent, and the United
States army only fifty miles off."

The sheriff growled surlily. "All right, but there ain't no monkey
business about this. I get my man sooner or later, you bet your heart
on that." As he went out into the general office and announced the
agent's demand, Green blurted out defiant phrases.

"I'll be damned if I would! No--stick it out! Do? Why, take old Elk and
hold him till the tribe produces the right man--that's the way we always
done before."

The arguments of Calvin could not be heard, but at last he prevailed,
and the sullen deputies withdrew. The sheriff scrawled a hasty note to
the county attorney to explain his failure to bring his man, and the
three deputies went out to saddle up. Their cursing was forceful and
varied, but they went.

Parker, seeing them come forth, met them, inquiring anxiously:

"Well, what do you think of the situation?"

Green looked at him surlily. "You belong here?"

"No, I'm just a visitor."

"Well, you better get out quick as God'll let ye."

"Why, what is going to happen?"

"Just this: we're goin' to have the man that killed Cole or we'll cut
this whole tribe into strips. That's all," and they moved on, cursing
afresh.

Parker fell back aghast, and watched them in silence as they saddled
their horses and rode off. He then hurried to the office. Wilson, after
going in to see his chief, came back to say: "The Major will see you in
a moment. He's sending out his police."

A few moments afterwards six of the Indian policemen came filing out,
looking tense and grave, and a couple of minutes later Curtis appeared.

"What is it, Parker?"

"What is going on, Captain? I am very anxious."

"You need not be. We've reached a compromise. Wait a moment and I will
go over to the house with you."

When he reappeared, Lawson was with him. Nothing was said till they were
well in the middle of the road. Then Curtis remarked, carelessly:

"You attended to that matter, Lawson?"

"Yes, Crane's Voice is ten miles on his way."

"There go two dangerous messengers," said Curtis, lifting his eyes to
the hill-side, up which the sullen deputies were climbing.

Parker was importunate--he wished to understand the whole matter. Curtis
became a little impatient. "I will explain presently," he replied, and
nothing more was said till they entered the library, which was filled
with the women of the agency. Jennie had reassured them as best she
could, but they were eager to see the agent himself. Miss Colson, the
kindergarten teacher, was disposed to rush into his arms.

Curtis smiled round upon them. "What's all this--a council of war?"

Miss Colson seized the dramatic moment. "Oh, Major, are we in danger?
Tell us what has happened."

"Nothing much has happened since dinner. I have persuaded the sheriff to
discharge all his deputies except Calvin, and they are to remain over. I
have sent for the head man to come in, and we are going to council
to-night. The trouble is practically over, for the sheriff has given up
the attempt to arrest Elk as a hostage. Now go back to your work, all of
you. You should not have left your children," he added, rather sternly,
to Miss Colson. "They need you now."

The women went out at once, and in a few minutes Curtis was alone with
the members of his own little circle. "Now I have another story for
you," he said, turning to Elsie. "While I am sure the worst of the
sheriff's work is over, I realize that there are two hundred armed men
over on the Willow, and that it is better to be on the safe side.
Therefore I have sent to Fort Lincoln for troops. Crane's Voice will
reach there by sundown--the troops should arrive here by sunrise
to-morrow. Meanwhile I will talk with Elk--"

"Suppose Elk don't come?" asked Jennie.

Curtis looked grave. "In that case I shall go to find him."

Elsie cried out, "You wouldn't do that?"

"Yes, it would be my duty--I have promised--but he will come. He trusts
me. I have ordered him to bring all his people and camp as usual just
above the agency store. Now, of course, no one can tell the precise
outcome of all this, and if you, Miss Brisbane, and Mr. and Mrs. Parker,
want to go down to the white settlement, I will send you at once. Mr.
Lawson will go with you, or I will ask the sheriff to take you--"

"The safest place on the reservation is right here!" said Lawson.
"Suppose the ranchers return--they will take control here, and use the
agency as a base of supplies; the fighting will take place in the hills.
Besides, our going would excite the settlers uselessly, and put Captain
Curtis deeper into trouble. I propose that we stay right here, and
convince the employés and the Indians that we are not alarmed. I don't
want to assume the responsibility of a panic, and our going this
afternoon might precipitate one."

Curtis was profoundly grateful to Lawson for this firm statement. "I
think you are right, Mr. Lawson," he said, formally. "You see my
position clearly. I feel sure I can control the sheriff by peaceable
means--and yet my responsibility to you weighs upon me." He looked at
Elsie again. "I think you can trust me. Will you stay?"

"Of course we will stay," she replied, and Parker sank into his chair as
if resigned to his fate.

Curtis went on: "I am not speaking to reassure myself. Perhaps I am too
positive, but my experience as an officer in the army has given me a
contempt for these six-shooter heroes. The thing I really fear is a
panic among the settlers. Naturally, I am disinclined towards the
notoriety I would gain in the press; but the troops will certainly be
here to-morrow, and that will settle the turmoil. The sheriff is less of
an embarrassment, now that he has only Calvin as deputy."

"Send the sheriff over here--we'll entertain him by showing him the
photograph album," called Jennie. "We helped out this forenoon, and we
can do it again."

"I don't think such heroic methods are necessary; an extra good dinner
will do quite as well," replied Curtis, smiling. "I'm sorry, Mr. Parker,
that your expedition for material is coming to this grewsome end."

Elsie interposed. "It is precisely what he wants; he will know from
positive knowledge how a Tetong brave dresses for war. I have always
claimed that no Indian ever wore that absurd war-bonnet."

Lawson added: "And _you_ will gain valuable information as to the
character of white settlers and 'Indian outbreaks.'"

"I ought to telegraph papa."

"I have already done so," replied Lawson--"in anticipation of the
hullabaloo that will break forth in the papers of the State to-morrow."

"I shall wire the department a full statement to-night," said Curtis.
"But we must be careful what we say at this point."

"Isn't it a foolish thing not to have a telegraph line connecting the
fort and the agency?" cried Jennie. "The troops could have been half-way
here by this time."

"It's the same penny-wise and pound-foolish method by which the Indian
service is run," responded Lawson.

"Here comes one of my scouts," said Curtis, as a young Tetong galloped
up to the gate, threw himself from his reeking pony, and strode into the
hall-way without knocking, his spurs clattering, his quirt dangling from
his wrist. As he stood before his chief, delivering his message with
shadowy silence and swiftness, Elsie thrilled with the dramatic
significance of the scene. The stern, almost haughty face of the young
man was in keeping with his duties.

Curtis dismissed the boy and translated his message. "He says the
settlers below us have fled towards Pinon City, taking all their goods
with them. White Wolf's band are all in camp except the young men, who
are scouting for the chiefs to see what it all means. That mob of
cowboys took delight, no doubt, in scattering consternation as they
passed. The settlers are in stampede."

"Wilson is coming across the street," said Jennie, "and has an Indian
with him."

"Another scout," said Curtis. "Now I will let you know all that goes on,
but I must ask you all, except Mr. Lawson, to leave me the library to
transact this business in." As Elsie passed him, she drew towards him
with a little, shrinking movement which moved him deeply. It was as
though she were clutched by a force greater than her will.

"It's like being at army headquarters," she said to Jennie.

"It is a little like a commander's tent in the field. I wish we dared to
throw that old sheriff off the reservation. He has no right to be
snooping round here."

Parker slumped deep in a big rocker, and Mrs. Parker sat beside him and
put her hand on his arm.

"Don't worry about me, Jerome."

He looked up gloomily. "I got you into this, dearest, and I must get you
out. If the soldiers come to-morrow I will ask for an escort to the
fort, and then we can reach the railway and get out of the cursed
country. I'd as soon live in a den of hyenas and rattlesnakes."

Elsie laughed. "Parker, you are too amusing. You are pathetic. When I
think of you as you pranced about the camp-fire two days ago and look
upon you now, my heart aches for you."

"I don't think it generous of you to make fun of us at this time, Bee
Bee," Mrs. Parker replied, reproachfully.

"Oh, let her go on. Her Latin Quarter English doesn't disturb me,"
Parker answered, savagely.

Curtis at this moment appeared. "My message was from the farmer at
Willow Spring. He says all his employés, with one or two exceptions,
have disappeared; that the band of Crawling Elk was threatened by a mob
of white men early this morning, and that they are all breaking camp in
order to flee to the hills. All the settlers on the Willow are hurrying
their women and children down towards Pinon City. The whole country has
been alarmed by the menace of the coroner's inquest, which is camped
below the agency at Johnson's ranch, waiting the sheriff's return. The
deputies had not reached there when this letter was written," added
Curtis. "The sheriff's message will disperse the crowds, and I am
sending a note of reassurance to the farmers and to the settlers."

"It's getting mighty serious, don't you think so?" asked Parker. "I wish
the troops were here. Can't we hurry them up?"

"No, all that can be done has been done. I am telling you all that goes
on, and I must request you not to repeat it. I wish you would all be
specially guarded in the presence of the sheriff. You might engage him
in a game of 'cinch' after dinner. Anything to keep him out of my way."

"We'll absorb him," said Jennie.

One by one Curtis called in his most trusted employés, and, quieting
their fears, put them to their duties. Special policemen were uniformed
and sent to carry messages to the encampments on the hills, asking the
head men of each band to come at once to the agency for council, and to
order their people into camp. The tranquillizing effect of the agent's
bearing made itself felt immediately. The threads of the whole tangle
were soon in his hands and made straight, and when he received the
sheriff at six o'clock he was confident and serene of bearing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two Horns came down from the hills, and at the agent's order gathered
his band close around his own tepee to camp until the trouble was ended.
Together they made a tour of the village, and Curtis made it plain that
he would protect them, and that no more armed men would come among them
to incite violence.

"They have turned back, for fear of the Little Father and of
Washington," said Two Horns to the old men, and they were glad of his
words.

Curtis was by no means at ease. As he recalled the threats of the
cattlemen, the encroachments of their flocks, the vicious assaults made
on Crow Killer and Yellow Hand, he divined a growing antagonism which
could go but little further without producing war. His mind dwelt on the
hurrying figure of Crane's Voice. Much depended on him. He saw him as he
faced the sentry. "If he should fail to reach the Colonel! But he will
not fail, and troops will be instantly despatched."

From these considerations he turned to the growing trust and confidence
which Elsie was displaying. That movement towards him, slight as it was,
and the softened look in her eyes, quickened his breath as he allowed
his inward self to muse on their meaning. She was looking to him for
protection, and this attitude was not only new, it was disturbing; and
the soldier found it necessary to put away his pipe and fall savagely
upon some work to keep his mind from ranging too far afield.



XXII

A COUNCIL AT NIGHT


The sheriff came to dinner rather shamefacedly, but Calvin, being
profoundly pleased, was on his very best behavior. "This being deputy
suits me to the ground," said he to Wilson, as he rose in answer to the
call to dinner.

As they were crossing the road he said, confidentially: "Now see here,
you mustn't talk politics round the ladies over there, sheriff."

"Politics?"

"You know what I mean. You keep to the weather and the crops, and let
this murder case alone for a minute or two, or I'll bat you one for
luck."

Winters took this threat as a sign of their good understanding, and
remarked, jocosely, "You damned young cub, I'd break you in two for a
leather cent."

"That's all right, but what I say goes," replied Calvin. And remembering
old Joe Streeter's political pull, the sheriff did not reply.

Jennie kept the talk pleasantly inconsequential during dinner by a
cheery tale of the doings of a certain Chinaman she had once tried to
train into a cook, and Calvin, laughing heartily, matched her experience
with that of his mother while keeping house in Pinon City one winter.
This left Elsie to a little conversation with Curtis.

"You must let me see this council to-night," she said, and her request
had the note of a command.

"I know how you feel," he said, "and I wish I could do so; but I can't
make an exception in your favor without offending the Parkers."

"Are you not the general?" she asked, smilingly. "If you see fit to
invite me and leave them out, they can only complain. I'm going to stay
here with Jennie, anyhow."

"In that case we can manage it."

"Do you know what I think? You've instigated this whole affair to
convert me to your point of view. Really, the whole thing is like a
play. I'm not a bit frightened--at least, not yet. It's precisely like
sitting in a private box and seeing the wolves tear holes in Davy
Crockett's cabin. You are the manager of the show."

"Well, why not? When the princess tours the provinces it is customary to
present historical pageants in her honor. This drama is your due." And
as he spoke he observed for the first time the absence of the ring from
her significant finger. The shock threw him into a moment's swift
surmise, and when he looked up at her she was flushed and uneasy. She
recovered herself first, and though her hand remained on the table it
had the tremulous action of a frightened small animal--observed yet
daring not to seek cover.

"I hope this council to-night will not fail. I am eager to see what you
will do with them," she hastened to say.

"They will come!" he replied.

Calvin was relating a story of a mountain-lion he had once treed for an
Eastern artist to photograph.

"Just then the dern brute jumped right plum onto the feller and knocked
him down, machine and all; for a minute or two it was just a mixture o'
man and lion, then that feller come up top, and the next thing I seen he
batted the lion with his box, and that kind o' stunted the brute, and he
hit him again and glass began to fly; he was game all right, that feller
was. When the lion stiffened out, he turned to where I was a-rollin' on
the pine-needles, and says, quiet-like, 'Give me your revolver, please.'
I give it to him, and he put it to the lion's ear and finished him. When
he got up and looked at his machine he says, 'How much is a
mountain-lion skin worth?' ''Bout four dollars, green,' I says. He
looked at the inwards of his box, which was scattered all over the
ground. Says he, 'You wouldn't call that profitable, would you--a
seventy-dollar instrument in exchange for a four-dollar pelt?'"

Everybody laughed at this story, and the dinner came to an end with the
sheriff in excellent temper. Lawson offered cigars, and tolled him
across the road to the office, leaving Curtis alone in his library.

He resolutely set to work to present the situation of the sheriff's
presence concisely to the department in a telegram, and was still at
work upon this when Jennie entered the room, closed the curtains, and
lit the lamp.

Elsie came in a little later to say, sympathetically:

"Are you tired, Captain Curtis?"

He pushed his writing away.

"Yes, a little. The worst of it is, I keep saying: _If so and so
happens, then I must do thus and thus_, and that is the hardest work in
the world. I can deal with actual, well-defined conditions--even riots
and mobs--but fighting suppositions is like grappling with ghosts."

"I know what you mean," she replied, quickly. "But I want to ask
you--could father be of any help if I telegraphed him to come?"

He sat up very straight as she spoke, but did not reply till he turned
her suggestion over in his mind. "No--at least, not now. What troubles
me is this: the local papers will be filled with scare-heads to-morrow
morning; your father will see them, and will be alarmed about you."

"I will wire him that I am all right."

"You must do that. I consider you are perfectly safe, but at the same
time your father will think you ought not to be here, and blame me for
allowing you to come in; and, worst of all, he will wire you to come
out."

"Suppose I refuse to go, would that be the best of all?" Her face was
distinctly arch of line.

His heart responded to her lure, but his words were measured as he
answered: "Sometimes the responsibility seems too great; perhaps you
would better go. It will be hard to convince him that you are not in
danger."

She sobered. "There really is danger, then?"

"Oh yes, so long as these settlers are in their present mood, I suppose
there is. Nothing but the life of an 'Injun' will satisfy them. Their
hate is racial in its bitterness."

"You think I ought to go, then?"

He looked at her with eyes that were wistful and searching.

"Yes. It is a sad ending, but perhaps Captain Maynard will be here
to-morrow with a troop of cavalry, and--I--think I must ask him to
escort you to the railway."

"But the danger will be over then."

"To your father it will seem to be intensifying."

"I will not go on that account! I feel that the safest place will be
right here with you, for your people love you. I am not afraid when I am
near you."

Curtis suddenly realized how dangerously sweet it was to sit in his own
library with Elsie in that mood seated opposite him. The sound of a
tapping on the window relieved the tension of the moment.

"Another of my faithful boys," he said, rising quickly. Then, turning to
her with a tenderness almost solemn, he added: "Miss Brisbane, I hope
you feel that if danger really threatened I would think of you first of
all. You will stay with Jennie to-night?"

"If you think best, but we want to know all that goes on. I can't bear
to be battened down like passengers in a storm at sea; there is nothing
so trying to nerves. I want to be on deck with the captain if the storm
breaks."

"Very well. I promise not to leave you in ignorance," and, raising the
curtain, he signed to the man without to enter. It was Crow, the captain
of the police, a short man with a good-humored face, now squared with
serious dignity.

"Two Dog has just come in from Willow Creek," he reported. "He says the
cattlemen are still camped by Johnson's ranch. They all held a council
this afternoon."

"Are any of the head men here?"

"Yes, they are all at my tepee. They want to see you very bad."

"Tell them to come over at once; the council will take place here. I
want you, but no more of the police. I want only the head men of each
band."

After the officer went out Curtis moved the easy-chairs to the back of
the room and set plain ones in a semicircular row at the front. Hardly
was he settled when Elk, Grayman, and Two Horns entered the room, and,
after formally shaking hands, took the seats assigned them. Their faces,
usually smiling, were grave, and Grayman's brow was knotted with lines
of anxiety. He was a small man, with long, brown hair, braided and
adorned with tufts of the fine feathers which grow under the eagle's
wings. He was handsome and neatly dressed, the direct antithesis to
Crawling Elk, who was tall and slovenly, with a homely, grandfatherly
face deeply seamed with wrinkles, a face that would be recognized as
typical of his race. He seemed far less concerned than some of the
others.

Two Horns, also quite at his ease, unrolled his pipe and began filling
it, while Curtis resumed his writing.

Jennie, looking in at the door, recognized the chiefs, and they all rose
politely to greet her.

"I'm coming to the council," she said to Two Horns.

He smiled. "Squaws no come council--no good."

"No, no, heap good," she replied. "We come. Chiefs heap talk--we catchim
coffee."

"Good, good!" he replied. "After council, feast."

One by one the other chiefs slipped in and took their places, till all
the bands were represented save that of Red Wolf, who was too far away
to be reached. Curtis then sent for the sheriff and Calvin and Elsie and
Lawson, and when all were seated began his talk by addressing the
chieftains. He spoke in English, in order that the sheriff could hear
all that was said, and Lawson interpreted it into Sioux.

"You know this young man"--he pointed at Calvin. "Some of you know this
man"--he touched the sheriff. "He is the war chief of all the country
beyond where Grayman lives. He comes to tell us that a herder has been
killed over by the Muddy Spring. He thinks it was done by an Indian. The
white people are very angry, and they say that you must find the
murderer. Do you know of any one who has threatened to do this thing?"

One by one the chiefs replied: "I do not know who did this thing. I have
heard no one speak of it as a thing good to be done. We are all sad."

Two Horns added a protest. "I think it hard that a whole tribe should
suffer because the white man thinks one redman has done a wrong thing."

Grayman spoke sadly: "My people have had much trouble because the
cattlemen want to drive their herds up the Willow, and we are like men
who guard the door. On us the trouble falls. It is our duty--the same as
you should say to a policeman, 'Do not let anybody come in my house.'
Therefore we have been accused of killing the cattle and stealing
things. But this is not true. I remembered your words, and I did nothing
to make these people angry; but some of my young men threw stones to
drive the sheep back, and then the herder fired at them with revolver.
This was not our fault."

"He lies!" said the sheriff, hotly, when this was interpreted. "No one
has fired a gun but his reckless young devils. His men were riding down
the sheep, and the herder rocked 'em away."

"You admit the sheep were on the reservation, then?" asked Curtis.

"Well--yes--temporarily. They were being watered."

"Well, we won't go into that now," said Curtis, turning to the chiefs
and speaking with great solemnity, using the sign-language at times. And
as he sat thus fronting the strongly wrought, serious faces of his head
men he was wholly admirable, and Elsie's blood thrilled with excitement,
for she felt herself to be in the presence of primeval men.

"Now, Grayman, Elk, Two Horns, Standing Elk, Lone Man, and Crow, listen
to me. Among white men it is the law that when any one has done a wrong
thing--when he steals or murders--he is punished. If he kills a man he
is slain by the chief, not by the relatives of the man who is slain. As
with you, I am here to apply the white man's rule. If a Tetong has shot
this herder he must suffer for it--he and no one else. I will not permit
the cattlemen to punish the tribe. If you know who did this, it is your
duty to give him up to the law. It is the command of the Great
Father--he asks you to go back to your people and search hard to find
who killed this white man. When you find him bring him to me. Will you
do this?"

No one answered but Two Horns, who said, "Ay, we will do as you say,"
and his solemnity of utterance attested his sincerity.

"Listen to me," said Curtis again, fixing their eyes with his dramatic
action. "If my only brother had done this thing, I would give him up to
be punished. I would not hesitate, and I expect you to do the same."

"It is always thus," Standing Elk broke out. "The cattlemen wish to
punish all redmen for what one bad young warrior does. We are weary of
it."

"I know it has been so, but it shall not be so again, not while I am
your chief," Curtis responded. "Will you go home and do as I have
commanded? Will you search hard and bring me word what you discover?"

One by one they muttered, "Ay!" and Curtis added, heartily: "That is
good--now you may go."

"I want to say a word," said the sheriff.

"Not now," replied Curtis. "These people are in my charge. Whatever is
said to them I will say," and at his gesture they rose, and Crow,
Standing Elk, and Lone Man went soberly out into the night.

Grayman approached Curtis and took his hand in both of his and pressed
it to his breast. "Little Father, I have heard your words; they are not
easy to follow, but they have entered my heart. No white man has ever
spoken to me with your tongue. You do not lie; your words are soft, but
they stand like rocks--they do not melt away. My words shall be like
yours--they will not vanish like smoke. What I have promised, that I
will fulfil." As he spoke his slight frame trembled with the intensity
of his emotion, and his eyes were dim with tears, and his deep, sweet
voice, accompanying his gestures, thrilled every soul in the room. At
the end he dropped the agent's hand and hastened from the house like one
afraid of himself.

Curtis turned to Lawson to hide his own emotion. "Mr. Lawson, I assume
the sheriff is as tired as the rest of us; will you show him the bed you
were kind enough to offer?"

"Sheriff Winters, if you will come with me I'll pilot you to a couch. It
isn't downy, but it will rest a tired man. Calvin, you are to bunk
alongside."

"All right, professor." Calvin rose reluctantly, and as he stood in the
door he said, in a low voice, to Jennie, "Now if you want me any time
just send for me."

"Hold the sheriff level--that's what you do for us."

"I'll see that he don't get gay," he replied, and his hearty confidence
did them all good.

After the sheriff and his deputy went out, Elsie said: "Oh, it was
wonderful! That old man who spoke last must be the Edwin Booth of the
tribe. He was superbly dramatic."

"He took my words very deeply to heart. That was Grayman, one of the
most intelligent of all my head men; but he has had a great deal of
trouble. He comprehends all too much of the tragedy of his situation."

Elsie sat with her elbows on the table, gazing in silence towards the
empty fireplace. She looked weary and sad.

Curtis checked himself. "I regret very deeply the worry and discomfort
all this brings upon you."

"Oh, I'm not thinking of myself this time, I am thinking of the hopeless
task you have set yourself. You can't solve this racial question--it's
too big and too complicated. Men are simply a kind of ferocious beast.
They go to work killing each other the way chickens eat grasshoppers."

"Your figure is wrong. If our Christian settlers only killed Indians to
fill their stomachs they'd stop some time; but they kill them because
they're like the boy about his mother--tired of seeing 'em 'round."

There was a time when Elsie's jests were frankly on the side of the
strong against the weak, but she was becoming oppressed with the
suffering involved in the march of civilization. "What a fine face
Grayman has; I couldn't help thinking how much more refined it was than
Winters! As for the cowboys, they were hulking school-boys; I was not a
bit afraid of them after they were dismounted."

"Unfortunately they are a kind of six-footed beast, always mounted;
there isn't a true frontiersman among them. It angered me that they had
the opportunity to even look at you."

His intensity of gaze and the bitterness of his voice took away her
breath for an instant, and before she could reply Jennie and Lawson came
in.

Lawson was smiling. "Parker is righteously incensed. He tried to enter
the council an hour ago and your dusky minions stopped him. He is
genuinely alarmed now, and only waiting for daylight to take flight."

"Jerome is a goose," said Elsie.

"He's a jackass at times. A man of talent, but a bore when his yellow
streak comes out." Turning to Curtis he said, very seriously, "Is there
anything I can do for you, Captain?"

"You might wire your version of the disturbance to the Secretary along
with mine. We can safely look for an avalanche of newspaper criticism,
and I would like to anticipate their outbreak."

"Our telegrams will be at once made public--"

"Undoubtedly, and for that reason we must use great care in their
composition. I have mine written; please look it over."

Jennie, who had dropped into a chair, checked a yawn. "Oh, dear; I wish
it were morning."

Curtis looked at her and laughed. "I think you girls would better go to
bed. Your eyes are heavy-lidded with weariness."

"Aren't you going to sleep?" asked Jennie, anxiously.

"I shall lie down here on the sofa--I must be where I can hear a tap on
the window. Good-night."

Both girls rose at his word, and Elsie said: "It seems cruel that you
cannot go properly to bed--after such a wearisome day."

"You forget that I am a soldier," he said, and saluted as they passed.
He observed that Lawson merely bowed when she said "Good-night"
politely. Surely some change had come to their relationship.

Lawson turned. "I think I will turn in, Captain; I have endorsed the
telegram."

"It must go at once." He tapped on the pane, and almost instantly a
Tetong, sleeping under the window, rose from his blanket and stood with
his face to the window, alert and keen-eyed. "Tony, I have a long ride
for you."

"All right," replied the faithful fellow, cheerfully.

"I want you to take some letters to Pinon City. Come round to the door."

As he stepped into the light the messenger appeared to be a boy of
twenty, black-eyed and yellow-skinned, with thin and sensitive lips.
"Take the letters to the post-office," said Curtis, speaking slowly.
"You understand--and these despatches to the telegraph-office."

"Pay money?"

"No pay. Can you go now?"

"Yes, go now."

"Very well, take the best pony in the corral. You better keep the trail
and avoid the ranches. Good-night."

The young fellow put the letters away in the inside pocket of his blue
coat, buttoned it tightly, and slipped out into the night, and was
swallowed up by the moonless darkness.

"Aren't you afraid they will do Tony harm if they meet him?"

"Not in his uniform."

"I wouldn't want that ride. Well, so long, old man. Call me if I can be
of any use."

After Lawson went out Curtis sank back into his big chair and closed his
eyes in deep thought. As he forecast the enormous and tragic results of
the return of that armed throng of reckless cattlemen he shuddered. A
war would almost destroy the Tetongs. It would nullify all he had been
trying to do for them, and would array the whole State, the whole
Indian-hating population of the nation, against them. Jennie re-entered
softly and stood by his side. "It's worrisome business being Indian
agent, after all, isn't it, George?" she said, with her hand in his
hair.

He forced himself to a cheerful tone of voice. "Oh, I don't know; this
is our first worry, and it will soon be over. It looks bad just now, but
it will be--"

A knock at the outer door startled them both. "That is a white
man--probably Barker," he said, and called, "Come in."

Calvin Streeter entered, a little abashed at seeing Jennie. Meeting
Curtis's look of inquiry, he said, with winning candor, "Major, I been
a-studyin' on this thing a good 'eal, and I've come to the conclusion
that you're right on all these counts, and I've concluded to ride over
the hill and see if I can't argue the boys out of their notion to kill
somebody."

Jennie clapped her hands. "Good! That is a splendid resolution. I always
knew you meant right."

Curtis held out his hand. "Shake hands, my boy. There isn't a moment to
be lost. If they are coming at all, they will start about sunrise. I
hope they have reconsidered the matter and broken camp."

Calvin looked a little uneasy. "Well, I'll tell ye, Major, I'm afraid
them lahees that we sent back home will egg the rest on; they sure were
bilun mad, but I'll go and do what I can to head 'em off. If I can't
delay 'em, I'll come along with 'em, but you can count on me to do any
little job that'll help you after we get here. Good-night."

"Good-night. Don't take any rest."

"Oh, I'm all right. Nobody ain't huntin' trouble with me."

After he went out Jennie said: "I call that the grace of God working in
the soul of man."

Curtis looked at her keenly. "I call it the love of woman sanctifying
the heart of a cowboy."

She colored a little. "Do we women go on the pay-rolls as assistant
agents?"

"Not if we men can prevent it. What kind of a report would it make if I
were forced to say, 'At this critical moment the charming Miss So-and-so
came to my aid, and, by inviting the men in to dinner with a sweet
smile, completely disarmed their hostility. Too much honor cannot be
given,' etc."

"I guess if history were written by women once in a while those reports
wouldn't be so rare as they are."



XXIII

THE RETURN OF THE MOB


Curtis was awakened about four o'clock by Wilson at his window. "Are you
awake, Major?"

"Yes; what is it?"

"Two of the scouts have just come in from the hills. They are sure the
ranchers are coming to make war. Bands of white men are crossing the
county to join the camp. It certainly looks owly, Major."

Curtis rose and went to the window. "The troops will be here by nine
o'clock at the furthest, and the mob will not move till sunrise, and
can't reach here, even by hard riding, before eleven."

"Shall I send a courier out to meet the troops and hurry them on?" asked
Wilson, whose voice was untouched of fear.

"It might be well. Send Two Horns to me if you can find him. Keep silent
as to these reports."

"All right, Major."

Curtis did not underestimate the dangers of the situation. If the troops
did not arrive, and if the armed posse of the settlers should come and
attempt to arrest Elk, war would follow, that was certain. Meanwhile he
was one day's hard riding from either the fort or the telegraph line,
with the settlers between, and no news could reach him for twenty-four
hours.

At that very moment the morning papers were being distributed bearing a
burden of calumny. The department would open his telegram in a few
minutes, but the Secretary's reply could not reach him before sunset at
the earliest, "and by that time I will be master of the situation or
there will be war. I must parley--delay them, by any means, till the
troops arrive. Colonel Daggett will forward the men at once--I hope
under Maynard--and Jack is no sluggard. He will be here if only the
Colonel takes action."

The sun rose as usual in a cloudless sky, but the wind was again in the
northwest, and as he stood on the little porch looking up the valley he
could see the smoke of the camp-fires in Grayman's camp, and beyond him
the Crawling Elk and his people occupied a larger circle of shining
tepees. The two villages seemed as peaceful as if the people were
waiting for their rations, but as he lifted his eyes to the hills he
could see the mounted sentinels patiently waiting the coming of the sun,
and he knew that beyond and to the east every butte was similarly
crested with spies. These people of the wide spaces had their own signal
service and were not to be taken unawares. Each movement of the enemy
would be flashed from hill to hill, miles in advance of the beat of
their horses' hoofs.

As he was returning to his library Elsie met him. "Good-morning,
Captain. Did you sleep?"

"Oh yes, indeed!" He spoke as lightly as he could. "But my messengers
reporting disturbed me a little during the early morning."

"With bad news?"

"Oh no, quite the contrary. I think we are well out of our difficulty."

"I'm sure I hope so. You look tired."

"I'm ashamed of it. You must have slept well--you are radiant. I am
sorry I cannot promise you the Elk for a sitter to-day."

"I like him better as the leader of his people. Do we breakfast with the
sheriff this morning?"

"That affliction is bearing down upon us," he replied. "He is even now
moving morosely across the road. I fear he is in bad temper."

"I think I will be late to breakfast in that case," she said, with a
little grimace, and fled.

Curtis greeted his guest pleasantly. "Good-morning, sheriff."

"Good-morning, Major. Have you seen anything of my deputy?"

"No; has he left you?"

"I didn't miss him till this morning," replied Winters, sourly. "But
he's gone, horse and all."

"Well, the loss is not serious. Come in and break an egg with me."

Jennie was distinctly less cordial than before, but she made her
unwelcome guest comfortable, and asked after his health politely. She
was just pouring his second cup of coffee when the furious clanging of
the office bell made them all start.

Curtis looked at his watch. "Good Heavens! It can't be the eight-o'clock
bell. What time have you?"

"Seven thirty-three."

Curtis sprang up. "It's a signal of fire!"

At the word "fire" Jennie turned white and rose. Elsie came flying
down-stairs, crying:

"The Indians are running!"

A wild shout arose, "Stop that bell!" and a moment later Wilson burst in
at the door--"Major, the Indians are signalling from the
buttes--everybody is taking to the hills--the mob is coming."

Curtis gave Elsie one piercing look. "I hope you will trust me; you are
in no danger, even if this alarm is true. I think it is a mistake. I
will return soon and let you know. I beg you not to be alarmed."

The alarum was true. On the buttes horsemen were riding to and fro
excitedly crossing and recrossing the same ground--the sign which means
an approaching enemy. On every hill-side mounted warriors were gathering
and circling. Boys with wild halloos were bringing in the ponies. The
women busy, swarming like bees, were dropping the tepees; even as the
agent mounted the steps to the office and looked up the valley, the
white canvases sank to the ground one by one as though melted by the hot
sun. War times were come again, and the chanting cries of the old women
came pulsing by on the soft west wind.

A grim smile settled on the agent's lips as he comprehended these
preparations. He knew the history of these people and admired them for
their skill and their bravery. War times were come again!

"Our cowboy friends have set themselves a memorable task in trying to
wipe out this tribe. The ranchers never fight their own battles; they
always call upon the federal government; and that is their purpose now,
to stir up strife and leave the troops to bear the burden of the war."

"I don't see our fellers," said the sheriff, who was deeply excited.
"I'll ride to meet them."

"They are a long way off yet," said Curtis. "The Tetong sentinels have
only signalled their start. I hope the troops are on the way," he said
to the two girls who had followed and now stood close beside him as if
for protection. Then he called to the sheriff, who had started for his
horse: "I depend on you to keep off this invasion, sheriff. I warn you
and your men that this entrance here at this time is a crime against
Washington."

Winters did not reply, and Curtis knew that he would join the majority;
being a candidate for re-election, he could not afford to run counter to
the wishes of his constituents. Hastily mounting his horse, he galloped
furiously away.

Curtis strained his eyes down the valley, hoping for a sight of the
guidons of the --th.

"What can you do?" asked Elsie.

"Nothing but await the issue," he replied. "I have sent another courier
to hasten the troops; it is now a race between the forces of law and of
order. If the mob arrives first, I must delay them--prevent their
advance if possible. There is nothing else to be done."

"Can we help?"

"I'm afraid not. There will be two or three hundred of the invaders this
time, if the sheriff is to be believed. I am afraid to have you meet
them. I think it better for you all to keep within doors."

"I wish my father knew--he could stop this!" wailed Elsie, in sudden
realization of her helplessness. "He could wire the authorities in Pinon
City. I know they would listen to him."

"Here come the Parkers!" said Jennie. "Now look out for squalls."

"I had forgotten them," said Curtis, with a comic look of dismay.

Parker was running, half dragging his poor, breathless wife, while in
their rear Lawson appeared, walking calmly, quite irreproachable in a
gray morning suit, and the sight of him was a comfort to Curtis, for his
forces were practically reduced to Wilson and four or five clerks.

"Now, Captain, what are you going to do?" called Parker. "You let us
into this--"

Being in no mood for squalls, Curtis cut Parker short. "Be quiet; don't
be uselessly foolish. Try and conduct yourself like a reasonable human
being. Jennie, go into the house, and take the ladies with you. You'll
have all the women of the agency to look after in a few minutes. Lawson,
I can depend on you--will you go over to the office with me?"

When they reached the office Lawson threw back his coat and displayed
two wicked-looking revolvers. "I've been known to fight when pushed too
far," he said, smilingly.

In the space of an hour the panic had become preparation. On a low butte
to the southwest a dark mass of armed and resolute warriors waited on
their swift ponies ready for whatever came, while behind them on a
higher ridge a smaller group of dismounted chieftains sat in council. Up
the slopes below and to the right the women and old men were leading the
ponies, laden with their tepees, children, and supplies, precisely as in
the olden times. The wagons of the white men were of no use where they
were now climbing. The ways of the wheel were no longer desirable. They
sought the shelter of the trail.

"I am confident that the troops will arrive first," said Curtis.

"If the powers of evil have found a leader, it will be hard to control
them even with a troop of cavalry," Lawson replied, soberly. "The
sheriff will go with the mob when it comes to a show down."

"Oh, of course. I do not count on him; but Calvin is loyal."

Before the office stood two or three of the white employés of the agency
with their wives and children about them. Two policemen alone remained
of all the throng of red employés usually to be seen about the yards;
the rest were out on duty or had joined their people in the hills.

"What shall we do?" cried Miss Colson, a look of mortal terror on her
face. She crowded close to Curtis and laid her hands on his arm. "Let us
stay near you."

"You are in no danger," he replied. "Those poor devils on the hill-side
are the ones who will suffer. Where are your children?" he asked,
sharply.

"They all disappeared like rabbits at sound of the bell; only the
kindergarten class remains."

"Go and help take care of them," he commanded. "Sing to them--amuse
them. Wolf Robe," he called to one of the policemen--he of the
bow-legs--"go to the people on the hill and say to them to fear nothing,
Washington protects them. Tell them they must not fight. Say to the
mothers of the little ones that nothing shall hurt them. Go quick!"

Wolf Robe handed his sombrero, his coat, and his revolver to his
friend, Beaver Kill, and ran away towards the corral, agile as a boy.

"What did he do that for?" asked Jennie.

Curtis smiled. "He is Indian now; he doesn't want to be mistaken for a
cowboy."

When he reappeared on his pony, his long, dark hair streaming, a red
handkerchief bound about his head, he looked like a warrior stripped for
battle. "There isn't a faithfuler man in the world," said Curtis, and a
lump rose in his throat. "He has been riding half the night for me, but
he charges that hill as if he were playing a game."

"I don't understand how you can trust them to do such things," said
Elsie. "Perhaps he will not come back. How do you know he will do as you
commanded?"

"Because that ugly little bow-legged Tetong is a man!" replied Curtis.
"He would die in performance of his duty." And something in his voice
made the tears start to Elsie's eyes.

The sentinels on the hills were quiet now--facing the northeast,
motionless as weather-vanes. The camps had disappeared as if by magic;
nothing remained but a few wagons. Wolf Robe, diminishing to the value
of a coyote, was riding straight towards the retreating women. Even as
Curtis watched, the chieftains on the higher hill rose, and one of them
started downward towards the warriors on the rounded hill-top. Then a
small squad detached itself from the main command and slid down the
grassy slope to meet the women. As they rode slowly on, the moving
figures of those leading the camp horses gathered round them. Curtis
understood some command was being shouted by the descending squad.

Separating themselves from the led ponies, these scouts swept on down
the hill directly upon the solitary and minute figure of Wolf Robe,
whose pony climbed slowly and in zigzag course.

"They will kill him," said a woman.

Wolf Robe halted and waited till the skirmishers rode up to him. They
massed round him closely, listening while he delivered his message.

"When he returns we will know all that his people have learned of the
invaders," said Curtis. "They will tell him what they have seen."

"It is strange," exclaimed Elsie, in a low voice, standing close beside
him. "But I'm not afraid. It is like a story--a dream. That I should
stand here watching Indians preparing for war and waiting for United
States troops is incredible."

"I wish it were not true," he replied. "But it is. I have no fear of my
people, only of the rash act of a vicious white man."

"Which way will the cattlemen come from?" asked Jennie.

"Probably down that trail." He pointed to the northeast. "Part of them
may come up the valley road. Wolf Robe has started on his return."

The little squad of warriors returned to the group of chieftains, while
the loyal Wolf Robe came racing down the slope, his hair streaming, his
elbows flapping. In a few minutes he dropped rein at the gate and
re-entered the yard. Standing before his chief, he delivered his
message.

"Their hearts are very glad at your good words, but the women are
crying for their babies. They ask that you send them away before the bad
white men come. Send them out towards the hills and they will come down
and get them--this they said."

"What did the scouts say?"

"They said that the sentinels on the hills saw the white men break camp
and come this way--many of them--so they say."

"Where are they now?"

"They are hidden in the pines of the valley. They will soon be here--so
they say."

"Take a fresh pony and ride back and tell all who have children here to
come down and talk with me. Tell them I will turn the white men away. No
one shall be harmed. The children are safe. There will be no war. I will
meet them in the old camp. I keep repeating there is no danger because I
believe it," he said to the silent group around him, after Wolf Robe
rode away. "There is nothing to be done but wait. So go about your
duties," he added, with a note of command.

One by one the employés dropped away till only Wilson remained. His only
sign of nervousness was a quiver of the muscles of one cheek, where he
held his quid of tobacco. His bright blue eyes were fixed on the
sentinels, while he leaned negligently against the fence. Lawson,
smoking a German pipe, was watching the warriors on the hills, a rapt
expression on his face, as if he were working out some problem in ethics
which demanded complete concentration and absorption of thought. The two
girls had drawn close together as if for comfort, their nerves a-quiver
with the strain.

"Are you waiting for something to go off?" suddenly asked Curtis.

Each one started a little, and all laughed together.

"I think I was," confessed Elsie.

"You seemed to be holding your breath. I wish you'd both go in and
rest," he pleaded. "It is no use--"

"They're coming!" interrupted Lawson.

"Where? Where?"

"The sentinels are signalling again."

All turned to the east, but nothing could be seen--no smoke, no dust, no
sign of horsemen--yet the swift circling of the sentinels and the
turmoil among the warriors on the butte indicated the menace of an
approaching army. Another little band detached itself from the huddle of
the camp and came down the hill, slowly and in single file.

"The squaws are coming for their children, even before Wolf Robe reaches
them," said Lawson.

"And there's the mob!" said Curtis, and at his words a keen thrill of
fear ran through the hearts of the women. With set, pale faces they
looked away beneath levelled finger.

"That's right," said Wilson, "and two hundred strong."

The sad-colored horsemen were pouring over a high, pine-clad ridge some
two miles to the east, and streaming down into a narrow valley behind a
sharp intervening butte.

"Now, girls, you _must_ go in!" commanded Curtis, sharply. "You can do
no good--"

"George, let us stay!" pleaded Jennie. "We saved you yesterday, and we
may help to-day."

"What is the use of shutting us in the house? I'm not afraid," added
Elsie. "These men will do us no harm."

"I beg you will not interfere," he said, looking at Jennie, but Elsie
knew he included her as well. "It isn't a bit impressive to have an
agent flanked with women--in a council of war."

"Hang the looks! they're mighty effective sometimes," remarked Lawson.

"That's right!" chimed in Wilson. "By the Lord! they look sassy," he
added, referring back to the cowboys.

They formed a sinister cavalcade as they came streaming down the rough
road, two and two, like a monstrous swift serpent, parti-colored,
sinuous, silent, save for the muffled clatter of their horses' hoofs.
Curtis nerved himself for the shock, and, though weakened and
embarrassed by the presence of Elsie and Jennie, he presented a
soldierly breast to the mob. Had it been a question of protecting the
women, the case would have been different, but to argue a point of law
with them at his elbow exposed him to ridicule and to interruption.

As the horsemen debouched upon the valley road, a prodigious cloud of
dust arose and sailed away on the wind, completely hiding the rear ranks
so that they could not be numbered. As they drew near, the sheriff could
be seen riding at the head of the column side by side with a big man in
a blue shirt. They approached at a shacking trot, which was more
menacing than a gallop would have been--it was steady, inexorable,
self-contained as a charge of cavalry.

As they reached the issue-house, Curtis opened the gate and stepped out
into the road and faced them alone, and Elsie grew cold with fear as the
sheriff and his formidable following rode steadily up. When almost upon
the agent the leader turned, and, pushing his limp hat away from his
eyes, shouted:

"_Halt!_" As the men pulled in their horses he added, "Keep back there!"

The mob had found a leader, and was organized for violence. Curtis, with
folded arms, seemed small and weak as the army of invasion came to a
stand, filling the lane between the office and the agency house with
trampling horses and cursing men.

"Good-morning," growled the leader, surlily. "We're come for old Elk,
and I want to say we get him this time. No monkey business goes with old
Bill Yarpe. Women can't fool me."

Calvin Streeter rode out of the throng and pushed his way to the front.

Yarpe yelled: "H'yar! Keep in line there!"

"Go to hell!" replied Calvin, as he rode past him. "I'm no nigger. I
want to hear what goes on, and I tell ye right now you treat these
people fair or you'll hear from me."

"I'll shoot you up a few if you ain't keerful, young feller," replied
the old ruffian.

"That's right, General, he's too fresh," called some one.

Calvin spurred his horse alongside Yarpe's and looked him in the eye
with a glare which made the older man wince. "You be decent before these
women or I'll cut the heart out o' ye. You hear me!"

Curtis stepped forward. "Careful, Streeter--don't provoke trouble; we'll
protect the women."

The sheriff rode between the two men. "Cal, git away--you're my deputy,
remember."

As Cal reined his horse away, Curtis went to him and said, in a low
voice: "I appreciate your chivalry, Calvin, but be careful; don't excite
them."

As he looked into the big, red, whiskey-bloated face of Yarpe, Curtis
was frankly dismayed. The old ruffian was not only inflamed with liquor,
he was intoxicated with a subtler elixir--the pride of command. As he
looked back over his followers he visibly expanded and a savage glare
lit up his eyes. "Keep quiet, boys; I'll settle this thing."

Curtis again stepped towards the sheriff. "What do you propose to do,
Mr. Sheriff?"

Yarpe broke in boisterously. "We want old Elk. Bring him out or we go
after him." A chorus of applause followed.

"On what authority do you make this demand?" asked Curtis, facing Yarpe.

"On the authority of the sheriff of Pinon City," replied Yarpe, "and we
come along to see he does his duty."

"The sheriff is present and can speak for himself. He was my guest last
night and made an agreement with me, which, as an honorable man, he is
disposed to keep."

The sheriff avoided Curtis's eye, but Yarpe replied:

"He showed the white feather. He let you fool him, but you can't fool
this crowd. Bring on your Injun, or we go get him."

"Have you a warrant?"

"Oh, damn the warrant!"

The sheriff cleared his throat. "Yes, I have a warrant for Crawling Elk
and Grayman," he said, and began searching his pockets. The decisive
moment had arrived.



XXIV

THE GRAY-HORSE TROOP


Curtis minutely studied the crowd, which was made up very largely of
reckless young men--cowboys from all over the range, together with the
loafers and gamblers of the cow-towns. The sheriff's deputies were all
well to the front, but were quiet; they seemed to be a little abashed by
the gaze of the women to whom they were indebted for their dinner of
yesterday. Each member of the gang was burdened with ammunition and
carried both rifle and revolver.

The sheriff dismounted and handed a paper to Curtis, who took plenty of
time to read it. It was manifestly bogus, manufactured for use as a
bluff, and had not been properly sworn out; but to dispute it would be
to anger the cattlemen. There was only one chance for delay.

"Very well," he said, at last. "This warrant calls for two of the head
men among the Tetongs. Of course, I understand your motives. You do not
intend to charge these chiefs with the crime, you only wish to force the
tribe to yield some one else to your vengeance. In face of such a force
as this of yours, Mr. Sheriff, I can only yield, though I deny your
right to lay hand on one of my charges. I do all this under pressure.
If your men will retire a little I will call a messenger and communicate
with the chiefs named, and ask--"

Yarpe glared. "Communicate hell! Sheriff, say the word and we'll go and
get 'em."

Curtis fixed a calm gaze upon him. "You are a brave man, Mr. Yarpe, but
you'll need all your resolution when you charge up that hill in the face
of those desperate warriors." As he swept his arm out towards the west
all eyes were turned on the swarming mass of mounted Tetongs. The women
had moved higher, and were halted just on the eastern brow of the high
ridge, behind and to the right of the fighting men. "Now what will you
do, Mr. Sheriff?" pursued Curtis; "act with me through the head men, or
make your demand of the whole tribe?"

A dispute arose among the crowd. A few shouted, noisily, "Say the word
and we'll sweep the greasy devils off the earth." But the larger number,
like the sheriff's posse of the day before, found it not easy to overawe
this quiet soldier.

Calvin harangued the leader. "No, I will not button my lip," he shouted
again, confronting Yarpe, "for you nor no other man. You let the sheriff
and the Captain fix this thing up. What are you in this thing for,
anyhow? You don't own a foot of land nor a head o' stock. You're nothing
but a bum! You can't get trusted for a pound of tobacco. Nice man to
lead a mob--"

"Shut him up, Bill," shouted one fellow.

"Cal's right," called another.

"Don't let 'em fool ye, Bill; we come fer a redskin, and we'll have him
or burn the town."

Calvin had a revolver in each hand, and on his face was a look that
meant war.

Curtis called to Lawson. "Take the women in, quick!" He feared shooting
among the leaders of the mob. "Don't shoot, Calvin. Keep the peace."

With tears of impotent rage filling her eyes, Elsie retreated towards
the office under Lawson's care. Curtis stepped to the side of the
leader. "Silence your gang," he said.

Yarpe raised his bellowing voice. "Keep quiet, there! I'll settle this
thing in a minute."

"Keep back!" commanded the sheriff.

The crowd fell back a little, with Calvin crowding them hard, revolver
in hand. "No more funny business with me," he said, and death blazed
from his eyes. "Get back!"

Quiet having been restored, the sheriff, Curtis, and Yarpe were revealed
in animated argument. Curtis was talking against time--every moment was
precious.

"If you give in, your chances for re-election ain't worth a
leatherette," Yarpe said to the sheriff.

"You crazy fool! You wouldn't charge that hill?" asked the sheriff.

"That's what I would, and that's what the boys come for."

"But what good would it do?"

"It would learn these red devils a lesson they wouldn't forget, and it
would make you an' me the most popular men in the county. If you don't
do it, you're dead as the hinges of hell."

"If you charge that hill, some of you will stay there," put in Curtis.

Yarpe turned and roared: "Boys, the sheriff has weakened. Will you
follow me?"

"We will!" shouted the reckless majority.

At this precise moment, while looking over the sheriff's head towards
the pinon-spotted hill to the west, Curtis caught the gleam of something
white bobbing down the hill. It disappeared, but came into sight lower
down, a white globe based in a splash of blue. It was a white helmet,
topping the uniform of a cavalry officer. A sudden emotion seized Curtis
by the throat--his heart warmed, swelled big in his bosom. Oh, the good
old color! Now he could see the gauntleted gloves, the broad shoulders,
the easy seat of blessed old Jack Maynard as he ambled peacefully across
the flat.

"Look there!" he cried, turning to the group inside the gate, his finger
pointing like a pistol. His voice rang out joyous as a morning bugle,
and the girls thrilled with joy.

Yarpe looked. "Hell! The cavalry! We're euchred--clean."

Over the hill behind the officer appeared a squadron of gray horse,
marching in single file, winding down the trail like a long serpent,
spotted with blue and buff, the sun sparkling fitfully from their
polished brass and steel. When Curtis turned to the sheriff his face was
pale with excitement for the first time, quivering, exultant. "You'll
have the federal troops to deal with now," he said. "At last we are on
equal terms."

A deep silence fell on the mob. Every ruffian of them seemed suddenly
frozen into immobility, and each sat with head turned and eyes
wide-staring, watching the coming of the blue-shirted horsemen.

As the officer approached he was distinguishable as a powerful,
smooth-faced young man in a captain's uniform. As his eyes rested on
Curtis his plump, red face broke into a broad smile. It was plain that
he was Irish, and not averse to a bit of a shindy.

Riding straight up to the agent, he formally saluted, and in a deep,
dry, military voice, said:

"Colonel Daggett presents his compliments to Captain Curtis and tenders
Squadron B, at your service. Captain Maynard in command."

With equally impersonal decorum Curtis acknowledged the courtesy.

"Captain Curtis returns the compliment, and thanks Captain Maynard for
his prompt and most opportune arrival--Jack, I'm mighty glad to see
you."

Maynard dismounted and they shook hands. "Same to you, old man. What's
all the row?"

A clear, distant, boyish voice cried, "By columns of four into line!"
and the bugle, breaking voice, caused the hair of the agent's head to
stand; turning, he saw the squadron taking form as it crossed the
stream. It required his most heroic effort to keep the tears from his
eyes as his ear heard the dull rattle of scabbards and he watched the
splendid play of the gray horses' legs and broad chests as they came on,
weary but full of spirit yet. There was something inexorable in their
advance. In their order, their clean glitter, their impersonal grace,
was expressed the power of the general government.

Turning to the sheriff, he said: "Sheriff Winters, this warrant is
bogus--forged this morning by some one of your lynching-party; the ink
is hardly dry. I decline to serve it," and he tore it into strips and
flung it on the ground.

"Halt!" cried the oncoming commander, and with creak of saddle and
diminishing thunder of hoofs the Gray Squadron stopped within fifty feet
of the agency gate, and out of the dust a young lieutenant rode forward
and saluted.

"Hold your position, Mr. Payne," commanded Maynard.

"I just _love_ Captain Maynard!" said Jennie, fervently.

"I'll tell him," said Lawson.

"Now," said Maynard, "what's it all about? Nice gang, this!"

The mob that had been so loud of mouth now sat in silence as profound as
if each man had been smitten dumb. It was easy to threaten and flourish
pistols in the face of an Indian agent with a dozen women to protect,
but this wall of Uncle Sam's blue was a different barrier--not to be
lightly overleaped. The cowboys were not accustomed to facing such men
as these when they shot up towns and raced the Tetongs across the hills.

"Now what is it all about?" repeated Maynard, composing his comedy face
into a look of military sternness.

Curtis explained swiftly in a low voice, and ended by saying: "This is,
in effect, a lynching-party on federal territory. What would you do in
such a case?"

"Order them off, instanter!"

"Precisely. I have done so, but they refuse to go."

"Do they?" Maynard turned and remounted his horse. Saluting, he said:

"Captain Curtis, I am ready to execute any order you may choose to
give."

Curtis saluted. "You will see that these citizens, unlawfully assembled,
leave the reservation at once. Sheriff Winters, with all due respect to
your office, I request you to withdraw. Captain Maynard will escort you
to the borders of the reservation. When you have a warrant properly
executed, send or bring it to me and I will use every effort to serve
it. Good-morning, sir."

Captain Maynard drew his sword. "_'Tention, squadron!_" The tired horses
lifted their heads as the dusty troopers forced them into line.

Maynard's voice rang out: "_Left wheel, into line--march!_"

"You'll hear from this!" said the sheriff. "You'll find the State won't
stand any such foolishness."

Yarpe's ferocity had entirely evaporated. "'Bout face, boys; we're not
fightin' the United States army--I had enough o' that in '63. Clear out!
Our bluff don't go."

The cowboys, cursing under breath, whirled their ponies and followed
Yarpe, the redoubtable. The sheriff brought up the rear, still
contending for the rights of the county, but he retreated. Small as the
dusty squadron looked, it was too formidable, both because of its
commanders and because of the majestic idea it embodied.

Calvin was the last to leave. "I done my best, Major," he said, loudly,
in order that Jennie might hear.

"I know it, Calvin; come and see us again in your civil capacity,"
replied Curtis, and waved a cordial salute.

As the squadron fell in behind and was hidden by the dust of the passing
cattlemen, Curtis turned to where Elsie still stood. He was smiling, but
his limbs were stiffened and inert by reason of the rigidity of his long
position before the posse.

"We are saved!" he said, in mock-heroic phrase.

"Oh, wasn't it glorious to see the good old blue-and-buff!" cried
Jennie, the tears of her joy still on her cheeks. "I could have hugged
Captain Maynard."

"There is chance yet," said Curtis. "He's coming back."

Elsie did not speak for a moment. "What would you have done if they had
not come?" she asked, soberly.

"I could have delayed them a little longer by sending couriers to Elk
and Grayman; but let's not think of that. Let's all go into the house;
you look completely tired out."

Elsie fairly reeled with weakness, and Curtis took her arm. "You are
trembling," he said, tenderly.

"I haven't stirred for a half-hour," she said. "I was so tense with the
excitement. I feared you would be shot, and the tribe isn't worth the
sacrifice," she added, with a touch of her old spirit.

"I was in no physical danger," he replied. "But I should have felt
disgraced had the mob had its way."

"The people are coming back," said Lawson. "They have seen the
soldiers."

"So they are!" exclaimed Curtis. "They are shouting with joy. Can't you
hear them? The chiefs are riding this way already; they know the army
will protect them."

The thick mass of horsemen was breaking up, some of them were riding
towards the women with the camp stuff, others were crossing the valley,
while a dozen head men, riding straight towards the agency, began to
sing a song of deliverance and victory. Joyous shouts could be heard as
the young men signalled the good news.

"_The cattlemen are going--the soldiers have come!_"



XXV

AFTER THE STRUGGLE


Upon reaching the library each member of the party sank into easy-chairs
with sighs of deep relief, relaxed and nerveless. The storm was over.
Jennie voiced the feeling as she said, "Thank the Lord and Colonel
Daggett." Elsie was physically weary to the point of drowsiness, but her
mind was active. Mrs. Parker was bewildered and silent. Even Parker was
subdued by the grave face of the agent.

Lawson, with a curious half-smile, broke the silence. "There are times
when I wish I owned a Gatling gun and knew how to use it."

Curtis started up. "Well, it's all over but the shouting. I must return
to the office and set things in order once more."

"You ought to rest a little," said Elsie. "You must feel the strain."

"I am a little inert at the moment," he confessed, "but I'm Hamlet in
the play, you know, and must be at my post. I'll meet you all at lunch.
You need have no further worry."

The employés responded bravely to his orders. The cheerful clink of the
anvil broke forth with tranquillizing effect. The school-bell called the
children together, the tepees began to rise from the sod as before, and
the sluggish life of the agency resumed its unhurried flow, though
beneath the surface still lurked vague forms of fear. Parker returned to
his studio, Lawson sought his den, and there stretched out to smoke and
muse upon the leadings of the event, while Jennie planned a mid-day
dinner for a round dozen. "It will be a sort of love-feast to Captain
Maynard," she said, roguishly.

"Will he return so soon?" asked Elsie.

"Oh yes, he'll only go a little way. Jack Maynard can smell a good
dinner across a range of foot-hills. Didn't he look beautiful as he
smiled? I used to think he grinned, but to-day--well, he looked like a
heavenly cherub in the helmet of an archangel as he rode up."

Elsie was genuinely amused. "What is the meaning of this fervor. Has
there been something between you and Captain Maynard in the past?"

"Not a thing! Oh, I always liked him--he's so good-natured--and so
comical. Can you peel potatoes?"

"I never did such a thing in my life, but I'll try."

About one o'clock Maynard came jogging back, accompanied by a sergeant
and a squad of men, dusty, tired, and hungry.

Curtis met him at the gate. "Send your horses down to the corral,
Captain. You're to take pot-luck with us."

Maynard dismounted, slowly, painfully. "I've been wondering about those
girls," he said, after the horses were led away. "One is your sister
Jennie, of course; but who is the other? She's what the boys would call
a 'queen.'"

"You've heard of Andrew J. Brisbane?"

"You mean the erstwhile Senator?"

"Yes; this is his daughter."

"Great Himmel! What is she doing here?"

"She's an artist and is making some studies of Indians."

"I didn't suppose a man of Brisbane's blood and brawn could have a girl
as fine as she looks to be."

"Oh, Brisbane has his good points--But come over to the house. Of course
the mob gave no further trouble?"

"Not a bit, only the trouble of keeping them in sight; they rode like
Jehu. I left the chase to Payne--it was what Cooper used to call a
'stern chase and a long chase.' Your quarters aren't so bad," he added,
as they entered the library.

Jennie came in wearing an apron and looking as tasty as a dumpling. "How
do you do, Colonel Maynard?" she cried out, most cordially.

He gave his head a comical flirt on one side. "I beg pardon! Why
Colonel?"

"I've promoted you for the brave deed of this morning."

He recovered himself. "Oh!--oh--yes!--Hah! I had forgotten. You saw me
put 'em to flight? I was a little late, but I gave service, don't you
think?"

"You were wonderful, but I know you're hungry; we're to have dinner
soon--a real dinner, not a lunch."

He looked a little self-conscious. "Well--I--shall be delighted. You
see, I was awake most of the night, and in riding one gets hungry--and,
besides, breakfast was a little hurried. In fact, I don't remember that
I had any."

"Why, you poor thing! I'll hurry it forward. Cheer up," and she whisked
out of the room.

Maynard flecked a little dust from his sleeve and inquired, carelessly:
"Your sister isn't married?"

"No, she sticks to me still. She's a blessed, good girl, and I don't
know what I should do without her."

"You mustn't be selfish," remarked Maynard, reflectively. "But see here,
I must knock off some dust, or I will lose the good impression I made on
the ladies."

"Make yourself at home here and we'll have something to eat soon," said
Curtis at the door.

The dinner was unexpectedly merry. Every one felt like celebrating the
army, and Maynard, as the representative of the cavalry arm, came near
blushing at the praise which floated his way on toasts which were drunk
from a bottle of sherry, a liquor Jennie had smuggled in for cooking
purposes.

"I admit I did it," he rose to say, "but I hold it not meet to have it
so set down."

Parker was extravagantly gay. "I'm going to do a statue of Maynard on
his horse rushing to our rescue," he said. "It will be a tinted piece
like the ancients used to do. That white helmet shall flash like snow.
Sheridan will no longer be the great equestrian."

"Leave off the broad smile," interrupted Lawson. "Captain Maynard's
smile made light of our tragic situation."

"I don't think so; it was the smile of combat," exclaimed Elsie. "It was
thrilling."

Maynard bowed. "Thank you, Miss Brisbane."

"It was Jack Maynard's murderin' grin," said Curtis; "it was the look
the boys used to edge away from at the Academy. I must tell you, Jack
nearly got shunted into the ways of glory. He could whip any man in West
Point in his day, and a New York sporting man offered to back him for a
career. Thereupon Jack wrestled with the tempter and 'thrun 'im.' He now
sees his mistake. He might have been 'Happy Jack, the Holy Terror,' by
this time, earning two hundred thousand a year like the great O'Neill."

Maynard sighed. "Instead of which, here I am rescuing beleaguered
damsels, like the hero of a dime novel, on two thousand a year."

Jennie spoke up sharply. "I will not have Captain Maynard made fun of
any more. It was a noble deed, and he deserves better treatment for it."

Maynard bowed. "I have one defender," he said, soberly.

"Here's another," cried Elsie.

"With two such faithful defenders I defy the world!" he shouted,
valorously. Thereupon they left off joking him.

As they rose from the table, Curtis turned to Elsie: "Would you like to
go with me to make a tour of the camp?"

Her eyes lighted up. "I should like it exceedingly."

"Very well, about three o'clock we will go. You will have time for a
_siesta_. You must be tired."

"Oh no, I am quite rested and ready to go any time," and her bright eyes
and warm color confirmed her words.

With military promptness the horses were brought round, and,
accompanied by Maynard and Jennie, Curtis, with Elsie by his side, led
the way to the camp. She was a confident horsewoman and rode a fine
brown pony, and Curtis, who had never ridden with her before, glowed
with pleasure in her grace and skill.

As they galloped off up the road a keen twinge of remorseful pity for
Lawson touched Elsie's heart. He was grown suddenly older, it seemed to
her, as though he had definitely given up the attempt to remain young,
and this thought made her rather sober. He was being left out of her
plans now almost unconsciously, while the other--

"One of the real heroes in this affair," Curtis was saying, "is Crane's
Voice. He has been in saddle nearly thirty-six hours, and is willing to
start again to Pinon City if I ask it."

"Of course you will not?"

"No. I will send a white man. The settlers might do even Crane's Voice
an injury."

All was quiet in the camps, with little sign of the precipitate flight
of the morning, either in the faces of the men or in the disposal of the
tepees. The old men and some of the women came out to greet their Little
Father and the soldier of the good heart, and Curtis gave out a
tranquillizing message and asked, "Have you called the council?"

"Ay, for sunrise to-morrow," answered Elk and Two Horns.

"That is good," he replied. "Where are your young men?"

"Some are in the hills, some are gone as messengers, others are watching
the ponies."

"Call them all in. I don't want them riding about to-night. Keep them in
camp, close by the soldiers--then no harm will come to them."

So, scattering greetings and commands, he rode through the two circles
of tepees. The redmen were all eager to shake hands with Maynard, in
whom they recognized a valiant friend as well as an old-time enemy.

They found the camp of Grayman less tranquil, for the stragglers were
still coming in from the hills, and scores of women were busy resetting
their tepees. Grayman himself came forth, nervous and eager. "Ho, Little
Father, my heart is glad that the soldiers have come."

"We are all glad," replied Curtis. "Where is your son?"

Grayman looked troubled. "I do not know. He is away with Cut Finger, my
sister's son."

"Cut Finger is bad company for your son."

"I know it; but they are blood-brothers, as is the way of young men.
Where one is, there the other is also."

Maynard and Jennie were not as deeply interested in the camp as they had
given out to be at starting. He was recalling to her mind some of the
parties they had attended together at Fort Sibley. "Really, Captain
Maynard," she was saying, as they rode up, "you would have it appear
that we saw a great deal of each other in those days."

"That's my contention entirely," he replied, "and it is my _in_tention
to continue this Indian outbreak indefinitely in order to go into
cantonment here."

"You always were susceptible to good dinners, Captain Maynard."

"Say good company, and you'll be right entirely."

Curtis, having caught Maynard's last remark, called out in the biting
tone of the upper classman at West Point.

"Are you on special duty, Captain Maynard, or riding in the park?"

He saluted imperturbably. "By good luck I am doing both, at your
service."

"Merely cast your eye around so that you can report the Tetongs peaceful
and in camp, then you may ride where you please."

Maynard swept his eyes over the village. "It is done! Now, Miss Curtis,
let's try for the top of that hill?"

"No, no, you have been riding all night."

"Why, so I have! In the charm of your presence I'd forgotten it. I'm
supposed to be fagged."

"You don't look it," remarked Curtis, humorously, running his eyes over
the burly figure before him. "At the same time, I think you'd better
return. Your commissariat wagons will be rumbling in soon."

Maynard again saluted. "Very well, 'Major,' it shall be so," and,
wheeling his horse in such wise as to turn Jennie's pony, they galloped
off together, leaving Curtis and Elsie to follow.

"It's hard to realize that disaster came so near to us," he said,
musingly, and Elsie shaded her eyes with her hand and looked up at the
hills.

"There is a wonderful charm in this dry country! I have never seen such
blinding sunshine. But life must be difficult here."

"You begin to feel that? I expect to stay here at least five years,
providing I am not removed."

She shuddered perceptibly. "Five years is a long time to give out of
one's life--with so little to show for it."

He hesitated a moment, then said, with deep feeling, "It's hard, it's
lonely, but, after all, it has its compensations. I can see results. The
worst side of it all is--I can never ask any woman to share such a life
with me. I feel guilty when I consider Jennie--she ought to have a home
of her own; she has no outlook here."

She looked straight ahead as she replied. "You would find life here
intolerable without her."

"I know it; but in my best moments I realize how selfish it is in me to
keep her."

"Suppose you were to resign, what would you do?"

"I would try to secure a chance at some field-work for the Ethnologic
Bureau. It doesn't pay very well, but it would be congenial, and my
proficiency in the sign language would, I think, make me valuable. I
have determined never to go back to garrison life without some special
duty to occupy my mind."

"Life isn't a bit simple when you are grown up, is it?"

"Life is always simple, if one does one's duty."

"That is a soldier's answer; it is not easy for me to enter into that
spirit. I have my art, and no sense of duty at all."

"Your position is equally strange to me; but duties will discover
themselves--later. A life without duties is impossible."

"I know what you mean, but I do not intend to allow any duty to
circumscribe my art." This she uttered defiantly.

"I don't like to hear you say that. Life is greater than art."

She laughed. "How different our points of view! You are Anglo-Saxon, I
am French. Art counts far more with us."

"Was your mother French? I did not know that."

"Yes--a Canadian. I have her nature rather than that of my father."

"Sometimes I think you are your father's daughter. Did your mother live
to enjoy her husband's success?"

"Not to the full. Still, she had a nice home in Alta, where I was born.
She died before he was elected Senator." They had nearly reached the
agency now, and she shook off her sober mood. "Shall we go in with a
dash?"

"I'm agreed."

She put quirt to her horse and they entered the lane at a flying gallop.
As he assisted her to alight at the studio door he said:

"I hope your father will not require you to join him in the East. It is
a great pleasure to have you here." His voice touched something vibrant
in her heart.

"Oh, I don't think he will when he fully understands the situation. I'm
sure I don't want to go. I shall write him so."

Curtis rode away elate as a boy. Something which he did not care to
define had come to him from her, subtle as a perfume, intangible as
light, and yet it had entered into his blood with most transforming
effect. He put aside its analysis, and went about his duties content
with the feeling that life was growing richer day by day.

Wilson, seeing his shining face, sighed and said to himself: "I guess
the Major has found his girl. He's a lucky dog. I wish I could pick up
even a piece of plain calico, I'd be satisfied." And he ran through a
list of the unmarried women within reach, to no result, as usual.

Meanwhile the supply-wagons had arrived, and Captain Maynard was
overseeing the laying-out of the camp just below the agency. Lieutenant
Payne and his command returned at five o'clock, and in a short time the
little village of white tents was in order. Curtis came over to insist
that the officers take dinner with them at "the parsonage," and, as
Captain Maynard had already spoken of the good company and the excellent
dinner he had enjoyed in the middle of the day, Lieutenant Payne was
quite ready to comply, especially as his lunch had been as light as his
breakfast.

The meal was as enjoyable as the mid-day dinner, and the Parkers derived
much comfort from the presence of the soldiers.

"I guess I'm not fitted to be a pioneer artist," Parker confessed, and
the hearty agreement he met with quite disconcerted him.

Mrs. Parker was indignant at the covert ridicule of her husband, and was
silent all through the meal; indeed, the burden of the conversation fell
upon Jennie and Maynard, but they were entirely willing to bear it, and
were not lacking for words.

"It is good to hear the bugles again," Jennie remarked, as one of the
calls rang out on the still air, sweet and sad and as far removed from
war as a love song.

"They're not so pleasant when they call to the same monotonous round of
daily duties," said Mr. Payne.

Curtis smiled. "Here's another disgruntled officer. What would you
do--kill off the Indians and move into the city?"

"To kill off a few measly whites might insure completer peace and
tranquillity," replied Maynard.

"You fellows couldn't be more righteously employed," put in Lawson. "You
might begin on the political whoopers round about."

"What blasphemy!" cried Jennie. "These 'noble pioneers!'"

"Founding a mighty State," added Curtis.

"Founding a state of anarchy!" retorted Lawson. "They never did have any
regard for law, except a law that worked in their favor."

Parker got in a word. "Lawson, do you know what you are? You're what
Norman Bass used to call 'a blame a-riss-to-crat.'" This provoked a
laugh at Lawson's expense.

"I admit it," said Lawson, calmly. "I am interested in the cowboy and
the miner--as wild animals--as much as any of you, but as founders of an
empire! The hard and unlovely truth is, they are representatives of
every worst form of American vice; they are ignorant, filthy, and cruel.
Their value as couriers of the Christian army has never been great with
me."

Maynard was unusually reflective as he stared at Lawson.

"That's mighty plain talk," he observed, in the pause that followed.
"You couldn't run for office on speeches like that."

"Lawson's living doesn't depend on prevarication," remarked Curtis. "If
it did--"

"If it did I'd lie like the best--I mean the worst of you," replied
Lawson.

"In a few years there will not be an Indian left," Parker remarked.

"The world will be the poorer."

"They will all be submerged," continued Parker.

"Why submerge them? Is the Anglo-Saxon type so adorable in the sight of
God that He desires all the races of the earth to be like unto it? If
the proselytizing zeal of the missionaries and functionaries of the
English-speaking race could work out, the world would lose all its
color, all its piquancy. Hungary would be like Scotland, Scotland would
be Cornwall, Cornwall would duplicate London, and London reflect New
York. Beautiful scheme for tailors, shoe-makers, and preachers, but
depressing to artists."

"You must be one of those chaps the missionaries tell about, who would
keep men savage just to please your sense of the picturesque."

"Savage! There's a fine word. What is a savage?"

"A man who needs converting to our faith," said Jennie.

"A man to exercise the army on," said Maynard.

"A man to rob in the name of the Lord," said Parker.

"You're stealing all my oratorical thunder," complained Lawson. "When a
speaker asks a question like that he doesn't want a detailed answer--he
is pausing for effect. Speaking seriously--"

"Oh!" said Maynard, "then you were _not_ serious."

Lawson went his oratorical way. "My conviction is that savagery held
more of true happiness than we have yet realized; and civilization, as
you begin to see, does not, by any construction, advance the sum of
human happiness as it should do."

"What an advantage it is to have an independent income!" mused Maynard,
looking about the table. "There's a man who not only has opinions, but
utters them in a firm tone of voice."

"I am being instructed," remarked Elsie. "I used to think no one took
the Indian's side; now every one seems opposed to the cattlemen."

"When we are civilized enough to understand this redman, he will have
disappeared," said Curtis, very soberly.

"Judging from the temper of this State at present, I reckon you're about
right," replied Maynard. "Well, it's out o' my hands, as the fellah
says; I'm not the Almighty; if I were I'd arrange things on a different
basis."

"We are all transition types," remarked Curtis, harking back to a remark
of Lawson's making.

"Even these settlers are immortal souls," said Parker.

"Consider!" exclaimed Lawson. "How could we live without the Indian
question? Maynard would be like Othello--occupation gone. Curtis would
cease to be a philanthropist. Elsie Bee Bee would go sadly back to
painting 'old hats' and dead ducks. I alone of all this company would be
busy and well paid. I would continue to study the remains of the race."

Jennie rose. "Put a period there," said she, "till we escape, and,
remember, if we hear any loud talk we'll come out and fetch you away,"
and she hurried out into the sitting-room, where Elsie and Mrs. Parker
yielded up valuable suggestions about dress.

       *       *       *       *       *

As the Parkers rose to go, Lawson approached Elsie and asked in a low
voice: "_Are_ you going home to the mess-house to-night? If you are, I
want to go with you."

"I'll be ready in a moment," she replied, but her eyes wavered. As they
stepped out together quite in the old way, he abruptly but gently began:

"It is significant of our changed relations when I say that this is the
first time I've had an opportunity for a private word since our camping
trip. There is no need of this constraint, Elsie. I want you to be your
good, frank self with me. I'll not misunderstand it. I am not charging
anything up against you. In fact, I can see that you are right in your
decision, but it hurts me to have you avoid me as you have done lately."

There was something in his voice which brought the hot tears to her eyes
and she replied, gently: "I'm very sorry, Osborne. I hoped you wouldn't
care--so much, and I didn't mean--"

"I've tried not to show my hurt, for my own sake as well as yours, but
the fact is I didn't realize how deeply you'd taken root in my thoughts
till I tried to put you away. It is said that no two lovers are ever
equal sharers in affection--one always gives more than the other--or one
expects more than the other. I was perfectly sincere when I made that
bargain with you, and I know you were; but you are younger than I, and
that has changed the conditions for you. I am older than you thought,
and I find myself naturally demanding more and more. I think I
understand better than I did two days ago why you gave me back the ring,
and I do not complain of it. I shall never again refer to it, but we can
at least be friends. This cold silence--"

She put out her hand. "Don't, please don't."

"I can't bear your being stiff and uncomfortable in my presence, Bee
Bee! You even called me Mister Lawson." There was a pathetic sort of
humor in his voice which touched her. "Let us be good comrades again."

She gave him her hand. "Very well, Osborne. But you are mistaken if you
think--"

"Time will tell!" he interrupted, and his voice was strenuously
cheerful. "Anyhow, we are on a sound footing again. Good-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

The presence of Maynard and the troop was a greater relief to Curtis
than he realized. He laid down for a moment's rest on his couch and fell
into a dreamless sleep at once, and Jennie, deciding not to arouse him,
spread a light shawl over him and withdrew softly. Maynard's coming
brought a deeper sense of security than a stranger could have given with
twice the number of troops. "Jack Maynard is so dependable," she said,
and a distinct note of tenderness trembled in her voice.



XXVI

THE WARRIOR PROCLAIMS HIMSELF


The messengers from both Riddell and Pinon reported to Curtis about
daylight, laden with papers and telegrams. The telegrams naturally
received first reading. There was one filled with instructions from the
Secretary of the Interior, and one from the Commissioner, bidding him
stand firm. Several anxious ones from various cities, all of this tenor:
"Is there any danger? my niece is one of your teachers," etc. In the
midst of the others, Curtis came upon a fat one for Elsie, plainly from
her father. This he put aside till after breakfast, when he permitted
himself the pleasure of carrying it to the studio. He found her at work,
painting a little brown tot of a girl in the arms of her smiling mother.

"I have a telegram for you--from your father, no doubt."

She rose quickly and opened the envelope. As she read she laughed. "Poor
papa; he is genuinely alarmed. Read it."

He took it with more interest than he cared to show, and found it most
peremptory in tone.

"Reports from Fort Smith most alarming. Come out at once. Have wired the
agent to furnish escort and conveyance. Shall expect you to reply
immediately, giving news that you have left agency. You should not have
gone there. I will meet you at Pinon City if possible; if I do not, take
train for Alta. Wire me your plans. Country is much alarmed. I must hear
from you at once or shall be worried."

Curtis looked up with an amused light in his eyes. "He's a little
incoherent, but sufficiently mandatory. When will you start?"

"I will send a telegram out at once that I am safe, and all danger over.
He will not want me to leave now."

"Very well. A messenger will start at once with all our letters and
messages. Anything you wish to send can go at the same time."

"What news have you?"

"I only had time to glance at my mail, but the papers are all that
Lawson has predicted. If you would know how important a criminal I am,
read these"--he pointed at a bundle on a chair. "I must go back to the
office now, but I will wait for your letters and telegrams before
despatching a messenger. If you think it better to go than to stay, I
will ask Captain Maynard to escort you to the station."

"I will stay," she replied.

She wrote a brief telegram to her father, saying: "I am quite safe and
hard at work. All quiet; don't worry," and also composed a letter giving
vital details of the situation and taking strong ground against the way
in which the cattlemen had invaded the reservation. In conclusion she
added: "I have a fine studio, plenty of models, and am in fine health; I
cannot think of giving up my work because of this foolish panic. Don't
let these settlers influence you against Captain Curtis; he's right this
time."

As she ran through the papers and caught the full significance of their
precipitate attack on the agent, her teeth clinched in hot indignation.
At the first breath, before they were sure of a single item of news,
they leaped upon an honorable man, accusing him of concealing stolen
cattle and of harboring murderers and thieves. "As for the Indians, it
is time to exterminate these vermin! Let the State wipe out this tribe
and its agency, and send this fellow Curtis back to his regiment where
he belongs," was the burden of their song.

As she read on, tingling with wrath at these vulgarly written and
utterly un-Christian editorials, the girl caught an amazing side-glimpse
of herself and the views she once held. She remembered reading just such
reports once before, and joining with her father in his desire to punish
the redmen. Was Lawson right? Had her notions of the "brave and noble
pioneers fighting the wild beast and the savage" arisen from ignorance
of their true nature? Had they always been as narrow, as bigoted, as
relentless, and as greedy as these articles hinted at? Some of Lawson's
clean-cut, relentless phrases came back to her at the moment, and she
began to believe that he was nearer right than she had been. And her
father? Would he sanction such libels as these? At last the essential
grandeur of the position held in common by both Curtis and Lawson--of
the right of the small people to their place on the planet--came to her,
and in opposition to their grave, sweet eyes she saw again the brutal,
leering faces of the mob, and comprehended the feelings of a chief like
Grayman, as he confronts the oncoming hordes of a destroying race.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, in the grassy hollow between two round-top hills the bands of
Elk and Grayman were gathered in extraordinary council. No one was in
gala-dress, no one was painted, all were serious or sad or morose. Upon
their folded blankets the head men sat in a small circle on the smooth
sod, exposed to the blazing sun. Behind them stood or knelt a larger
circle, the men and boys on one side, the women on the other, while in
the rear, mounted on their fleetest ponies, some two hundred of the
young men were ranked, enthralled listeners to the impassioned speeches
of the old men.

Crawling Elk made the first address, repeating the story which the agent
had told and calling upon all those who sat before him to search for the
guilty one and report to him if they found him. His words were received
in silence.

Then Grayman rose, and, stepping into the circle, began to speak in a
low and sorrowful voice. Something in his manner as well as in his words
enlisted the almost breathless interest of the crowd. There was a tragic
pathos in his voice as he called out: "You see how it is, brothers; we
are like a nest of ants in a white man's field, which he is ploughing.
We are only a few and weak, while all around us our enemies press in
upon us. We have only one friend--our Little Father. We must do as he
says. We must give up a man to the war chief of the cowboys. They will
never believe that any one else killed the sheep-man. The cattlemen and
sheepmen are always quarrelling, but they readily join hands to do the
Tetongs harm."

"It is death to us to fight the white man; I know it. Unless we all wish
to be shot, we must not become angry this time; we must do as the Little
Father says, and if we cannot find the man who did this thing, I will go
and give myself into the hands of the white war chief." A murmur of
protest and anger ran round the circle. "It is better for one to suffer
than many," he said, in answer to the protest, "and I am old. My wife is
dead. I have but one son, and he is estranged from me. I say, if we
cannot find who did this thing, then I am willing to go and be killed of
the white people in order to keep the peace. I have said it."

Standing Elk leaped to his feet, tall, gaunt, excitable. "We will not do
this," he said. "We will fight first." And among the young warriors
there was applause. "The Tetongs are not dogs to be always kicked in the
ribs. I have fought the white man. I have met 'Long Hair' and 'Bear
Robe' in battle. I am not afraid of the cattlemen. I am old, but my
heart is yet big. Let us do battle and die like brave men."

Then Crawling Elk rose, and his broad, good-humored face shone in the
sun like polished bronze as he turned his cheek to the wind.

"The words of my brother are loud and quick," he said, slowly. "In the
ancient time it was always so. He was always ready to fight. I was
always opposed to fighting. We must not talk of fighting now; all that
is put away. It belongs to the suns that have gone over our heads. We
must now talk of cattle-herding and ploughing. We must strive always to
be at peace with the cowboys. I, too, am old. I have not many years to
live; but you young men have a long time to live, and you cannot be
always quarrelling with the settlers; you must be wise and patient. Our
Little Father, Swift Eagle, is our friend; you can trust him. You can
put your hand in his and find it strong and warm. His heart is good and
his words are wise. If we can find the man who did this evil deed, we
must give him up. It is not right that all of us should suffer for the
wickedness of one man. No, it is not right that we who are old should
die for one whose hands are red."

This speech was also received in silence, but plainly produced a
powerful effect. Then one of the men who found the body rose and told
what he knew of the case. "I do not think a Tetong killed the man," he
said, in conclusion.

In this wise the talk proceeded for nearly two hours, and then the
council rose to meet again at sunset, and word of what had been said was
carried to Curtis by Crawling Elk and Grayman.

To them Curtis said: "I am pleased with you. Go over the names of all
your reckless young men, and when you reach one you think might do such
a deed, question him and his people closely. The shells of the rifle
were the largest size--that may help you. Your old men would not do this
thing--their heads are cool; but some of your young men have hot hearts
and may have quarrelled with this herder."

The old men went away very sorrowful. Grayman was especially troubled,
because he could not help thinking all the time of Cut Finger, his
nephew.

Running Fox, or "Cut Finger," as the white people called him, he knew to
be a morose and reckless young man, and probably possessed of some evil
spirit, for at times he was quite crazy. Once he had forced his pony
into the cooking-lodge of Bear Paw for no reason at all, and Bear Paw,
in a rage, had snatched up his rifle and fired, putting a bullet through
the bridle hand of Running Fox, who lost two fingers and gained a new
name. At another time the mad fool had tried to force his horse to leap
a cliff; and once he had attempted to drown himself; and yet, between
these obsessions, he could be very winning, and there were many among
Elk's band who pitied him. He was comely withal, and had married a
handsome girl, the daughter of Standing Wolf. It was easy to imagine
that Cut Finger was the guilty one, and yet to think of him was to think
of his son's intimate friend.

When he reached his tepee Grayman lit his pipe and sat down alone and
remained in deep thought for hours. He feared to find Cut Finger guilty,
for his own son was Cut Finger's friend, or fellow, and that means the
closest intimacy. There are no secrets between a Tetong and his chum.
"If Cut Finger is guilty, then my son knows of it. That I fear."

When any one came to the door he motioned them away; even his daughter
dared not enter, for she saw him in meditation. As he smoked he made
offering to the Great Spirit, and prayed that he might be shown the
right way, and his heart was greatly troubled.

Crawling Elk, with a half-dozen of his head men, was seated in his
tepee, calmly discussing the same question. The canvas of his lodge was
raised, as much to insure privacy as to let the wind sweep through. It
was not easy to accuse any man of this crime, or even to suggest the
name of any one as capable of such a foolish deed of blood. For
relationships were close; therefore it was that he, too, narrowed the
investigation down to Cut Finger. It is easier to accuse the son of a
neighbor than your own son, especially if that other is already a marked
man among reckless youths.

At five o'clock Grayman called his daughter and said, "Send my sister,
Standing Cloud, to me."

Standing Cloud came and took a seat on the outside of the tepee--on the
side where the canvas was fastened up--and there sat with bent head, her
fingers busy with blades of grass, while her brother questioned her. She
was a large and comely woman of middle age. Her expression was still
youthful, and her voice had girlish lightness. She was at once deeply
moved by her brother's questions. She did not know where her son was; he
had not been to see her for several days. She understood whereto the
questioning tended, and stoutly denied that her son would do so evil a
deed. Nevertheless, Grayman was compelled to say:

"You know he has a bad head," and he made the confused, wavering sign of
the hand which signifies crazy or foolish, and the mother rose and went
away sobbing.

Then Grayman recalled the words of the Little Father. "If my own brother
should do wrong, I would give him up to the war chief," he therefore
said. "If my son and my sister's son are guilty, I will give them up,"
and he rose and sought out Crawling Elk and told him of his fears, and
repeated his resolution as they sat together while the sun was going
down and the crier was calling the second council.

"It is right," said Elk. "Those who are guilty must be punished; but we
do not know who fired the shot."

The people were slow in coming together this second time, and darkness
was falling as the head men again took their seats. A small fire was
being built in the centre of the circle, and towards this at last, like
nocturnal insects, the larger number of the people in the two camps
slowly concentrated.

The wind had gone down and the night was dark and still and warm. The
people gathered in comparative silence, though the laugh of a girl
occasionally broke from the clustering masses of the women, to be
followed by a mutter of jests from the young men who stood close packed
behind the older members of the bands. Excitement had deepened since the
morning, for in some way the news had passed from lip to lip that
Grayman had discovered the evil-doer.

On their part the chieftains were slow to begin their painful task. They
smoked in silence till the fire was twice replenished, then began
talking in low tones among themselves. At last Crawling Elk arose and
made a speech similar to that of the morning. He recounted the tale of
the murdered white man, and the details of finding the body, and ended
by saying: "We are commanded by the agent to find the ones who have done
this evil deed. If any one knows anything about this, let him come
forward and speak. It is not right that we should all suffer for the
wrong-doing of some reckless young warriors."

"Come forth and speak, any one who knows," called the head men, looking
round the circle. "He who remains silent does wrong."

Two Horns rose. "We mean you, young men--you too," he said, turning to
the women. "If any of you have heard anything of this matter, speak!"

Then the silence fell again on the circle of old men, and they bent
their heads in meditation. Crawling Elk was just handing the pipe to
Grayman, in order to rise, when a low mutter and a jostling caused every
glance to centre upon one side of the circle, and then, decked in
war-paint, gay with beads and feathers, and carrying a rifle, Cut Finger
stepped silently and haughtily into the circle and stood motionless as a
statue, his tall figure erect and rigid as an oak.

A moaning sound swept over the assembly, and every eye was fixed on the
young man. "Ahee! Ahee!" the women wailed, in astonishment and fear; two
or three began a low, sad chant, and death seemed to stretch a black
wing over the council. By his weapons, by his war-paint, by his bared
head decked with eagle-plumes, and by the haughty lift of his face, Cut
Finger proclaimed louder than words:

"I am the man who killed the herder."

Standing so, he began to sing a stern song:

    "I alone killed him--the white man.
    He was a thief and I killed him.
    No one helped me; I alone fired the shot.
    He will drive his sheep no more on Tetong lands.
    This dog of a herder.
    He lies there in the short grass.
    It was I, Cut Finger, who did it."

As his chant died away he turned: "I go to the hills to fight and die
like a man." And before the old men could stay him he had vanished among
the young horsemen of the outer circle, and a moment later the loud
drumming of his pony's hoofs could be heard as he rode away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Curtis was sitting alone in the library when a tap at his window
announced the presence of Grayman.

Following a gesture, the chieftain came in, and, with a look on his face
which expressed high resolution and keen sorrow, he said:

"The man who killed the herder is found. He has proclaimed himself at
our council, and he has ridden away into the hills."

"Who was he?"

"Cut Finger."

"Ah! So? Well, you have done your duty. I will not ask you to arrest
him. Crow will do that. I hope"--he hesitated--"I hope your son was not
with him?"

"'I alone did it,' he says. My son is innocent."

"I am very glad," replied Curtis, looking into the old man's tremulous
face. "Go home and sleep in peace."

With a clasp of the hand Grayman said good-night and vanished.

There was nothing to be done till morning, and Curtis knew the habits of
the Indians too well to be anxious about the criminal. Calling his
faithful Crane's Voice, he said:

"Crane, will you go to Pinon City?"

Crane's Voice straightened. "To-night?"

"Yes, to-night."

"If you will let me wear a blue coat I will go."

Curtis smiled. "You are a brave boy. I will give you a coat. That will
protect you if you are caught by the white men. Saddle your pony."

With a smile he turned on his heel and went out as cheerfully as though
he were going on an errand to the issue-house.

In his letter to the sheriff Curtis said: "I have found the murderer. He
is a half-crazy boy called Cut Finger. Make out a warrant for him and I
will deliver him to you. You will need no deputies. No one but yourself
will be permitted to cross the line for the present."

After Crane had galloped off, Curtis laid down his pen and sat for a
long time recalling the events of the evening. He remembered that Lawson
and Elsie went away together, and a pang of jealous pain took hold upon
him. "I never had the privilege of taking her arm," he thought,
unreasonably.



XXVII

BRISBANE COMES FOR ELSIE


Among other perplexities which now assailed the agent was the question
of how to secure Cut Finger without inciting further violence. He
confidently expected the police to locate the fugitive during the day,
probably in the camp of Red Wolf, on the head-waters of the Elk.

"He cannot escape. There is no place for him to go."

"He may have committed suicide," said Wilson, discussing the matter with
his chief the following morning.

"He may, but his death will not satisfy the ranchers unless they are
made the instrument of vengeance. They would feel cheated and bitterer
than ever," replied Curtis, sombrely. "He must be taken and delivered up
to the law."

On his return to the office after breakfast Curtis stopped at the door
of Elsie's studio, his brain yet tingling with the consciousness that no
other man's claim stood between them now.

She greeted him joyously. "I am starting a big canvas this morning," she
said. "Come in and see it."

He stepped inside to see, but the canvas only had a few rude, reddish
lines upon it, and Elsie laughed at his blank look as he faced the
easel.

"This thing here," she pointed with her brush, "is a beautiful purple
butte; this yellow circle is the sun; these little crumbly looking boxes
are trees; this streak is a river. This jack-in-the-box here is Crow
Wing on his horse."

Her joking helped to clear his brain, though his blood was throbbing in
his ears.

"Ah! I'm glad to know all that. Will you tag each anomalous hump?"

"Certainly. You will recognize everything by number or otherwise." She
turned a suddenly serious face upon him. "I am determined to get back to
work. These last few days have been so exciting. Is there any news?"

"Yes. The murderer proclaimed himself at a big council last night."

"He did! Oh, tell me about it! When?"

"I don't know exactly the hour, but the chieftains came to me about nine
o'clock. I know him well; he is a reckless, handsome, half-crazy young
man--" He broke off suddenly as Heavybreast, one of the policemen,
profoundly excited, darkened the door-way. "Cut Finger is on the hill,"
he signed, and pointed away with trembling finger to a height which rose
like a monstrous bee-hive just behind the school-house. On the rounded
top, looking like a small monument on a colossal pedestal, sat a mounted
warrior.

"What is he there for?" asked Curtis.

"He wants to die like Raven Face. He wants to fight the cowboys, he
says. He don't want to hurt any one else, he says; only the cowboys and
their war chief, so he says."

"Where is Crow? I want this man arrested and brought to me."

"Now he will shoot any one who goes up the hill; he has said so. All the
people are watching."

Curtis mused a moment. "Can you send word to him?"

"Yes; his wife is here."

"Then tell him I will not let him fight. Tell him that shooting will do
no good, and that I want him to come down and see me."

The officer trotted away.

"What did he say?" asked Elsie. "What is that man on the hill for?"

"That is Cut Finger, the guilty man. He proclaimed himself the murderer
last night and now he is willing to die, but wants to die on his horse."

The whole agency was again tremulous with excitement. The teachers, the
scholars, the native employés were all gathered into chattering groups
with eyes fixed on the motionless figure of the desperate horseman, and
in the camps above the agency an almost frenzied excitement was
spreading. The stark bravery of the boy's attitude had kindled anew the
flame of war, and behind Cut Finger on the hills two groups of mounted
warriors had gathered suddenly. Several of the more excitable old women
broke into a war-song, whose wail came faintly to the ears of the agent.

"Two Horns, silence those singers," said Curtis, sternly.

Elsie and Jennie and the Parkers joined the group around the agent, and
Miss Colson, the missionary, came flying for refuge at the side of her
hero.

"What are you going to do?" asked Parker. "If the fellow really means to
shoot, of course no man can go up to him. You might send some soldiers."

"Silence in the ranks!" commanded Maynard, and, though he smiled as he
said it, Parker realized his mistake. He turned to Elsie and his wife.
"I tell you, we'd better get out of here. I feel just like a man sitting
on a powder-mine. There's no telling what's going to happen next."

Lawson turned towards him with a sarcastic grin. "I wish I'd realized
the state of your nerves, Parker; I should have invited you to Asbury
Beach instead of the Indian country."

Maynard brought his field-glasses to bear on the desperado. "He has
dismounted," he said. "He is squatted beside his horse, the bridle-rein
on his arm, a rifle across his knees, and is faced this way. His
attitude is resolute and 'sassy.'"

Curtis quietly said: "Now, friends, I wish you would all go in and pay
no further attention to this man. Miss Colson, go back to your work. So
long as he sees us looking at him he will maintain his defiant attitude.
He will grow weary of his bravado if ignored."

"Quite right, Captain," replied Lawson, and the little knot of visitors
broke up and dispersed to sheltered points of observation.

Under the same gentle pressure the employés went back to work, and the
self-convicted warrior was left to defy the wind and the sky. Even the
Tetongs themselves grew tired of looking when nothing seemed likely to
happen, and the forenoon wore away as usual, well filled with duties.
Maynard's men got out for drill an hour later, and their bugle's voice
pulsed upward to the silent and motionless watcher on the hill like
mocking laughter. The clink of the anvil also rose to him on the hot,
dry air, and just beneath him the children came forth at recess to play.
He became tired of sitting on the ground at last, and again mounted his
horse, but no one at the agency seemed to know or to care. The sun beat
remorselessly upon his head, and his throat became parched with thirst.
Slowly but surely the exaltation of the morning ebbed away and a
tremulous weakness seized upon him, so that, when his wife came bringing
meat and water, he who had never expected to eat or drink again seized
upon the food and ate greedily.

Then, while she sat on the ground and repeated the agent's message, he
stood beside his horse, sullen and wordless. The bell rang for noon, and
as the children came rushing out they pointed up at him again, and the
teachers also stood in a group for a moment, with faces turned upward,
but only for a moment, then went carelessly away to their meals.

An hour passed, the work-bell rang, the clerks returned to their duties,
and the agent walked slowly across the road towards the office. Cut
Finger lifted his rifle and pointed it. "I could shoot him now," he
muttered. "But he is a good man; I do not want to kill him." Then the
heat and silence settled over hill and valley, and no sound but the
buzzing of flies and the clatter of grasshoppers broke the hot, brooding
hush of the mid-day. The wind was from the plain and brought no coolness
on its wings.

But he was not entirely forgotten. Elsie, from her studio door, kept
close watch upon him. "There's something fine about him after all," she
said to Curtis.

"It's like the old Mosaic times--an eye for an eye. He knows he must die
for this, but he prefers to die gloriously, as a warrior dies."

A dust down the road caught Curtis's attention. "The mail will soon be
in and then we will see how all this affects the press of the State; the
Chicago dailies will not reach us for a couple of days yet."

"Send the papers over here, please!" cried Elsie, "I'm wild to see
them."

"Why not all assemble at 'the parsonage' and I'll bring them there?"

"Very well; that will do as well," she replied. "It will be such a joy
to read our obituaries."

As he entered the library with his armful of papers a half-hour later
Curtis exclaimed: "Well, now, here is a feast! The commotion on the
outside is prodigious. Here are the Copper City and Alta papers, and a
dozen lesser 'lights and signals of progress' in the State. Help
yourselves." He took out a handful of letters and telegrams. "And here
are the prayers of anxious relatives. A telegram for you, Miss Brisbane;
and two for you, Lawson."

Elsie's message from her father was brief. "Have no word from you; am en
route for Pinon City. Not finding you there will cross to agency at
once. Why do you not come out?"

Looking at the date she said: "Papa is coming; he is probably on his
way to the agency at this moment."

Curtis looked a little troubled. "I hope not; the roads are dusty and
the sun is hot."

"By George! this is fierce stuff," said Parker, looking up from his
paper.

"Cut Finger has left the hill," announced Jennie from the door-way; "he
is nowhere to be seen."

"Now he will submit to arrest," exclaimed Curtis. "His fine frenzy is
gone."

"I'm sorry," Elsie soberly exclaimed. "Must you give him up to that
stupid sheriff?"

"Yes, it must be done," replied Curtis. "My only claim to consideration
lies in executing the law. I fought lawlessness with the promise that
when the sheriff came with proper warrant I would act."

As the young officer went back to his duties the head-lines of the
papers he had but glanced at began to burn into his brain. Hitherto his
name had been most inconspicuous; only once or twice had it achieved a
long-primer setting; mainly it had kept to the security and dignity of
brevier notices in the _Army and Navy Journal_. Now here it stood,
blazoned in ill-smelling ink on wood-pulp paper, in letters half an inch
in height:

         CURTIS CULPABLE

    THE AGENT SHIELDS HIS PETS

while in the editorial columns of the Copper City papers similar
accusations, though adroitly veiled, were none the less apparent. He had
smiled at all this in the presence of his friends, but inwardly he
shrank from it just as he would have done had some tramp in the street
flung a handful of gutter slime across the breast of his uniform. A gust
of rage made his teeth clinch and his face burn hot, and he entered his
office with lowering brows.

Wilson looked up with a grin. "Well, Major, the politicians are getting
in their work on us."

"This is only the beginning. We may expect an army of reporters to
complete the work of misrepresentation."

"The wonder is they haven't got here before. They must be really
nervous. Crane says the people in town have very bad hearts. As near as
I can make out they faced him up and threatened his life. He says the
mob is hanging round the edge of the reservation crazy for blood. He got
shy and took to the hills."

"Did he see the sheriff?"

"Yes, the sheriff is on the way."

"Is Crane still asleep?"

"Yes. He didn't wait for grub; he dropped like a log and is dead to the
world."

"Poor chap! I shouldn't have sent him on this last trip. Where is Tony?"

"Tony's out in the hills to keep an eye on Cut Finger. Will you go after
him to-night?"

"No, not till morning. The police will locate him and stay with him
to-night, and to-morrow morning I will go out and get him myself. I
don't want any shooting, if it can be avoided. What is it, Heavybreast?"
he asked of a large Tetong who entered at the moment, his eyes bright
with information.

"White man coming," signed the redman.

Curtis rose and went to the door and looked down the road.

Three carriages were passing the issue-house--one a rather pretentious
family surrey, the others ordinary mountain wagons. In the hinder seat
of the surrey, and beside the sheriff, sat a gray-haired man.

"It is Senator Brisbane!" said Curtis to Wilson, and a keen pang of
anticipated loss came to him, for he knew that Brisbane had come to take
his daughter away. But his face was calm as he went down to the gate to
meet his distinguished and powerful enemy.

The ex-Senator was hot, weary, and angry. He had arrived in Pinon City
on the early train, just as the county attorney and the sheriff were
about to set forth. A few words with these officials assuaged his
anxiety for his daughter but increased his irritation towards Curtis.
Leaving orders for another team to follow, he had taken passage with the
sheriff, an action he regretted at once. The seats were too low and too
narrow for his vast bulk, and his knees grew weary. The wind came from
the plain hot and insolent, bringing no relief to the lungs; on the
contrary, it filled his eyes and ears with dust and parched the skin
like a furnace blast. Altogether the conditions of his ride had been
torturing to the great man, and he had ridden the latter part of it in
grim silence, mentally execrating both Lawson and Curtis for luring his
daughter so far from civilization.

No one spoke till the agent, pacing calmly down to the gate, stepped
into the road and said:

"Good-evening, gentlemen, will you get out and come in?"

Even then Brisbane made no reply, but the sheriff spoke up: "I suppose
we'll have to. This is Senator Brisbane, Major. He was very anxious
about his daughter and so came in with me. This is Mr. Grismore, our
county attorney."

Curtis bowed slightly. "Mr. Grismore I have seen. Senator Brisbane I
have met. Send your horses down to the corral, sheriff, and come in; you
can't return to-night."

As the sheriff got out he said: "This second team is the Senator's, and
the reporter for the Associated Press is in there with Streeter."

Brisbane got out slowly and painfully, and a yellow-gray pallor came
into his face as he stood beside the carriage steadying himself by
resting his hand on the wheel. The young county attorney, eager to serve
the great politician, sprang out and offered a hand, and Curtis, with
sudden pity in his heart, made a step forward, but Brisbane put them
both aside harshly.

"No, no! I'm all right now. My legs were cramped--that's all. They'll
limber up in a minute. The seats were too low for a man of my height. I
should have stayed in the other carriage."

After all he was Elsie's father, and Curtis relented: "Senator, if
you'll take a seat in my office, I'll go fetch your daughter."

"I prefer to go to her myself," Brisbane replied, menacingly formal.
"Where is she?"

"I will show you if you will permit," Curtis coldly replied, and set out
to cross the road.

The old man hobbled painfully at first, but soon recovered enough of his
habitual power to follow Curtis, who did not wait, for he wished to
have a private word with Elsie before her father came. She was lying
down as he knocked, resting, waiting for the dinner call.

"Your father is here," he said, as she opened the door.

Her face expressed surprise, not pleasure.

"Here! Here at the agency?"

"Yes, and on his way to the studio. Moreover, he is very dirty, very
disgusted, very crusty, and not at all well."

"Poor old father! Now he'll make it uncomfortable for us all. He has
come for me, of course. Who is with him?"

"The sheriff, the county attorney, and some reporters."

She smiled. "Then he is 'after you,' too."

"It looks that way. But you must not go away without giving me another
chance to talk with you. Will you promise that?" he demanded, abruptly,
passionately. "I have something to say to you."

"I dare not promise," she responded, and her words chilled him even more
than her action as she turned away to the door. "How slowly he walks!
Poor old papa! You shouldn't have done this, popsey," she cried, as she
met him with a kiss on his cheek.

Curtis walked away, leaving them alone, a hand of ice at his heart.

Brisbane took her kiss without changing to lighter mood.

"Why didn't you follow out my orders?" he demanded, harshly. "You see
what I've had to go through just because you are so foolishly
obstinate. That ride is enough to kill a man."

Her throat swelled with anger, but she choked it down and replied very
gently. "Come into the studio and let me clean off the dust. I'm sorry."

He followed her in and sank heavily upon a chair. "I wouldn't take that
journey again for ten thousand dollars. Why didn't you come to the
railway as I ordered?"

"Because I saw no good reason for it. I knew what I was doing. Captain
Curtis assured me--"

"Captain Curtis!" he sneered. "You'd take his word against mine, would
you?"

"Yes, I would, for he is on the ground and knows all the conditions. He
has the outbreak well in hand. You have seen only the outside
exaggeration of it. He has acted with honor and good judgment--"

"Oh, he has, has he? Well, we'll see about that!" His mind had taken a
new turn. "He won't have anything in his hand six months from now. No
West Point dude like him can set himself up against the power of this
State and live."

"Now, papa, don't start in to abuse Captain Curtis; he is our host, and
it isn't seemly."

"Oh, it isn't! Well, I don't care whether it is or is not; I shall speak
my mind. His whole attitude has been hostile to the best interests of
the State, and he must get off his high horse."

As he growled and sneered his way through a long diatribe, she brought
water and bathed his face and hands and brushed his hair, her anger
melting into pity as she comprehended how weak and broken he was. She
had observed it before in times of great fatigue, but the heat and dust
and discomfort of the drive had reduced the big body, debilitated by
lack of exercise, to a nerveless lump, his brain to a mass of incoherent
and savage impulses. No matter what he said thereafter, she realized his
pitiable weakness and felt no anger.

As he rested he grew calmer, and at last consented to lie down while she
made a little tea on an alcohol lamp. After sipping the tea he fell
asleep, and she sat by his side, her mind filled with the fundamental
conception of a daughter's obligation to her sire. To her he was no
longer a great politician, no longer a powerful, aggressive business
man--he was only her poor, old, dying father, to whom she owed her every
comfort, her education, her jewels, her art. He had never been a
companion to her--his had been the rule absolute--and yet a hundred
indulgences, a hundred really kind and considerate acts came thronging
to her mind as she fanned his flushed face.

"I must go with him," she said; "it is my duty."

Curtis came to the door again and tapped. She put her finger to her
lips, and so he stood silent, looking in at her. His eyes called her and
she rose and tiptoed to the door.

"I came to ask you both to dinner," he whispered.

Her eyes filled with quick tears. "That's good of you," she returned, in
a low voice. "But he would not come. He's only a poor, old, broken man,
after all." Her voice was apologetic in tone. "I hope you will not be
angry." They both stood looking down at him. "He has failed terribly in
the last few weeks. His campaigning will kill him. I wish he would give
it up. He needs rest and quiet. What can I do?"

Curtis, looking upon the livid old man, inert and lumpish, yet venerable
because of his white hairs--and because he was the sire of his
love--experienced a sudden melting of his own resolution. His throat
choked, but he said:

"Go with him. He needs you."

At the moment words were unnecessary. She understood his deeper meaning,
and lifted her hand to him. He took it in both his. "It may be a long
time before I shall see you again. I--I ought not--" he struggled with
himself and ceased to speak.

Her eyes wavered and she withdrew her hand. "My duty is with him now;
perhaps I can carry him through his campaign, or dissuade him
altogether. Don't you see that I am right?"

He drew himself up as though his general-in-chief were passing. "Duty is
a word I can understand," he said, and turned away.



XXVIII

A WALK IN THE STARLIGHT


Having no further pretext for calling upon her, Curtis thought of Elsie
as of a strain of music which had passed. He was rather silent at
dinner, but not noticeably so, for Maynard absorbed most of the time and
attention of those present. At the first opportunity he returned to his
papers, and was deep in work when Jennie came in to tell him that Elsie
was coming over to stay the night.

"She has given up her bed to her father, and so she will sleep here. Go
over about nine and get her."

If she knew how deeply this command moved him, she was considerate
enough to make no comment. "Very well, sis," he replied, quietly. "As
soon as I finish this letter."

But he did not finish the letter--did not even complete the sentence
with which his pen was engaged when Jennie interrupted him. After she
went out he sat in silence and in complete immobility for nearly an
hour. At last he rose and went out into the warm and windless night.

When he entered the studio he found her seated upon one trunk and
surveying another.

"This looks like flight," he said.

"Yes; papa insists on our going early to-morrow morning. Isn't it
preposterous! I can only pack my clothing. He says the trouble is only
beginning, and that I must not remain here another day."

"I have come to fetch you to Jennie."

"I will be ready presently. I am just looking round to decide on what to
take. Be seated, please, while I look over this pile of sketches."

He took a seat and looked at her sombrely. "You'll leave a great big
empty place here when you go."

"Do you mean this studio?"

"I mean in my daily life."

She became reflective. "I hate to go, and that's the truth of it. I am
just beginning to feel my grip tighten on this material. I know I could
do some good work here, but really I was frightened at papa's condition
this afternoon. He is better now, but I can see that he is failing. If
he insists on campaigning I must go with him--but, oh, how I hate it!
Think of standing up and shaking hands with all these queer people for
months! I oughtn't to feel so, of course, but I can't help it. I've no
patience with people who are half-baked, neither bread nor dough. I
believe I like old Mary and Two Horns better."

"I fear you are voicing a mood, not a conviction. We ought not to
condemn any one;" he paused a moment, then added: "I don't like you to
even _say_ cruel things. It hurts me. As I look round this room I see
nothing which has to do with duty or conviction or war or politics.
There is peace and beauty here. You belong in this atmosphere; you are
fitted to your environment. I admit that I was fired at first with a
desire to convert you to my ways of thought; now, when a sense of duty
troubles you, takes you away from the joy of your art, I question
myself. You are too beautiful to wear yourself out in problems. I now
say, remain an artist. There is something idyllic about your artist life
as I now understand it. It is simple and childlike. In that respect it
seems to have less troublesome questions of right or wrong to decide
than science. Its one care seems to be, 'What will produce and preserve
beauty, and so assuage the pain of the world?' No question of money or
religion or politics--just the pursuit of an ideal in a sheltered nook."

"You have gone too far the other way, I fear," she said, sadly. "Our
lives, even at the best, are far from being the ideal you present. It
seems very strange to me to hear you say those things--"

"I have given the matter much thought," he replied. "If I have made you
think of the woes of the world, so you have shown me glimpses of a life
where men and women are almost free from care. We are mutually
instructed." He rose at this point and, after hesitation, said: "When
you go I wish you would leave this room just as it is, and when I am
tired and irritable and lonely I'll come here and imagine myself a part
of your world of harmonious colors, with no race questions to settle and
no harsh duties to perform. Will you do this? These few hangings and
lamps and easels are unimportant to you--you won't miss them; to me they
will be priceless, and, besides, you may come back again some time. Say
you will. It will comfort me."

There was a light in his eyes and an intensity in his voice which
startled her. She stammered a little.

"Why, of course, if it will give you the slightest pleasure; there is
nothing here of any particular value. I'll be glad to leave them."

"Thank you. So long as I have this room as it is I shall be able to
persuade myself that you have not passed utterly out of my life."

She was a little alarmed now, and hastened to say: "I do not see why we
should not meet again. I shall expect you to call when you come to
Washington--" she checked herself. "I'm afraid my sense of duty to the
Tetongs is not strong. Don't think too hardly of me because of it."

He seemed intent on another thought. "Do you know, you've given me a dim
notion of a new philosophy. I haven't organized it yet, but it's
something like this: Beauty is a sense of fitness, harmony. This sense
of beauty--call it taste--demands positively a readjustment of the
external facts of life, so that all angles, all suffering and violence,
shall cease. If all men were lovers of the beautiful, the gentle, then
the world would needs be suave and genial, and life harmoniously
colored, like your own studio, and we would campaign only against
ugliness. To civilize would mean a totally different thing. I'm not
quite clear on my theory yet, but perhaps you can help me out."

"I think I see what you mean. But my world," she hastened to say, "is
nothing like so blameless as you think it. Don't think artists are
actually what they should be. They are very human, eager to succeed, to
outstrip each other; and they are sordid, too. No, you are too kind to
us. We are a poor lot when you take us as a whole, and the worst of it
is the cleverest makers of the beautiful are often the least inspiring
in their lives. I mean they're ignorant and spiteful, and often
dishonorable." She stopped abruptly.

"I'm sorry to hear you say that. It certainly shatters a beautiful
theory I had built up out of what you and other artists have said to
me." After a little silence he resumed: "It comes down to this, then:
that all arts and professions are a part of life, and life is a
compromise between desire and duty. There are certain things I want to
do to-day, but my duties for to-morrow forbid. You are right in going
away with your father--I'm not one to keep you from doing that--but I
must tell you how great has been the pleasure of having you here, and I
hope you will come again. If you go to-morrow morning I shall not see
you again."

"Why not?"

"I start at dawn to arrest Cut Finger."

"Alone?"

"No. The captain of the police goes with me."

Her face paled a little. "Oh! I wish you wouldn't! Why don't you take
the soldiers?"

"They are not necessary. I shall leave here about four o'clock and
surprise the guilty man in his bed. He will not fight me." He rose. "Are
you ready to go now?"

"In a moment," she said, and softly crossed the floor to peep into the
bedroom. "Poor papa, he looks almost bloodless as he sleeps."

As they stepped out into the darkness Curtis realized that this was
their last walk together, and the thought was both sweet and sad.

"Will you take my arm?" he asked. "It is very dark, though there should
be a new moon."

"It has gone down; I saw it," she replied, as she slipped her hand
through his elbow. "How peaceful it all is! It doesn't seem possible
that to-morrow you will risk your life in the performance of duty, and
that I will leave here, never to return. I have a curious feeling about
this place now. It seems as though I were settled here, and that I am to
go on living here forever."

"I wish it were true. Women like you--you know what I mean; there are no
women like you, of course--come into my life too seldom. I dread the
empty futility of to-morrow. As an Indian agent, I must expect to live
without companionship with such as you. I have a premonition that Jennie
is going to leave me--as she ought."

"You will be very lonely then; what will you do?"

"Work harder; do more good, and so cheat myself into forgetfulness that
time is flying."

"You are bitter to-night."

"Why shouldn't I be when you are going away? It wouldn't be decent of me
to be gay."

"Your methods of flattery are always effective. At one moment you
discuss the weightiest matters with me--which argues I have brains--and
then you grow gloomy over my going and would seem to mean that I am
charming, which I don't think is quite true."

"If I weren't a poor devil of an army officer I'd convince you of my
sincerity by asking you not to go away at all."

"That _would_ be convincing," she said, laughingly. "Please don't do
it!"

His tone became suddenly serious. "You are right, I can't ask you to
share a life like mine. It is too uncertain. I may be ordered back to my
regiment next winter, and then nothing remains but garrison duty. I
think I will then resign. But I am unfitted for business, or for any
money-getting, and so I've decided that as an honorable man I must not
imperil the happiness of a woman. I claim to be a person of taste, and
the girl I admired would have other chances in life. I can't afford to
say to her, 'Give up all your comfort and security and come with me to
the frontier.' She would be foolish to listen--no woman of the stamp I
have in mind could do it." They were nearing "the parsonage" gate, and
he ended in a low voice: "Don't you think I am right?"

"The theory is that nothing really counts in a woman's life but love,"
she replied, enigmatically.

"Yes, but theory aside--"

"Well, then, I can conceive of a girl--a very _young_ girl--leaving
wealth and friends, and even her art, for the man she loved, but--"

He waited a moment as a culprit listens to his judge. "But then--but in
case--"

"If the girl were grown up and loved luxurious living, and shared an
enthusiasm--say for art--then--" She broke off and said, wearily, "Then
she might palter and measure values and weigh chances, and take account
of the future and end by not marrying at all."

They had reached the gate and he spoke with perceivable effort: "I've no
right to ask it, of course, but if you take pity on my loneliness at any
time and write to me, your letters will be more welcome than it is
seemly in me to say, and I'll promise not to bore you with further
details of my 'Injines.' Will you be kind to me?"

"I will be glad to write," she replied, but in her voice was something
he did not understand. As they entered the house Elsie said: "Captain
Maynard, Captain Curtis is going out to-morrow morning to arrest that
crazy Indian. Do you think he ought to go alone?"

"Certainly not! It would be too dangerous. He shall have an escort,"
replied Maynard, emphatically.

"No, no!" said Curtis, decisively. "I am safer to go unarmed and alone."

"George!" protested Jennie, "you shall not go out there alone. Why don't
you send the police?"

Maynard here interposed. "Don't take on worry; I'll go with him myself."

This last hour in Elsie's company was a mingled pain and pleasure to
Curtis, for she was most charming. She laid aside all hauteur, all
perversity, and gave herself unreservedly to her good friends. They were
all at high tension, and the talk leaped from jest to protest, and back
to laughter again, agile and inconsequent. The time and the place, the
past and the future, counted for little to these four, for they were
young and they were lovers.

At last Jennie rose. "If you people are to rise at dawn you must go to
sleep now. Good-night! Come, Elsie Bee Bee."

Maynard followed Jennie into the hall with some jest, and Curtis seized
the opportunity to delay Elsie. He offered his hand, and she laid hers
therein with a motion of half-surrender.

"Good-night, Captain. I appreciate your kindness more than I can say."

"Don't try. I feel now that I have done nothing--nothing of what I
should have done; but I didn't think you were to leave so soon. If I had
known--"

"You have done more than you realize. Once more, good-night!"

"Good-night!" he said, in an unsteady voice; "and remember, you promised
to write!"

"I will keep my promise." She turned at the door. "Don't try to write
around your red people. I believe I'd like to hear how you get on with
them."

"Defend me from mine enemies within the gates, and I'll work out my
problem."

"I'll do my best. Good-bye!"

"No, not good-bye--just good-night!"

For a moment he stood meditating a further word, then stepped into the
hall. Elsie, midway on the stairs, had turned and was looking down at
him with a face wherein the eyes were wistful and brows perplexed. She
guiltily lowered her lashes and turned away, but that momentary
pause--that subtle interplay of doubt and dream--had given the soldier a
pleasure deeper than words.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jennie was waiting at the door of the tiny room in which Elsie was to
sleep, her face glowing with admiration and love. "Oh, you queenly
girl!" she cried, with a convulsive clasp of her strong arms. "I can't
get over the wonder of your being here in our little house. You ought to
live always in a castle."

Elsie smiled, but with tears in her eyes. "You're a dear, good girl. I
never had a truer friend."

"I wish you were poor!" said Jennie, as they entered the plain little
room; "then you could come here as a missionary or something, and we
could have you with us all the time. I hate to think of your going away
to-morrow."

"You must come and see me in Washington."

"Oh no! That wouldn't do!" said Jennie, half alarmed. "It might spoil me
for life out here. You must visit us again."

There was a note of honest, almost boyish suffering in Jennie's
entreaties which moved the daughter of wealth very deeply, and she went
to her bed with a feeling of loss, as though she were taking leave of
something very sweet and elementally comforting.

She thought of her first lover, and her cheeks burned with disgust of
her folly. She thought of two or three good, manly suitors whose
protestations of love had left her cold and humorously critical. On
Lawson's suit she lingered, for he was still a possibility should
she decide to put her soldier-lover away. "But I _have_ done
so--definitely," she said to some pleading within herself. "I can't
marry him; our lives are ordered on divergent lines. I can't come here
to live."

"Happiness is not dependent on material things," argued her newly
awakened self. "He loves you--he is handsome and true and good."

"But I don't love him."

"Yes, you do. When you returned Osborne Lawson's ring you quite plainly
said so."

She burned with a new flame with this confession; but she protested,
"Let us be sensible! Let us argue!"

"You cannot argue with love."

"I am not a child to be carried away by a momentary gust of emotion. See
how impossible it is for me to share his work--his austere life."

And here entered the far-reaching question of the life and death of a
race. In a most disturbing measure this obscure young soldier
represented a view of life--of civilization antagonistic to her faith,
and in stern opposition to the teachings of her father. In a subtle
fashion he had warped the word _duty_ from its martial significance to a
place in a lofty philosophy whose tenets were only just beginning to
unfold their inner meaning to her.

Was it not true that she was less sympathetic with the poor brown
peoples of the earth than with the animals? "How can you be contemptuous
of God's children, whom the physical universe has colored brown or black
or yellow--you, who are indignant when a beast is overburdened? If we
repudiate and condemn to death those who do not please us, who will
live?"

She felt in herself some singular commotion. Conceptions, hitherto mere
shells of thought, became infilled with passion; and pity, hitherto a
feeble sentiment with her, expanded into an emotion which shook her,
filled her throat with sobs, discrediting her old self with her new self
till the thought of her mean and selfish art brought shame. How small it
all was, how trivial, beside the consciousness of duty well done,
measured against a life of self-sacrifice, such as that suggested by
this man, whose eyes sought her in worship!

Could there be any greater happiness than to stand by his side, helping
to render a dying, captive race happier--healthier? Could her great
wealth be put to better use than this of teaching two hundred thousand
red people how to meet and adjust themselves to the white man's way of
life? Their rags, their squalor, their ignorance were more deeply
depressing to her lover than the poverty of the slums, for the Tetongs
had been free and joyous hunters. Their condition was a tragic
debasement. She began to feel the arguments of the Indian helpers. Their
words were no longer dead things; they had become electric nodes; they
moved her, set her blood aflame, and she clinched her hands and said: "I
will help him do this great work!"



XXIX

ELSIE WARNS CURTIS


Brisbane was early awake, abrupt and harsh in command. "Come! we must
get out o' here," he said. "I don't want to be under the slightest
obligation to this young crank. I intend to break him."

She flamed into wrath--a white radiance. "When you break him you break
me," she said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I've changed my mind. I think he's right and you are wrong."

The entrance of the sheriff prevented a full accounting at the moment,
but it was merely deferred. Once in the carriage, Brisbane began to
discredit her lover. "Don't tell me Curtis is disinterested; he is
scheming for some fat job. His altruistic plea is too thin."

"You are ill-fitted to understand the motives of a man like Captain
Curtis," Elsie replied, and every word cut. "What have you--or I--ever
done that was not selfish?"

"I've given a thousand dollars to charity for every cent of his."

"Yes, and that's the spirit in which you gave--never to help, only to
exalt yourself, just as I have done. Captain Curtis is giving himself.
He and his sister have made me see myself as I am, and I am not happy
over it. But I wish you would not talk to me any more about them; they
are my friends, and I will not listen to your abuse of them."

It was a most fatiguing ride. Brisbane complained of the heat and the
dust, and of a mysterious pain in his head; and Elsie, alarmed by his
flushed face, softened. "Poor papa, I'm so sorry you had to come on this
long ride!" Lawson was also genuinely concerned over the Senator's
growing incoherency, and privately told the driver to push hard on the
reins.

When they rounded the sharp point of the Black Bear Mesa, and came in
sight of the long, low, half-way house, Lawson sat up with a jerk.
"There is the mob--camped and waiting for the sheriff."

As Elsie looked at the swarming figures of the cowboys her mind
forecasted tragic events. The desperadoes were waiting to lynch Cut
Finger--that was plain. Curtis had said he would not surrender his
prisoner to be lynched. He was coming; he would be met by this mob.

She clutched Lawson by the arm. "We must warn him!"

He merely nodded; but a look in his eyes gave her to understand that he
would do his duty.

The cattlemen, seeing the wagon whirling round the mesa, mounted and
massed in stern array, believing that the carriage contained the sheriff
and his prisoner. They were disappointed and a little uneasy when they
recognized Brisbane, the great political boss; but with ready wit
Johnson rode along in front of the gang, saying, with a wink: "Put up
your guns, boys. This is a meeting in honor of Senator Brisbane." Then,
as a mutter of laughter ran down the line, he took off his hat and
lifted his voice:

"Boys, three cheers for Senator Brisbane--hip, hip, hurrah!"

After the cheers were given the horsemen closed round the carriage with
cries for a speech.

Brisbane, practised orator and shrewd manipulator, rose as the carriage
stopped, and removed his hat. His eyes were dim and the blood seemed
about to burst through his cheeks, but he was not without
self-possession.

"Gentlemen, I thank you for this demonstration, but I must ask you to
wait till I have rested and refreshed myself. With your permission I
will then address you."

"Right--right!"

"We can wait!" they heartily responded, and opened a way for the
carriage.

Elsie shuddered as she looked into the rude and cruel faces of the
leaders of this lynching party. They no longer amused her. She saw them
now from the stand-point of Captain Curtis and his wards, and realized
how little of mercy they would show to their enemies. On Lawson's lips
lay a subtly contemptuous smile, and he uttered no word--did not lift a
hand till the carriage was at the door.

Streeter helped the Senator out, and with unexpected grace presented his
hand to Elsie. "I do not need help," she said, coldly, and brushed past
him into the little sitting-room, which swarmed with excited, scrawny,
tired, and tearful women.

"What is goin' on out there? Have the soldiers put down the pizen
critters?" asked one.

"You're Miss Brisbane--we heerd you was all killed at the agency.
Weren't you scared?"

Almost contemptuously Elsie calmed their fears, and by a few questions
learned that this house had been made a rallying-point for the settlers
and that the women were just beginning to feel the depressing effects of
being so long away from their homes without rest and proper food.

"_Do_ you think we can go home now?"

"Certainly. Captain Curtis will see that you are not harmed," she
replied, and she spoke with all a wife's sense of joy and pride in her
husband.

"We've been camping here for most a week, seems like, an' we're all wore
out," wailed one little woman who had three small children to herd and
watch over.

Brisbane, inspirited by an egg-nog and a sandwich, mounted a wash-tub on
the low porch and began a speech--a suave, diplomatic utterance, wherein
he counselled moderation in all things. "We can't afford at this time to
do a rash thing," he said, and winked jovially at Johnson. "The election
coming on is, after all, the best chance for us to get back at these
fool Injun apologists. So go slow, boys--go slow!"

As these smooth words flowed from his lips Elsie burned with shame and
anger. Some newly acquired inward light enabled her to read in the
half-hearted dissuasion of her father's speech a subtle, heartless
encouragement to violence _after_ election. While the cheers were still
ringing in her ears, at the close of the address, Elsie felt a touch on
her shoulder and turned to face Calvin, standing close beside her, timid
and flushed.

She held out her hand with a swift rush of confidence.

"Why, how do you do, Mr. Streeter?"

"I'm pretty well," he said, loudly, and added, in a low voice, "I want
to see you alone." He looked about the room. The corner least crowded
was occupied by a woman nursing a wailing baby. "Come this way; she's
Norwegian; she can't understand us."

Elsie followed him, and when he spoke it was in a rapid, low mutter. "Is
the Major goin' to come with Cut Finger?"

"I'm afraid so."

"He mustn't. You know what this gang's here for?"

"What can we do? Can't we warn him?"

"Well, I'm goin' to take a sneak and try it. It's all my neck is worth
to play it on the boys; but it's got to be done, for the Major is a
fighter, and if this mob meets him there will be blood on the moon. Now
don't worry. I'm going to slide right out through the first gate I see
and head him off; mebbe you'd like to write a word or two."

"You are a real hero," she said, as she put a little slip of paper into
his hand, and pressed it there with both of hers.

"Don't do that," he said, hurriedly; "they'll think something's up. I'm
doin' it for the Major; he's treated me white all the way along, and
I'll be derned if I let this gang do him."

A pain shot through her heart. Putting her hand to her bosom, she said:
"It means everything to me, Calvin. Good-bye. I am trusting you--it's
life or death to me. Good-bye!"



XXX

THE CAPTURE OF THE MAN


The east was saffron and pale-blue as Crow and the agent drove out of
the corral and up the road to the south. Two Horns was the driver. Crow
alone was armed, and he wore but his official revolver. Maynard had been
purposely left out of the expedition, for Curtis did not wish to seem to
question in the slightest degree the obedience of his people. He
preferred to go unarmed and without handcuffs or rope, as a friend and
adviser, not as an officer of the law.

The morning was deliciously cool, with a gentle wind sliding down from
the high peaks, which were already glowing with the morning's pink and
yellow. From some of the tepees in Grayman's camp smoke was already
rising, and a few old women could be seen pottering about the cooking
lodges, while the morning chorus of the dogs and coyotes thickened.
There was an elemental charm in it all which helped the young soldier to
shake off his depression.

Passing rapidly through the two villages, Two Horns turned to the left
and entered upon a road which climbed diagonally up the side of a long,
low ridge. This involved plodding, and by the time they reached the
summit the sun met them full-fronted. In the smaller valley, which lay
between this ridge and the foot-hills, a rough trail led towards the
mountains. This way Two Horns took, driving rapidly and silently, and
soon entered the pines and pinons which form the lower fringe of the
vast and splendid robe of green which covers the middle heights of the
Rocky Mountains.

After an hour of sharp driving, with scarcely a word or gesture, Crow
turned and said: "Cut Finger there. Black Wolf, his tepee."

The trail here took a sharp curve to the left to avoid a piece of stony
ground, and from a little transverse ridge Curtis could look down on a
small, temporary village, the band of Black Wolf, who had located here
to cut hay on the marsh.

"We must surprise him if we can," said Curtis to Crow. "We must not
shoot. I will talk to him. If he cocks his gun kill him; but I don't
think he will want to fight."

The lads could be heard singing their plaintive songs as they climbed
the hills for their ponies. Smoke was rising from each lodge, and
children, dogs, and hens were outdoing each other in cheerful uproar as
Two Horns drove up to where Black Wolf stood, an old man with thin, gray
hair, shielding his eyes with the scant shadow of his bony wrist.

"Ho, agent!" he cried. "Why do you come to see us so early?"

"Is Cut Finger here?"

"Yes; he is in there." He pointed to a tepee near.

"Be silent!" commanded Curtis, as he alighted swiftly, but without
apparent haste or excitement. Crow instantly followed him, alert and
resolute. As they entered the tepee Cut Finger, still half asleep on
his willow hammock, instinctively reached for his rifle, which lay
beneath him on the ground, dangerous as a half-awakened rattlesnake.

Curtis put his foot on the weapon, and said, pleasantly: "Good-morning,
Cut Finger; you sleep late."

The young man sat up and blinked stupidly, while Crow took the gun from
beneath the agent's foot.

Curtis signed to Black Wolf. "This boy has killed a herder and I have
come for him. You knew of his deed."

"I have heard of it," the old man replied, with a gesture.

"It is such men who bring trouble on the tribe," pursued Curtis. "They
must be punished. Cut Finger must go with me down to the agency. He must
not make more trouble."

The news of the agent's mission brought every soul hurrying to the tent,
for Cut Finger had said, "I will fight the soldiers if they come."

Curtis heard them coming and said: "Crow, tell all these people outside
that Cut Finger has done a bad thing and must be punished. That unless
such men are cast out by the Tetongs they will always be in trouble."

Crow lifted up his big, resounding voice and recounted what the agent
had said, and added: "You shall see we will take this man. I, Crow, have
said it. It will be foolish for any one to resist."

The agent, sitting before Cut Finger, addressed him in signs. "I am your
friend, I am sorry for you. I am sorry for any man who does wrong and
suffers punishment; but you have injured your people, you made the white
man very angry; he came ready to shoot--you saw how I turned him away.
I said: 'I will find the man who shot the herder. I will bring him--I do
not want any one else to suffer.' Then you proclaimed yourself. You
said: 'I alone did this thing.' Then you went on the hill to fight--I
cannot allow that. No more blood will be shed. I will not lie; I have
come to take you. You will be punished; you must go with me to the white
man's strong-house."

A whimpering cry arose, a cry which ended in a sighing moan of
heart-piercing, uncontrollable agony, and Curtis, turning his face, saw
the wife of Cut Finger looking at him from her blanket on the opposite
side of the tepee. A shout of warning from Crow made him leap to his
feet and turn.

Cut Finger confronted him, his eyes glowing with desperate resolution.

"_Sit down!_" commanded the Captain, using his fist in the sign, with a
powerful gesture. The fugitive could not endure his chief's eyes; he
sank back on his couch and sat trembling.

"If you touch the Little Father I will kill you," said Crow, gruffly, as
he stood with drawn revolver in his hand. "I, Crow, have said it!"

Black Wolf was looking on with lowering brow. "He says the white man was
driving his sheep on our land."

"So he was," replied Curtis, "but it is bad for the Tetongs when a white
man is killed. It is better to come and tell me. When a redman kills a
white man the white men say: 'Let us kill _all_ the Tetongs--spare no
one.' Cut Finger said he was ready to die. Well, then, let him go with
me, and I will make his punishment as light as I can. I am his
friend--a friend to every Tetong. I will tell the war chief at Pinon
City how it was, and he will say Cut Finger was not alone to blame--the
white man was also to blame. Thus the punishment will not be so heavy.
Cut Finger is a young man; he has many years to live if he will do as I
tell him. He will come back to his tribe by-and-by and be a good man."

So, by putting forth all his skill in gesture he conveyed to Cut
Finger's mind a new idea--the idea of sacrificing himself for the good
of the tribe. He also convinced the members of Black Wolf's band that
their peace and safety lay in giving him up to their agent, and so at
last the young desperado rose and followed his chief to the wagon
wherein Two Horns still sat, impassive and unafraid.

As he put his hand on the carriage-seat a convulsive shudder swept over
Cut Finger. He folded his arms and, lifting his eyes to the hills, burst
forth in a death-song, a chant so sad, so passionate, and so searching,
that the agent's heart was wrenched. Answering sobs and wails broke from
the women, and the young wife of the singer came and crouched at his
feet, her little babe in her arms, and this was his song:

    "I am going away.
    I go to my death.
    The white man has said it--
    I am to die in a prison.
    I am young, but I must go--
    I have a wife, but I must go
    To die among the white men
    In the dark.
    So says the soldier chief."

Curtis, looking into the eyes of Black Wolf, perceived that the old man
wavered. The wailing of the women, the young man's song, had roused his
racial hatred--what to him was the killing of a "white robber"?

"Be quiet!" commanded Curtis, and the song ceased. "Get in, quick! No
more singing."

The ending of the song left the prisoner in a mood of gloomy yet passive
exaltation. He took the place indicated and sat with bowed head, his
hands limply crossed.

"Go on!" commanded Curtis, and Two Horns brought the whip down on the
horses. As they sprang forward a wail of agony burst from the lips of
the bereaved young wife. At this cry Cut Finger again turned upon the
agent with hands opened like the claws of a bear--his face contorted
with despair. Curtis seized him in a grip whose crunching power made
itself felt to the marrow of the Tetong's bones, and his eyes, piercing
with terrible determination, shrivelled the resolution of the
half-crazed man. He sank back into his seat, a hopeless lump of swaying
flesh, his face a tragic mask, and uttered no further word till the
sound of a galloping horse made them all turn to see who followed.

"My wife!" the prisoner said. "She carries my baby."

This was indeed true. The sad little wife was galloping after, riding a
strong bay pony, the reins flapping loose, while across the pommel of
her saddle she held her small pappoose, whose faint wailing told of his
discomfort and terror.

"Wait--me take pappoose," the prisoner said, in English, with a note of
command.

Curtis was deeply touched. He ordered Two Horns to halt, and Crow got
out and took the babe and handed it to Cut Finger, who received it
carefully in his long arms. No woman could have been tenderer.

As they drove on, a big lump rose in the soldier's throat. It seemed a
treacherous and sinful thing to hand this man over to a savage throng of
white men, perhaps to be lynched on the road. "I will not do it," he
said; "I will take him to Pinon City myself. He shall have trial as if
he were white. I will yield him to the law, but not to vengeance."

Cut Finger thereafter spoke no word, did not even look back, though
Curtis detected him turning his head whenever the sound of the galloping
horse grew faint or died away for a few moments. The baby ceased to
wail, and on the rough ground, when the wagon jarred, the father held
the little one high as in a sling.

Upon entering the camp of Crawling Elk they found all the people massed,
waiting, listening, and their presence excited the prisoner greatly, and
he began again to sing his death-chant, which now seemed infinitely more
touching by reason of the small creature he cradled so lovingly in his
arms.

"Be silent!" commanded Curtis. "You must not sing. Drive fast, Two
Horns!"

Answering wails and fragments of chanting broke from the women; one or
two cried out, "Take him from the agent!" But the men shook their heads
and sadly watched them pass. "He has done a foolish thing; he must now
suffer for it," said Crawling Elk.

As they drew up before the door of the parsonage Curtis sprang out and
said to Cut Finger:

"Give me the baby; he shall be well cared for."

The father gave up the child passively, and Curtis called to Jennie:

"Here is a babe that is tired and hungry--be good to it."

"Where is the mother?" asked Jennie, as she tenderly received the little
brown boy.

"She is coming," he said, and the mother galloped up in a few moments
and fairly tumbled off her horse. "See!" Curtis said to her and to the
father, "My sister will give the baby milk, and its mother shall also be
fed. You need not fear; both will be taken care of. We are your
friends."

Cut Finger watched Jennie as she carefully carried the baby into the
house, and as he turned away, a look of apathetic misery, more moving
than any cry, settled on his face.

Maynard, who had been standing in the door, said, in a tone of
astonishment, "Did that wild Injun carry his papoose all the way down?"

"Yes, and was as tender of it as a woman, too."

"Well, I'll be hanged! There's a whole lot for me to learn about Injuns
yet. Want a guard?"

"Yes; I think it safer. There is a good deal of sympathy for this poor
chap."

"I don't blame 'em very much," said Maynard. "Take him right down to our
guard-house, and I'll have Payne detail a squad of men to take care of
him."

"I intend taking him to Pinon myself. I can't find it in my heart to
give him over into the hands of these whites--they'd lynch him, sure."

"I believe it," replied Maynard, with conviction.

As they passed the agency gate, Winters and the county attorney stepped
out as if they expected to receive the prisoner; but the savage grin on
the sheriff's face died out as Curtis nodded coldly and drove past.

"That fellow is a wolf. Did you have any trouble?" asked Maynard.

"Not a bit. We surprised him in bed, as I planned to do."

"Nice thing, your leaving me out in this way!"

"Have the Brisbanes gone?"

"Yes. Got away about eight o'clock. Lawson went with them, though he's
coming back to see you clear of this war. He's a crackerjack, is Lawson;
but the old man has you marked for slaughter."

It was good to be able to turn his prisoner over to the blue-coats and
feel that he would not be taken away except properly and in order.
Lynching does not flourish under the eyes of a commander like Maynard.
As Curtis led his man into the guard-house and motioned him to a seat,
he said, in signs:

"You are safe now from the cattlemen. I am your friend, remember that. I
myself will take you to the white chief's big village. I will not let
the war chief have you. I will turn you over to the wise man--the man
who will judge your case. I will let your wife and your little son go
with you. So you see I am still your Little Father. I am very sorry you
have shot this man, but you must be punished. I cannot prevent that."

As he met the sheriff he said, quietly, "I have decided to accompany you
to Pinon City."

The sheriff was not greatly surprised.

"Oh, very well. But I don't see the need of it."

"I do!" replied Curtis, and his tone silenced opposition.

Going immediately to the house, Curtis flung himself down in his chair
and submitted to Jennie's anxious care. She brought him some coffee and
biscuit, and stood with her hand on his shoulder while he ate. "Well,
they're gone--Lawson and all. I never saw a greater change in any one
than in that girl. Do you remember how she was last fall? I never
supposed I should come to love her. I hated her for the treatment
of you then, but--I think she has a different feeling towards us
now--not excepting you. I think--she was crying because she
was--going--away--from--you."

He looked up at her and smiled incredulously. "Your loyalty to me, sis,
is more than I deserve!"

Curtis seized a moment to cross the square to Elsie's studio, eager to
see whether she had regarded his wishes or not. It was an absurd thing
to ask of her, and yet he did not regret having done so. It would serve
as a sort of test of her regard, her sympathy. Now as he stood at the
door he hesitated--if it should be bare!

He turned the knob and entered. The effect of the first impression was
exalting, satisfying. All was in order, and the air was deliciously cool
and fragrant, infilled with some rare and delicate odor. Each article
was in its place--she had taken nothing but the finished pictures and
some sketches which she specially needed. Scraps of canvas covered with
splashes of color were pinned about on the walls, the easel stood in the
centre of the room, and her palette and brushes were on the table. The
young soldier closed the door behind him and took a seat in deep
emotion. At that moment he realized to the full his need of her, and his
irreparable loss. All he had suffered before was forgotten--swallowed up
in the empty, hungry ache of his heart. The curtains and draperies were
almost as much a part of her as her dress, and he could not have touched
them at the moment, so intimately personal did they seem.

It appeared that he had not fully understood himself, after all. This
empty temple, where she had lived and worked, these reminders of her
beautiful self, were not to be a solace and a comfort, after all, but a
torture. He felt broken and unmanned, and the aching in his throat grew
to an intolerable pain, and with a reaction to disdain of himself he
rose and went out, closing and locking the door.



XXXI

OUTWITTING THE SHERIFF


Maynard came over just as the wagon was being brought round, and with a
look of concern on his big, red face, began: "Now see here, Curtis,
you'd better take an escort. Those devils may be hanging round the edge
of the reservation. Say the word and I'll send Payne and a squad of
men."

"I don't think it at all necessary, Maynard. I don't want to excite the
settlers, and, besides, the troops are all needed here. I have no fear
of the mob while daylight lasts. They will not attempt to take the man
from me. I leave you in command. Wilson will keep the police out on the
hills and report any movement of the mob."

Maynard saluted. "Very well, Major; when may I look for you to return?"

"Not before to-morrow night. I shall get in by sundown to-day, for it is
all the way down hill; the return will be slower."

"I don't like to see you go away with that cut-throat sheriff."

"I am not alone," said Curtis. "I have two of the faithfulest men in the
world--Two Horns and Crow--both armed and watchful. Don't worry about
me, Jack; keep yourself alert to-night."

The wagon was now standing before the guard-house, and the prisoner was
being brought forth by Crow. Cut Finger, blinking around him in the
noon-day glare, saw his wife already in the wagon, and went resignedly
towards the agent, who beckoned to him.

"You may sit beside her," Curtis signed, and the youth climbed
submissively to his seat. "Mr. Sheriff, you are to take a place beside
the driver."

Winters, swollen with rebellion because of the secondary part he had to
play, surlily consented to sit with Two Horns.

"Crow, you camp here," called Curtis, and the trusted Tetong scrambled
to his seat. "Drive on, Two Horns."

For an hour and more no one spoke but Two Horns, gently urging the
horses to their best pace. Curtis welcomed this silence, for it gave him
time to take account of many things, chief of which was Brisbane's
violent antagonism. "He overestimates my importance," he thought. "But
that is the way such men succeed. They are as thorough-going in
destroying the opposition as they are in building up their own side."

He thought, too, of that last intimate hour with Elsie, and wished he
had spoken plainer with her. "It would have been definite if I had
secured an answer. It would have been a negative, of course, and yet
such is my folly, I still hope, and so long as there is the slightest
uncertainty I shall waste my time in dreaming." His mind then turned to
the question of the mob. There came into his mind again the conviction
that they were waiting to intercept the sheriff at the boundary of the
reservation; but he was perfectly certain that they would relinquish
their designs when they found the sheriff reinforced by three determined
men--one of them an army officer and the agent. He had no fear on that
score; he only felt a little uneasy at leaving the agency.

A sharp exclamation from Crow brought his dreaming to an end, and,
looking up, he saw a horseman approaching swiftly, his reins held high,
his elbows flapping. "That's young Streeter," he said, on the impulse.

"So it is," replied Winters, hot with instant excitement. "I wonder
what's his hurry?"

Calvin came up with a rush, and when opposite set his horse on his
haunches with a wrench of his powerful wrist, calling, in lazy drawl:
"Howdy, folks, howdy. Well, I see you've got 'im," he remarked to
Curtis.

"You've been ridin' hard," said Winters; "what's your rush? Anything
doin'?"

Calvin looked down at his panting, reeking horse, and carelessly
replied: "Oh no. I'm just takin' it out o' this watch-eyed bronco." He
exchanged a look with the sheriff. "I thought I'd ketch ye 'fore ye left
the agency. I'd like a word with you, sheriff; tumble out here for a
minute. You'll wait a second, won't you, Major?"

Curtis looked up at the sun. "Yes; but be quick."

Calvin slid from his horse, and while the sheriff was climbing stiffly
down on the opposite side slipped a note into Curtis's hand.

As the sheriff listened to Calvin's low-voiced report Curtis glanced at
the paper. It was in pencil, and from Elsie. "The mob is waiting at the
half-way house, cruel as wolves--turn back--for my sake."

Curtis crumpled the paper in his hand and called out imperatively:
"Come, Sheriff Winters, I cannot wait."

Winters turned away smilingly. "That's all right, Cal. I didn't
understand, that's all. I'm glad the boys went home. Of course the
troops settled everything."

Curtis caught Calvin's eye, and a nod, almost imperceptible, passed
between them, and the cowboy was aware that the soldier understood the
situation. "Where did you leave the Senator?"

"At the half-way house."

"How was he?"

"Feeling well enough to make a speech," replied Calvin.

The other team, containing Grismore and the reporters, was by this time
but a few rods away, and, watching his opportunity, Curtis signalled:
"Stop that wagon--hold them here." Calvin again nodded. "Drive on,"
called Curtis. And Winters smiled with rare satisfaction.

Some miles before reaching the border of the reservation, Two Horns, at
a sign from Curtis, left the main road and began to climb a low ridge to
the east.

The sheriff turned and called sharply: "Where is he going?"

"He has his orders, Mr. Sheriff."

"He's taking the wrong road. It is five miles farther that way."

"He is following my orders."

"But I don't see the sense of it."

"You are only a passenger. If you don't care to ride with us you can
walk," replied Curtis, and the sheriff settled back into his seat with a
curse. The second wagon had been left far behind, and would undoubtedly
keep the main road, a mishap Curtis had calculated upon.

An hour or two of extra travel would not matter, especially as the mob
was being left safely on the left.

The warning from Elsie had a singular effect upon the soldier. He grew
almost gay at the thought of her care of him. In some occult way the
little card meant a great deal more than its few words. If they were
delayed at the half-way house they might not reach Pinon in time for the
afternoon train, and so--"I may see her again."

As he neared the boundary of the reservation the sheriff gained in
resolution. Looking backward, he saw his own team following, outlined
like a rock against the sky, just topping a ridge, and reaching over he
laid his hand on the reins and pulled the horses to a stand.

"Right here _I_ take charge!" he growled. "I'm on my own ground. Get out
o' there!" he said to the prisoner, and as he spoke he drew his revolver
and leaped to the ground.

Cut Finger turned towards Curtis, whose face was set and stern. "Sit
still!" he commanded, with a gesture. "Put up your gun!" he said to
Crow, who had drawn his revolver, ready to defend his prisoner.

Winters flew into bluster. "Do you defy my authority now? I'm sheriff of
this county!" he shouted. "Your control ends right here! This is State
territory."

Curtis eyed him calmly. "I started out to give this man safe convoy to
the prison, and I'm going to do it! Not only that--he is a ward of the
government, even when lodged in the county jail, and it is my duty to
see that he has fair trial; then, and not till then, will I abandon him
to the ferocity of your mob. I know your plan, and I have defeated it.
Do you intend to ride with us?"

The sheriff's courage again failed him as he looked up into the direct,
unwavering eagle gaze of the young officer. He began to curse. "We'll
have your hide for this! You've gone too far! You've defied the laws of
the county!"

"Drive on," said Curtis, and Two Horns touched his ponies with the whip.

"Halt, or I fire!" shouted Winters.

"Drive on!" commanded Curtis, and Two Horns laid the whip hard on the
back of his off horse.

Winters fired, but the bullet went wide; he dared not aim to kill. Cut
Finger rose as if to leap from the wagon, but Crow seized him with one
great brown paw and thrust his shining gun against his breast. "Sit
down, brother!" he said, grimly. "We'll care for you."

The prisoner sank back into his seat trembling with excitement, while
the wife began to cry piteously.

Curtis, looking back, saw the sheriff waving his revolver maniacally,
but his curses fainted on the way. A sudden reaction to humor set in,
and the young agent laughed a hearty chuckle which made his faithful
Tetong aids break into sympathetic grins.

Nevertheless, the case was not entirely humorous. In a certain sense he
had cut athwart the law in this last transaction, though in doing so he
had prevented an act of violence which would have still further
embittered the tribe. "I am right," he said, and put away all further
doubt.

The drive now settled into a race for the jail. "The sheriff, after
being picked up by his own party, will undertake to overhaul us,"
reasoned Curtis, but that did not trouble him so much as the thought of
what lay before him.

The road ran along Willow Creek, winding as the stream itself, and
Curtis could not avoid the thought of an ambuscade. On the right were
clumps of tall willows capable of concealing horsemen, while on the left
the hot, treeless banks rose a hundred feet above the wagon, and the
loopings of the track prevented a view of what was coming. If the mob
should get impatient, or if they should suspect his trick, it would be
easy to send a detachment across the hills and intercept him. "Push
hard!" he signed to Two Horns.

The road was smooth and dusty and descended rapidly, so that the horses
had little to do but guide the tongue. As the wagon rocked and reeled
past the ranch houses, the settlers had hardly time to discern what
manner of man was driving, but they were thrown into fierce panic by the
clatter of fleeing horses and the cloud of prophetic dust. The sheriff
was not in sight, and no sound of him could be detected in the whiz of
their own wheels.

At last Two Horns, with his moccasined foot on the brake, broke through
the hills out upon the valley land, with Pinon City in sight. The mob
and the sheriff were alike left behind. Ambush was now impossible.

"Easy now, Two Horns," called Curtis, with a smile and an explanatory
gesture. "We're safe now; the angry white men are behind," and the
reeking, dusty, begrimed horses fell into a walk.

The hour for their arrival in Pinon City was fortunate. The town was
still at supper, and in the dusk Curtis and prisoner escaped notice.
They hurried across the main street and on towards the jail, which stood
on a little knoll just outside the town.

As they drew up before the door a young man came out and stared with
inquiring gaze.

Curtis spoke first. "Are you the turnkey?"

"I'm in charge here; yes, sir."

"I am Captain Curtis, the agent. This is Cut Finger, charged with the
murder of a white man. I have brought him in. The sheriff is just
behind." He turned to the prisoner and signed. "Get down! Here is the
strong-house where you are to stay!"

Cut Finger clambered slowly down, his face rigid, his limbs tremulous
with emotion. To go to the dark room of the strong-house was the worst
fate that could overtake a free man of the hills, and his heart
fluttered like a scared bird.

"It would be a good plan to let his wife go in with him," suggested
Curtis. "It will save trouble."

The poor, whimpering girl-wife followed her culprit husband up the steps
and into the cold and gloomy hall to which they were admitted, her eyes
on the floor, her sleeping child held tightly in her arms. When the
gate shut behind him Curtis signed to the prisoner this advice:

"Now be good. Do not make any trouble. Do what these people tell you.
Eat your food. I will ask the sheriff to let your wife see you in the
morning, and then she will go home again. She can come once each month
to see you." He touched the wife on the arm, and when she comprehended
his gesture she uttered again that whimpering moan, and as she bent her
head in dumb agony above her babe, Curtis gently led her to the door,
leaving Cut Finger to the rigor of the white man's law.



XXXII

AN EVENTFUL NIGHT


At the railway station Curtis alighted. "Go to Paul Ladue's," he said to
Two Horns. "Put the horses in his corral and feed them well. Sit down
with Paul, and to-morrow morning at sunrise come for me at the big
hotel. Be careful. Don't go on the street to-night. The white men have
evil hearts."

"We know," said Crow, with a clip of his forefinger. "We will sleep like
the wolf, with one eye open."

As they drove away, Curtis hurried into the station, and calling for a
blank, dashed away at a brief telegram to the Commissioner. While
revising it he overheard the clerk say, in answer to a question over the
telephone: "No, Senator Brisbane did not get away on 'sixteen.' He is
still at the Sherman House."

Curtis straightened and his heart leaped. "Then I can see Elsie again!"
he thought. Hastily pencilling two or three shorter messages, he handed
them in and hurried up the street towards the hotel, eager to relieve
her anxiety.

By this time the violet dusk of a peaceful night covered the town. The
moon, low down in the west, was dim, but the stars were beginning to
loom large in the wonderful deep blue to the east. The air was
windless. No cloud was to be seen, and yet the soldier had a touch of
uneasiness. "I wish I had brought my faithful men with me to the Sherman
House. However, there is no real cause to worry. Paul is more Tetong
than borderman--and will protect them--if only they keep off the
street."

He began to meet men in close-packed groups on the sidewalk--roughly
clad citizens who seemed absorbed in the discussion of some important
event. A few of them recognized him as he passed, and one called, in a
bitter tone, "There goes the cur himself!" Curtis did not turn, though
the tone, more insulting than the words, made his heart hot with battle.
It was plain that the sheriff and his party had already entered and
reported their defeat. A saloon emptied a mob of loud-voiced men upon
the sidewalk before him, and though he feared trouble he pushed steadily
forward. The ruffians gave way before his resolute feet, but he felt
their hate beating like flame upon his face. He dared not turn a
hair's-breadth to the right nor to the left; nothing was better than to
walk straight on. "They will not shoot me in the back," he reasoned, and
beyond a volley of curses he remained unassaulted.

The rotunda of the hotel was filled with a different but not less
dangerous throng of excited politicians and leading citizens, who had
assembled to escort Brisbane to the opera-house. The talk, though less
profane than that of the saloon loafers, was hardly less bitter against
the agent. Mingled with these district bosses were a half-dozen
newspaper men, who instantly rushed upon Curtis in frank and boyish
rivalry. "Captain, what is the news?" they breathlessly asked, with pads
and pencils ready for his undoing.

"All quiet!" was his curt reply.

"But--but--how about--"

"All lies!" he interrupted to say, and pushed on to the desk. "Is
Senator Brisbane and party still here?" he asked, as he signed his name
in the book.

The clerk applied the blotter. "Yes; he is still at supper."

The young soldier took time to wash the dust from his face and hands and
smooth his hair before entering the dining-room. At the threshold he
paused and took account of his enemies. Brisbane and three of his most
trusted supporters, still sitting at coffee, were holding a low-voiced
consultation at a corner table, while Lawson and Elsie sat waiting some
distance away and near an open window. The Parkers were not in view.

Elsie, at sight of her lover, rose impulsively, and her face, tired and
pale, flushed to a beautiful pink. Her lips formed the words "Why, there
is Captain Curtis!" but her voice was inaudible.

He hastened forward with eyes only for her, and she met him with both
hands outstretched--eager, joyous!

"Oh, how good it is to see you! We were so alarmed--Calvin warned you?"

"Yes. He met me just before I left the reservation."

"But I expected you to bring soldiers; how did you escape? Did you find
the cattlemen gone?"

"I flanked them." His face relaxed into humor. "Discretion is a sort of
valor sometimes. I took the Willow road."

Lawson now joined them, and in his hand-clasp was a brother's regard for
the soldier. His smile was exultant. "Good work! I knew Calvin could be
trusted. It looked bad for Cut Finger when we reached the half-way
house."

"You must be hungry!" exclaimed Elsie. "Sit here and I will order
something for you."

"I _was hungry_ an hour ago," he said, meaningly, "but now I am not. But
I am tired," he added. "Where are the Parkers?"

Elsie laughed. "On their way to civilization. They fled on the
up-train."

"The town is aflame," said Lawson. "You and your Tetongs are an issue
here to-night. A big meeting is called, and the Senator is to speak. He
has just discovered you," he added, glancing towards Brisbane, who had
risen and was glaring at Curtis, his small eyes hot as those of an angry
bear.

"Excuse me, won't you?" pleaded Elsie, rising hastily. "I must go to
him!"

Curtis also rose and looked soberly into her eyes. "May I not see you
again?"

She hesitated. "Yes. I'm not going to the meeting. Come to our parlor
when you are finished supper."

He remained standing till she joined her father and passed from the
room, then he turned towards Lawson, who said:

"Seriously, my dear Curtis, you are in danger here. I hope you will not
go out this evening. Even Uncle Sam's blue might not prove a protection
in the dark of a night like this. Where did you house your men?"

"At Ladue's, with orders not to leave the corral."

"Quite right. Where is the sheriff?"

This question brought a humorous light into the young soldier's eyes.
"When I saw him last he was on Sage-hen Flat swinging his revolver and
cursing me," and he told the story.

Lawson grew grave. "I'm sorry you had to do that; it will give your
enemies another grip on you. It's a mere technicality, of course, but
they'll use it. You must watch every one of your clerks from this on;
they'll trump up a charge against you if they can, and secure a
court-martial. This election is really the last dying struggle of the
political banditti of the State, and they will be defeated. Take
to-night as an example. The reckless devils, the loud of mouth are alone
in evidence, the better class of citizens dare not protest--dare not
appear on the streets. But don't be deceived, you have your supporters
even here, in the midst of this saturnalia of hate. You are an issue."

Curtis grimly smiled. "I accept the challenge! They can only order me
back to my regiment."

"As for Brisbane, he is on the point of collapse. He has lost his
self-control. He has attained a fixed notion that you are his most
dangerous enemy; the mention of your name throws him into fury. I lost
patience with him to-day, and opened fire. 'You are doomed to defeat!' I
said to him. 'You represent the ignoble, greedy, conscienceless hustler
and speculator, not the peaceful, justice-loving citizen of this State.
Your dominion is gone; the reign of order and peace is about to begin.'
If it were not for Elsie I would publicly denounce him, for his election
would work incalculable injury to the West. But he can't fill the
legislature with his men as he did twelve years ago. He will fail of
election by fifty votes."

"I hope so," responded Curtis, with a sigh, as Lawson rose. "But I have
no faith in the courage of the better element; virtue is so timid and
evil is always so fully organized."

After Lawson left him Curtis hurriedly finished his supper and went his
way to his room for a moment's rest. Through the open windows he could
hear the cheering which greeted Brisbane's entrance into the
opera-house, which faced upon the little square before the hotel. The
street was thronging with noisy boys, and at intervals a band of young
herders clattered into the square. Their horses thickened along the
hitching-poles, and the saloons swarmed with men already inflamed with
drink. The air seemed heavy, oppressive, electrical, and the shrill
cheers which rose above the dull rumble of pounding boot-heels in the
hall possessed a savage animal vehemence. Again a sense of impending
disaster swept over the young officer. "I am tired and nervous," he
thought. "Surely law and order rules in a civilized community like
this."

He put away all thoughts of war as he followed the boy up the stair-way
to the Brisbane private parlor, and became the lover, palpitant with the
hope that he was about to see Elsie alone.

She met him at the door, her face a-quiver with feeling, a note of alarm
in her voice. "Have you heard the cheering? They are denouncing you over
there!"

"I suppose so. But let's not talk of such unimportant matters; this is
our last evening together, and I want to forget the storm outside. Since
I left you last night I have had a most remarkable experience, and I--"

"Oh, you mean catching the murderer; tell me about it!"

"No. Oh no; that is not worth telling. I mean something more intimately
personal." Shrill yells from across the way interrupted him, and Elsie
rose and shut the window. "I hate them; they are worse than savages,"
she said. "Please don't mind them."

He went on: "I was about to say I had a deal of time to think on my long
ride this morning, and I reached some conclusions which I want to tell
you about. When my prisoner was safe in the guard-house, I went over to
see how my little temple of art looked--I mean your studio, of course. I
closed the door and dropped into one of the big chairs, hoping to gain
rest and serenity in the beauty and quiet of the place. But I didn't; I
was painfully depressed."

She opened her eyes very wide at this. "Why?"

"Because everything I saw there emphasized the irrevocable loss I had
suffered. I couldn't endure the thought of it, and I fled. I could not
remain without weeping, and you know a man is ashamed of his tears; but
when I got your note of warning I flung conscience to the winds! 'It is
not a crime to love a woman,' I said. 'I will write to her and say to
her "I love you, no matter what happens;"' and, now I find you here, I
tell it to you instead of writing it."

She was facing him with a look of perplexity and alarm. One hand laid
upon her throat seemed to express suffering. When she spoke her voice
was very low.

"What do you expect me to say; you make it so hard for me! Why do you
tell me this?"

"Because I could not rest till I had spoken. For a long time I thought
you were bound to Lawson, and since then I've tried to keep silent
because of my poverty and--no one knows better than I the unreason of it
all--I do not ask you to speak except to say, 'I am sorry.' When I found
you were still within reach, the desire to let you know my feeling
overcame every other consideration. I can't even do the customary thing
and ask you to wait, for my future is as uncertain as my present, but if
you could say you loved me--a little--" he paused abruptly, as though
choked into silence by a merciless hand.

Elsie remained silent, with her eyes turned towards the window, her
hands in her lap, and at last he went on:

"If your father is a true prophet, I shall be ordered back to my
regiment. That will hurt me, but it won't ruin me exactly. It would be a
shameful thing if the department sacrificed me to expediency; but
politicians are wonderful people! If you were not so much an artist and
Andrew Brisbane's daughter, I would ask you to come to me and help me do
my work, but I can't quite do that--yet; I can only say you are more to
me now than any other soul in the world. I do this because I can't keep
from it," he repeated, in poor ending.

"I've heard that the best way to make a woman love a man is to persecute
the man," she replied, smiling a little, though her eyes were wet.
"When you were apparently triumphant I hated you--now--" she hesitated
and a sudden timidity shook her.

He sprang up. "Can you carry out the figure? I dare you to finish the
sentence. Do you care for me a little?" His face, suddenly illuminated,
moved her powerfully.

"I'm afraid I do--wait, please!" She stopped him with a gesture. "You
mustn't think I mean more than I do. My mind is all in a whirl now; it
isn't fair to hurry me; I must take time to consider. Your being poor
and an Indian agent wouldn't make any difference to me if I--But I must
be sure. I respect you--I admire you very much--and last night when I
said good-bye I felt a sharp pain here." She put her hand to her throat.
"But I must be sure. There are so many things against it," she ended,
covering her eyes with her hand in piteous perplexity.

His eyes were alight, his voice eager. "It would be such a glorious
thing if you could join me in my work."

The mention of his work stung her. "Oh no! It is impossible. I should
die here! I have no sense of duty towards these poor vagabonds. I'm
sorry for them--but to live here--no, no! You must not ask it. You must
go your way and I will go mine. You are only torturing me needlessly."

"Forgive me," he pleaded. "I did not mean to do so."

She continued, wildly: "Can't you see how crazy, how impossible, it is?
I admire you--I believe in your work--it is magnificent; but I can't
live your life. My friends, my art, mean too much to me."

There was a tremulous, passionate pleading which failed of finality: it
perplexed her lover; it did not convince him.

"You are right; of course you are right," he said again; "but that does
not help me to bear the pain of your loss. I can't let you go out of my
life--utterly--I can't do it--I will not--Hark! What is that?"

A faint, far-off, thundering sound interrupted him. A rushing roar, as
of many horsemen rapidly approaching. Hastening to the window, Curtis
bent his head to listen. "It sounds like a cavalry charge. Here they
come! Cowboys--a mob of them! Can it be Yarpe's gang? Yes; that is
precisely what it is. Yarpe leading them into some further deviltry."

Whooping and cursing, and urging their tired horses with quirt and spur,
the desperadoes, somewhat thinned of ranks, pouring by in clattering,
pounding rush--as orderless as a charging squad of Sioux
warriors--turned up a side street and disappeared almost before any one
but Curtis was aware of them.

"They are bent on mischief," said the soldier as he turned upon the
girl, all personal feeling swept away by the passing mob. "They have
followed me in to force the jail and hang Cut Finger." He caught up his
cap. "I must prevent it!"

"No! No!" cried Elsie, seizing his arm. "You must not go out in the
street to-night--they will kill you--please don't go--you have done your
duty. Now let the mayor act, I beg of you!"

"Dear girl, I _must_ thwart this lynching party. I would be disgraced!
Don't you see? They have seized the moment when the citizens are all in
the hall away from the jail to do this thing. I must alarm the town and
prevent them."

Even as he pleaded with her the tumult in the hall broke forth again,
roared for a moment in wild crescendo, and then ceased instantly,
strangely. A moment's silence followed, and a confused murmur arose,
quite different from any sound which had hitherto emanated from the
hall. A powerful voice dominated all others, and through the open
windows the words of command could be distinctly heard. "_Keep back
there! Keep your seats!_"

"The meeting is breaking up!" exclaimed Curtis. "Some one has alarmed
them. See, they are pouring out to prevent this crazy mob from carrying
out its plan."

The shouting ceased, but the trample of feet and the murmur of voices
thickened to a clamor, and Elsie turned white with a new fear. "They are
rushing across the square! Perhaps they are coming for _you_!"

"I don't think so; they would not dare to attack me--they hate me,
but--"

Her over-wrought nerves gave way. A panic seized her. "Hide! Hide! They
will kill you!" she cried out, hoarsely.

"No; I am going to help them defend the jail."

"For my sake!" she pleaded, "don't leave me! Listen! they are coming!"
she whispered. The sound of many feet could be heard in the lobby below,
the roar of a hundred voices came up the stair-way, but even the excited
girl could now detect something hushed and solemn in the
sound--something mournful in the measured footsteps up the stairs.

"It is father!" she cried, with a flash of divination. "Something has
happened to him!" And with this new terror in her face she hurried out
into the hall.

Curtis reached her side just as the head of the procession topped the
stair-way.

Brisbane, up-borne by Lawson and a tall young stranger, first appeared,
followed by a dozen men, who walked two and two with bared heads and
serious faces, as if following a hearse. The stricken man's face was
flushed and knobby, and his eyelids drooped laxly like those of a
drunkard. He saw nothing, and his breathing was labored.

"Father, what has happened?" called Elsie. "Tell me--quick!"

"A touch of vertigo," answered Lawson, soothingly. "The doctor says
nothing serious."

"Are you the doctor?" she turned to the young man.

"Yes. Don't be alarmed. The Senator has over-taxed himself a little,
that is all, and needs rest. Show me his bed, and we will make him
comfortable."

Elsie led the way to the bedroom, while Curtis stood helplessly facing
the crowd in the hall. Lawson relieved the situation by coming out a few
moments later to say:

"Gentlemen, the doctor thanks you, and requests you to leave the Senator
to rest as quietly as possible."

After this dismissal had dispersed the on-lookers, Lawson turned to
Curtis. "The old man's work as a speaker is done. Rather tragic
business, don't you think? He was assailing you with the utmost
bitterness. His big, right fist was in the air like a hammer when he
fell; but it was his last effort."

Curtis seized his hand and said: "I envy you your chance to go with her
and serve her." His voice changed. "The mob! Did you hear Yarpe and his
men pass?"

"No; when?"

"Not ten minutes ago. I fear some mischief."

The doctor appeared. "Mr. Lawson, a moment."

As Lawson hurried into the sick-room a far-off, faint volley of
pistol-shots broke the hush that had settled over the square. Distant
yells succeeded, accompanied by a sound as of some giant hammering. The
young soldier lifted his head like a young lion listening to a
battle-call. "They are beating in the gates!" he said. For a moment he
hesitated, but only for a moment. "She is safe!" he thought, with a
glance towards Elsie's door. "My man and the poor little wife are not,"
and he rushed down the stair-way and out into the street with intent to
find and defend his faithful men.



XXXIII

ELSIE CONFESSES HER LOVE


As he paused on the steps to the hotel, a gust of bitter rage swept over
him. "What can I do against this implacable town? Oh, for a squad of the
boys in blue!"

The street and square were filled with men all running, as to a fire,
from left to right--a laughing, jesting throng. Along the hitching-poles
excited and jocular cowboys were loosing their ponies and leaping to
their saddles. Some excitable citizen had begun to ring the fire-bell,
and women, bareheaded and white with fear, were lining the sidewalks and
leaning from windows. The town resembled an ant-hill into which a
fleeing bison has planted a foot.

"Oh, sir!" cried one young mother as she caught sight of Curtis, "are
the Injuns coming?"

"No," he replied, bitterly, "these marauders are not Indians; they are
noble citizens," and set off at a run towards the corral in which Two
Horns and Crow were camped. The tumult behind him grew fainter, and at
last died to a murmur, and only one or two houses showed a light.

Ladue's was an old ranch on the river, around which the town of Pinon
had for twenty years been slowly growing. The cabin was of stone, low
and strong, and two sides of it formed the corner of a low corral of
cottonwood logs. In this enclosure teamsters (for two bits) were allowed
to camp and feed their horses. A rickety gate some fifty feet south of
the house stood ajar, and Curtis entered the yard, calling sharply for
Crow Wing and Two Horns. No one replied. Searching the stalls, he found
the blankets wherein they had lain, but the tumult had undoubtedly
called them forth into danger.

Hurrying to the house, he knocked most vigorously at the door--to no
effect. The shack was also empty. Closing the door with a slam, the
young officer, now thoroughly alarmed, turned back towards the hotel. A
vast, confused clamor, growing each moment louder, added edge to his
apprehension. The crowd was evidently returning from the jail, jubilant
and remorseless. Upon reaching the corner of the square Curtis turned to
the left, with the design of encircling it, hoping to find the two
redmen looking on from a door-way on the outskirts of the throng.

He had crossed but one side of the plaza, when a band of cowboys dashed
in from the opposite corner with swinging lariats, whooping shrilly, in
close pursuit of a flying footman. A moment later a rope looped, the
fugitive fell and the horsemen closed round him in joyous clamor, like
dogs around a fox.

With a fear that this was one of his men, Curtis raised a great shout,
but his voice was lost in the rush and roar of the throng pouring in
towards the fugitive. In fierce rage he rushed straight towards the
whirling mass of horsemen, but before he had passed half the intervening
space a horseman circled the pavilion, and the popping of a revolver,
swift yet with deliberate pauses, began. Wild yells broke forth, the
pursuers scattered, other revolvers began to crack, and as the press of
horsemen reeled back, Curtis perceived Calvin, dismounted and
bareheaded, with his back against the wall of the little wooden
band-stand, defiant, a revolver in each hand, holding the mob at bay,
while over his head a light sputtered and sizzled.

A lane seemed to open for Curtis as he ran swiftly in towards the
writhing, ensnared captive on the ground. It was Two Horns, struggling
with the ropes which bound him, and just as his Little Father bent over
him the big Tetong freed himself, and, with a sliding rush, entered the
shadow by Calvin's side. Instantly his revolver began to speak.

Curtis, left alone in the full light of the lamp on the pavilion, raised
his arms and shouted: "Hold! Cease firing!" The crowd recognized him and
fell silent. The army blue subdued them, and those who had done the
shooting began to edge away.

For a moment the young soldier could not speak, so furious was he, but
at last he found words: "Cowards! Is this your way of fighting--a
hundred to one? Where is your mayor? Have you no law in this town?" He
turned to Calvin, who stood still, leaning against the pavilion. "Are
you hurt?"

Calvin lifted one dripping hand. "I reckon I'm punched a few. My right
arm feels numb, and the blood is fillin' my left boot. But I'm all here,
sure thing." But even as he spoke he reeled. Curtis caught him; he
smiled apologetically: "That left leg o' mine, sure feels like a
hitchin'-post; reckon some one must o' clipped a nerve somewhere."

Two Horns seized him by the other arm, just as Winters blustered into
the circle. "What's going on here; who's doin' this shootin'?"

"This is a good time to ask that," remarked Curtis. "Where were you
twenty minutes ago?"

Calvin struggled to get his right hand free. "Let me have a crack at the
beast!" he pleaded. "I saw you," he said to Winters: "you were in the
lynching crowd, you sneak! You hung round in the shadow like a coyote."

Curtis tried to calm him. "Come, this won't do, Calvin; you are losing
blood and must have a doctor; come to the hotel."

As they half-carried him away the young rancher snarled back, like a
wounded wolf: "I disown the whole cowardly pack of ye; I put my mark on
some of ye, too."

The crowd was now so completely with Calvin that Winters hastened to
explain: "Cal is my deputy; he was acting inside his duty! He was trying
to keep the peace and you had no business fightin'," and proceeded to
arrest some fairly innocent by-standers, while the wounded desperadoes
were being swiftly hidden away by their friends, and the remaining
citizens of the town talked of what should have been done.

Calvin continued to explain as they hurried him through the excited
throng. "I tried to stand 'em off at the jail," he said, "but I couldn't
get near enough; my cayuse was used up. Oh, you was there!" he called to
a tall man with a new sombrero, "I saw you, Bill Vawney, and I'll get
you for it; I've spotted you!"

He was enraged through every fibre of his strong, young body, and only
the iron grip of the persistent men kept him from doing battle.

As they neared the hotel, Curtis, looking up, glimpsed Elsie's white
face at the window and waved his cap at her. She clapped her hands in
joy of his return, but did not smile. The hotel lobby was packed with a
silent mass of men, but the landlord, with authoritative voice, called
out: "Clear the way, gentlemen!" and a lane opened for them. "Right in
here," he added, and led the way to the parlor bedroom. The Captain and
Calvin were now most distinguished of citizens; nothing was too good for
them.

"Bring a physician," said Curtis.

"Right here," replied a cool, clear voice, and Doctor Philipps stepped
to Calvin's side and relieved Two Horns.

The young rancher sank down on the bed limply, but smiled as he
explained: "I'm only singed a little, doc. They had me foul. You see, I
was in the light, but I handed one or two of them something they didn't
like. I left a keepsake with 'em. They won't forget me soon."

The physician pressed him back upon the bed and began to strip his
clothes from him. "Be quiet for five minutes and I'll have you in shape.
We must close up your gashes."

Curtis, relieved of part of his anxiety, then asked: "How is the
Senator?"

"Pretty comfortable; no danger."

"Don't leave me, Major," called Calvin, as Curtis turned away to seek
Elsie. "Don't let this chap cut me up. I'm no centipede. I need all my
legs."

There was genuine pleading in the boy's voice, and Curtis came back and
took a chair near him while the doctor probed the wounds and dressed
them. The officer's heart was very tender towards the reckless,
warm-hearted young rancher as he watched his face whiten and the lips
stiffen in the effort to conceal his pain. "Calvin, you've been loyal
all through," he said, "and we won't forget it."

At last, when the wounds were bandaged and the worst of the pain over,
Curtis turned to Two Horns and signed:

"Where is Crow and the wife of Cut Finger?"

"I do not know."

"I will go find him; you remain here. Do not fear; you are safe now. Sit
down by Calvin's bed. You will sleep here to-night."

As he made his way through the close-packed mass of excited men in the
lobby and before the hotel, Curtis met no hostile face. It seemed that
all men were become his friends, and eager to disclaim any share in the
mob's action. He put their proffered hands aside and hurried back to
Ladue's, which he found close-barred and dark.

"Who's there?" called a shaking voice as he knocked.

"Captain Curtis. Where is Crow?"

"In here!" was the answer, in joyful voice. As he opened the door, Ladue
reached his hand to the agent. "My God, I'm glad it is you! I was afraid
you'd been wiped out. Where is Two Horns?"

Crow, with his revolver still gripped in his hand, stepped forward, his
face quivering with emotion. "Little Father, it is good to see you; you
are not hurt? Where is Two Horns?"

"Safe in the big house with me. The evil white men are gone; you will
camp here, you and the wife of Cut Finger," he signed as he saw the
cowering form of the little wife.

Ladue, a big, hulking, pock-marked half-breed, began to grin. "I was
a-scared; I sure was. I thought we was all goin' to hang. Old Bill Yarpe
was out for game."

"The better citizens are in control now," replied Curtis. "You are safe,
but you'd better remain in the house till morning."

As Curtis made his way through the crowd some one raised a cheer for
"Major Curtis," and the cry was taken up by a hundred voices. Indignant
citizens shouted: "We'll stand by you, Major. We'll see justice done."

Curtis, as he reached the stair-way, turned and coldly said: "Make your
words good. For four days a mob of two hundred armed men have menaced
the lives of my employés and my wards, and you did nothing to prevent
them. I am glad to see you appreciate the horror and the disgrace of
this night's doings. If you mean what you say, let no guilty man escape.
Make this night the memorable end of lawlessness in your country."

"We will!" roared a big, broad-faced, black-bearded man, and the crowd
broke into another roar of approval.

Elsie was waiting at the top of the stairs, tense and white. Her eyes
burned down into his with a singular flame as she cried out:

"Why didn't you come to me sooner? Why do you walk so slowly? Are you
hurt? Tell me the truth!"

"No, only tired," he answered, as he reached her side.

She put out her hand and touched his breast. "You are; you are all
bloody. Take off your coat; let me see!"

"No, it's not mine; it is poor Calvin's; he was badly wounded; he leaned
against me."

"But I saw you standing in the pistol-fire; take it off, I say!" Her
voice was almost frenziedly insistent.

He removed his coat in a daze of astonishment, and she cried out,
triumphantly: "See! I was right; your shirt is soaked. You are wounded!"

"True enough!" he replied, looking down in surprise at a big stain on
his shoulder. "I've been 'singed,' as Calvin calls it. It can't be
serious, for I have not felt it."

A sudden faintness seized upon Elsie as she gazed fixedly upon the
tell-tale stain. A gray whiteness passed over her face. "Oh, God!
suppose you had been killed!" she whispered.

In that shuddering whisper was the expression of the girl's complete and
final surrender, and Curtis did not question, did not speak; he took her
in his arms to comfort her.

"My sweetheart, you _do_ love me! I doubt no more. My poverty, your
wealth, what do they matter?"

She suddenly started away. "Oh, your wound! Where is the doctor? Go to
him!"

"The touch of your lips has healed me," he protested, but she insisted.

"Go! You are bleeding!" she commanded; and so, reluctantly, lingeringly,
with most unmilitary sloth, he turned away, made numb to any physical
pain by the tenderness in her voice.

As the young surgeon was dressing the gash, he said: "Well, Captain,
things happen in the West."

"Yes, the kind of things which ought not to happen anywhere. I suppose
they lynched poor Cut Finger?"

"No; they merely shot him and dragged him to death, as near as I can
learn."

Curtis clinched his fists. "Ah, the devils! Where is the body?"

"Back in the corridor of the jail."

Curtis pondered the effect of this news on the tribe. "It's a little
difficult to eliminate violence from an inferior race when such cruelty
is manifested in those we call their teachers."

He sent for Ladue, who was deep in discussion of the evening's events
with Crow and Two Horns, and said to him: "Do not tell the wife of Cut
Finger of the death of her husband; wait till morning. What the sheriff
will do with the body I do not know. To-morrow say to her, 'All is over;
go with the agent.' It will do her no good to remain here. Good-night!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was hard to realize in the peaceful light of the following morning
that the little square had been the scene of so much cruelty and riot.
The townspeople came forth yawning and lax, and went about their duties
mechanically. Crow Wing and Two Horns, who would camp nowhere but on
the floor of Curtis's room, were awake at dawn, conversing in signs, in
order not to disturb the Little Father.

He, waking a little later, called to them in greeting and said: "Now all
is quiet. The white men are sorry. You are safe. Go to Paul's, eat and
get ready. We must start at once for the agency. Cut Finger did an ill
deed, and brought trouble on us all. Now he is dead, but good may come
out of it. Go, tell the little wife; be gentle with her; say to her I
wish her to go home with us."

Silently, soberly, the two redmen left the room, and Curtis dressed and
went at once to find Calvin. The boy looked up as Curtis entered and
cheerily called: "Hello, Major, I've had a lively dream. I dreamed there
was some gun-play goin' on out in the square and you and I were in it.
Was that right?"

"I've a sore place here on my shoulder that says you are. How do you
feel? Can you travel? If you can, I'll take you home in my buckboard."

"I can travel all right, but I haven't any home to go to. The old man
and I haven't hitched very well for a year, and this will just about
turn me out on the range."

"Well, come home with me, then; Jennie will soon have you all right
again; she's a famous nurse, and will look out for you till your mother
comes over, as she will. Mothers don't go back on their boys."

A curious dimness came into the bold, keen eyes of the wounded youth.
"Major, that'll suit me better than anything else I know."

"Very well, if the doctor says you can travel, we'll go along together,"
replied Curtis.

He was eager to see Elsie and was pacing impatiently up and down the
hall when Lawson met him, smiling, imperturbable. "Well, Captain, how
are you this morning?"

"Have you seen Miss Brisbane?"

"No; she is still asleep, I hope. The Senator is conscious, but in a
curious state; seems not to know or care where he is; his troubles are
over."

Even as he spoke a maid came from Elsie's room to say that her mistress
would breakfast in her own parlor, and wished both Mr. Lawson and
Captain Curtis to join her in half an hour.

Lawson, in discussing the events of the night, was decidedly optimistic.
"This outbreak will bring about a reaction," he said, with conviction.
"You will find every decent man on your side to-day."

"I hope so," responded Curtis. "But last night's mob made me long for my
Gray-Horse Troop."

When they entered the little parlor Elsie rose and passed straight to
Curtis without coquetry or concealment. "How is your wound? Did you
sleep?"

He assured her that he was almost as well as ever, and not till she had
convinced herself of the truth did she turn to Lawson. "Osborne, I can
never thank you enough for your good, kind help."

Osborne protested that he had done nothing worth considering, and they
took seats at the table--a subdued and quiet group, for Lawson was still
suffering from his loss, and the lovers could not conceal from
themselves the knowledge that this was their last meeting for many long
months. Elsie was a being transformed, so tender, so wilful, so
strangely sweet and womanly was she in every smile and in every
gesture.

They dwelt upon impersonal topics so long as Lawson remained; but he,
being ill at ease, hastened with his coffee, and soon made excuse to
withdraw, leaving them alone. For a moment they faced each other, and
then, with a wistful cadence in his voice, Curtis said, "Dear girl, it's
hard to say good-bye now, just when I have found you, but I must return
at once."

"Oh, must you? Can't you wait till we go--this afternoon?"

"No; I must be the first to carry this dreadful news to my people."

"You are right, of course; but I'll miss you so, and you need me. Say
you need me!"

"Need you! Of course I do; but you cannot stay with me and I cannot go
with you."

"I know, I know!" she sighed, resignedly. "But it hurts all the same."

"This tumult will die out soon," he went on, in the effort to comfort
her, "and then I can come on to Washington for a visit. I warn you I've
lost all my scruples; seventeen hundred million dollars are as straws in
my path, now that I know you really care for me."

"I don't feel rich now; I feel very poor. You must come to Washington
soon."

"I warn you that when I come I will ask hard things of you!" He rose and
his face darkened. "But my duty calls!"

She came to him and yielded herself to his embrace. "My queenly,
beautiful girl! It is sweet to have you here in my arms; but I _must_
say good-bye--good-bye."

In spite of his words he held her till she, with an instinctive
movement, pushed from his arms. "Go--go quick!" she exclaimed, in a low,
imperative voice.

Not staying to wonder at the meaning of her strange dismissal, he turned
and left the room without looking back.

Only after he had helped Calvin into the wagon, and had taken his seat
beside him, did the young soldier lift his eyes in search of her face at
the window. She was looking down upon him, tears were on her cheeks, but
she blew a kiss from her finger-tips, not caring if all the world were
there to see.



XXXIV

SEED-TIME


As Lawson predicted, the very violence of this outburst of racial hatred
was its cure. A reaction set in. The leaders of Brisbane's party, with
loud shouts, ordered their harriers back to their lairs, while the great
leader himself, oblivious to daylight or to darkness, was hurried home
to Washington. The Tetongs returned to their camps and hay-making, the
troops drilled peacefully each afternoon in the broiling heat, while
Curtis bent to his work again with a desperate sort of energy, as if by
so doing he could shorten the long, hot days, which seemed well-nigh
interminable after the passing of Elsie and her friends.

In a letter announcing their safe arrival in Washington, Elsie said:

     "I am going to see the President about you, as soon as he
     returns from the mountains. Papa is gaining, but takes no
     interest in anything. He is pitifully weak, but the doctor
     thinks he will recover if he will only rest. His brain is worn
     out and needs complete freedom from care. Congress has
     adjourned finally. I am told that your enemies expect to secure
     a court-martial on the charge of usurping the authority of the
     sheriff. Osborne says not to worry, for nothing will be done
     now till the President returns, and he is confident that the
     department will sustain you--the fact that the violence you
     feared did actually take place has robbed your enemies of their
     power."

Nevertheless, the fight against the Tetongs and himself went on with
ever-increasing rancor during July and August, and each Congressional
candidate was sharply interrogated as to his attitude towards the
removal bill. The anti-administration papers boldly said: "If we win
(and we will) we'll cut the comb of this bantam. We'll break his sabre
over his back."

To this the opposition made answer: "We're no lovers of the redman, but
Captain Curtis is an honorable soldier, doing his duty, and it will not
be easy for you, even if victorious, to order a court-martial."

This half-hearted defence gave courage to those who took the high ground
that the time for lynching had gone by. "The Tetongs have rights which
every decent man is bound to respect, no matter how much he personally
dislikes the redskin."

During the last days of August a letter came from Elsie, full of
comforting assurances, both public and private, being more intimate and
tender in tone than any that had preceded it, and full of sprightly
humor too. It began:

     "MY DEAR SOLDIER,--I've been so busy fighting your enemies I
     couldn't write a letter. I've met both the Secretary and the
     commissioner--their desks are said to be full of screeds
     against you--_and I've been to see the President_! He wasn't a
     bit gallant, but he listened. He glowered at me (not unkindly)
     while I told your story. I'm afraid I didn't phrase it very
     well, but he listened. I brought out all the good points I
     could think of. I said: 'Mr. President, Captain Curtis is the
     most disinterested man in the Indian service. He is sacrificing
     everything for his plans.' 'What are his plans?' he asked, so
     abruptly that I jumped. I then spoke learnedly of irrigating
     ditches and gardens; you would have laughed had you heard me,
     and I said: 'If he is ordered back to his regiment, Mr.
     President, these poor people will be robbed again.' 'Does Mr.
     Blank, of New York, endorse Captain Curtis?' he asked. I didn't
     see what this led to, but I answered that I did not know. 'He's
     a friend of yours, isn't he?' he asked. 'Whom do you mean?' I
     said, and my cheeks burned. Then he smiled. 'You needn't
     worry,' he said, banging the table with his fist. 'I'll keep
     Captain Curtis where he is if every politician in the State
     petitions for his removal.' I liked his wooden cuss-word, and I
     thanked him and jumped up and hurried home to write this
     letter. The Secretary told Osborne that the bill for buying out
     the settlers would certainly go through next winter, and that
     your plans were approved by the whole department. So, you see,
     you are master of the situation, and can plan as grandly as you
     wish--the entire reservation is yours.

     "It is still hot here, and now that my 'lobbying' is done, I am
     going to the sea-shore, where papa is, and I know I shall wish
     you were with me to enjoy it. I am so sorry for you and Jennie,
     my heart aches for you. Think of it! The cool, beautiful ocean
     will be singing me to sleep to-night. I wish I could send you
     some fruit and some ices; I know you are longing for them.

     "I wonder how it will all turn out? Will you be East this
     winter? Perhaps I'll help you celebrate the opening of your new
     gardens, next spring. Wouldn't you like me to come out and
     break a bottle of wine over the first plough or water-gate or
     something? If you do, maybe I'll come. If you write, address me
     at the Brunswick, Crescent Beach. I wish you could come and see
     me here--you look so handsome in your uniform."

The soldier's answer was not a letter, it was a packet! He began by
writing sorrowfully:

     "DEAREST GIRL,--I fear I shall not be able to get away this
     winter. There is so much here that requires my care. If the
     bill passes, the people will be stirred up; if it doesn't pass,
     the settlers will be uneasy, and I shall be most imperatively
     necessary here. Nothing would be sweeter to me than a visit to
     you at the beach. As a boy I knew the sea-shore intimately, and
     to wall the sands with you would be to revive those sweet,
     careless boy memories and unite them with the deepest emotions
     of my life--my love for you, dear one. It almost makes me
     willing to resign. In a sense it would be worth it. I _would_
     resign only I know I am not losing the delight forever--I am
     only postponing it a year.

     "I have thought pretty deeply on my problem, dearest, and I've
     come to this conclusion: When two people love each other as we
     do, neither poverty nor riches--nothing but duty, should
     separate them. Your wealth troubled me at first. I knew I could
     not give you the comforts--not to say luxuries--you were
     accustomed to, and I knew that my life as a soldier would
     always make even a barrack a place of uncertain residence. I
     must stand to my guns here till I have won my fight; then I may
     ask for a transfer to some field where life would not be so
     hard. If only there were ways to use your great wealth in
     helping these people I would rejoice to be your agent in the
     matter.

     "I am a penniless suitor, but a good soldier. I can say that
     without egotism. I think I could have acquired money had I
     started out that way; of course I cannot do it now. Perhaps my
     knowledge and training will come to supplement and give power
     to your wealth. I must work. I am not one to be idle. If I go
     on working--devising--in my own way, then my self-respect would
     not be daunted, even though you were worth ten millions instead
     of one. I am fitted to be the head of a department--like that
     of Forestry, or Civil Engineering. After my work here is
     finished I may ask for something of that kind, but I am
     resolved to do my duty here first. I like your suggestion about
     the water-gate. I hold you to that word, my lady. One year from
     now, when my gardens are ready for the sickle, I will have the
     criers announce a harvest-home festival, and you must come and
     dance with me among my people, and then, perhaps, I will take a
     little vacation, and return with you to the East, and be happy
     with you among the joyous of the earth for a little season.
     Beyond that I dare not plan."

The administration was sustained, and Brisbane's forces were beaten
back. The better elements of the State, long scattered, disintegrated,
and without voice, spoke, and with majesty, rebuking the cruelty, the
barbarism, and the blatant assertion of men like Musgrove and Streeter,
who had made the State odious. Even Winters, the sheriff, was defeated,
and a fairly humane and decent citizen put in his place, and this
change, close down to the people, was most significant of all. "Now I
have hope of the courts," said Curtis to Maynard.

If the Tetongs did not at once apprehend the peace and comfort which the
defeat of Brisbane's gang and the passage of the purchase bill assured
to them, they deeply appreciated the significance of the immediate
withdrawal of the settlers. They rejoiced in full-toned song as their
implacable and sleepless enemies drove their heavily laden wagons across
the line, leaving their farms, sheds, and houses to the government for
the use of the needy tribe.

The urgency of the case being fully pleaded, the whole readjustment was
permitted to be made the following spring, and the powers of the agent
and his employés were taxed to the uttermost. When the order actually
came to hand, Curtis mounted his horse and rode from camp to camp,
carrying the good news; calling the members of each band around him, he
told the story of their victory.

"Your days of hunger and cold will soon be over," he said. "The white
man has gone from the reservation. The water of the streams, the
ploughed fields, are all yours. Now we must set to work. Every one will
have good ground; all will share alike, and every one must work. We must
show the Great Father at Washington that we are glad of his kindness.
Our friends will not be ashamed when they come to see us, and look upon
our corn and wheat."

Every man, woman, and child did as they had promised. They laid hands to
the duties appointed them, and did so merrily. They moved at once to the
places designated. A mighty shifting of dwellings took place first of
all, and when this was finished they set to work. They built fences,
they dug ditches, they ploughed and they planted, cheery as robins. Even
the gaunt old women lifted their morose faces to the sun and muttered
unaccustomed thanks. The old men no longer sat in complaining council,
but talked of the wonderful things about to be.

"Ho! have you heard?" cried one. "Grayman lives in the house the white
man has left; Elk too. Two Horns sleeps in the house above Grayman, and
is not afraid. Ah, it is wonderful!"

The more thoughtful dwelt in imagination on the reservation completely
fenced, and saw the hills swarming with cattle as in the olden time it
swarmed with the wild, black buffalo. They helped at the gardens, these
old men, and as they rested on their hoes and listened to the laughter
of the women and children, they said one to the other: "Our camp is as
it was in the days when game was plenty. Every one is smiling. Our worst
days are over. The white man's road is very long, and runs into a
strange country, but while Swift Eagle leads we follow."

There was commotion in every corral, where long-haired men in leggings
and with feathered ornaments in their hats, were awkwardly breaking
fiery ponies to drive, for teams were in sharp demand. The young men who
formerly raced horses, for lack of other things to do, and in order not
to die of inertness, now became the hilarious teamsters of each valley.
Every person, white or red, who could give instruction in ditching and
planting, was employed each hour of the day. The various camps were as
busy as ant-hills, and as full of cheer as a flock of magpies.

Curtis was everywhere, superintending the moving of barns, the building
of cabins, and the laying out of lands. Each night he returned to his
bed so tired he could not lie flat enough, but happy in the knowledge
that some needed and permanent improvement had that day been made.
Lawson, faithful to his post, came on from Washington, and was a comfort
in ways less material than wielding a hoe. He went about encouraging the
people at their work, and his words had the quality of a poem.

"You see how it is!" he said. "You need not despair. It is not true that
the redmen are to vanish from the earth. They are now to be happy and
have plenty of food. The white people, at last, have found out the way
to help you."

Maynard got a short leave of absence, and came over to see "the hustle,"
as he called it, and to visit Jennie, who still refused to leave her
post, though she had practically consented to his proposal. "We will
see," she had said. "If George marries, then I will feel free to go with
you; but not now."

Maynard expressed the same astonishment as ever. "A man may fight a
people a lifetime and never really know 'em. Now I consider it
marvellous the way these devils work."

Calvin, after his recovery, came seldom to the agency. He recognized the
power and the fitness of Captain Maynard's successful courtship, and
though Jennie wrote twice inviting him to call, he did not come, and did
not even reply till she had almost forgotten her own letters. In a very
erratic and laborious screed he conveyed his regrets. "I'm powfle bizzy
just now. The old man is gone East, an' that thros all the work of the
ranch onto me. Ime just as mutch obliged." Jennie did not laugh at this
letter; she put it away with a sigh--"Poor boy!"



XXXV

THE BATTLE WITH THE WEEDS


Between the planting and the reaping lay the sun-smitten summer-time and
a battle with the weeds! It was a period demanding patience and
understanding in Curtis, for as the first flush of enthusiasm over the
sowing died away, apathy and indifference sprang up naturally as
thistles. These childlike souls said: "Behold we have done our part, now
let Mother Earth and the Father Sun bring forth the harvest. We cannot
ripen the grain; we can only wait. Besides, we are weary."

To them harvest should follow seeding without further effort. They were
like boys wearied with waiting for the trees to grow. The seed and the
apple were too far apart. Curtis, understanding this lack of training in
their lives, did not allow himself to express the impatience he
sometimes felt. He told them that the new life they were to lead
involved constant care, but care would bring a reward. "In the old days
when you hunted, these things were not so." He also made honorable
examples of men like Two Horns and Crane's Voice, who kept their gardens
clean of all noxious plants.

He organized mimic war-parties. "To-day," he said, "the warriors of Elk
will go forth with me against these evil ones, the weeds. Each man will
be armed with a bright hoe. Elk, old as he is, will lead, and I will go
by his side. We will work busily till the sun has climbed half-way to
his hill; then we will smoke."

His knowledge of their needs, their habits, their modes of thinking,
made all that he did successful. He allowed the women to bring cool
drinks, flavored with herbs, and to build little bowers to shade their
sons and husbands from the fierce sun while they rested. There was
grumbling, there was envy, naturally, but less than he expected.

On the first day of July he was confident of a big crop, and wrote to
Elsie, saying: "The potatoes are in bloom, the wheat is waving in the
wind like a green sea. I am waiting."

To this she replied: "Papa's mind turns to the mountains these hot days,
and so we are coming; also my heart yearns for a certain soldier in the
West--a commander of shining hoes and a leader of destructive red
ploughmen. I ought, for my own peace and comfort, to forget this
singular creature; but, alas! I cannot. My perplexity grows daily. I
long to see him, yet I am afraid!"

These words made him tireless and of Job-like patience. "You need not
wait till the harvest is ended," he wrote, in reply. "Come and watch the
grain ripen, so that you will be garmented duly and ready for the feast.
Moreover, we will snatch so many more days of joy out of the maw of
devouring time."

To this she answered: "Your expressed reasons are not overwhelming, but
as the sun is scorching now, we leave soon. We will reach Pinon City in
about ten days. Father is quite well, but restless with the heat. I am
well, but restless, for other reasons. I don't see that the problem of
our lives is any nearer solution, do you? What can I do? What can you
do? Is there any common ground?"

"There are no problems now that you are coming," he replied.

It was with a deep surprise and joy that she found herself trembling
before each of his letters. All the old-time ecstasy and breathless
passion of her girlhood came back to her, but enlarged, and based
deeper, a woman's care and introspection giving it greater significance
and power.

The next day after Elsie's definite promise Curtis rode over to the
first camp and called the people round him and said:

"Next week we will hold our feast to give thanks for the good things the
earth has given to us, and after we have councilled together we will
feast and have a dance. Let everything be in order. Come in your finest
dress. Let every garment be as it was of old. Let the young girls be
very beautiful in whitened buckskin and beads. I do not despise your
old-time dress; I like it. Hereafter, when you work you will need to
wear white man's clothes, for they are more comfortable; but when you
wish to have a good time, then your old dress will be pleasant. I do not
ask you to forget the old time. It is past, but it is sweet to you. I
want you to be happy, for I am happy."



XXXVI

THE HARVEST-HOME


The hay-harvest was still going on when Curtis and Jennie drove down the
valley to meet Elsie and Lawson at Pinon City. "Father is much changed,"
Elsie had written. "You will hardly know him now. He has forgotten all
about his campaign; he remembers you only momentarily, so that you need
not feel any resentment. He will probably meet you as if he had never
seen you before. Please do not show any surprise, no matter what he
says."

Curtis expected to find Brisbane a poor shambling wreck of a man, morose
and sorrowful to look upon, and his astonishment was correspondingly
profound as the ex-Senator descended from the train. His step was
vigorous, and his face was placid and of good color; thus much the young
soldier took in at a glance, then he forgot all the world in the radiant
face of his heart's beloved.

As she put up her lips to be kissed, Elsie's eyes were dim with tears,
and she hurried to Jennie as if for relief from her emotion. When she
turned, her father was shaking hands urbanely with Curtis.

"Glad to meet you, sir," he said, in the tone of the suave man of
position. "I didn't catch the name."

A spasm of pain crossed Elsie's face. "This is Mr. Curtis, papa. Don't
you remember Captain Curtis?"

"Ah, yes, so it is," he replied. "I remember you spoke of him once
before. I am very glad to make your acquaintance--very glad indeed,
sir."

To meet this calm politeness in a man who, in his right mind, would have
refused to shake hands, was deeply moving to the young officer. To all
outward appearance the great promoter was the same, and on all matters
concerning his first campaign and first term, and especially on the
events of his early life, he spoke with freedom, even with humor, but of
the incidents of the later campaign he had no recollection. That he had
been defeated and humbled seemed also to have left no lasting mark upon
his mind.

"The fact is, my memory has grown very bad," he explained. "I can
remember faces in a dim way, but anything that is said to me I forget
instantly."

For a time the thought of Brisbane's mental decay threw a gloom over the
party, but Elsie said: "Please don't mind him. I have reached a certain
philosophic calm in the matter. I can do him no good by sorrowing. I
have, therefore, determined to be as happy as I can."

Curtis cheerfully called: "We must start at once. Will your father go
with us?"

"Oh no! I am afraid to have him undertake that. He will go on to Copper
City with his secretary."

"Of course, that is best," replied Curtis, vastly relieved.

Brisbane parted with Elsie quite matter-of-factly, and his urbanity
remained unbroken as he shook hands with Curtis. "Pleased to have met
you, sir," he said, and, in spite of her resolution, the tears filled
the daughter's eyes. The old warrior's smiling forgetfulness of feuds
was tragic.

As they rode homeward, Curtis and Elsie sat as before on the forward
seat, and he detailed what had taken place at the agency, and she
listened, genuinely absorbed. She laughed and she wept a little as his
story touched on the pathetic incidents of the year.

"You are like a father confessor," she said. "You hold in your hands the
most intimate secrets of your people. I don't understand your patience
with them. Do you feel that you have made your demonstration?"

"What I have done is written in lines of gold and green on the earth.
The sky is too bright to remember my gray days," he replied, most
exultantly.

She looked at him quizzically. "You are developing new and singular
powers."

"I have a new and singular teacher."

"New?" she queried.

"New to me," he answered, and in such enigmatic way they expressed their
emotion while Lawson and Jennie chatted gayly and in clear prose behind.
Part of the time Elsie drove, and that gave Curtis an excuse to lay his
hand on her wrist when he wished her to drive slow. At the half-way
house she shuddered and made a mouth of disgust. "Let's hurry past here;
I have a bad heart when I think of those horrible men."

"They are thinning out, and this ranch has 'changed hands' as they say
on restaurant signs in Chicago. Here's our north line of fence," he
said, as they came to a big, new gate. "I hastened to build this at
once before anything happened to prevent. This keeps the stock of the
white man out, and has stopped all friction."

As they came in sight of the flag-pole, Elsie cried out: "Just think!
This is the third time I have driven up this road in this way. Twice
with you."

"I know it is wonderful. I don't intend you to go away without me."

She was ignoring every one of his suggestions now, but the flush of her
cheek and a certain softness in her eyes encouraged him to go on.

As they alighted at the door, Jennie remained to look after her bundles,
and Curtis and Elsie entered the library together. He who had waited so
eagerly for this moment turned and folded her close in his arms. "I need
you, sweetest! I'll never let you go again. Never!"

This was her moment to protest; but she was silent, with her face
against his shoulder.

Jennie bounced into the hall with a great deal of premonitory clatter
and hurried Elsie to her room to rest.

"And now you're to be my really truly sister," she said, closing the
door behind her.

"I think--George," she hesitated a little, and blushed before speaking
his name, "expects it--rather confidently."

"Then give me a good hug, you glorious thing!"



XXXVII

THE MINGLING OF THE OLD AND THE NEW


Early on the morning of the great day--before the dawn, in truth--the
Tetongs came riding in over the hills from every quarter of the earth,
bringing their finest clothing, their newest blankets, and their whitest
tepees, all lashed on long poles between which the patient ponies walked
as in the olden time. Every man, woman, and child able to sit a horse
was mounted. No one wore a white man's hat or shoes or vest; all were in
leggings and moccasins, fringed and painted, and they carried their
summer blankets as they once carried their robes of the buffalo-skin.
Even the boys of six and seven wore suits cunningly fashioned and
decorated like those of their elders. The young warriors, painted, and
with fluttering feathers, rode their fleetest ponies, with shoulders
bare and gleaming like bronze in the sun.

With all due form, without hurry or jostling, the whole tribe camped in
a wide ellipse, each clan in its place, each family having a fixed
position in the circle. The tepees rose like magic, and their threads of
smoke began to creep up into the clear sky like mysterious plants,
slender and wavering.

Greetings passed from camp to camp, the head men met in council, and, as
the sun rose higher, swarms of the young men galloped to and fro,
laying out a racing-course and making up for a procession under Wilson's
direction.

Curtis said: "I am not interdicting any of their customs merely because
they belong to their old life, but because some of them are coarse or
hurtful. Their dance is not harmful unless protracted to the point of
interfering with their work. That they are all living somewhat in the
past, to-day, is true; but they will put away this finery and go to work
with me to-morrow. To cut them off from all amusement is cruel
fanaticism. No people can endure without amusement."

"How appropriate their gay colors seem in this hot, dun land!" remarked
Elsie. "They would look gaudy in a studio; but out here they are
grateful to the sense."

In the centre of the wide circle of tepees a huge bower of pines was
being erected for the dance, and pulsing through the air the voice of
the criers could be heard, as they rode slowly round the circle
publishing the programme of the day.

"Looking over the camp towards the hills it is not difficult to imagine
one's self back in the old days," said Maynard. "I saw Sitting Bull
camped like this. See, here is the 'Soldier Lodge' or chief's
headquarters," and he pointed to a large, handsome tepee set in one of
the foci of the big ellipse.

Everywhere they went Curtis and his friends met with hearty greeting.
"Hoh--hoh! The Little Father!" the old men cried, and came to shake
hands, and the women smiled, looking up from their work. The little
children, though they ran away at first, came out again when they knew
that it was the Captain who called. Jennie gave hints about the cooking,
and praised the neat tepees and the pretty dresses, while Elsie, looking
upon it all with reflective eyes, could not help thinking, "Such will be
my work if I do my duty as a wife."

Once she looked at the firm, bold, facial outlines of the man she had
learned to love, and snuggled a little closer into his shelter; he would
toil to make every hardship light, that was certain; but, oh! the dreary
winters! There were moments when she took to herself a part of the love
and obedience this people showed Curtis. Here was a little kingdom over
which Curtis reigned, a despotic monarch, and she, if she did her duty,
would reign by his side. It had, at least, the virtue of being an
unconventional self-sacrifice. And then, again, she smiled to think that
Elsie Bee Bee should feel a touch of pride in being the wife of an
Indian agent!

Driving his guests back to the agency, Curtis returned to the camp and
moved about on foot among his people. Wherever he went he seemed to give
zest to the sports, and knowing this he remained with them till noon,
and only came in to rest his weary feet and aching eyes for half an hour
before lunch.

It was unutterably sweet to stretch out in his big, battered easy-chair,
in the shaded coolness of the library, and feel Elsie's smooth, light
hand in his hair.

"And you are never to leave me," he said, dreamily. "I can't realize it
yet." After a pause he added: "I am demanding too much of you,
sweetheart."

"You are demanding nothing, sir; if you did you wouldn't get it. If I
choose to _give_ you anything, you are to be grateful and discreetly
silent."

"Can't I say, 'Thank you'?"

"Not a word."

"I am content," he said, and closed his eyes again to express it, and
she, being unasked, bent and kissed his forehead.

Rousing up a few minutes later, he said, "I have a present in keeping
for you."

"Have you? What is it? Is it from you? Why didn't you let me see it
before?"

He rose and opened a closet door. "Because the proper time had not come.
Before I show it to you I want you to promise to wear it."

"I promise," she instantly replied.

"Don't be so ready; I intend it to be a symbol of your change of heart."

"Well, then, I don't promise," she said, backing away.

"I don't mean your change of heart towards me; I have a ring to express
that; this is to express your change of heart towards--"

"Towards Injuns?"

"No; towards all 'the small peoples of the earth.'"

"Well, then, I can't wear it; I haven't changed. Down with them!" she
shouted, in smiling bravado.

He closed the door. "Very well, then, you shall not even see the
present; you are not worthy of it."

"Oh, please! please! I'll forgive all the heathens of Africa, if you
will only let me see."

"I don't believe I like that, either," he replied. "You are now too
flippant. However, I'll hold you to the word. If you don't mean it now
you will by-and-by."

Elsie clapped her hands with girlish delight as he held up a fine
buckskin dress, beautifully adorned with beads and quills. It was
exquisitely tanned, as soft as silk, and a deep cream color.

"Isn't it lovely! I'll wear it whether my heart is changed or not."

"Here are the leggings and moccasins to match."

She gathered them all up at a swoop. "I'm going to put them on at once."

"Wait!" he commanded. "Small Bird, who made these garments, is out in
the kitchen. I want to call her; she can be your maid for this time."

As Small Bird sidled bashfully into the hall Elsie cried out in delight
of her. She was dressed in the old-time Tetong dress, and was
exceedingly comely. Her face was carefully painted and her hair shone
with much brushing and oil. Her teeth were white and even.

"Can she speak English?" asked Elsie.

"Not very well; but she understands. Small Bird, the lady says, thank
you. She thinks they are very fine. Her heart is glad. Go help her
dress."

"Come!" cried Elsie, eagerly, and fairly ran up the stairs in her haste
to be transformed into a woman of the red people.

When she returned she was a sister to Small Bird. Her dark hair was
braided in the Tetong fashion, her face was browned, and her little feet
were clothed in glittering, beaded moccasins.

"You look exactly like some of the old engravings of Mohawk princesses,"
cried Curtis. "Now you are ready to sit by my side and review the
procession."

"Are we to have a procession?"

"Indeed we are, as significant as any mediæval tournament. I am the
resident duke before whom the review takes place, and I shall be in my
best dress and you are to sit by my side--my bride-elect."

"Oh no!"

"Oh yes. It is decided." He drew himself up haughtily. "I have said it,
and I am chief to-day. It is good, Small Bird," he said, as the Tetong
girl started to go. "My wife likes it very much."

Elsie ran towards the girl and took her by the shoulders as if to make
her understand the better. "Thank you; thank you!"

Small Bird smiled, but surrendered to her timidity, and, turning, ran
swiftly out of the room.

Curtis hooked Elsie in his right arm. "Now all is decreed. You have put
on the garb of my people," and his kiss stopped the protest she
struggled to utter.

Surely the day was a day strangely apart. Everything that could be done
to make it symbolic, to make it idyllic, was done. Curtis appeared after
lunch in a fine costume of buckskin, trimmed with green porcupine quills
and beads, and for a hat he wore a fillet of beaver-skin with a single
feather on the back. Across his shoulder he carried the sash of a finely
beaded tobacco pouch, and in his hand a long fringed bag, very ancient,
containing a peace-pipe, which had been transmitted to Crawling Elk by
his father's father, a very precious thing, worn only by chieftains.

"Oh, I shall paint you in that dress," cried Elsie.

So accoutred, he led the way to the canopied platform under the
flag-pole, where the reviewing party were to sit. In order that no
invidious distinctions might be drawn, two or three of the old chiefs
and their wives had been given seats thereon, and they were already in
place. Not many strangers were present, for Curtis had purposely
refrained from setting a day too long ahead, but Lawson's friends and
some relatives of the employés, and several of the young officers from
the fort made up the outside representation. Maynard was in his
brightest uniform, and Jennie, looking very nice in a muslin gown, and a
broad, white hat, sat by his side.

From the seats in the stand, the camp, swarming with horsemen, could be
seen. Wilson, as grand marshal, was riding to and fro, assisted by
Lawson, who had entered into the game with the self-sacrificing devotion
of a drum-major. His make-up was superb, and when at last he approached,
leading the cavalcade, Elsie did not recognize him. His lean face, dark
with paint, was indistinguishably Tetong, seen from a distance, and he
sat his horse in perfect simulation of his red brethren. He was but
re-enacting scenes of his early life. His hunting-shirt was dark with
use, and his splendid war-bonnet trailed grandly down his back. He rode
by, looking neither to the right nor the left, singing a new song.

    "We are passing.
    See us passing by.
    We are leaving the old behind us.
    The new we seek to find. We are passing, passing by."

Crawling Elk followed, holding aloft a spear with a green plume; it was
a turnip thrust through with a sharp-pointed, blackened stick, and
behind him, two and two, came fifty of his young warriors carrying
shining hoes upright, as of old they carried their lances, while at
their shoulders, where quivers of arrows should have swung, dangled trim
sheaves of green wheat and golden barley. The free fluttering of their
feather-ornamented hair, the barbaric painting on their faces and hands,
symbolized the old life, as the green arrows of the grain prefigured the
new. Behind them rode their women, each bearing in her left hand a bunch
of flowers. Those who could read wore on their bosoms a small, shining
medal, and in their hair an eagle feather. No Tetong woman had ever worn
a plume before.

Standing Elk, quaint and bent, rode by, singing a war-song, magnificent
in his dress as war chief, leading some twenty young men. His hands were
empty of the signs of peace, and his face was rapt with dreams of the
past, but his young men carried long-handled forks which flamed in the
sun, and bracelets of green grass encircled their firm, brown arms.
They, too, were painted to signify their clan and their ancestry, and
the "medicine" they affected was on their breasts. Their wives were
close behind, each bearing a stalk of corn in bloom; their beaded
saddles and gay blankets were pleasant to see. Every weapon bespoke
warfare against weeds. Every ornament represented the better nature, the
striving, the aspiration of its wearer.

Then came the school-children, adding a final note of pathos, poor
little brown men and women trudging on foot to symbolize that they must
go through life, plodding in the dust of the white man's chariot
wheel--their toes imprisoned in a shapeless box of leather, their hair
closely clipped, their clothing hot and restrictive. Each carried a book
and a slate, and their faces were very intent and serious as they paced
by on their way from the old to the new. They were followed by the
school-band playing "The Star-Spangled Banner," with splendid disregard
of the broken faith of the government whose song it was.

And so they streamed by, these folk, accounted the most warlike of all
red men, genially carrying out the wishes of their chief, illustrating,
without knowing it, the wondrous change which had come to them; the old
men still clinging to the past, the young men careless of the future,
the children already transformed, and, as they glanced up, some smiling,
some grave and dreaming, Elsie shuddered with a species of awe; it
seemed as if a people were being disintegrated before her eyes; that the
evolution of a race having proceeded for countless ages by almost
imperceptible degrees was now and here rushing, as by mighty bounds,
from war to peace, from hunting to harvesting, from primitive indolence
to ordered thrift. They were, indeed, passing, as the plains and the
wild spaces were passing; as the buffalo had passed; as every wild thing
must pass before the ever-thickening flood of white ploughmen pressing
upon the land.

Twice they circled, and then, as they all massed before him, Curtis rose
to sign to them.

"I am very proud of you. All my friends are pleased. My heart is big
with emotion and my head is full of thoughts. This is a great day for
you and also for me. Some of you are sad, for you long for the old
things--the big, broad plain, the elk, and the buffalo. So do I. I
loved those things also. But you have seen how it is. The water of the
stream never turns back to the spring, the old man never grows young,
the tree that falls does not rise up again. So the old things come never
again. We have always to look ahead. Perhaps, in the happy
hunting-ground all will be different, but here now we must do our best
to live upon the earth. It is the law that, now the game being gone, we
must plough and sow and reap the fruit of the soil. That is the meaning
of all we have done to-day. We have put away the rifle; we here take up
the hoe.

"I am glad; my heart is like a bird; it sings when I see you happy.
Listen--I will tell you a great secret. You see this young woman," he
touched Elsie. "You see she wears the Tetong dress, the same as I; that
means much. It signifies two things: Last year her heart was hard
towards the Tetongs; now it is soft. She is proud of what you have done.
She wears this dress for another reason; she is going to be my wife, and
help me show you the good way." At this moment a chorus of pleased
outcries broke forth. "Now, go to your feast. Let everything be orderly.
To-night we will come to see you dance."

With an outburst of jocular whooping, the young men wheeled their horses
and vanished under cover of a cloud of dust, while the old men and the
women and the children moved sedately back to camp; the women chattering
gayly over the day's exciting shows, and in anticipation of the dance
which was to come.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were tears in Elsie's eyes as she looked up at Curtis. "They have
so far to go, poor things! They can't realize how long the road to
civilization is."

"I do not care whether they reach what you call civilization or not; the
road to happiness and peace is not long, it is short; they are even now
entering upon it. They can be happy right here, and so can we," he
ended, looking at her with a tender wistfulness. "Can't you understand?"

"You have conquered," she said, with deep feeling. "Under the spell of
this day, I feel your work to be the only thing in the world worth
doing." Her words, her voice, so moved him that he bent and laid a kiss
upon her lips. When he could speak, he said: "Now I want to ask
something of you. I have a leave of absence for six months. Show me the
Old World."

She sprang up. "Ah! Can you go?"

"When the crops are garnered and sifted, and my people clothed and
sheltered."

"I'd rather show you Paris than anything else in the world!" she cried.
"I'd almost marry you to do that."

"Very well, marry me; we will spend our honeymoon there; perhaps then
you will be willing to spend one more year here with me, and
then--well--Never cross the range till you get to it is a maxim of the
trail."

THE END





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