Somewhere down that deep and frowning rift to the southwest, Indian guides were leading their brethren on the trail of these refugees among the upper rocks. Somewhere, far over among the uplands to the northwest, other tribesfolk, her own kith and kin, were lurking, and these the Indian girl was summoning with all speed to her aid.
And in the slant of that same glaring sunshine, not four miles away, toiling upward along a rocky slope, following the faint sign here and there of Apache moccasin, a little command of hardy, war-worn men had nearly reached the crest when their leader signaled backward to the long column of files, and, obedient to the excited gestures of the young Hualpai guide, climbed to his side and gazed intently over. What he saw on a lofty point of rocks, well away from the tortuous "breaks" through which they had made most of their wearying marches from the upper Beaver, brought the light of hope, the fire of battle, to his somber eyes. "Send Arnold up here," he shouted to the men below, and Arnold came, clambering past rock and bowlder until he reached the captain's side, took one look in the direction indicated, and brought his brown hand down with resounding swat on the butt of his rifle. "Treed 'em!" said he exultantly; then, with doubtful, backward glance along the crouching file of weary men, some sitting now and fanning with their broad-brimmed hats, he turned again to the captain and anxiously inquired: "Can we make it before dark?"
"We must make it!" simply answered Stout.
And then, far over among the heights between them and the reservation, there went suddenly aloft—one, two, three—compact little puffs of bluish smoke. Someone was answering signals flashed from the rocky point—someone who, though far away, was promising aid.
"Let's be the first to reach them, lads," said Stout, himself a wearied man. And with that they slowly rose and went stumbling upward. The prize was worth their every effort, and hope was leading on.
An hour later, with barely half the distance traversed, so steep and rocky, so wild and winding, was the way, with the sun now tangent to the distant range afar across the valley, they faintly heard a sound that spurred them on—two shots in quick succession from unseen depths below the lofty point. And now they took the Indian jog trot. There was business ahead.
Between them and that gleaming promontory now lay a comparatively open valley, less cumbered with bowlders than were the ridges and ravines through which they had come, less obstructed, too, with stunted trees. Here was opportunity for horsemen, hitherto denied, and Stout called on Brewster and his score of troopers, who for hours had been towing their tired steeds at the rear of column. "Mount and push ahead!" said he. "You are Wren's own men. It is fitting you should get there first."
"Won't the captain ride with us—now?" asked the nearest sergeant.
"Not if it robs a man of his mount," was the answer. Yet there was longing in his eye and all men saw it. He had led them day after day, trudging afoot, because his own lads could not ride. Indeed, there had been few hours when any horse could safely bear a rider. There came half a dozen offers now. "I'll tramp afoot if the captain 'll only take my horse," said more than one man.
And so the captain was with them, as with darkness settling down they neared the great cliff towering against the southeastward sky. Then suddenly they realized they were guided thither only just in time to raise a well-nigh fatal siege. Thundering down the mountain side a big bowlder came tearing its way, launched from the very point that had been the landmark of their eager coming, and with the downward crashing of the rock there burst a yell of fury.
Midway up the steep incline, among the straggling timber, two lithe young Indians were seen bounding out of a little gully, only just in time to escape. Two or three others, farther aloft, darted around a shoulder of cliff as though scurrying out of sight. From the edge of the precipice the crack of a revolver was followed by a second, and then by a scream. "Dismount!" cried Brewster, as he saw the captain throw himself from his horse; then, leaving only two or three to gather in their now excited steeds, snapping their carbines to full cock, with blazing eyes and firm-set lips, the chosen band began their final climb. "Don't bunch. Spread out right and left," were the only cautions, and then in long, irregular line, up the mountain steep they clambered, hope and duty still leading on, the last faint light of the November evening showing them their rocky way. Now, renegadoes, it is fight or flee for your lives!
Perhaps a hundred yards farther up the jagged face the leaders came upon an incline so steep that, like the Tontos above them, they were forced to edge around to the southward, whither their comrades followed. Presently, issuing from the shelter of the pines, they came upon a bare and bowlder-dotted patch to cross which brought them plainly into view of the heights above, and almost instantly under fire. Shot after shot, to which they could make no reply, spat and flattened on the rocks about them, but, dodging and ducking instinctively, they pressed swiftly on. Once more within the partial shelter of the pines across the open, they again resumed the climb, coming suddenly upon a sight that fairly spurred them. There, feet upward among the bowlders, stiff and swollen in death, lay all that the lynxes had left of a cavalry horse. Close at hand was the battered troop saddle. Caught in the bushes a few rods above was the folded blanket, and, lodged in a crevice, still higher, lay the felt-covered canteen, stenciled with the number and letter of Wren's own troop. It was the horse of the orderly, Horn—the horse on which the Bugologist had ridden away in search of Angela Wren. It was all the rescuers needed to tell them they were now on the trail of both, and now the carbines barked in earnest at every flitting glimpse of the foe, sending the wary Tontos skipping and scurrying southward. And, at last, breathless, panting, well-nigh exhausted, the active leaders found themselves halting at a narrow, twisting little game trail, winding diagonally up the slope, with that gray scarp of granite jutting from the mountain side barely one hundred yards farther; and, waving from its crest, swung by unseen hands, some white, fluttering object, faintly seen in the gathering dusk, beckoned them on. The last shots fired at the last Indians seen gleamed red in the autumn gloaming. They, the rescuers, had reached their tryst only just as night and darkness shrouded the westward valley. The last man up had to grope his way, and long before that last man reached the ledge the cheering word was passed from the foremost climber: "Both here, boys, and safe!"
An hour later brought old Heartburn to the scene, scrambling up with the other footmen, and speedily was he kneeling by the fevered officer's side. The troopers had been sent back to their horses. Only Stout, the doctor, Wales Arnold, and one or two sergeants remained at the ledge, with rescued Angela, the barely conscious patient, and their protectors, the Indian girls. Already the boy had been hurried off with a dispatch to Sandy, and now dull, apathetic, and sullen, Lola sat shrouded in her blanket, while Arnold, with the little Apache dialect he knew, was striving to get from Natzie some explanation of her daring and devotion.
Between tears and laughter, Angela told her story. It was much as they had conjectured. Mad with anxiety on her father's account, she said, she had determined to reach him and nurse him. She felt sure that, with so many troops out between the post and the scene of action, there was less danger of her being caught by Indians than of being turned back by her own people. She had purposely dashed by the ranch, fearing opposition, had purposely kept behind Colonel Byrne's party until she found a way of slipping round and past them where she could feel sure of speedily regaining the trail. She had encountered neither friend nor foe until, just as she would have ridden away from the Willow Tanks, she was suddenly confronted by Natzie, Lola, and two young Apaches. Natzie eagerly gesticulated, exclaiming, "Apaches, Apaches," and pointing ahead up the trail, and, though she could speak no English, convincing Angela that she was in desperate danger. The others were scowling and hateful, but completely under Natzie's control, and between them they hustled her pony into a ravine leading to the north and led him along for hours, Angela, powerless to prevent, riding helplessly on. At last they made her dismount, and then came a long, fearful climb afoot, up the steepest trail she had ever known, until it brought her here. And here, she could not tell how many nights afterwards—it seemed weeks, so had the days and hours dragged—here, while she slept at last the sleep of exhaustion, they had brought Mr. Blakely. He lay there in raging fever when she was awakened that very morning by Natzie's crying in her ear some words that sounded like: "Hermano viene! Hermano viene!"
Stout had listened with absorbing interest and to the very last word. Then, as one who heard at length full explanation of what he had deemed incredible, his hand went out and clutched that of Arnold, while his deep eyes, full of infinite pity, turned to where poor Natzie crouched, watching silently and in utter self-forgetfulness the doctor's ministrations.
"Wales," he muttered, "that settles the whole business. Whatever you do,—don't let that poor girl know that—they"—and now he warily glanced toward Angela—"they—are not brother and sister."
THE MEETING AT SANDY
December, and the noonday sun at Sandy still beat hotly on the barren level of the parade. The fierce and sudden campaign seemed ended, for the time, at least, as only in scattered remnants could the renegade Indians be found. Eastward from the Agua Fria to the Chiquito, and northward from the Salado to the very cliffs of the grand canon, the hard-worked troopers had scoured the wild and mountainous country, striking hard whenever they found a hostile band, striving ever, through interpreters and runners, to bring the nervous and suspicious tribes to listen to reason and to return to their reservations. This for long days, however, seemed impossible. The tragic death of Raven Shield, most popular of the young chiefs, struck down, as they claimed, when he was striving only to defend Natzie, daughter of a revered leader, had stirred the savages to furious reprisals, and nothing but the instant action of the troops in covering the valley had saved the scattered settlers from universal massacre. Enough had been done by one band alone to thrill the West with horror, but these had fled southward into Mexico and were safe beyond the border. The settlers were slowly creeping back now to their abandoned homes, and one after another the little field detachments were marching to their accustomed stations. Sandy was filling up again with something besides the broken down and wounded.
First to come in was Stout's triumphant half hundred, the happiest family of horse and foot, commingled, ever seen upon the Pacific slope, for their proud lot it had been to reach and rescue Angela, beloved daughter of the regiment, and Blakely, who had well-nigh sacrificed himself in the effort to find and save her. Stout and his thirty "doughboys," Brewster, the sergeant, with his twenty troopers, had been welcomed by the entire community as the heroes of the brief campaign, but Stout would none of their adulation.
"There is the one you should thank and bless," said he, his eyes turning to where stood Natzie, sad and silent, watching the attendants who were lifting Neil Blakely from the litter to the porch of the commanding officer.
They had brought her in with them, Lola and Alchisay as well—the last two scowling and sullen, but ruled by the chieftain's daughter. They had loaded her with praise and thanks, but she paid no heed. Two hours after Stout and his troopers had reached the cliff and driven away the murderous band of renegades—Tontos and Apache Yumas—bent on stealing her captives, there had come a little party of her own kindred in answer to her signals, but these would have been much too late. Blakely would have been butchered. Angela and her benefactors, too, would probably have been the victims of their captors. Natzie could look for no mercy from them now. Through Wales Arnold, the captain and his men had little by little learned the story of Natzie's devotion. In the eyes of her father, her brother, her people, Blakely was greater even than the famous big chief, Crook, the Gray Fox, who had left them, ordered to other duties but the year gone by. Blakely had quickly righted the wrongs done them by a thieving agent. Blakely had given fair trial to and saved the life of Mariano, that fiery brother, who, ironed by the former agent's orders, had with his shackled hands struck down his persecutor and then escaped. Blakely had won their undying gratitude, and Stout and Arnold saw now why it was that one young brave, at least, could not share the love his people bore for Gran Capitan Blanco—that one was Quonothay—the Chief Raven Shield. They saw now why poor Natzie had no heart to give her Indian lover. They saw now why it was that Natzie wandered from the agency and hovered for some days before the outbreak there around the post. It was to be near the young white chief whom she well-nigh worshiped, whom she had been accustomed to see every day of her life during his duties at the agency. They saw now why it was the savage girl had dared the vengeance of the Apaches by the rescue of Angela. She believed her to be Blakely's sister, yet they could not give the reason why. They knew very little of Neil Blakely, but what they did know made them doubt that he could ever have been the one at fault. Over this problem both ranchman and soldier, Arnold and Stout, looked grave indeed. It was not like Blakely that he should make a victim of this young Indian girl. She was barely sixteen, said Arnold, who knew her people well. She had never been alone with Blakely, said her kinsfolk, who came that night in answer to her signals. She had saved Angela, believing her to be Blakely's own blood, had led her to her own mountain refuge, and then, confident that Blakely would make search for it and for his sister, had gone forth and found him, already half-dazed with fever and exhaustion, and had striven to lead his staggering horse up that precipitous trail. It was the poor brute's last climb. Blakely she managed to bring in safety to her lofty eerie. The horse had fallen, worn out in the effort, and died on the rocks below. She had roused Angela with what she thought would be joyful tidings, even though she saw that her hero was desperately ill. She thought, of course, the white girl knew the few words of Spanish that she could speak. All this was made evident to Arnold and Stout, partly through Natzie's young brother, who had helped to find and support the white chief, partly through the girl herself. It was evident to Arnold, too, that up to the time of their coming nothing had happened to undeceive Natzie as to that relationship. They tried to induce her to return to the agency, although her father and brother were still somewhere with the hostile bands, but she would not, she would go with them to Sandy, and they could not deny her. More than once on that rough march of three days they found themselves asking what would the waking be. Angela, daughter of civilization, under safe escort, had been sent on ahead, close following the courier who scurried homeward with the news. Natzie, daughter of the wilderness, could not be driven from the sight of Blakely's litter. The dumb, patient, pathetic appeal of her great soft eyes, as she watched every look in the doctor's face, was something wonderful to see. But now, at last, the fevered sufferer was home, still only semi-conscious, being borne within the walls of the major's quarters, and she who had saved him, slaved for him, dared for him, could only mutely gaze after his prostrate and wasted form as it disappeared within the darkened hallway in the arms of his men. Then came a light step bounding along the veranda—then came Angela, no longer clad in the riding garb in which hitherto Natzie had seen her, but in cool and shimmering white, with gladness and gratitude in her beautiful eyes, with welcome and protection in her extended hand, and the Indian girl looked strangely from her to the dark hallway within which her white hero had disappeared, and shrank back from the proffered touch. If this was the soldier's sister should not she now be at the soldier's side? Had she other lodge than that which gave him shelter, now that his own was burned? Angela saw for the first time aversion, question, suspicion in the great black eyes from which the softness and the pleading had suddenly fled. Then, rebuffed, disturbed, and troubled, she turned to Arnold, who would gladly have slipped away.
"Can't you make her understand, Mr. Arnold?" she pleaded. "I don't know a word of her language, and I so want to be her friend—so want to take her to my home!"
And then the frontiersman did a thing for which, when she heard of it one sunset later, his better half said words of him and to him that overstepped all bounds of parliamentary usage, and that only a wife would dare to employ. With the blundering stupidity of his sex, poor Arnold "settled things" for many a day and well-nigh ruined the sweetest romance that Sandy had ever seen the birth of.
"Ah, Miss Angela! only one place will ever be home to Natzie now. Her eyes will tell you that."
And already, regardless of anything these women of the white chiefs might think or say, unafraid save of seeing him no more, unashamed save of being where she could not heed his every look or call or gesture, the daughter of the mountain and the desert stood gazing again after the vanished form her eyes long months had worshiped, and the daughter of the schools and civilization stood flushing one-half moment, then slowly paling, as, without another glance or effort, she turned silently away. Kate Sanders it was who sprang quickly after her and encircled the slender waist with her fond and clasping arm.
That night the powers of all Camp Sandy were exhausted in effort to suitably provide for Natzie and her two companions. Mrs. Sanders, Mrs. Bridger, even Mother Shaughnessy and Norah pleaded successively with this princess of the wilderness, and pleaded in vain. Food and shelter elsewhere they proffered in abundance. Natzie sat stubbornly at the major's steps, and sadly at first, and angrily later, shook her head to every proposition. Then they brought food, and Lola and Alchisay ate greedily. Natzie would hardly taste a morsel. Every time Plume or Graham or a soldier nurse came forth her mournful eyes would study his face as though imploring news of the sufferer, who lay unconscious of her vigil, if not of her existence. Graham's treatment was beginning to tell, and Blakely was sleeping the sleep of the just. They had not let him know of the poor girl's presence at the door. They would not let her in for fear he might awake and see her, and ask the reason of her coming. They would not send or take her away, for all Sandy was alive with the strange story of her devotion. The question on almost every lip was "How is this to end?"
At tattoo there came a Mexican woman from one of the down-stream ranches, sent in by the post trader, who said she could speak the Apache-Mohave language sufficiently well to make Natzie understand the situation, and this frontier linguist strove earnestly. Natzie understood every word she said, was her report, but could not be made to understand that she ought to go. In the continued absence of Mrs. Plume, both the major and the post surgeon had requested of Mrs. Graham that she should come over for a while and "see what she could do," and, leaving her own sturdy bairnies, the good, motherly soul had come and presided over this diplomatic interview, proposing various plans for Natzie's disposition for the night. And other ladies hovering about had been sympathetically suggestive, but the Indian girl had turned deaf ear to everything that would even temporarily take her from her self-appointed station. At ten o'clock Mother Shaughnessy, after hanging uneasily about the porch a moment or two, gave muttered voice to a suggestion that other women had shrunk from mentioning:
"Has she been tould Miss Angela and—him—is no kin at all, at all?"
"I don't want her told," said Mrs. Graham briefly.
And so Natzie was still there, sitting sleepless in the soft and radiant moonlight, when toward twelve o'clock Graham came forth from his last visit for the night, and she lifted up her head and looked him dumbly in the face,—dumbly, yet imploring a word of hope or comfort,—and it was more than the soft-hearted Scot could bear. "Major," said he, as he gently laid a big hand upon the black and tangled wealth of hair, "that lad in yonder would have been beyond the ken of civilization days ago if it hadn't been for this little savage. I'm thinking he'll sleep none the worse for her watching over him. Todd's there for the night, the same that attended him before, and she won't be strange with him—or I'm mistaken."
"Why?" asked Plume, mystified.
"I'm not saying, until Blakely talks for himself. For one reason I don't know. For another, he's the man to tell, if anybody," and a toss of the head toward the dark doorway told who was meant by "he."
"D'you mean you'd have this girl squatting there by Blakely's bedside the rest of the night?" asked the commander, ruffled in spirit. "What's to prevent her singing their confounded death song, or invoking heathen spirits, or knifing us all, for that matter?"
"What was to prevent her from knifing the Bugologist and Angela both, when she had 'em?" was the sturdy reply. "The girl's a theoretical heathen, but a practical Christian. Come with us, Natzie," he finished, one hand extended to aid her to rise, the other pointing to the open doorway. She was on her feet in an instant, and, silently signing her companions to stay, followed the doctor into the house.
And so it happened that when Blakely wakened, hours later, the sight that met him, dimly comprehending, was that of a blue-coated soldier snoozing in a reclining chair, a blue-blanketed Indian girl seated on the floor near the foot of his bed, looking with all her soul in her gaze straight into his wondering eyes. At his low whisper, "Natzie," she sprang to her feet without word or sound; seized the thin white hand tremulously extended toward her, and, pillowing her cheek upon it, knelt humbly by the bedside, her black hair streaming to the floor. A pathetic picture it made in the dim light of the newborn day, forcing itself through the shrouded windows, and Major Plume, restless and astir the hour before reveille, stood unnoted a moment at the doorway, then strode back through the hall and summoned from the adjoining veranda another sleepless watcher, gratefully breathing the fragrance of the cool, morning air; and presently two dim forms had softly tiptoed to that open portal, and now stood gazing within until their eyes should triumph over the uncertain light—the post commander in his trim-fitting undress uniform, the tall and angular shape of Wren's elderly sister—the "austere vestal" herself. It may have been a mere twitch of the slim fingers under her tawny cheek that caused Natzie to lift her eyes in search of those of her hero and her protector. Instantly her own gaze, startled, was turned straight to the door. Then in another second she had sprung to her feet, and with fury in her face and attitude confronted the intruders. As she did so the sudden movement detached some object that hung within the breast of her loose-fitting sack—something bright and gleaming that clattered to the floor, falling close to the feet of the drowsing attendant, while another—a thin, circular case of soft leather, half-rolled, half-bounded toward the unwelcome visitors at the door.
Todd, roused to instant action at sight of the post commander, bent quickly and nabbed the first. The girl herself darted after the second, whereat the attendant, misjudging her motive, dreading danger to his betters or rebuke to himself, sprang upon her as she stooped, and dropping his first prize, dared to seize the Apache girl with both hands at the throat. There was a warning cry from the bed, a flash of steel through one slanting ray of sunshine, a shriek from the lips of Janet Wren, and with a stifled moan the luckless soldier sank in his tracks, while Natzie, the chieftain's daughter, a dripping blade in her uplifted hand, a veritable picture of fury, stood in savage triumph over him, her flashing eyes fixed upon the amazed commander, as though daring him, too, to lay hostile hands upon her.
A change had come over the spirit of Camp Sandy's dream. The garrison that had gone to bed the previous night, leaving Natzie silent, watchful, wistful at the post commander's door, had hardly a thought that was not full of sympathy and admiration for her. Even women who could not find it possible to speak of her probable relations with Neil Blakely dwelt much in thought and word upon her superb devotion and her generosity. That he had encouraged her passionate and almost savage love for him there were few to doubt, whatsoever they might find it possible to say. That men and women both regarded her as, beyond compare, the heroic figure of the campaign there was none to gainsay. Even those who could not or did not talk of her at all felt that such was the garrison verdict. There were no men, and but few women, who would have condemned the doctor's act in leading her to Blakely's bedside. Sandy had spoken of her all that wonderful evening only to praise. It woke to hear the first tidings of the new day, and to ask only What was the cause?—What had led to her wild, swift vengeance? for Todd had in turn been carried to hospital, a sore-stricken man. The night before Natzie was held a queen: now she was held a captive.
It all happened so suddenly that even Plume, who witnessed the entire incident, could not coherently explain it. Reveille was just over and the men were going to breakfast when the major's voice was heard shouting for the guard. Graham, first man to reach the scene, had collided with Janet Wren, whimpering and unnerved, as he bounded into the hallway. His first thought was that Plume's prophecy about the knifing had come true, and that Blakely was the victim. His first sight, when his eyes could do their office in that darkened room, was of Blakely wresting something from the grasp of the Indian girl, whose gaze was now riveted on that writhing object on the floor.
"See to him, doctor," he heard Blakely say, in feeble, but commanding tone. "I will see to her." But Blakely was soon in no condition to see to her or to anybody. The flicker of strength that came to him for a second or two at sight of the tragedy, left him as suddenly—left him feebler than before. He had no voice with which to protest when the stretchermen, who bore away poor Todd, were followed instantly by stout guardsmen who bore away Natzie. The dignity of the chieftain's daughter had vanished now. She had no knife with which to deal death to these new and most reluctant assailants—Graham found it under Blakely's pillow, long hours later. But, with all her savage, lissome strength she scratched and struck and struggled. It took three of their burliest to carry her away, and they did it with shame-hidden faces, while rude comrades chaffed and jeered and even shouted laughing encouragement to the girl, whose screams of rage had drawn all Camp Sandy to the scene. One doctor, two men, and the steward went with their groaning burden one way to the hospital. One officer, one sergeant, and half a dozen men had all they could do to take their raging charge another way to the guard-house. Ah, Plume, you might have spared that brave girl such indignity! But, where one face followed the wounded man with sympathetic eyes, there were twenty that never turned from the Indian girl until her screams were deadened by the prison doors.
"She stabbed a soldier who meant her no harm," was Plume's sullen and stubborn answer to all appeals, for good and gentle women went to him, begging permission to go to her. It angered him presently to the extent of repeating his words with needless emphasis and additions when Mother Shaughnessy came to make her special appeal. Shure she had learned how to care for these poor creatures, was her claim, along o' having little Paquita on her hands so many days, "and now that poor girl beyant will be screaming herself into fits!"
"Let her scream," said Plume, unstrung and shaken, "but hold you your tongue or I'll find a separate cell for you. No woman shall be knifing my men, and go unpunished, if I can help it," and so saying he turned wrathfully from her.
"Heard you that now?" stormed Mother Shaughnessy, as he strode away. "Who but he has helped his women to go unpunished—" and the words were out and heard before the sergeant major could spring and silence her. Before another day they were echoing all over the post—were on their way to Prescott, even, and meeting, almost at the northward gateway, the very women the raging laundress meant. Of her own free will Clarice Plume was once again at Sandy, bringing with her, sorely against the will of either, but because a stronger will would have it so—and sent his guards to see to it—a cowed and scared and semi-silent companion of whom much ill was spoken now about the garrison—Elise Lebrun.
The news threw Norah Shaughnessy nearly into spasms. "'Twas she that knifed Pat Mullins!" she cried. "'Twas she drove poor Downs to dhrink and desartion. 'Twas she set Carmody and Shannon to cuttin' each other's throats"—which was news to a garrison that had seen the process extend no further than to each other's acquaintance. And more and stormier words the girl went on to say concerning the commander's household until Mullins himself mildly interposed. But all these things were being told about the garrison, from which Lola and Alchisay had fled in terror to spread the tidings that their princess was a prisoner behind the bars. These were things that were being told, too, to the men of Sanders's returning troop before they were fairly unsaddled at the stables; and that night, before ever he sought his soldier pillow, Shannon had been to "C" Troop's quarters in search of Trooper Stern and had wrung from him all that he could tell of Carmody's last fight on earth—of his last words to Lieutenant Blakely.
Meantime a sorely troubled man was Major Plume. That his wife would have to return to Sandy he had learned from the lips of Colonel Byrne himself. Her own good name had been involved, and could only be completely cleared when Wren and Blakely were sufficiently recovered to testify, and when Mullins should be so thoroughly restored as to be fit for close cross-examination. Plume could in no wise connect his beloved wife with either the murderous assault on Mullins or the mysterious firing of Blakely's quarters, but he knew that Sandy could not so readily acquit her, even though it might saddle the actual deed upon her instrument—Elise. He had ordered that Blakely should be brought to his own quarters because there he could not be reached by any who were unacceptable to himself, the post commander. There were many things he wished to know about and from Blakely's lips alone. He could not stoop to talk with other men about the foibles of his wife. He knew that iron box in Truman's care contained papers, letters, or something of deep interest to her. He knew full well now that, at some time in the not far distant past, Blakely himself had been of deep interest to her and she to Blakely. He had Blakely's last letter to himself, written just before the lonely start in quest of Angela, but that letter made no reference to the contents of the box or to anything concerning their past. He had heard that Wales Arnold had been intrusted with letters for Blakely to Clarice, his wife, and to Captain, or Miss Janet Wren. Arnold had not been entirely silent on the subject. He did not too much like the major, and rather rejoiced in this opportunity to show his independence of him. Plume had gone so far as to ask Arnold whether such letters had been intrusted to him, and Wales said, yes; but, now that Blakely was safely back and probably going to pull through, he should return the letters to the writer as soon as the writer was well enough to appreciate what was being done. Last, but not least, Plume had picked up near the door in Blakely's room the circular, nearly flat, leather-covered case which had dropped, apparently, from Natzie's gown, and, as it had neither lock nor latch, Plume had opened it to examine its contents.
To his surprise it contained a beautifully executed miniature, a likeness of a fair young girl, with soft blue eyes and heavy, arching brows, a delicately molded face and mouth and chin, all framed in a tumbling mass of tawny hair. It was the face of a child of twelve or thirteen, one that he had never seen and of whom he knew nothing. Neither cover, backing, nor case of the miniature gave the faintest clew as to its original or as to its ownership. What was Natzie doing with this?—and to whom did it belong? A little study satisfied him there was something familiar in the face, yet he could not place it.
The very night of her coming, therefore, he told his wife the story and handed her the portrait. One glance was enough. "I know it, yes," said Mrs. Plume, "though I, too, have never seen her. She died the winter after it was taken. It is Mr. Blakely's sister, Ethel," and Mrs. Plume sat gazing at the sweet girl features, with strange emotion in her aging face. There was something—some story—behind all this that Plume could not fathom, and it nettled him. Perhaps he, too, was yielding to a fit of nerves. Elise, the maid, had been remanded to her room, and could be heard moving about with heavy, yet uncertain tread. "She is right over Blakely," quoth the major impatiently. "Why can't the girl be quiet?"
"Why did you bring him here, then?" was the weary answer. "I cannot control Elise. They have treated her most cruelly."
"There are things you cannot explain and that she must," said he, and then, to change the subject, stretched forth his hand to take again the picture. She drew it back one moment, then, remembering, surrendered it.
"You saw this in—St. Louis, I suppose," said he awkwardly. He never could bear to refer to those days—the days before he had come into her life.
"Not that perhaps, but the photograph from which it was probably painted. She was his only sister. He was educating her in the East." And again her thoughts were drifting back to those St. Louis days, when, but for the girl sister he so loved, she and Neil Blakely had been well-nigh inseparable. Someone had said then, she remembered, that she was jealous even of that love.
And now again her husband was gazing fixedly at the portrait, a light coming into his lined and anxious face. Blakely had always carried this miniature with him, for he now remembered that the agent, Daly, had spoken of it. Natzie and others might well have seen it at the reservation. The agent's wife had often seen it and had spoken of his sorrow for the sister he had lost. The picture, she said, stood often on his little camp table. Every Indian who entered his tent knew it and saw it. Why, surely; Natzie, too, mused the major, and then aloud:
"I can see now what we have all been puzzling over. Angela Wren might well have looked like this—four years ago."
"There is not the faintest resemblance," said Clarice, promptly rising and quitting the room.
It developed with another day that Mrs. Plume had no desire to see Miss Wren, the younger. She expressed none, indeed, when policy and the manners of good society really required it. Miss Janet had come in with Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Sanders to call upon the wife of the commanding officer and say what words of welcome were possible as appropriate to her return. "And Angela," said Janet, for reasons of her own, "will be coming later." There was no response, nor was there to the next tentative. The ladies thought Mrs. Plume should join forces with them and take Natzie out of the single cell she occupied. "Can she not be locked at the hospital, under the eye of the matron, with double sentries? It is hard to think of her barred in that hideous place with Apache prisoners and rude men all about her." But again was Mrs. Plume unresponsive. She would say no word of interest in either Angela or Natzie. At the moment when her husband was in melting mood and when a hint from her lips would have secured the partial release of the Indian girl, the hint was withheld. It would have been better for her, for her husband, for more than one brave lad on guard, had the major's wife seen fit to speak, but she would not.
So that evening brought release that, in itself, brought much relief to the commanding officer and the friends who still stood by him.
Thirty-six hours now had Natzie been a prisoner behind the bars, and no one of those we know had seen her face. At tattoo the drums and fifes began their sweet, old-fashioned soldier tunes. The guard turned out; the officer of the day buckled his belt with a sigh and started forth to inspect, just as the foremost soldiers appeared on the porch in front, buttoning their coats and adjusting their belts and slings. Half their number began to form ranks; the other half "stood by," within the main room, to pass out the prisoners, many of whom wore a clanking chain. All on a sudden there arose a wild clamor—shouts, scuffling, the thunder of iron upon resounding woodwork, hoarse orders, curses, shrieks, a yell for help, a shot, a mad scurry of many feet, furious cries of "Head 'em off!" "Shoot!" "No, no, don't shoot! You'll kill our own!" A dim cloud of ghostly, shadowy forms went tearing away down the slope toward the south. There followed a tremendous rush of troop after troop, company after company,—the whole force of Camp Sandy in uproarious pursuit,—until in the dim starlight the barren flats below the post, the willow patches along the stream, the plashing waters of the ford, the still and glassy surface of the shadowy pool, were speedily all alive with dark and darting forms intermingled in odd confusion. From the eastward side, from officers' row, Plume and his white-coated subordinates hastened to the southward face, realizing instantly what must have occurred—the long-prophesied rush of Apache prisoners for freedom. Yet how hopeless, how mad, how utterly absurd was the effort! What earthly chance had they—poor, manacled, shackled, ball-burdened wretches—to escape from two hundred fleet-footed, unhampered, stalwart young soldiery, rejoicing really in the fun and excitement of the thing? One after another the shackled fugitives were run down and overhauled, some not half across the parade, some in the shadows of the office and storehouses, some down among the shrubbery toward the lighted store, some among the shanties of Sudsville, some, lightest weighted of all, far away as the lower pool, and so one after another, the grimy, sullen, swarthy lot were slowly lugged back to the unsavory precincts wherein, for long weeks and months, they had slept or stealthily communed through the hours of the night. Three or four had been cut or slashed. Three or four soldiers had serious hurts, scratches or bruises as their fruits of the affray. But after all, the malefactors, miscreants, and incorrigibles of the Apache tribe had profited little by their wild and defiant essay—profited little, that is, if personal freedom was what they sought.
But was it? said wise heads of the garrison, as they looked the situation over. Shannon and some of his ilk were doing much independent trailing by aid of their lanterns. Taps should have been sounded at ten, but wasn't by any means, for "lights out" was the last thing to be thought of. Little by little it dawned upon Plume and his supporters that, instead of scattering, as Indian tactics demanded on all previous exploits of the kind, there had been one grand, concerted rush to the southward—planned, doubtless, for the purpose of drawing the whole garrison thither in pursuit, while three pairs of moccasined feet slipped swiftly around to the rear of the guard-house, out beyond the dim corrals, and around to a point back of "C" Troop stables, where other little hoofs had been impatiently tossing up the sands until suddenly loosed and sent bounding away to where the North Star hung low over the sheeny white mantle of San Francisco mountain. Natzie, the girl queen, was gone from the guard-house: Punch, the Lady Angela's pet pony, was gone from the corral, and who would say there had not been collusion?
"One thing is certain," said the grave-faced post commander, as, with his officers, he left the knot of troopers and troopers' wives hovering late about the guard-house, "one thing is certain; with Wren's own troopers hot on the heels of Angela's pony we'll have our Apache princess back, sure as the morning sun."
"Like hell!" said Mother Shaughnessy.
More morning suns than could be counted in the field of the flag had come, and gone, but not a sign of Natzie. Wren's own troopers, hot on Punch's flashing heels, were cooling their own as best they could through the arid days that followed. Wren himself was now recovered sufficiently to be told of much that had been going on,—not all,—and it was Angela who constantly hovered about him, for Janet was taking a needed rest. Blakely, too, was on the mend, sitting up hours of every day and "being very lovely" in manner to all the Sanders household, for thither had he demanded to be moved even sooner than it was prudent to move him at all. Go he would, and Graham had to order it. Pat Mullins was once again "for duty." Even Todd, the bewildered victim of Natzie's knife, was stretching his legs on the hospital porch. There had come a lull in all martial proceedings at the post, and only two sensations. One of these latter was the formal investigation by the inspector general of the conditions surrounding the stabbing at Camp Sandy of Privates Mullins and Todd of the ——th U. S. Cavalry. The other was the discovery, one bright, brilliant, winter morning that Natzie's friend and savior, Angela's Punch, was back in his stall, looking every bit as saucy and "fit" as ever he did in his life. What surprised many folk in the garrison was that it surprised Angela not at all. "I thought Punch would come back," said she, in demure unconcern, and the girls at least, began to understand, and were wild to question. Only Kate Sanders, however, knew how welcome was the pet pony's coming. But what had come that was far from welcome was a coldness between Angela and Kate Sanders.
Byrne himself had arrived, and the "inquisition" had begun. No examinations under oath, no laborious recordings of question and answer, no crowd of curious listeners. The veteran inspector took each man in turn and heard his tale and jotted down his notes, and, where he thought it wise, cross-questioned over and again. One after another, Truman and Todd, Wren and Mullins, told their stories, bringing forth little that was new beyond the fact that Todd was sure it was Elise he heard that night "jabbering with Downs" on Blakely's porch. Todd felt sure that it was she who brought him whisky, and Byrne let him prattle on. It was not evidence, yet it might lead the way to light. In like manner was Mullins sure now "'Twas two ladies" stabbed him when he would have striven to stop the foremost. Byrne asked did he think they were ladies when first he set eyes on them, and Pat owned up that he thought it was some of the girls from Sudsville; it might even be Norah as one of them, coming home late from the laundresses' quarters, and trying to play him a trick. He owned to it that he grabbed the foremost, seeing at that moment no other, and thinking to win the forfeit of a kiss, and Byrne gravely assured him 'twas no shame in it, so long as Norah never found it out.
But Byrne asked Plume two questions that puzzled and worried him greatly. How much whisky had he missed? and how much opium could have been given him the night of Mrs. Plume's unconscious escapade? The major well remembered that his demijohn had grown suddenly light, and that he had found himself surprisingly heavy, dull, and drowsy. The retrospect added to his gloom and depression. Byrne had not reoccupied his old room at Plume's, now that madame and Elise were once more under the major's roof, and even in extending the customary invitation, Plume felt confident that Byrne could not and should not accept. The position he had taken with regard to Elise, her ladyship's companion and confidante, was sufficient in itself to make him, in the eyes of that lady, an unacceptable guest, but it never occurred to her, although it had to Plume, that there might be even deeper reasons. Then, too, the relations between the commander and the inspector, although each was scrupulously courteous, were now necessarily strained. Plume could not but feel that his conduct of post affairs was in a measure a matter of scrutiny. He knew that his treatment of Natzie was disapproved by nine out of ten of his command. He felt, rather than knew, that some of his people had connived at her escape, and though that escape had been a relief to everybody at Sandy, the manner of her taking off was to him a mystery and a rankling sore.
Last man to be examined was Blakely, and now indeed there was light. He had been sitting up each day for several hours; his wounds were healing well; the fever and prostration that ensued had left him weak and very thin and pale, but he had the soldier's best medicine—the consciousness of duties thoroughly and well performed. He knew that, though Wren might carry his personal antipathy to the extent of official injustice, as officers higher in rank than Wren have been known to do, the truth concerning the recent campaign must come to light, and his connection therewith be made a matter of record, as it was already a matter of fact. Wren had not yet submitted his written report. Wren and the post commander were still on terms severely official; but, to the few brother officers with whom the captain talked at all upon the stirring events through which he and his troop had so recently passed, he had made little mention of Blakely. Not so, however, the men; not so Wales Arnold, the ranchman. To hear these worthies talk, the Bugologist, next to "Princess Natzie," was the central figure of the Red Rock campaign—the one officer, "where all had done so well," whose deeds merited conspicuous mention. Byrne knew this better than Wren. Plume knew it not as well as Byrne, perhaps. Sanders, Lynn, and Duane had heard the soldier stories in a dozen ways, and it stung them that their regimental comrade should so doggedly refuse to open his lips and give Blakely his due. It is not silence that usually hurts a man, it is speech; yet here was a case to the contrary.
Now just in proportion as the Wrens would have nothing to say in praise of Blakely, the Sanders household would have nothing but praise to say. Kate's honest heart was hot with anger at Angela, because the girl shrank from the subject as she would from evil speaking, lying, and slandering, and here again, to paraphrase the Irishman, too much heat had produced the coldness already referred to. Sanders scoffed at the idea of Natzie's infatuation being sufficient ground for family ostracism. "If there is a man alive who owes more than Wren does to Blakely, I'm a crab," said he, "and as soon as he's well enough to listen to straight talk he'll get it from me." "If there's a girl in America as heartless as Angela Wren," said Mrs. Sanders, "I hope I never shall have to meet her." But then Mrs. Sanders, as we know, had ever been jealous of Angela on account of her own true-hearted Kate, who refused to say one word on the subject beyond what she said to Angela herself. And now they had propped their patient in his reclining-chair and arranged the little table for "the inquisitor general," as Mrs. Bridger preferred to refer to him, and left them alone together behind closed doors, and had then gone forth to find that all Camp Sandy seemed to wait with bated breath for the outcome of that interview.
Sooner than was believed possible it came. An hour, probably, before they thought the colonel could have gathered all he wished to know, that officer was on the front piazza and sending an orderly to the adjutant's office. Then came Major Plume, with quick and nervous step. There was a two-minute conference on the piazza; then both officers vanished within, were gone five minutes, and then Plume reappeared alone, went straight to his home, and slammed the door behind him, a solecism rarely known at Sandy, and presently on the hot and pulseless air there arose the sound of shrill protestation in strange vernacular. Even Wren heard the voice, and found something reminiscent in the sound of weeping and wailing that followed. The performer was unquestionably Elise—she that had won the ponderous, yet descriptive, Indian name "Woman-Walk-in-the-Night."
And while this episode was still unexpired the orderly went for Lieutenant Truman, and Truman, with two orderlies, for a box, a bulky little chest, strapped heavily with iron, and this they lugged into Sanders's hall and came out heated and mystified. Three hours later, close-veiled and in droopy desolation, "Mademoiselle Lebrun" was bundled into a waiting ambulance and started under sufficient escort, and the care of the hospital matron, en route for Prescott, while Dr. Graham was summoned to attend Mrs. Plume, and grimly went. "The mean part of the whole business," said Mrs. Bridger, "is that nobody knows what it means." There was no one along the line, except poor Mrs. Plume, to regret that sudden and enforced departure, but there was regret universal all over the post when it was learned, still later in the afternoon, that one of the best soldiers and sergeants in the entire garrison had taken the horse of one of the herd guard and galloped away on the trail of the banished one. Sergeant Shannon, at sunset parade, was reported absent without leave.
Major Plume had come forth from his quarters at the sounding of the retreat, accurately dressed as ever, white-gloved, and wearing his saber. He seemed to realize that all eyes would be upon him. He had, indeed, been tempted again to turn over the command to the senior captain, but wisely thought better of it, and determined to face the music. He looked very sad and gray, however. He returned scrupulously the salute of the four company commanders as, in turn, each came forward to report the result of the evening roll-call; Cutler and Westervelt first, their companies being the nearest, then Lieutenant Lynn, temporarily in charge of Wren's troop, its captain and first lieutenant being still "on sick report." The sight of this young officer set the major to thinking of that evening not so many moons agone when Captain Wren himself appeared and in resonant, far-carrying tone announced "Lieutenant Blakely, sir, is absent." He had been thinking much of Blakely through the solemn afternoon, as he wandered nervously about his darkened quarters, sometimes tiptoeing to the bedside of his feebly moaning, petulant wife, sometimes pacing the library and hall. He had been again for half an hour closeted with Byrne and the Bugologist, certain letters being under inspection. He hardly heard the young officer, Lynn, as he said "Troop 'C,' all present, sir." He was looking beyond him at Captain Sanders, coming striding over the barren parade, with import in his eye. Plume felt that there was trouble ahead before ever Sanders reached the prescribed six paces, halted, raised his hand in salute, and, just as did Wren on that earlier occasion, announced in tones intended to be heard over and beyond the post commander: "Sergeant Shannon, sir, with one government horse, absent without leave."
Plume went a shade white, and bit his lips before he could steady himself to question. Well he knew that this new devilment was due in some way to that spirit of evil so long harbored by his wife, and suffered by himself. All the story of the strife she had stirred in the garrison had reached him days before. Downs's drunkenness and desertion, beyond doubt, were chargeable to her, as well as another and worse crime, unless all indications were at fault. Then there was the breach between Carmody and Shannon, formerly stanch friends and comrades, and now Carmody lay buried beneath the rocks in Bear Canon, and Shannon, as gallant and useful a sergeant as ever served, had thrown to the winds his record of the past and his hopes for the future, and gone in mad pursuit of a worthless hoyden. And all because Clarice would have that woman with her wherever she might go.
"When did this happen?" he presently asked.
"Just after stable call, sir. The horses were all returned to the corral except the herd guard's. The men marched over, as usual, with their halters. Shannon fell out as they entered the gate, took young Bennett's rein as he stood ready to lead in after them, mounted and rode round back of the wall, leaving Bennett so surprised that he didn't know what to say. He never suspected anything wrong until Shannon failed to reappear. Then he followed round back of the corral, found the sergeant's stable frock lying halfway out toward the bluff, and saw a streak of dust toward Bowlder Point. Then he came and reported."
Plume, after a moment's silence, turned abruptly. He had suffered much that day, and to think of his wife lying stricken and whimpering, professing herself a sorely injured woman because compelled at last to part with her maid, angered him beyond the point of toleration. Tossing his saber to the China boy, he went straightway aloft, failing to note in the dim light that two soft-hearted sympathizers were cooing by the gentle sufferer's side.
"Well, Clarice," he broke in abruptly, "we are never to hear the end of that she-cat's doings! My best sergeant has stolen a horse and gone galloping after her." It is always our best we lose when our better half is to blame, nor is it the way of brutal man to minimize the calamity on such occasions. It did not better matters that her much-wronged ladyship should speedily reply: "It's a wonder you don't charge the Indian outbreak to poor Elise. I don't believe she had a thing to do with your sergeant's stealing."
"You wouldn't believe she stole my whisky and gave it to Downs, though you admitted she told you she had to go back that night for something she'd dropped. You wouldn't believe she married that rascally gambler at St. Louis before her first husband was out of the way! You shielded and swore by her, and brought her out here, and all the time the proofs were here in Blakely's hands. It was she, I suppose, who broke off—"
But here, indeed, was it high time to break off. The visitors were now visibly rising in all proper embarrassment, for Mrs. Plume had started up, with staring eyes. "Proofs!" she cried, "in Blakely's hands! Why, she told me—my own letters!—my—" And then brutal man was brought to his senses and made to see how heartless and cruel was his conduct, for Mrs. Plume went into a fit and Mrs. Lynn for the doctor.
That was a wild night at Sandy. Two young matrons had made up their minds that it was shameful to leave poor Mrs. Plume without anybody to listen to her, when she might so long for sympathetic hearers, and have so much to tell. They had entered as soon as the major came forth and, softly tapping at the stricken one's door, had been with her barely five minutes when he came tearing back, and all this tremendous scene occurred before they could put in a word to prevent, which, of course, they were dying to do. But what hadn't they heard in that swift moment! Between the two of them—and Mrs. Bridger was the other—their agitation was such that it all had to be told. Then, like the measles, one revelation led to another, but it was several days before the garrison settled down in possession of an array of facts sufficient to keep it in gossip for many a month. Meanwhile, many a change had come over the scene.
At Prescott, then the Territorial capital, Elise Layton, nee Lebrun, was held without bail because it couldn't be had, charged with obtaining money under false pretenses, bigamy as a side issue, and arson as a possible backstop. The sleep-walking theory, as advanced in favor of Mrs. Plume, had been reluctantly abandoned, it appearing that, however dazed and "doped" she may have been through the treatment of that deft-fingered, unscrupulous maid, she was sufficiently wide awake to know well whither she had gone at that woman's urging, to make a last effort to recover certain letters of vital importance. At Blakely's door Clarice had "lost her nerve" and insisted on returning, but not so Elise. She went again, and had well-nigh gotten Downs drunk enough to do as she demanded. Frankly, sadly, Plume went to Blakely, told him of his wife's admissions, and asked him what papers of hers he retained. For a moment Blakely had blazed with indignation, but Plume's sorrow, and utter innocence of wrong intent, stilled his wrath and led to his answer: "Every letter of Mrs. Plume's I burned before she was married, and I so assured her. She herself wrote asking me to burn rather than return them, but there were letters and papers I could not burn, brought to me by a poor devil that woman Elise had married, tricked into jail, and then deserted. He disappeared afterward, and even Pinkerton's people haven't been able to find him. Those papers are his property. You and Colonel Byrne are the only men who have seen them, though they were somewhat exposed just after the fire. She made three attempts to get me to give them up to her. Then, I believe, she strove to get Downs to steal them, and gave him the money with which to desert and bring them to her. He couldn't get into the iron box; couldn't lug it out, and somehow, probably, set fire to the place, scratching matches in there. Perhaps she even persuaded him to do that as a last resort. He knew I could get out safely. At all events, he was scared out of his wits and deserted with what he had. It was in trying to make his way eastward by the Wingate road that there came the last of poor Ups and Downs."
And so the story of this baleful influence over a weak, half-drugged girl, her mistress, became known to Plume and gradually to others. It was easy for Elise to make her believe that, in spite of the word of a gentleman, her impulsive love letters were still held by Blakely because he had never forgiven her. It was Elise, indeed, who had roused her jealousy and had done her best to break that engagement with Blakely and to lead to the match with the handsome and devoted major. Intrigue and lying were as the breath of the woman's nostrils. She lived in them. But Sandy was never to see her again. "Woman-Walk-in-the-Night" was "Woman-Walk-no-More."
And now the friendless creature stood charged with more crimes than would fill the meager space of a Territorial jail, and yet the one originally laid at her door, though never publicly announced, was now omitted entirely—that of assault with deadly weapon, possibly with intent to kill. Even Mother Shaughnessy and Norah were silenced, and Pat Mullins put to confusion. Even the latest punctured patient at the hospital, Private Todd, had to serve as evidence in behalf of Elise, for Graham, post surgeon, had calmly declared that the same weapon that so nearly killed Pat Mullins had as nearly and neatly done the deed for Todd—the keen Apache knife of Princess Natzie.
"The heathen child was making her usual night visit to her white lover," said Wren grimly, having in mind the womanly shape he had seen that starlit morning at Blakely's rear door.
"You're right in one guess, R-robert Wren," was the prompt answer of his friend and fellow Scot, who glared at Janet rather than his convalescent as he spoke. "And ye're wrang in twanty. She was tryin', and didn't know the way. She was tryin', for she had his watch and pocketbook. You're wrang if ye think she was ever there before or after. The slut you saw cryin' at his back door was that quean Elise, an' ye well know there was no love lost between them. Go say yer prayers, man, for every wicked thought ye've had of him—or of that poor child. Between them they saved your Angela!"
THE PARTING BY THE WATERS
"Some day I may tell Miss Angela—but never you," had Mr. Blakely said, before setting forth on his perilous essay to find Angela's father, and with native tenacity Miss Wren the elder had remembered the words and nourished her wrath. It was strange, indeed, that Plume, an officer and a gentleman, should have bethought him of the "austere vestal" as a companion witness to Blakely's supposed iniquity; but, between these two natures,—one strong, one weak,—there had sprung up the strange sympathy that is born of a common, deep-rooted, yet ill-defined antipathy—one for which neither she nor he could yet give good reason, and of which each was secretly ashamed. Each, for reasons of her or his own, cordially disliked the Bugologist, and each could not but welcome evidence to warrant such dislike. It is human nature. Janet Wren had strong convictions that the man was immoral, if for no other reason than that he obviously sought Angela and as obviously avoided her. Janet had believed him capable of carrying on a liaison with the dame who had jilted him, and had had to see that theory crushed. Then she would have it that, if not the mistress, he dallied with the maid, and when it began to transpire that virulent hatred was the only passion felt for him by that baffling and detestable daughter of Belial, there came actual joy to the soul of the Scotchwoman that, after all, her intuition had not been at fault. He was immoral as she would have him, even more so, for he had taken base advantage of the young and presumably innocent. She craved some proof, and Plume knew it, and, seeing her there alone in her dejection, had bidden her come and look—with the result described.
His own feeling toward Blakely is difficult to explain. Kind friends had told him at St. Louis how inseparable had been Clarice and this very superior young officer. She had admitted to him the "flirtation," but denied all regard for Blakely, yet Plume speedily found her moody, fitful, and unhappy, and made up his mind that Blakely was at the bottom of it. Her desire to go to far-away Arizona could have no other explanation. And though in no way whatever, by look, word, or deed, had Blakely transgressed the strictest rule in his bearing toward the major's wife, both major and wife became incensed at him,—Plume because he believed the Bugologist still cherished a tender passion for his wife—or she for him; Clarice, it must be owned, because she knew well he did not. Plume sought to find a flaw in his subordinate's moral armor to warrant the aversion that he felt, and was balked at every turn. It was with joy almost fierce he discovered what he thought to be proof that the subaltern was no saint, and, never stopping to give his better nature time to rise and rebuke him, he had summoned Janet. It was to sting Blakely, more than to punish the girl, he had ordered Natzie to the guard-room. Then, as the hours wore on and he realized how contemptible had been his conduct, the sense of shame well-nigh crushed him, and though it galled him to think that some of his own kind, probably, had connived at Natzie's escape, he thanked God the girl was gone. And now having convinced herself that here at last she had positive proof of Mr. Blakely's depravity, Aunt Janet had not scrupled to bear it to Angela, with sharp and surprising result. A good girl, a dutiful girl, was Angela, as we have seen, but she, too, had her share of fighting Scotch blood and a bent for revolt that needed only a reason. For days Aunt Janet had bidden her shun the young man, first naming Mrs. Plume and then Elsie as the cause and corespondent. One after another Graham had demolished these possibilities, to the end that even Wren was ashamed of his unworthy suspicions. Then it was Natzie who was the prey of Blakely's immorality, and for that, Janet declared, quite as much as for stabbing the soldier, the girl had been sent to the cells. It was late in the day when she managed to find Angela away from her father, who, realizing what Natzie had done and suffered to save his own ewe lamb, was now in keen distress of mind because powerless to raise a hand to aid her. He wondered that Angela seemed so unresponsive—that she did not flare up in protest at such degrading punishment for the girl who had saved her life. He little knew how his daughter's heart was burning within her. He never dreamed that she, too, was suffering—torn by conflicting emotions. It was a sore thing to find that in her benefactress lived an unsuspected rival.
Just before sunset she had left him and gone to her room to change her dress for the evening, and Janet's first swoop was upon her brother. Once before during the exciting day she had had a moment to herself and him. She had so constantly fanned the flame of his belief in Blakely's gallantries as even to throttle the sense of gratitude he felt, and, in spite of herself, that she felt for that officer's daring and successful services during the campaign. She felt, and he felt, that they must disapprove of Blakely—must stamp out any nascent regard that Angela might cherish for him, and to this end would never in her presence admit that he had been instrumental in the rescue of his captain, much less his captain's daughter. Hurriedly Janet had told him what she and Plume had seen, and left him to ponder over it. Now she came to induce him to bid her tell it all to Angela. "Now that, that other—affair—seems disproved," said she, "she'll be thinking there's no reason why she shouldn't be thinking of him," and dejectedly the Scotchman bade her do as seemed best. Women, he reasoned, could better read each other's hearts.
And so Janet had gone and had thought to shock, and had most impressively detailed what she had witnessed—I fear me Janet scrupled not to embroider a bit, so much is permissible to the "unco guid" when so very much is at stake. And Angela went on brushing out her beautiful hair without a sign of emotion. To the scandal of Scotch maidenhood she seemed unimpressed by the depravity of the pair. To the surprise of Aunt Janet she heard her without interruption to the uttermost word, and then—wished to know if Aunt Janet thought the major would let her send Natzie something for supper.
Whatever the girl may have thought of this new and possible complication, she determined that no soul should read that it cost her a pang. She declined to discuss it. She did what she had not done before that day—went forth in search of Kate Sanders. Aunt Janet was astonished that her niece should wish to send food to that—that trollop. What would she have thought could she have heard what passed a few moments later? In the dusk and the gloaming Kate Sanders was in conversation on the side veranda with a tall sergeant of her father's troop. "Ask her?" Kate was saying. "Of course I'll ask her. Why, here she comes now!" Will it be believed that Sergeant Shannon wished Miss Angela's permission to "take Punch out for a little exercise," a thing he had never ventured to ask before, and that Angela Wren eagerly said, "Yes." Poor Shannon! He did not know that night how soon he would be borrowing a horse on his own account, nor that two brave girls would nearly cry their eyes out over it, when they were barely on speaking terms.
Of him there came sad news but the day after his crack-brained, Quixotic essay. Infatuated with Elise, and believing in her promise to marry him, he had placed his savings in her hands, even as had Downs and Carmody. He had heard the story of her visiting Blakely by night, and scouted it. He heard, in a maze of astonishment, that she was being sent to Prescott under guard for delivery to the civil authorities, and taking the first horse he could lay hands on, he galloped in chase. He had overtaken the ambulance on Cherry Creek, and with moving tears she had besought him to save her. Faithful to their trust, the guard had to interpose, but, late at night, they reached Stemmer's ranch; were met there by a relief guard sent down by Captain Stout; and the big sergeant who came in charge, with special instructions from Stout's own lips, was a new king who knew not Joseph, and who sternly bade Shannon keep his distance. Hot words followed, for the trooper sergeant would stand no hectoring from an equal in rank. Shannon's heart was already lost, and now he lost his head. He struck a fellow-sergeant who stood charged with an important duty, and even his own comrades could not interpose when the infantrymen threw themselves upon the raging Irish soldier and hammered him hard before they could subdue and bind him, but bind him they did. Sadly the trooper guard went back to Sandy, bringing the "borrowed" horse and the bad news that Shannon had been arrested for assaulting Sergeant Bull, and all men knew that court-martial and disgrace must follow. It was Shannon's last run on the road he knew so well. Soldiers of rank came forward to plead for him and bear witness to his worth and services, and the general commanding remitted most of the sentence, restoring to him everything the court had decreed forfeited except the chevrons. They had to go, yet could soon be regained. But no man could restore to him the pride and self-respect that went when he realized that he was only one of several plucked and deluded victims of a female sharper. While the Frenchwoman ogled and languished behind the bars, Shannon wandered out into the world again, a deserter from the troop he was ashamed to face, an unfollowed, unsought fugitive among the mining camps in the Sierras. "Three stout soldiers stricken from the rolls—two of them gone to their last account," mused poor Plume, as at last he led his unhappy wife away to the sea, "and all the work of one woman!"
Yes, Mrs. Plume was gone now for good and all, her devoted, yet sore-hearted major with her, and Wren was sufficiently recovered to be up and taking the air on his veranda, where Sanders sometimes stopped to see him, and "pass the time of day," but cut his visits short and spoke of everything but what was uppermost in his mind, because his better half persuaded him that only ill would come from preaching. Then, late one wonderful day, the interesting invalid, Mr. Neil Blakely himself, was "paraded" upon the piazza in the Sanders's special reclining-chair, and Kate and Mrs. Sanders beamed, while nearly all society at the post came and purred and congratulated and took sidelong glances up the row to where Angela but a while before was reading to her grim old father, but where the father now read alone, for Angela had gone, as was her custom at the hour, to her own little room, and thither did Janet conceive it her duty to follow, and there to investigate.
"It won't be long now before that young man will be hobbling around the post, I suppose. How do you expect to avoid him?" said the elder maiden, looking with uncompromising austerity at her niece. Angela as before had just shaken loose her wealth of billowy tresses and was carefully brushing them. She did not turn from the contemplation of her double in the mirror before her; she did not hesitate in her reply. It was brief, calm, and to the point.
"I shall not avoid him."
"Angela! And after all I—your father and I—have told you!" And Aunt Janet began to bristle.
"Two-thirds of what you told me, Aunt Janet, proved to be without foundation. Now I doubt—the rest of it." And Aunt Janet saw the big eyes beginning to fill; saw the twitching at the corners of the soft, sensitive lips; saw the trembling of the slender, white hand, and the ominous tapping of the slender, shapely foot, but there wasn't a symptom of fear or flinching. The blood of the Wrens was up for battle. The child was a woman grown. The day of revolt had come at last.
"Angela Wr-r-ren!" rolled Aunt Janet. "D'you mean you're going to see him?—speak to him?"
"I'm going to see him and—thank him, Aunt Janet." And now the girl had turned and faced the astounded woman at the door. "You may spare yourself any words upon the subject."
The captain was seated in loneliness and mental perturbation just where Angela had left him, but no longer pretending to read. His back was toward the southern end of the row. He had not even seen the cause of the impromptu reception at the Sanders's. He read what was taking place when Angela began to lose her voice, to stumble over her words; and, peering at her under his bushy eyebrows, he saw that the face he loved was flushing, that her young bosom was swiftly rising and falling, the beautiful brown eyes wandering from the page. Even before the glad voices from below came ringing to his ears, he read in his daughter's face the tumult in her guileless heart, and then she suddenly caught herself and hurried back to the words that seemed swimming in space before her. But the effort was vain. Rising quickly, and with brave effort steadying her voice, she said, "I'll run and dress now, father, dear," and was gone, leaving him to face the problem thrust upon him. Had he known that Janet, too, had heard from the covert of the screened and shaded window of the little parlor, and then that she had followed, he would have shouted for his German "striker" and sent a mandate to his sister that she could not fail to understand. He did not know that she had been with Angela until he heard her footstep and saw her face at the hall doorway. She had not even to roll her r's before the story was told.
Two days now he had lived in much distress of mind. Before quitting the post Major Plume had laboriously gone the rounds, saying good-by to every officer and lady. Two officers he had asked to see alone—the captain and first lieutenant of Troop "C." Janet knew of this, and should have known it meant amende and reconciliation, perhaps revelation, but because her brother saw fit to sit and ponder, she saw fit to cling unflinchingly to her preconceived ideas and to act according to them. With Graham she was exceeding wroth for daring to defend such persons as Lieutenant Blakely and "that Indian squaw." It was akin to opposing weak-minded theories to positive knowledge of facts. She had seen with her own eyes the ignorant, but no less abandoned, creature kneeling at Blakely's bedside, her black head pillowed close to his breast. She had seen her spring up in fury at being caught—what else could have so enraged her that she should seek to knife the intruders? argued Janet. She believed, or professed to believe, that but for the vigilance of poor Todd, now quite happy in his convalescence, the young savage would have murdered both the major and herself. She did not care what Dr. Graham said. She had seen, and seeing, with Janet, was believing.
But she knew her brother well, and knew that since Graham's impetuous outbreak he had been wavering sadly, and since Plume's parting visit had been plunged in a mental slough of doubt and distress. Once before his stubborn Scotch nature had had to strike its colors and surrender to his own subaltern, and now the same struggle was on again, for what Plume said, and said in presence of grim old Graham, fairly startled him:
"You are not the only one to whom I owe amende and apology, Captain Wren. I wronged you, when you were shielding—my wife—at no little cost to yourself. I wronged Blakely in several ways, and I have had to go and tell him so and beg his pardon. The meanest thing I ever did was bringing Miss Wren in there to spy on him, unless it was in sending that girl to the guard-house. I'd beg her pardon, too, if she could be found. Yes, I see you look glum, Wren, but we've all been wrong, I reckon. There's no mystery about it now."
And then Plume told his tale and Wren meekly listened. It might well be, said he, that Natzie loved Blakely. All her people did. She had been watching him from the willows as he slept that day at the pool. He had forbidden her following him, forbidden her coming to the post, and she feared to wake him, yet when she saw the two prospectors, that had been at Hart's, ride over toward the sleeping officer she was startled. She saw them watching, whispering together. Then they rode down and tied their horses among the trees a hundred yards below, and came crouching along the bank. She was up in an instant and over the stream at the shallows, and that scared them off long enough to let her reach him. Even then she dare not wake him for fear of his anger at her disobedience, but his coat was open, his watch and wallet easy to take. She quickly seized them—the little picture-case being within the wallet at the moment—and sped back to her covert. Then Angela had come cantering down the sandy road; had gone on down stream, passing even the prowling prospectors, and after a few minutes had returned and dismounted among the willows above where Blakely lay—Angela whom poor Natzie believed to be Blakely's sister. Natzie supposed her looking for her brother, and wondered why she waited. Natzie finally signaled and pointed when she saw that Angela was going in disappointment at not finding him. Natzie witnessed Angela's theft of the net and her laughing ride away. By this time the prospectors had given up and gone about their business, and then, while she was wondering how best to restore the property, Lola and Alchisay had come with the annoying news that the agent was angered and had sent trailers after her. They were even then only a little way up stream. The three then made a run for the rocks to the east, and there remained in hiding. That night Natzie had done her best to find her way to Blakely with the property, and the rest they knew. The watch was dropped in the struggle on the mesa when Mullins was stabbed, the picture-case that morning at the major's quarters.
"Was it Blakely told you all this, sir?" Wren had asked, still wrong-headed and suspicious.
"No, Wren. It was I told Blakely. All this was given me by Lola's father, the interpreter, back from Chevlon's Fork only yesterday. I sent him to try to persuade Natzie and her kinsfolk to return. I have promised them immunity."
Then Plume and Graham had gone, leaving Wren to brood and ponder, and this had he been doing two mortal days and nights without definite result, and now came Janet to bring things to a head. In grim and ominous silence he listened to her recital, saying never a word until her final appeal:
"R-r-robert, is our girlie going daft, do you think? She solemnly said to me—to me—but a minute ago, 'I mean to go to him myself—and thank him!'"
And solemnly the soldier looked up from his reclining-chair and studied his sister's amazed and anxious face. Then he took her thin, white hand between his own thin, brown paws and patted it gently. She recoiled slowly as she saw contrition, not condemnation, in his blinking eyes.
"God forgive us all, Janet! It's what I ought to have done days ago."
* * * * *
Another cloudless afternoon had come, and, under the willows at the edge of the pool, a young girl sat daydreaming, though the day was nearly done. All in the valley was wrapped in shadow, though the cliffs and turrets across the stream were resplendent in a radiance of slanting sunshine. Not a whisper of breeze stirred the drooping foliage along the sandy shores, or ruffled the liquid mirror surface. Not a sound, save drowsy hum of beetle or soft murmur of rippling waters among the pebbly shadows below, broke the vast silence of the scene. Just where Angela was seated that October day on which our story opened, she was seated now, with the greyhounds stretched sprawling in the warm sands at her feet, with Punch blinking lazily and switching his long tail in the thick of the willows.
And somebody else was there, close at hand. The shadows of the westward heights had gradually risen to the crest of the rocky cliffs across the stream. A soft, prolonged call of distant trumpet summoned homeward for the coming night the scattered herds and herd guards of the post, and, rising suddenly, her hand upon a swift-throbbing heart, her red lips parted in eagerness or excitement uncontrollable, Angela stood intently listening. Over among the thickets across the pool the voice of an Indian girl was uplifted in some weird, uncanny song. The voice was shrill, yet not unmusical. The song was savage, yet not lacking some crude harmony. She could not see the singer, but she knew. Natzie's people had returned to the agency, accepting the olive branch that Plume had tendered them—Natzie herself was here.
At the first sound of the uplifted voice an Apache boy, crouching in the shrubbery at the edge of the pool, rose quickly to his feet, and, swift and noiseless, stole away into the thicket. If he thought to conceal himself or his purpose his caution was needless. Angela neither saw nor heard him. Neither was it the song nor the singer that now arrested her attention. So still was the air, so deep was the silence of nature, that even on such sandy roads and bridlepaths as traversed the winding valley, the faintest hoof-beat was carried far. Another horse, another rider, was quickly coming. Tonto, the big hound nearest her, lifted his shapely head and listened a moment, then went bounding away through the willows, followed swiftly by his mate. They knew the hoof-beats, and joyously ran to meet and welcome the rider. Angela knew them quite as well, but could neither run to meet, nor could she fly.
Only twice, as yet, had she opportunity to see or to thank Neil Blakely, and a week had passed since her straightforward challenge to Aunt Janet. As soon as he could walk unaided, save by his stick, Wren had gone stumping down the line to Sanders's quarters and asked for Mr. Blakely, with whom he had an uninterrupted talk of half an hour. Within two days thereafter Mr. Blakely in person returned the call, being received with awful state and solemnity by Miss Wren herself. Angela, summoned by her father's voice, came flitting down a moment later, and there in the little army parlor, where first she had sought to "entertain" him until the captain should appear, our Angela was once again brought face to face with him who had meanwhile risked his life in the effort to rescue her father, and again in the effort to find and rescue her. A fine blush mantled her winsome face as she entered, and, without a glance at Janet, went straightway to their visitor, with extended hand.
"I am so glad to see you again, Mr. Blakely," she bravely began. "I have—so much—to thank you—" but her brown eyes fell before the fire in the blue and her whole being thrilled at the fervor of his handclasp. She drew her hand away, the color mounting higher, then snuggled to her father's side with intent to take his arm; but, realizing suddenly how her own was trembling, grasped instead the back of a chair. Blakely was saying something, she knew not what, nor could she ever recall much that anyone said during the brief ten minutes of his stay, for there sat Aunt Janet, bolt upright, after the fashion of fifty years gone by, a formidable picture indeed, and Angela wondered that anyone could say anything at all.
Next time they met she was riding home and he sat on the south veranda with Mrs. Sanders and Kate. She would have ridden by with just a nod and smile; but, at sight of her, he "hobbled" down the steps and came hurriedly out to speak, whereupon Mrs. Sanders, who knew much better, followed to "help him," as she said. "Help, indeed!" quoth angry Kate, usually most dutiful of daughters. "You'd only hinder!" But even that presence had not stopped his saying: "The doctor promises I may ride Hart's single-footer in a day or two, Miss Angela, and then—"
And now it was a "single-footer" coming, the only one at Sandy. Of course it might be Hart, not Blakely, and yet Blakely had seen her as she rode away. It was Blakely's voice—how seldom she had heard, yet how well she knew it! answering the joyous welcome of the hounds. It was Blakely who came riding straight in among the willows, a radiance in his thin and lately pallid face—Blakely who quickly, yet awkwardly, dismounted, for it still caused him pain, and then, forgetful of his horse, came instantly to her as she stood there, smiling, yet tremulous. The hand that sought hers fairly shook, but that, said Angela, though she well knew better, might have been from weakness or from riding. For a moment he did not speak. It was she who began. She thought he should know at once.
"Did you—hear her singing—too?" she hazarded.
"Hear?—Who?" he replied, grudgingly letting go the hand because it pulled with such determination.
"Why—Natzie, I suppose. At least—I haven't seen her," she stammered, her cheeks all crimson now.
"Natzie, indeed!" he answered, in surprise, turning slowly and studying the opposite willows. "It is only a day or two since they came in. I thought she'd soon be down." Obviously her coming caused him neither embarrassment nor concern. "She still has a notecase of mine. I suppose you heard?" And his clear blue eyes were fastened on her lovely, downcast face.
"Something. Not much," she answered, drawing back a little, for he stood so close to her she could have heard the beating of his heart—but for her own. All was silence over there in the opposite willows, but so it was the day Natzie had so suddenly appeared from nowhere, and he saw the hurried glance she sent across the pool.
"Has she worried you?" he began, "has she been—" spying, he was going to say, and she knew it, and grew redder still with vexation. Natzie could claim at least that she was not without a shining example had she come there to spy, but Blakely had that to say to her that deserved undivided attention, and there is a time when even one's preserver and greatest benefactor may be de trop.
"Will you wait—one moment?" he suddenly asked. "I'll go to the rocks yonder and call her," and then, almost as suddenly, the voice was again uplifted in the same weird, barbaric song, and the singer had gone from the depths of the opposite thicket and was somewhere farther up stream, still hidden from their gaze—still, possibly, ignorant of Angela's presence. The brown eyes were at the moment following the tall, white form, moving slowly through the winding, faintly-worn pathway toward the upper shallows where, like stepping stones, the big rocks stretched from shore to shore, and she was startled to note that the moment the song began he stopped short a second or two, listened intently, then almost sprang forward in his haste to reach the crossing. Another minute and he was out of sight among the shrubbery. Another, and she heard the single shot of a revolver, and there he stood at the rocky point, a smoking pistol in his hand. Instantly the song ceased, and then his voice was uplifted, calling, "Natzie! Natzie!" With breathless interest Angela gazed and, presently, parting the shrubbery with her little brown hands, the Indian girl stepped forth into the light and stood in silence, her great black eyes fixed mournfully upon him. Could this be their mountain princess—the daring, the resolute, the commanding? Could this be the fierce, lissome, panther-like creature before whose blow two of their stoutest men had fallen? There was dejection inexpressible in her very attitude. There was no longer bravery or adornment in her dress. There was no more of queen—of chieftain's daughter—in this downcast child of the desert.
He called again, "Natzie," and held forth his hand. Her head had drooped upon her breast, but, once again, she looked upon him, and then, with one slow, hesitant, backward glance about her, stepped forward, her little, moccasined feet flitting from rock to rock across the murmuring shallows until she stood before him. Then he spoke, but she only shook her head and let it droop again, her hands passively clasping. He knew too little of her tongue to plead with her. He knew, perhaps, too little of womankind to appreciate what he was doing. Finding words useless, he gently took her hand and drew her with him, and passively she obeyed, and for a moment they disappeared from Angela's view. Then presently the tall, white form came again in sight, slowly leading the unresisting child, until, in another moment, they stepped within the little open space among the willows. At the same instant Angela arose, and the daughter of the soldier and the daughter of the savage, the one with timid yet hopeful welcome and greeting in her lovely face, the other with sudden amaze, scorn, passion, and jealous fury in her burning eyes, stood a breathless moment confronted. Then, all in a second, with one half-stifled, inarticulate cry, Natzie wrenched her hand from that of Blakely, and, with the spring of a tigress, bounded away. Just at the edge of the pool she halted, whirled about, tore from her bosom a flat, oblong packet and hurled it at his feet; then, with the dart of a frightened deer, drove through the northward willows. Angela saw her run blindly up the bank, leaping thence to the rocks below, bounding from one to another with the wild grace of the antelope. Another instant and she had reached the opposite shore, and there, tossing her arms wildly above her head, her black tresses streaming behind her, with a cry that was almost a scream, she plunged into the heart of the thicket; the stubborn branches closed behind her, and our Apache queen was gone. As they met, so had they parted, by the waters of the pool.
When Blakely turned again to Angela she, too, was gone. He found her a little later, her arms twined about her pony's neck, her face buried in his mane, and sobbing as though her heart would break.
On a soft, starlit evening within the week, no longer weeping, but leaning on Blakely's arm, Angela stood at the edge of the bluff, looking far out over the Red Rock country to the northeast. The sentry had reported a distant signal fire, and several of the younger people had strolled out to see. Whatever it was that had caused the report had vanished by the time they reached the post, so, presently, Kate Sanders started the homeward move, and now even the sentry had disappeared in the darkness. When Angela, too, would have returned, his arm restrained. She knew it would. She knew he had not spoken that evening at the willows because of her tears. She knew he had been patient, forbearing, gentle, yet well she knew he meant now to speak and wait no longer.
"Do you remember," he began, "when I said that some day I should tell you—but never your aunt—who it was that came to my quarters that night—and why she came?" and though she sought to remove her hand from his arm he would not let it go.
"You did tell me," she answered, her eyelids drooping.
Though the face was downcast, the sensitive lips began to quiver with merriment and mischief.
"The same day you took me for—your mother—and asked me to sing for you."
"Angela!" he cried, in amaze, and turning quickly toward her, "What can you mean?"
"Just what I say. You began as though I were your sister, then your mother. I think, perhaps, if we'd had another hour together it would have been grandmother." She was shaking with suppressed laughter now, or was it violent trembling, for his heart, like hers, was bounding.
"I must indeed have been delirious," he answered now, not laughing, not even smiling. He had possessed himself of that other hand, despite its fluttering effort. His voice was deep and grave and tremulous. "I called you anything but what I most longed to call you—what I pray God I may call you, Angela—my wife!"
There was a wedding at Sandy that winter when Pat Mullins took his discharge, and his land warrant, and a claim up the Beaver, and Norah Shaughnessy to wife. There was another, many a mile from Sandy, when the May blossoms were showering in the orchard of a fair old homestead in the distant East, and then Neil Blakely took his bride to see "the land of the leal" after the little peep at the lands that now she shared with him. There is one room in the beautiful old Colonial mansion that they soon learned to call "father's," in anticipation of the time when he should retire and come to hang the old saber on the older mantel and spend his declining years with them. There is another, sacred to Aunt Janet, where she was often welcomed, a woman long since reconciled to Angela's once "obnoxious," but ever devoted admirer. There were some points in which Aunt Janet suffered sore. She had views of her own upon the rearing and management of children, and these views she did at first oppose to those of Angela, but not for long. In this, as in her choice of a husband, Angela had to read her declaration of independence to the elder woman.
There is another room filled with relics of their frontier days,—Indian weapons, blankets, beadwork,—and among these, in a sort of shrine of its own, there hangs a portrait made by a famous artist from a little tintype, taken by some wandering photographer about the old Apache reservation. Wren wrote them, ere the regiment left Arizona, that she who had been their rescuer, and then so long disappeared, finally wedded a young brave of the Chiricahua band and went with him to Mexico. That portrait is the only relic they have of a never forgotten benefactress—Natzie, their Apache Princess.
* * * * *
A DAUGHTER of the SIOUX
By GENERAL CHARLES KING
A Tale of the Indian Frontier
Illustrations by Frederic Remington and Edwin Willard Deming
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SOME PRESS NOTES
The Chicago Daily News
A stronger story than any he has written for many years.
The Philadelphia Item
A genuinely delightful tale, clean, wholesome, thoroughly enjoyable....
The Baltimore American
Is full of interest, and equals, if not surpasses, his best previous efforts.
The Portland (Me.) Press
This captivating novel is quite perfect of its kind and there is not one dull line from start to finish.
The Burlington Hawkeye
Is one of General King's best works and withal a most entertaining and fascinating story of army life.
The San Francisco Chronicle
The story is full of life and movement, and all the details of army life are described with that perfect knowledge which carries conviction to the reader.
The Cleveland Leader
It is the strongest and most entertaining story he has written for many a day.... It gets a grip on the reader in the first chapters and holds it to the end.
The World, New York City
A soldier's story told with a soldier's swing.... Is capitally illustrated and has a particularly handsome and tasteful cover portrait of the heroine in colors.
The Pittsburg Leader
There is a naturalness about the story that makes it of decided interest, and every one who reads it will lay the book down with a feeling of regret that the end has been reached so soon.
The Minneapolis Tribune
Is the best piece of work General King has given his admiring public in a long time. Is full of incident and romance, and its central theme contains a dramatic power worthy of subject and author.
The Literary World
To General King we are deeply indebted for much information concerning family life at fort and trading post. In these days of the problem novel and the yellow journal, it is a mental pleasure and a moral profit to read of men who are in love with their own wives, of women who adore their own husbands.
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