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A Carpet Knight Indeed








From: An Apache Princess

The flag at Camp Sandy drooped from the peak. Except by order it never
hung halfway. The flag at the agency fluttered no higher than the
cross-trees, telling that Death had loved some shining mark and had
not sued in vain. Under this symbol of mourning, far up the valley,
the interpreter was telling to a circle of dark, sullen, and
unresponsive faces a fact that every Apache knew before. Under the
full-masted flag at the post, a civilian servant of the nation lay
garbed for burial. Poor Daly had passed away with hardly a chance to
tell his tale, with only a loving, weeping woman or two to mourn him.
Over the camp the shadow of death tempered the dazzling sunshine, for
all Sandy felt the strain and spoke only with sorrow. He meant well,
did Daly, that was accorded him now. He only lacked "savvy" said they
who had dwelt long in the land of Apache.

Over at the hospital two poor women wept, and twice their number
strove to soothe. Janet Wren and Mrs. Graham were there, as ever, when
sorrow and trouble came. Mrs. Sanders and Mrs. Cutler, too, were
hovering about the mourners, doing what they could, and the hospital
matron, busy day and night of late, had never left her patient until
he needed her no more, and then had turned to minister to those he
left behind--the widow and the fatherless. Over on the shaded verandas
other women met and murmured in the soft, sympathetic drawl
appropriate to funereal occasion, and men nodded silently to each
other. Death was something these latter saw so frequently it brought
but little of terror. Other things were happening of far greater
moment that they could not fathom at all.

Captain Wren, after four days of close arrest, had been released by
the order of Major Plume himself, who, pending action on his
application for leave of absence, had gone on sick report and secluded
himself within his quarters. It was rumored that Mrs. Plume was
seriously ill, so ill, indeed, she had to be denied to every one of
the sympathizing women who called, even to Janet, sister of their
soldier next-door neighbor, but recently a military prisoner, yet now,
by law and custom, commander of the post.

Several things had conspired to bring about this condition of affairs.
Byrne, to begin with, had been closely questioning Shannon, and had
reached certain conclusions with regard to the stabbing of Mullins
that were laid before Plume, already stunned by the knowledge that,
sleeping as his friendly advisers declared, or waking, as his inner
consciousness would have it, Clarice, his young and still beautiful
wife, had left her pillow and gone by night toward the northern limit
of the line of quarters. If Wren were tried, or even accused, that
fact would be the first urged in his defense. Plume's stern
accusation of Elise had evoked from her nothing but a voluble storm of
protest. Madame was ill, sleepless, nervous--had gone forth to walk
away her nervousness. She, Elise, had gone in search and brought her
home. Downs, the wretch, when as stoutly questioned, declared he had
been blind drunk; saw nobody, knew nothing, and must have taken the
lieutenant's whisky. Plume shrank from asking Norah questions. He
could not bring himself to talking of his wife to the girl of the
laundresses' quarters, but he knew now that he must drop that much of
the case against Wren.

Then came the final blow. Byrne had gone to the agency, making every
effort through runners, with promises of immunity, to coax back the
renegades to the reservation, and so avert another Apache war. Plume,
in sore perplexity, was praying for the complete restoration of
Mullins--the only thing that could avert investigation--when, as he
entered his office the morning of this eventful day, Doty's young face
was eloquent with news.

One of the first things done by Lieutenant Blakely when permitted by
Dr. Graham to sit and speak, was to dictate a letter to the post
adjutant, the original of which, together with the archives of Camp
Sandy, was long since buried among the hidden treasures of the War
Department. The following is a copy of the paper placed by Mr. Doty in
the major's hands even before he could reach his desk:

CAMP SANDY, A. T.,

October --, 187--

LIEUTENANT J. J. DOTY,

8th U. S. Infantry,

Post Adjutant.


Sir: I have the honor to submit for the consideration of
the post commander, the following:

Shortly after retreat on the --th inst. I was suddenly
accosted in my quarters by Captain Robert Wren, ----th
Cavalry, and accused of an act of treachery to him;--an
accusation which called forth instant and indignant denial.
He had, as I now have cause to know, most excellent reason
for believing his charge to be true, and the single blow he
dealt me was the result of intense and natural wrath. That
the consequences were so serious he could not have foreseen.

As the man most injured in the affair, I earnestly ask that
no charges be preferred. Were we in civil life I should
refuse to prosecute, and, if the case be brought before a
court-martial it will probably fail--for lack of evidence.


Very Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

NEIL D. BLAKELY,

1st Lieut., ----th Cavalry.

Now, Doty had been known to hold his tongue when a harmful story might
be spread, but he could no more suppress his rejoicing over this than
he could the impulse to put it in slang. "Say, aint this just a
corker?" said this ingenuous youth, as he spread it on his desk for
Graham's grimly gleaming eyes. Plume had read it in dull, apathetic,
unseeing fashion. It was the morning after the Apache emeute. Plume
had stared hard at his adjutant a moment, then, whipping up the sun
hat that he had dropped on his desk, and merely saying, "I'll
return--shortly," had sped to his darkened quarters and not for an
hour had he reappeared. Then the first thing he asked for was that
letter of Mr. Blakely's, which, this time, he read with lips
compressed and twitching a bit at the corners. Then he called for a
telegraph blank and sent a wire to intercept Byrne at the agency. "I
shall turn over command to Wren at noon. I'm too ill for further
duty," was all he said. Byrne read the rest between the lines.

But Graham went straightway to the quarters of Captain Wren, a rough
pencil copy of that most unusual paper in his hand. "R-robert Wren,"
said he, as he entered, unknocking and unannounced, "will ye listen to
this? Nay, Angela, lass, don't go." When strongly moved, as we have
seen, our doctor dropped to the borderland of dialect.

In the dim light from the shaded windows he had not at first seen the
girl. She was seated on a footstool, her hands on her father's knee,
her fond face gazing up into his, and that strong, bony hand of his
resting on her head and toying with the ribbon, the "snood," as he
loved to call it, with which she bound her abundant tresses. At sound
of the doctor's voice, Janet, ever apprehensive of ill, had come forth
from the dining room, silver brush and towel in hand, and stood at the
doorway, gazing austerely. She could not yet forgive her brother's
friend his condemnation of her methods as concerned her brother's
child. Angela, rising to her full height, stood with one hand on the
back of her father's chair, the other began softly stroking the
grizzled crop from his furrowed forehead.

No one spoke a word as Graham began and slowly, to the uttermost
line, read his draft of Blakely's missive. No one spoke for a moment
after he had finished. Angela, with parted lips and dilated eyes, had
stood at first drinking in each syllable, then, with heaving bosom,
she slowly turned, her left hand falling by her side. Wren sat in
silence, his deep-set eyes glowering on the grim reader, a dazed look
on his rugged face. Then he reached up and drew the slim, tremulous
hand from his forehead and snuggled it against his stubbly cheek, and
still he could not speak. Janet slowly backed away into the darkness
of the dining room. The situation had softening tendencies and Janet's
nature revolted at sentiment. It was Graham's voice that again broke
the silence.

"For a vain carpet knight, 'whose best boast was to wear a braid of
his fair lady's hair,' it strikes me our butterfly chaser has some
points of a gentleman," said he, slowly folding his paper. "I might
say more," he continued presently, retiring toward the hall. Then,
pausing at the doorway, "but I won't," he concluded, and abruptly
vanished.

An hour later, when Janet in person went to answer a knock at the
door, she glanced in at the parlor as she passed, and that peep
revealed Angela again seated on her footstool, with her bonny head
pillowed on her father's knee, his hand again toying with the glossy
tresses, and both father and child looked up, expectant. Yes, there
stood the young adjutant, officially equipped with belt and sword and
spotless gloves. "Can I see the captain?" he asked, lifting his natty
kepi, and the captain arose and strode to the door.

"Major Plume presents his compliments--and this letter, sir,"
stammered the youth, blushing, too, at sight of Angela, beaming on him
from the parlor door. "And--you're in command, sir. The major has gone
on sick report."

That evening a solemn cortege filed away down the winding road to
the northward flats and took the route to the little cemetery, almost
all the garrison following to the grave all that was mortal of the
hapless agent. Byrne, returned from the agency, was there to represent
the general commanding the department. Wren stalked solemnly beside
him as commander of the post. Even the women followed, tripping
daintily through the sand. Graham watched them from the porch of the
post hospital. He could not long leave Mullins, tossing in fever and
delirium. He had but recently left Lieutenant Blakely, sitting up and
placidly busying himself in patching butterfly wings, and Blakely had
even come to the front door to look at the distant gathering of
decorous mourners. But the bandaged head was withdrawn as two tall,
feminine forms came gravely up the row, one so prim and almost
antique, the other so lithe and lissome. He retreated to the front
room, and with the one available eye at the veiled window, followed
her, the latter, until the white flowing skirt was swept from the
field of his vision. He had stood but a few hours previous on the spot
where he had received that furious blow five nights before, and this
time, with cordial grasp, had taken the huge hand that dealt it
between his white and slender palms. "Forgive us our trespasses as we
forgive those," Wren had murmured, as he read the deeply regretful
words of his late accuser and commander, for had not he in his turn,
and without delay, also to eat humble pie? There was something almost
pathetic in the attitude of the big soldier as he came to the darkened
room and stood before his junior and subordinate, but the latter had
stilled the broken, clumsy, faltering words with which this strong,
masterful man was striving to make amend for bitter wrong. "I won't
listen to more, Captain Wren," he said. "You had reasons I never
dreamed of--then. Our eyes have been opened" (one of his was still
closed). "You have said more than enough. Let us start afresh
now--with better understanding."

"It--it is generous in you, Blakely. I misjudged
everything--everybody, and now,--well, you know there are still
Hotspurs in the service. I'm thinking some man may be ass enough to
say you got a blow without resenting--"

Blakely smiled, a contorted and disunited smile, perhaps, and one much
trammeled by adhesive plaster. Yet there was placid unconcern in the
visible lines of his pale face. "I think I shall know how to answer,"
said he. And so for the day, and without mention of the name uppermost
in the thoughts of each, the two had parted--for the first time as
friends.

But the night was yet to come.




CHAPTER X.

"WOMAN-WALK-IN-THE-NIGHT" AGAIN


So swift had been the succession of events since the first day of the
week, few of the social set at Sandy could quite realize, much less
fathom, all that had happened, and as they gathered on the verandas,
in the cool of the evening after Daly's funeral, the trend of talk was
all one way. A man who might have thrown light on certain matters at
issue had been spirited away, and there were women quite ready to vow
it was done simply to get him beyond range of their questioning.
Sergeant Shannon had been sent to the agency on some mission
prescribed by Colonel Byrne. It was almost the last order issued by
Major Plume before turning over the command.

Byrne himself still lingered at the post, "watching the situation," as
it was understood, and in constant telegraphic correspondence with the
general at Prescott and the commander of the little guard over the
agency buildings at the reservation--Lieutenant Bridger, of the
Infantry. With a sergeant and twenty men that young officer had been
dispatched to that point immediately after the alarming and
unlooked-for catastrophe of the reveille outbreak. Catastrophe was
what Byrne called it, and he meant what he said, not so much because
it had cost the life of Daly, the agent, whose mistaken zeal had
precipitated the whole misunderstanding, but rather because of the
death of two such prominent young warriors as "Shield" and his friend,
who had fallen after dealing the fatal blow to him who had laid
violent hands, so they regarded it, on two young girls, one a
chieftain's daughter and both objects of reverent and savagely
sentimental interest. "If war doesn't come at once," said Byrne, "it
will be because the Apache has a new sense or a deep-laid scheme. Look
out for him."

No news as yet had come from the runners sent forth in search of the
scattered fugitives, who would soon be flocking together again in the
fastnesses of the Mogollon to the east or the Red Rock country
northward--the latter probably, as being nearer their friends at the
reservation and farther from the few renegade Tontos lurking in the
mountains toward Fort Apache. Byrne's promise to the wanderers, sent
by these runners, was to the effect that they would be safe from any
prosecution if they would return at once to the agency and report
themselves to the interpreter and the lieutenant commanding the guard.
He would not, he said, be answerable for what might happen if they
persisted in remaining at large. But when it was found that, so far
from any coming in, there were many going out, and that Natzie's
father and brother had already gone, Byrne's stout heart sank. The
message came by wire from the agency not long after the return of the
funeral party, and while the evening was yet young. He sent at once
for Wren, and, seated on the major's front piazza, with an orderly
hovering just out of earshot, and with many an eye anxiously watching
them along the row, the two veterans were holding earnest conference.
Major Plume was at the bedside of his wife, so said Graham when he
came down about eight. Mrs. Plume, he continued, was at least no
worse, but very nervous. Then he took himself back to the hospital.

Another topic of talk along the line was Blakely's watch and its
strange recovery, and many were the efforts to learn what Blakely
himself had to say about it. The officers, nearly all of them, of
course, had been at intervals to see Blakely and inquire if there were
not something that they could do, this being the conventional and
proper thing, and they who talked with him, with hardly an exception,
led up to the matter of the watch and wished to know how he accounted
for its being there on the post of No. 5. It was observed that, upon
this topic and the stabbing of Private Mullins, Mr. Blakely was oddly
reticent. He had nothing whatever to suggest as explanation of either
matter. The watch was taken from the inner pocket of his thin white
coat as he lay asleep at the pool, of this he felt confident, but by
whom he would not pretend to say. Everybody knew by this time that
Angela Wren had seen him sleeping, and had, in a spirit of playful
mischief, fetched away his butterfly net, but who would accuse Angela
of taking his watch and money? Of course such things had been, said
one or two wise heads, but--not with girls like Angela.

But who could say what, all this while, Angela herself was thinking?
Once upon a time it had been the way of our young folk well over the
North and West to claim forfeit in the game of "Catching the weasel
asleep." There had been communities, indeed, and before co-education
became a fad at certain of our great universities, wherein the maid
caught napping could hold it no sin against watchful swain, or even
against her, that he then and there imprinted on her lips a kiss. On
the other hand, the swain found sleeping might not always expect a
kiss, but must pay the penalty, a pair of dainty gloves. Many a
forfeit, both lip and glove, had there been claimed and allowed in
army days whereof we write, and Angela, stealing upon Blakely as he
dozed beneath the willows, and liking him well and deploring her
father's pronounced aversion to him--perhaps even resenting it an
undutiful bit--had found it impossible to resist the temptation to
softly disengage that butterfly net from the loosely clasping fingers,
and swiftly, stealthily, delightedly to scamper away with it against
his waking. It was of this very exploit, never dreaming of the fateful
consequences, she and Kate Sanders were so blissfully bubbling over,
fairly shaking with maiden merriment when the despoiled victim,
homeward bound, caught sight of them upon the mesa. Ten minutes
more, and in full force she had been made to feel the blow of her
father's fierce displeasure. Twenty minutes more, and, under the blow
of her father's furious wrath, Blakely had been felled like a log.

When with elongated face and exaggerated gloom of manner Aunt Janet
came to make her realize the awful consequences of her crime, Angela's
first impulse had been to cry out against her father's unreasoning
rage. When she learned that he was in close arrest,--to be tried,
doubtless, for his mad assault,--in utter revulsion of feeling, in
love and tenderness, in grief and contrition inexpressible, she had
thrown herself at his feet and, clasping his knees, had sobbed her
heart out in imploring his forgiveness for what she called her wicked,
heedless, heartless conduct. No one saw that blessed meeting, that
scene of mutual forgiveness, of sweet reconciliation; too sweet and
serene, indeed, for Janet's stern and Calvinistic mold.

Are we ever quite content, I wonder, that others' bairnies should be
so speedily, so entirely, forgiven? All because of this had all
Janet's manifestations of sympathy for Robert to be tempered with a
fine reserve. As for Angela, it would never do to let the child so
soon forget that this should be an awful lesson. Aunt Janet's manner,
therefore, when, butterfly net in hand, she required of her niece full
explanation of the presence in the room of this ravished trophy, was
something fraught with far too much of future punishment, of wrath
eternal. Even in her chastened mood Angela's spirit stood en garde.
"I have told father everything, auntie," she declared. "I leave it all
to him," and bore in silence the comments, without the utterance of
which the elder vestal felt she could not conscientiously quit the
field. "Bold," "immodest," "unmaidenly," "wanton," were a choice few
of Aunt Janet's expletives, and these were unresented. But when she
concluded with "I shall send this--thing to him at once, with my
personal apologies for the act of an irresponsible child," up sprang
Angela with rebellion flashing from her eyes. She had suffered
punishment as a woman. She would not now be treated as a child. To
Janet's undisguised amaze and disapprobation, Wren decided that Angela
herself should send both apology and net. It was the first missive of
the kind she had ever written, but, even so, she would not submit it
for either advice or criticism--even though its composition cost her
many hours and tears and sheets of paper. No one but the recipient had
so much as a peep at it, but when Blakely read it a grave smile
lighted his pallid and still bandaged face. He stowed the little note
in his desk, and presently took it out and read it again, and still
again, and then it went slowly into the inner pocket of his white sack
coat and was held there, while he, the wearer, slowly paced up and
down the veranda late in the starlit night. This was the evening of
Daly's funeral, the evening of the day on which he and his captain had
shaken hands and were to start afresh with better understanding.

Young Duane was officer of the day and, after the tattoo inspection of
his little guard, had gone for a few minutes to the hospital where
Mullins lay muttering and tossing in his feverish sleep; then, meeting
Wren and Graham on the way, had tramped over to call on Blakely,
thinking, perhaps, to chat a while and learn something. Soon after
"taps" was sounded, however, the youngster joined the little group
gossiping in guarded tones on the porch at Captain Sanders', far down
the row, and, in response to question, said that "Bugs"--that being
Blakely's briefest nom de guerre--must be convalescing rapidly, he
"had no use for his friends," and, as the lad seemed somewhat ruffled
and resentful, what more natural than that he should be called upon
for explanation? Sanders and his wife were present, and Mrs. Bridger,
very much alive with inquiry and not a little malicious interest.
Kate, too, was of the party, and Doty, the adjutant, and Mesdames
Cutler and Westervelt--it was so gloomy and silent, said these latter,
at their end of the row. Much of the talk had been about Mrs. Plume's
illness and her "sleep-walking act," as it had been referred to, and
many had thought, but few had spoken, of her possible presence on the
post of No. 5 about the time that No. 5 was stabbed. They knew she
couldn't have done it, of course, but then how strange that she should
have been there at all! The story had gained balloon-like expanse by
this time, and speculation was more than rife. But here was Duane with
a new grievance which, when put into Duane's English, reduced itself
to this: "Why, it was like as if Bugs wanted to get rid of me and
expected somebody else," and this they well remembered later. Nobody
else was observed going to Blakely's front door, at least, but at
eleven o'clock he himself could still be dimly heard and seen pacing
steadily up and down his piazza, apparently alone and deep in thought.
His lights, too, were turned down, a new man from the troop having
asked for and assumed the duties formerly devolving on the wretch
Downs, now doing time within the garrison prison. Before eleven,
however, this new martial domestic had gone upstairs to bed and
Blakely was all alone, which was as he wished it, for he had things to
plan and other things to think of that lifted him above the
possibility of loneliness.

Down the line of officers' quarters only in two or three houses could
lights be seen. Darkness reigned at Plume's, where Byrne was still
rooming. Darkness reigned at Wren's and Graham's, despite the fact
that the lords of these manors were still abroad, both at the bedside
of Trooper Mullins. A dozen people were gathered by this time at
Sanders'. All the other verandas, except Blakely's with its solitary
watcher, seemed deserted. To these idlers of the soft and starlit
night, sitting bareheaded about the gallery and chatting in the
friendly way of the frontier, there came presently a young soldier
from the direction of the adjutant's office at the south end. "The
night operator," he explained. "Two dispatches have just come for
Colonel Byrne, and I thought maybe--"

"No, Cassidy," said Doty. "The colonel is at his quarters. Dispatch,
is it? Perhaps I'd better go with you," and, rising, the young officer
led the way, entering on tiptoe the hall of the middle house where,
far back on a table, a lamp was burning low. Tapping at an inner door,
he was bidden to enter. Byrne was in bed, a single sheet over his
burly form, but he lay wide awake. He took the first dispatch and tore
it open eagerly. It was from Bridger at the agency:

Runners just in say Natzie and Lola had turned back from
trail to Montezuma Well, refusing to go further from their
dead. Can probably be found if party go at dawn or sooner.
Alchisay with them. More Indians surely going out from here.

Byrne's brow contracted and his lips compressed, but he gave no other
sign. "Is Captain Wren still up?" he briefly asked, as he reached for
the other dispatch.

"Over at the hospital, sir," said Doty, and watched this famous
campaigner's face as he ripped open the second brown envelope. This
time he was half out of bed before he could have half finished even
that brief message. It was from the general:

News of trouble must have reached Indians at San Carlos.
Much excitement there and at Apache. Shall start for Camp
McDowell to-morrow as soon as I have seen Plume. He should
come early.

The colonel was in his slippers and inexpressibles in less than no
time, but Plume aloft had heard the muffled sounds from the lower
floor, and was down in a moment. Without a word Byrne handed him the
second message and waited until he had read, then asked: "Can you
start at dawn?"

"I can start now," was the instant reply. "Our best team can make it
in ten hours. Order out the Concord, Mr. Doty." And Doty vanished.

"But Mrs. Plume--" began the colonel tentatively.

"Mrs. Plume simply needs quiet and to be let alone," was the joyless
answer. "I think perhaps--I am rather in the way."

"Well, I know the general will appreciate your promptness. I--did not
know you had asked to see him," and Byrne looked up from under his
shaggy brows.

"I hadn't exactly, but my letter intimated as much. There is so very
much I--I cannot write about--that of course he's bound to hear,--I
don't mean you, Colonel Byrne,--and he ought to know the--facts. Now
I'll get ready at once and--see you before starting."

"Better take an escort, Plume."

"One man on driver's seat. That's all, sir. I'll come in presently, in
case you have anything to send," said Plume, and hurried again
upstairs.

It was barely midnight when Plume's big black wagon, the Concord, all
spring and hickory, as said the post quartermaster, went whirling away
behind its strapping team of four huge Missouri mules. It was 12.30 by
the guard-house clock and the call of the sentries when Wren came home
to find Angela, her long, luxuriant hair tumbling down over her soft,
white wrapper, waiting for him at the front door. From her window she
had seen him coming; had noted the earlier departure of the wagon; had
heard the voice of Major Plume bidding good-by, and wondered what it
meant--this midnight start of the senior officer of the post. She had
been sitting there silent, studying the glittering stars, and
wondering would there be an answer to her note? Would he be able to
write just yet? Was there reason, really, why he should write, after
all that had passed? Somehow she felt that write he certainly would,
and soon, and the thought kept her from sleeping. It was because she
was anxious about Mullins, so she told herself and told her father,
that she had gone fluttering down to meet him at the door. But no
sooner had he answered, "Still delirious and yet holding his own,"
than she asked where and why Major Plume had gone.

"The general wired for him," answered Wren. "And what is my tall
girlie doing, spiering from windows this time of night? Go to bed,
child." She may be losing beauty sleep, but not her beauty, thought he
fondly, as she as fondly kissed him and turned to obey. Then came a
heavy footfall on the gallery without, and a dark form, erect and
soldierly, stood between them and the dim lights of the guard-house.
It was a corporal of the guard.

"No. 4, sir, reports he heard shots--two--way up the valley."

"Good God!" Wren began, then throttled the expletive half spoken.
Could they have dared waylay the major--and so close to the post? A
moment more and he was hurrying over to his troop quarters; five
minutes, and a sergeant and ten men were running with him to the
stables; ten, and a dozen horses, swiftly saddled, were being led into
the open starlight; fifteen, and they were away at a lunging bronco
lope, a twisting column of twos along the sandy road, leaving the
garrison to wake and wonder. Three, four, five miles they sped, past
Boulder Point, past Rattlesnake Hill, and still no sign of anything
amiss, no symptom of night-raiding Apache, for indeed the Apache
dreads the dark. Thrice the sergeant had sprung from his horse,
lighted a match, and studied the trail. On and on had gone the mules
and wagon without apparent break or interruption, until, far beyond
the bluff that hid the road from sight of all at Sandy, they had begun
the long, tortuous climb of the divide to Cherry Creek. No. 4 might
have heard shots, but, if intended for the wagon, they had been
harmless. It was long after one when Wren gave the word to put back to
the post, and as they remounted and took the homeward trail, they rode
for the first five minutes almost directly east, and, as they ascended
a little slant of hillside, the sergeant in advance reined suddenly
in. "Look there!" said he.

Far over among the rocky heights beyond the valley, hidden from the
south from Sandy by precipitous cliffs that served almost as a
reflector toward the reservation, a bright blaze had shot suddenly
heavenward--a signal fire of the Apache. Some of them, then, were in
the heart of that most intractable region, not ten miles northeast of
the post, and signaling to their fellows; but the major must have
slipped safely through.

Sending his horse to stable with the detachment, Wren had found No. 4
well over toward the east end of his post, almost to the angle with
that of No. 5. "Watch well for signal fires or prowlers to-night," he
ordered. "Have you seen any?"

"No signal fires, sir," answered the sentry. "Welch, who was on before
me, thought he heard shots--"

"I know," answered Wren impatiently. "There was nothing in it. But we
did see a signal fire over to the northeast, so they are around us,
and some may be creeping close in to see what we're doing, though I
doubt it. You've seen nothing?"

"Well, no, sir; we can't see much of anything, it's so dark. But
there's a good many of the post people up and moving about, excited, I
suppose. There were lights there at the lieutenant's, Mr. Blakely's, a
while ago, and--voices." No. 4 pointed to the dark gable end barely
forty yards away.

"That's simple enough," said Wren. "People would naturally come up to
this end to see what had become of us, why we had gone, etc. They
heard of it, I dare say, and some were probably startled."

"Yes, sir, it sounded like--somebody cryin'."

Wren was turning away. "What?" he suddenly asked.

No. 4 repeated his statement. Wren pondered a moment, started to
speak, to question further, but checked himself and trudged
thoughtfully away through the yielding sand. The nearest path led past
the first quarters, Blakely's, on the eastward side, and as the
captain neared the house he stopped short. Somewhere in the shadows of
the back porch low, murmuring voices were faintly audible. One, in
excited tone, was not that of a man, and as Wren stood, uncertain and
surprised, the rear door was quickly opened and against the faint
light from within two dark forms were projected. One, the taller, he
recognized beyond doubt as that of Neil Blakely; the other he did not
recognize at all. But he had heard the tone of the voice. He knew the
form to be, beyond doubt, that of a young and slender woman. Then
together the shadows disappeared within and the door was closed behind
them.





Next: A Stop By Wire

Previous: Apache Knives Dig Deep!



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