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A Slap For The Major








From: A Daughter Of The Sioux

The columns of Colonel Henry and Major Webb, as said "the Chief," had
united, and here were two men who could be counted on to push the
pursuit "for all they were worth." Hitherto, acting in the open country
and free from encumbrance, the Indians had been hard to reach. Now they
were being driven into their fastnesses among the mountains toward the
distant shelter whither their few wounded had been conveyed, and where
the old men, the women and children were in hiding. Now it meant that,
unless the troops could be confronted and thrown back, another transfer
of tepees and travois, ponies and dogs, wounded and aged would have to
be made. Lame Wolf had thought his people safe behind the walls of the
Big Horn and the shifting screen of warriors along the foothills, but
the blue skirmish lines pushed steadily on into the fringing pines,
driving the feathered braves from ridge to ridge, and Lame Wolf had
sense enough to see that here were leaders that "meant business" and
would not be held. Henry had ten veteran troops at his back when he
united with Webb, who led his own and the Beecher squadron, making
eighteen companies, or troops, of Horse, with their pack mules, all out
at the front, while the wagon train and ambulances were thoroughly
guarded by a big battalion of sturdy infantry, nearly all of them good
marksmen, against whose spiteful Springfields the warriors made only one
essay in force, and that was more than enough. The blue coats emptied
many an Indian saddle and strewed the prairie with ponies, and sent
Whistling Elk and his people to the right about in sore dismay, and then
it dawned on Lame Wolf that he must now either mislead the cavalry
leader,--throw him off the track, as it were,--or move the villages,
wounded, prisoners and all across the Big Horn river, where hereditary
foemen, Shoshone and Absaraka, would surely welcome them red-handed.

It was at this stage of the game he had his final split with Stabber.
Stabber was shrewd, and saw unerringly that with other columns out--from
Custer on the Little Horn and Washakie on the Wind River,--with
reinforcements coming from north and south, the surrounding of the Sioux
in arms would be but a matter of time. He had done much to get Lame Wolf
into the scrape and now was urging hateful measures as, unless they were
prepared for further and heavier losses, the one way out, and that way
was--surrender.

Now, this is almost the last thing the Indian will do. Not from fear of
consequences at the hands of his captors, for he well knows that,
physically, he is infinitely better off when being coddled by Uncle Sam
than when fighting in the field. It is simply the loss of prestige
among his fellow red men that he hates and dreads. Therefore, nothing
short of starvation or probable annihilation prompts him, as a rule, to
yield himself a prisoner. Stabber urged it rather than risk further
battle and further loss, but Stabber had long been jealous of the
younger chief, envied him his much larger following and his record as a
fighter, and Stabber, presumably, would be only too glad to see him
fallen from his high estate. They could then enjoy the hospitality of a
generous nation (a people of born fools, said the unreasoning and
unregenerate red man) all winter, and, when next they felt sufficiently
slighted to warrant another issue on the warpath, they could take the
field on equal terms. Lame Wolf, therefore, swore he'd fight to the
bitter end. Stabber swore he'd gather all his villagers, now herding
with those of Wolf; and, having segregated his sheep from the more
numerous goats, would personally lead them whither the white man could
not follow. At all events he made this quarrel the pretext for his
withdrawal with full five score fighting men, and Lame Wolf cursed him
roundly as the wretch deserved and, all short-handed now, with hardly
five hundred braves to back him, bent his energies to checking Henry's
column in the heart of the wild hill country.

And this was the situation when the general's first despatches were sent
in to Frayne,--this the last news to reach the garrison from the distant
front for five long days, and then one morning, when the snow was
sifting softly down, there came tidings that thrilled the little
community, heart and soul--tidings that were heard with mingled tears
and prayers and rejoicings, and that led to many a visit of
congratulation to Mrs. Hay, who, poor woman, dare not say at the moment
that she had known it all as much as twenty-four hours earlier, despite
the fact that Pete and Crapaud were banished from the roll of her
auxiliaries.

Even as the new couriers came speeding through the veil of falling
flakes, riding jubilantly over the wide-rolling prairie with their news
of victory and battle, the post commander at Fort Frayne was puzzling
over a missive that had come to him, he knew not how, mysterious as the
anarchists' warnings said to find their way to the very bedside of the
guarded Romanoffs. Sentry Number 4 had picked it up on his post an hour
before the dawn--a letter addressed in bold hand to Major Stanley Flint,
commanding Fort Frayne, and, presuming the major himself had dropped it,
he turned it over to the corporal of his relief, and so it found its way
toward reveille into the hands of old McGann, wheezing about his work of
building fires, and Michael laid it on the major's table and thought no
more about it until two hours later, when the major roused and read, and
then a row began that ended only with the other worries of his
incumbency at Frayne.

Secretly Flint was still doing his best to discover the bearer when came
the bold riders from the north with their thrilling news. Secretly, he
had been over at the guard-house interviewing as best he could, by the
aid of an unwilling clerk who spoke a little Sioux, a young Indian girl
whom Crabb's convalescent squad, four in number, had most unexpectedly
run down when sent scouting five miles up the Platte, and brought,
screaming, scratching and protesting back to Frayne. Her pony had been
killed in the dash to escape, and the two Indians with her seemed to be
young lads not yet well schooled as warriors, for they rode away
pellmell over the prairie, leaving the girl to the mercy of the
soldiers. Flint believed her to be connected in some way with the coming
of the disturbing note, which was why he compelled her detention at the
guard-house. Under Webb's regime she would have been questioned by
Hay, or some one of his household. Under Flint, no one of Hay's family
or retainers could be allowed to see her. He regarded it as most
significant that her shrillest screams and fiercest resistance should
have been reserved until just as her guardians were bearing her past the
trader's house. She had the little light prison room to herself all that
wintry morning, and there, disdainful of bunk or chair, enveloped in her
blanket, she squatted disconsolate, greeting all questioners with
defiant and fearless shruggings and inarticulate protest. Not a syllable
of explanation, not a shred of news could their best endeavors wring
from her. Yet her glittering eyes were surely in search of some one, for
she looked up eagerly every time the door was opened, and Flint was just
beginning to think he would have to send for Mrs. Hay when the couriers
came with their stirring news and he had to drop other affairs in order
to forward this important matter to headquarters.

Once again, it seems, Trooper Kennedy had been entrusted with
distinguished duty, for it was he who came trotting foremost up the
road, waving his despatch on high. A comrade from Blake's troop,
following through the ford, had turned to the left and led his horse up
the steep to the quarters nearest the flagstaff. This time there was no
big-hearted post commander to bid the Irishman refresh himself ad
libitum. Flint was alone at his office at the moment, and knew not this
strange trooper, and looked askance at his heterodox garb and war-worn
guise. Such laxity, said he to himself, was not permitted where he had
hitherto served, which was never on Indian campaign. Kennedy, having
delivered his despatches, stood mutely expectant of question and
struggling with an Irishman's enthusiastic eagerness to tell the details
of heady fight. But Flint had but one method of getting at facts--the
official reports--and Kennedy stood unnoticed until, impatient at last,
he queried:--

"Beg pardon, sir, but may we put up our horses?"

"Who's we?" asked the major, bluntly. "And where are the others?"

"Trigg, sir--Captain Blake's troop. He went to the captain's quarters
with a package."

"He should have reported himself first to the post commander," said the
major, who deemed it advisable to make prompt impression on these savage
hunters of savage game.

"Thim wasn't his ordhers, surr," said Kennedy, with zealous, but
misguided loyalty to his comrades and his regiment.

"No one has a right, sir, to give orders that are contrary in spirit to
the regulations and customs of the service," answered the commander,
with proper austerity. "Mr. Wilkins," he continued, as the burly
quartermaster came bustling in, "have the other trooper sent to report
at once to me and let this man wait outside till I am ready to see him."

And so it happened that a dozen members of the garrison gathered, from
the lips of a participant, stirring particulars of a spirited chase and
fight that set soldiers to cheering and women and children to
extravagant scenes of rejoicing before the official head of the garrison
was fairly ready to give out the news. Kennedy had taken satisfaction
for the commander's slights by telling the tidings broadcast to the
crowd that quickly gathered, and, in three minutes, the word was flying
from lip to lip that the troops had run down Lame Wolf's main village
after an all day, all night rush to head them off, and that with very
small loss they had been able to capture many of the families and to
scatter the warriors among the hills. In brief, while Henry, with the
main body, had followed the trail of the fighting band, Webb had been
detached and, with two squadrons, had ridden hard after a Shoshone guide
who led them by a short cut through the range and enabled them to pounce
on the village where were most of Lame Wolf's noncombatants, guarded
only by a small party of warriors, and, while Captains Billings and Ray
with their troops remained in charge of these captives, Webb, with Blake
and the others had pushed on in pursuit of certain braves who had
scampered into the thick of the hills, carrying a few of the wounded and
prisoners with them. Among those captured, or recaptured, were Mr. Hay
and Crapaud. Among those who had been spirited away was Nanette Flower.
This seemed strange and unaccountable.

And yet Blake had found time to write to his winsome wife,--to send her
an important missive and most important bit of news. It was with these
she came running in to Mrs. Ray before the latter had time to half read
the long letter received from her soldier husband, and we take the facts
in the order of their revelation.

"Think of it, Maidie!" she cried. "Think of it! Gerald's first words,
almost, are 'Take good care of that pouch and contents,' and now pouch
and contents are gone! Whoever dreamed that they would be of such
consequence? He says the newspaper will explain."

And presently the two bonny heads were bent over the big sheets of a
dingy, grimy copy of a Philadelphia daily, and there, on an inner page,
heavily marked, appeared a strange item, and this Quaker City journal
had been picked up in an Ogalalla camp. The item read as follows:

AN UNTAMED SIOUX

The authorities of the Carlisle School and the police of Harrisburg
are hunting high and low for a young Indian known to the records of
the Academy as Ralph Moreau, but borne on the payrolls of Buffalo
Bill's Wild West aggregation as Eagle Wing--a youth who is credited
with having given the renowned scout-showman more trouble than all
his braves, bronchos and "busters" thereof combined. Being of
superb physique and a daring horseman, Moreau had been forgiven
many a peccadillo, and had followed the fortunes of the show two
consecutive summers until Cody finally had to get rid of him as an
intolerable nuisance.

It seems that when a lad of eighteen, "Eagle Wing" had been sent to
Carlisle, where he ran the gamut of scrapes of every conceivable
kind. He spoke English picked up about the agencies; had
influential friends and, in some clandestine way, received
occasional supplies of money that enabled him to take French leave
when he felt like it. He was sent back from Carlisle to Dakota as
irreclaimable, and after a year or two on his native heath,
reappeared among the haunts of civilization as one of Buffalo
Bill's warriors. Bill discharged him at Cincinnati and, at the
instance of the Indian Bureau, he was again placed at Carlisle,
only to repeat on a larger scale his earlier exploits and secure a
second transfer to the Plains, where his opportunities for
devilment were limited. Then Cody was induced to take him on again
by profuse promises of good behavior, which were kept until
Pennsylvania soil was reached two weeks ago, when he broke loose
again; was seen in store clothes around West Philadelphia for a few
days, plentifully supplied with money, and next he turned up in the
streets of Carlisle, where he assaulted an attache of the school,
whose life was barely saved by the prompt efforts of other Indian
students. Moreau escaped to Harrisburg, which he proceeded to paint
his favorite color that very night, and wound up the entertainment
by galloping away on the horse of a prominent official, who had
essayed to escort him back to Carlisle. It is believed that he is
now in hiding somewhere about the suburbs, and that an innate
propensity for devilment will speedily betray him to the clutches
of the law.

A few moments after reading this oddly interesting story the two friends
were in consultation with Mrs. Dade, who, in turn, called in Dr. Waller,
just returning from the hospital and a not too satisfactory visit to Mr.
Field. There had been a slight change for the better in the condition of
General Field that had enabled Dr. Lorain of Fort Russell and a local
physician to arrange for his speedy transfer to Cheyenne. This had in a
measure relieved the anxiety of Waller's patient, but never yet had the
veteran practitioner permitted him to know that he was practically a
prisoner as well as a patient. Waller feared the result on so
high-strung a temperament, and had made young Field believe that, when
strong and well enough to attempt the journey, he should be sent to Rock
Springs. Indeed, Dr. Waller had no intention of submitting to Major
Flint's decision as final. He had written personally to the medical
director of the department, acquainting him with the facts, and,
meanwhile, had withdrawn himself as far as possible, officially and
socially, from the limited circle in which moved his perturbed
commanding officer.

He was at a distant point of the garrison, therefore, and listening to
the excited and vehement comments of the younger of the three women upon
this strange newspaper story, and its possible connection with matters
at Frayne, at the moment when a dramatic scene was being enacted over
beyond the guard-house.

Kennedy was still the center of a little group of eager listeners when
Pink Marble, factotum of the trader's store, came hurrying forth from
the adjutant's office, speedily followed by Major Flint. "You may tell
Mrs. Hay that while I cannot permit her to visit the prisoner," he
called after the clerk, "I will send the girl over--under suitable
guard."

To this Mr. Marble merely shrugged his shoulders and went on. He fancied
Flint no more than did the relics of the original garrison. A little
later Flint personally gave an order to the sergeant of the guard and
then came commotion.

First there were stifled sounds of scuffle from the interior of the
guard-house; then shrill, wrathful screams; then a woman's voice
unlifted in wild upbraidings in an unknown tongue, at sound of which
Trooper Kennedy dropped his rein and his jaw, stood staring one minute;
then, with the exclamation: "Mother of God, but I know that woman!"
burst his way through the crowd and ran toward the old log blockhouse at
the gate,--the temporary post of the guard. Just as he turned the corner
of the building, almost stumbling against the post commander, there came
bursting forth from the dark interior a young woman of the Sioux,
daring, furious, raging, and, breaking loose from the grasp of the two
luckless soldiers who had her by the arms, away she darted down the
road, still screaming like some infuriated child, and rushed straight
for the open gateway of the Hays. Of course the guard hastened in
pursuit, the major shouting "Stop her! Catch her!" and the men striving
to appear to obey, yet shirking the feat of seizing the fleeing woman.
Fancy, then, the amaze of the swiftly following spectators when the
trader's front door was thrown wide open and Mrs. Hay herself sprang
forth. Another instant and the two women had met at the gate. Another
instant still, and, with one motherly arm twining about the quivering,
panting, pleading girl and straining her to the motherly heart, Mrs.
Hay's right hand and arm flew up in the superb gesture known the wide
frontier over as the Indian signal "Halt!" And halt they did, every
mother's son save Kennedy, who sprang to the side of the girl and faced
the men in blue. And then another woman's voice, rich, deep, ringing,
powerful, fell on the ears of the amazed, swift-gathering throng, with
the marvellous order: "Stand where you are! You shan't touch a hair of
her head! She's a chief's daughter. She's my own kin and I'll answer for
her to the general himself. As for you," she added, turning now and
glaring straight at the astounded Flint, all the pent-up sense of wrath,
indignity, shame and wrong overmastering any thought of prudence or of
"the divinity that doth hedge" the commanding officer, "As for you," she
cried, "I pity you when our own get back again! God help you, Stanley
Flint, the moment my husband sets eyes on you. D'you know the message
that came to him this day?" And now the words rang louder and clearer,
as she addressed the throng. "I do, and so do officers and gentlemen
who'd be shamed to have to shake hands with such as he. He's got my
husband's note about him now, and what my husband wrote was this--'I
charge myself with every dollar you charge to Field, and with the
further obligation of thrashing you on sight'--and, mark you, he'll do
it!"





Next: The Sioux Surrounded

Previous: Burglary At Blake's



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