VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of Informational Site Network Informational
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

A Soldier Entangled

From: A Daughter Of The Sioux

December and bitter cold. The river frozen stiff. The prairie sheeted in
unbroken snow. Great log fires roaring in every open fireplace. Great
throngs of soldiery about the red hot barrack stoves, for all the
columns were again in winter columns, and Flint's two companies had "got
the route" for home. They were to march on the morrow, escorting as far
as Laramie the intractables of Stabber's band, some few of the Indians
to go in irons, among them Ralph Moreau, or Eagle Wing, now a notorious

The general was there at Frayne, with old "Black Bill," erstwhile chief
inspector of the department, once a subaltern in days long gone by when
Laramie was "Ultima Thule" of the plains forts. The general had heard
Flint's halting explanation of his laxity in Moreau's case, saying
almost as little in reply as his old friend Grant when "interviewed" by
those of whom he disapproved. "Black Bill" it was who waxed explosive
when once he opened on the major, and showed that amazed New Englander
something of the contents of Moreau's Indian kit, including the now
famous hunting pouch, all found with Stabber's village. A precious
scoundrel, as it turned out, was this same Moreau, with more sins to
answer for than many a convicted jail bird, and with not one follower
left to do him reverence except, perhaps, that lonely girl, self
secluded at the Hays. Hay himself, though weak, was beginning to sit up.
Dade, Blake and Ray were all once more housed in garrison. Truscott and
Billings, with their hardy troopers, had taken temporary station at the
post, until the general had decided upon the disposition of the array of
surrendered Indians, nearly three hundred in number, now confined under
strong guard in the quartermaster's corral at the flats, with six "head
devils," including Eagle Wing, in the garrison prison.

All the officers, with two exceptions, were again for duty at Frayne.
Webb, laid by the heels at Beecher, his feet severely frozen, and
Beverly Field, who, recalled from a brief and solemn visit to a far
southern home, had reached the post at nightfall of the 10th. There had
hardly been allowed him time to uplift a single prayer, to receive a
word of consolation from the lips of friends and kindred who loved the
honored father, borne to his last resting place. "Come as soon as
possible," read the message wired him by Ray, and, though the campaign
was over, it was evident that something was amiss, and, with all his
sorrow fresh upon him, the lad, sore in body and soul, had hastened to

And it was Ray who received and welcomed him and took him straightway to
his own cosy quarters, that Mrs. Ray, and then the Blakes, might add
their sympathetic and cordial greeting,--ere it came to telling why it
was that these, his friends despite that trouble that could not be
talked of, were now so earnest in their sympathy,--before telling him
that his good name had become involved, that there were allegations
concerning him which the chief had ordered "pigeon-holed" until he
should come to face them. A pity it is that Bill Hay could not have been
there, too, but his fever had left him far too weak to leave his room.
Only Ray and Blake were present and it was an interview not soon, if
ever, to be forgotten.

"I'm no hand at breaking things gently, Field," said Ray, when finally
the three were closeted together in the captain's den. "It used to worry
Webb that you were seen so often riding with Miss--Miss Flower up to
Stabber's village, and, in the light of what has since happened, you
will admit that he had reasons. Hear me through," he continued, as
Field, sitting bolt upright in the easy chair, essayed to speak.
"Neither Captain Blake nor I believe one word to your dishonor in the
matter, but it looks as though you had been made a tool of, and you are
by no means the first man. It was to see this fellow, Moreau--Eagle
Wing--whom you recognized at the Elk,--she was there so frequently--was
it not?"

Into Field's pale face there had come a look of infinite distress. For a
moment he hesitated, and little beads began to start out on his

"Captain Ray," he finally said, "they tell me--I heard it from the
driver on the way up from Rock Springs--that Miss Flower is virtually a
prisoner, that she had been in league with the Sioux, and yet, until I
can see her--can secure my release from a promise, I have to answer you
as I answered you before--I cannot say."

Blake started impatiently and heaved up from his lounging chair, his
long legs taking him in three strides to the frost-covered window at the
front. Ray sadly shook his dark, curly head.

"You are to see her, Field. The general--bless him for a
trump!--wouldn't listen to a word against you in your absence; but that
girl has involved everybody--you, her aunt, who has been devotion itself
to her, her uncle, who was almost her slave. She deliberately betrayed
him into the hands of the Sioux. In fact this red robber and villain,
Moreau, is the only creature she hasn't tried to 'work,' and he
abandoned her after she had lied, sneaked and stolen for him."

"Captain Ray!" The cry came from pallid lips, and the young soldier
started to his feet, appalled at such accusation.

"Every word of it is true," said Ray. "She joined him after his wounds.
She shared his escape from the village at our approach. She was with him
when Blake nabbed them at Bear Cliff. She was going with him from here.
What manner of girl was that, Field, for you to be mixed up with?"

"He is her half brother!" protested Field, with kindling eyes. "She told
me--everything--told me of their childhood together, and--"

"Told you a pack of infernal lies!" burst in Blake, no longer able to
contain himself. "Made you a cat's paw; led you even to taking her by
night to see him when she learned the band were to jump for the
mountains--used you, by God, as he used her, and, like the Indian she
is, she'd turn and stab you now, if you stood in her way or his. Why,
Field, that brute's her lover, and she's his--"

"It's a lie! You shall not say it, sir!" cried Field, beside himself
with wrath and amaze, as he stood quivering from head to foot, still
weak from wounds, fever and distress of mind. But Ray sprang to his
side. "Hush, Blake! Hush, Field! Don't speak. What is it, Hogan?" And
sharply he turned him to the door, never dreaming what had caused the

"The general, sir, to see the captain!"

And there, in the hallway, throwing off his heavy overcoat and
"arctics," there, with that ever faithful aide in close attendance, was
the chief they loved; dropped in, all unsuspecting, just to say
good-bye. "I knocked twice," began Hogan, but Ray brushed him aside,
for, catching sight of the captain's face, the general was already at
the door. Another moment and he had discovered Field, and with both
hands extended, all kindliness and sympathy, he stepped at once across
the room to greet him.

"I was so very sorry to hear the news," said he. "I knew your father
well in the old days. How's your wound? What brought you back so soon?"

And then there was one instant of awkward silence and then--Ray spoke.

"That was my doing, general. I believed it best that he should be here
to meet you and--every allegation at his expense. Mr. Field, I feel
sure, does not begin to know them yet, especially as to the money."

"It was all recovered," said the general. "It was found almost
intact--so was much of that that they took from Hay. Even if it hadn't
been, Hay assumed all responsibility for the loss."

With new bewilderment in his face, the young officer, still white and
trembling, was gazing, half stupefied, from one to the other.

"What money?" he demanded. "I never heard--"

"Wait," said the general, with significant glance at Ray, who was about
to speak. "I am to see them--Mrs. Hay and her niece--at nine o'clock. It
is near that now. Webb cannot be with us, but I shall want you, Blake.
Say nothing until then. Sit down, Mr. Field, and tell me about that leg.
Can you walk from here to Hay's, I wonder?"

Then the ladies, Mrs. Ray and her charming next door neighbor, appeared,
and the general adjourned the conference forthwith, and went with them
to the parlor.

"Say nothing more," Ray found time to whisper. "You'll understand it all
in twenty minutes."

And at nine o'clock the little party was on its way through the sharp
and wintry night, the general and Captain Blake, side by side, ahead,
the aide-de-camp and Mr. Field close following. Dr. Waller, who had been
sent for, met them near the office. The sentries at the guard-house
were being changed as the five tramped by along the snapping and
protesting board walk, and a sturdy little chap, in fur cap and
gauntlets, and huge buffalo overcoat, caught sight of them and, facing
outward, slapped his carbine down to the carry--the night signal of
soldier recognition of superior rank as practised at the time.

"Tables are turned with a vengeance," said the general, with his quiet
smile. "That's little Kennedy, isn't it? I seem to see him everywhere
when we're campaigning. Moreau was going to eat his heart out next time
they met, I believe."

"So he said," grinned Blake, "before Winsor's bullet fetched him. Pity
it hadn't killed instead of crippling him."

"He's a bad lot," sighed the general. "Wing won't fly away from Kennedy,
I fancy."

"Not if there's a shot left in his belt," said Blake. "And Ray is
officer-of-the-day. There'll be no napping on guard this night."

At the barred aperture that served for window on the southward front, a
dark face peered forth in malignant hate as the speakers strode by. But
it shrank back, when the sentry once more tossed his carbine to the
shoulder, and briskly trudged beneath the bars. Six Indians shared that
prison room, four of their number destined to exile in the distant
East,--to years, perhaps, within the casemates of a seaboard fort--the
last place on earth for a son of the warlike Sioux.

"They know their fate, I understand," said Blake, as the general moved
on again.

"Oh, yes. Their agent and others have been here with Indian Bureau
orders, permitting them to see and talk with the prisoners. Their
shackles are to be riveted on to-night. Nearly time now, isn't it?"

"At tattoo, sir. The whole guard forms then, and the four are to be
moved into the main room for the purpose. I am glad this is the last of

"Yes, we'll start them with Flint at dawn in the morning. He'll be more
than glad to get away, too. He hasn't been over lucky here, either."

A strange domestic--(the McGrath having been given warning and removed
to Sudsville) showed them into the trader's roomy parlor, the largest
and most pretentious at the post. Hay had lavished money on his home and
loved it and the woman who had so adorned it. She came in almost
instantly to greet them, looking piteously into the kindly, bearded face
of the general, and civilly, yet absently, welcoming the others. She did
not seem to realize that Field, who stood in silence by the side of
Captain Blake, had been away. She had no thought, apparently, for anyone
but the chief himself,--he who held the destinies of her dear ones in
the hollow of his hand. His first question was for Fawn Eyes, the little
Ogalalla maiden whose history he seemed to know. "She is well and trying
to be content with me," was the reply. "She has been helping poor
Nanette. She does not seem to understand or realize what is coming to
him. Have they--ironed him--yet?"

"I believe not," said the general. "But it has to be done to-night. They
start so early in the morning."

"And you won't let her see him, general. No good can come from it. She
declares she will go to him in the morning, if you prohibit it
to-night," and the richly jewelled hands of the unhappy woman were
clasped almost in supplication.

"By morning he will be beyond her reach. The escort starts at six."

"And--these gentlemen here--" She looked nervously, appealingly about
her. "Must they--all know?"

"These and the inspector general. He will be here in a moment. But,
indeed, Mrs. Hay, it is all known, practically," said the general,
with sympathy and sorrow in his tone.

"Not all--not all, general! Even I don't know all--She herself has said
so. Hush! She's coming."

She was there! They had listened for swish of skirts or fall of slender
feet upon the stairway, but there had not been a sound. They saw the
reason as she halted at the entrance, lifting with one little hand the
costly Navajo blanket that hung as a portiere. In harmony with the
glossy folds of richly dyed wool, she was habited in Indian garb from
head to foot. In two black, lustrous braids, twisted with feather and
quill and ribbon, her wealth of hair hung over her shoulders down the
front of her slender form. A robe of dark blue stuff, rich with broidery
of colored bead and bright-hued plumage, hung, close clinging, and her
feet were shod in soft moccasins, also deftly worked with bead and
quill. But it was her face that chained the gaze of all, and that drew
from the pallid lips of Lieutenant Field a gasp of mingled consternation
and amaze. Without a vestige of color; with black circles under her
glittering eyes; with lines of suffering around the rigid mouth and with
that strange pinched look about the nostrils that tells of anguish,
bodily and mental, Nanette stood at the doorway, looking straight at the
chief. She had no eyes for lesser lights. All her thought, apparently,
was for him,--for him whose power it was, in spite of vehement
opposition, to deal as he saw fit with the prisoner in his hands. Appeal
on part of Friends Societies, Peace and Indian Associations had failed.
The President had referred the matter in its entirety to the general
commanding in the field, and the general had decided. One moment she
studied his face, then came slowly forward. No hand extended. No sign of
salutation,--greeting,--much less of homage. Ignoring all others
present, she addressed herself solely to him.

"Is it true you have ordered him in irons and to Fort Rochambeau?" she

"It is."

"Simply because he took part with his people when your soldiers made war
on them?" she asked, her pale lips quivering.

"You well know how much else there was," answered the general, simply.
"And I have told you he deserves no pity--of yours."

"Oh, you say he came back here a spy!" she broke forth, impetuously.
"It is not so! He never came near the post,--nearer than Stabber's
village, and there he had a right to be. You say 'twas he who led them
to the warpath,--that he planned the robbery here and took the money. He
never knew they were going, till they were gone. He never stole a penny.
That money was loaned him honestly--and for a purpose--and with the hope
and expectation of rich profit thereby."

"By you, do you mean?" asked the general, calmly, as before.

"By me? No! What money had I? He asked it and it was given him--by
Lieutenant Field."

A gasp that was almost a cry following instantly on this insolent
assertion--a sound of stir and start among the officers at whom she had
not as yet so much as glanced, now caused the girl to turn one swift,
contemptuous look their way, and in that momentary flash her eyes
encountered those of the man she had thus accused. Field stood like one
turned suddenly to stone, gazing at her with wild, incredulous eyes. One
instant she seemed to sway, as though the sight had staggered her, but
the rally was as instantaneous. Before the general could interpose a
word, she plunged on again:--

"He, at least, had a heart and conscience. He knew how wrongfully Moreau
had been accused,--that money was actually needed to establish his
claim. It would all have been repaid if your soldiers had not forced
this wicked war, and--" and now in her vehemence her eyes were flashing,
her hand uplifted, when, all on a sudden, the portiere was raised the
second time, and there at the doorway stood the former inspector
general, "Black Bill." At sight of him the mad flow of words met sudden
stop. Down, slowly down, came the clinched, uplifted hand. Her eyes,
glaring as were Field's a moment agone, were fixed in awful fascination
on the grizzled face. Then actually she recoiled as the veteran officer
stepped quietly forward into the room.

"And what?" said he, with placid interest. "I haven't heard you rave in
many a moon, Nanette. You are your mother over again--without your
mother's excuse for fury."

But a wondrous silence had fallen on the group. The girl had turned
rigid. For an instant not a move was made, and, in the hush of all but
throbbing hearts, the sound of the trumpets pealing forth the last notes
of tattoo came softly through the outer night.

Then sudden, close at hand, yet muffled by double door and windows, came
other sounds--sounds of rush and scurry,--excited voices,--cries of
halt! halt!--the ring of a carbine,--a yell of warning--another shot,
and Blake and the aide-de-camp sprang through the hallway to the storm
door without. Mrs. Hay, shuddering with dread, ran to the door of her
husband's chamber beyond the dining room. She was gone but a moment.
When she returned the little Ogalalla maid, trembling and wild-eyed, had
come running down from aloft. The general had followed into the lighted
hallway,--they were all crowding there by this time,--and the voice of
Captain Ray, with just a tremor of excitement about it, was heard at
the storm door on the porch, in explanation to the chief.

"Moreau, sir! Broke guard and stabbed Kennedy. The second shot dropped
him. He wants Fawn Eyes, his sister."

A scream of agony rang through the hall, shrill and piercing. Then the
wild cry followed:

"You shall not hold me! Let me go to him, I say--I am his wife!"

Next: The Death Song Of The Sioux

Previous: Behind The Bars

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 483