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A Stranger Going








From: An Apache Princess

At the first faint flush of dawn the little train of pack mules, with
the rations for the beleaguered command at Sunset Pass, was started on
its stony path. Once out of the valley of the Beaver it must clamber
over range after range and stumble through deep and tortuous canons. A
road there was--the old trail by Snow Lake, thence through the famous
Pass and the Sunset crossing of the Colorado Chiquito to old Fort
Wingate. It wormed its way out of the valley of the broader stream
some miles further to the north and in face of the Red Rock country to
the northeast, but it had not been traveled in safety for a year. Both
Byrne and Plume believed it beset with peril, watched from ambush by
invisible foes who could be relied upon to lurk in hiding until the
train was within easy range, then, with sudden volley, to pick off the
officers and prominent sergeants and, in the inevitable confusion,
aided by their goatlike agility, to make good their escape. Thirty
sturdy soldiers of the infantry under a veteran captain marched as
escort, with Plume's orders to push through to the relief of Sergeant
Brewster's command, and to send back Indian runners with full account
of the situation. The relief of Wren's company accomplished, the next
thing was to be a search for Wren himself, then a determined effort to
find Blakely, and all the time to keep a lookout for Sanders's troop
that must be somewhere north of Chevlon's Fork, as well as for the two
or three little columns that should be breaking their way through the
unblazed wilderness, under the personal direction of the general
himself. Captain Stout and his party were out of sight up the Beaver
before the red eye of the morning came peering over the jagged heights
to the east, and looking in upon a garrison whose eyes were equally
red and bleary through lack of sleep--a garrison worn and haggard
through anxiety and distress gravely augmented by the events of the
night. All Sandy had been up and astir within five minutes after Norah
Shaughnessy's startling cry, and all Sandy asked with bated breath the
same question: How on earth happened it that this wounded waif of the
Apaches, this unknown Indian girl, dropped senseless at their doorway
in the dead hours of the night, should have in her possession the very
scarf worn by Mrs. Plume's nurse-companion, the Frenchwoman Elise, as
she came forth with her mistress to drive away from Sandy, as was her
hope, forever.

Prominent among those who had hastened down to Sudsville, after the
news of this discovery had gone buzzing through the line of officers'
quarters, was Janet Wren. Kate Sanders was staying with Angela, for
the girls seemed to find comfort in each other's presence and society.
Both had roused at sound of the clamor and were up and half dressed
when a passing hospital attendant hurriedly shouted to Miss Wren the
tidings. The girls, too, would have gone, but Aunt Janet sternly bade
them remain indoors. She would investigate, she said, and bring them
all information.

Dozens of the men were still hovering about old Shaughnessy's quarters
as the tall, gaunt form of the captain's sister came stalking through
the crowd, making straight for the doorway. The two senior officers,
Byrne and Plume, were, in low tones, interrogating Norah. Plume had
been shown the scarf and promptly seconded Norah. He knew it at
once--knew that, as Elise came forth that dismal morning and passed
under the light in the hall, she had this very scarf round her
throat--this that had been found upon the person of a wounded and
senseless girl. He remembered now that as the sun climbed higher and
the air grew warmer the day of their swift flight to Prescott, Elise
had thrown open her traveling sack, and he noticed that the scarf had
been discarded. He did not see it anywhere about the Concord, but that
proved nothing. She might easily have slipped it into her bag or under
the cushions of the seat. Both he and Byrne, therefore, watched with
no little interest when, after a brief glance at the feverish and
wounded Indian girl, moaning in the cot in Mrs. Shaughnessy's room,
Miss Wren returned to the open air, bearing the scarf with her. One
moment she studied it, under the dull gleam of the lantern of the
sergeant of the guard, and then slowly spoke:

"Gentlemen, I have seen this worn by Elise and I believe I know how
it came to find its way back here--and it does not brighten the
situation. From our piazza, the morning of Major Plume's start for
Prescott, I could plainly see Downs hanging about the wagon. It
started suddenly, as perhaps you remember, and as it rolled away
something went fluttering to the ground behind. Everybody was looking
after the Concord at the moment--everybody but Downs, who quickly
stooped, picked up the thing, and turned hurriedly away. I believe he
had this scarf when he deserted and that he has fallen into the hands
of the Apaches."

Byrne looked at the post commander without speaking. The color had
mounted one moment to the major's face, then left him pallid as
before. The hunted, haggard, weary look about his eyes had deepened.
That was all. The longer he lived, the longer he served about this
woebegone spot in mid Arizona, the more he realized the influence for
evil that handmaid of Shaitan seemed to exert over his vain, shallow,
yet beautiful and beloved wife. Against it he had wrought and pleaded
in vain. Elise had been with them since her babyhood, was his wife's
almost indignant reply. Elise had been faithful to her--devoted to her
all her life. Elise was indispensable; the only being that kept her
from going mad with home-sickness and misery in that God-forsaken
clime. Sobs and tears wound up each interview and, like many a
stronger man, Plume had succumbed. It might, indeed, be cruel to rob
her of Elise, the last living link that bound her to the blessed
memories of her childhood, and he only mildly strove to point out to
her how oddly, yet persistently, her good name had suffered through
the words and deeds of this flighty, melodramatic Frenchwoman.
Something of her baleful influence he had seen and suspected before
ever they came to their exile, but here at Sandy, with full force he
realized the extent of her machinations. Clarice was not the woman to
go prowling about the quarters in the dead hours of the night, no
matter how nervous and sleepless at home. Clarice was not the woman to
be having back-door conferences with the servants of other households,
much less the "striker" of an officer with whose name hers, as a
maiden, had once been linked. He recalled with a shudder the events of
the night that sent the soldier Mullins to hospital, robbed of his
wits, if not of his life. He recalled with dread the reluctant
admissions of the doctor and of Captain Wren. Sleep-walking, indeed!
Clarice never elsewhere at any time had shown somnambulistic symptoms.
It was Elise beyond doubt who had lured her forth for some purpose he
could neither foil nor fathom. It was Elise who kept up this
discreditable and mysterious commerce with Downs,--something that had
culminated in the burning of Blakely's home, with who knows what
evidence,--something that had terminated only with Downs's mad
desertion and probable death. All this and more went flashing through
his mind as Miss Wren finished her brief and significant story, and it
dawned upon him that, whatever it might be to others, the death of
Downs--to him, and to her whom he loved and whose honor he
cherished--was anything but a calamity, a thing to mourn. Too
generous to say the words, he yet turned with lightened heart and met
Byrne's searching eyes, then those of Miss Wren now fixed upon him
with austere challenge, as though she would say the flight and fate of
this friendless soldier were crimes to be laid only at his door.

Byrne saw the instant distress in his comrade's face, and, glancing
from him to her, almost in the same instant saw the inciting cause.
Byrne had one article of faith if he lacked the needful thirty-nine.
Women had no place in official affairs, no right to meddle in official
matters, and what he said on the spur of his rising resentment was
intended for her, though spoken to him. "So Downs skipped eastward,
did he, and the Apaches got him! Well, Plume, that saves us a
hanging." And Miss Wren turned away in wrath unspeakable.

That Downs had "skipped eastward" received further confirmation with
the coming day, when Wales Arnold rode into the fort from a personally
conducted scout up the Beaver. Riding out with Captain Stout's party,
he had paid a brief visit to his, for the time, abandoned ranch, and
was surprised to find there, unmolested, the two persons and all the
property he had left the day he hurried wife and household to the
shelter of the garrison. The two persons were half-breed Jose and his
Hualpai squaw. They had been with the Arnolds five long years, were
known to all the Apaches, and had ever been in highest favor with them
because of the liberality with which they dispensed the largesse of
their employer. Never went an Indian empty-stomached from their door.
All the stock Wales had time to gather he had driven in to Sandy. All
that was left Jose had found and corraled. Just one quadruped was
missing--Arnold's old mustang saddler, Dobbin. Jose said he had been
gone from the first and with him an old bridle and saddle. No Indian
took him, said he. It was a soldier. He had found "government boot
tracks" in the sand. Then Downs and Dobbin had gone together, but only
Dobbin might they ever look to see again.

It had been arranged between Byrne and Captain Stout that the little
relief column should rest in a deep canon beyond the springs from
which the Beaver took its source, and, later in the afternoon, push on
again on the long, stony climb toward the plateau of the upper
Mogollon. There stood, about twenty-five miles out from the post on a
bee line to the northeast, a sharp, rocky peak just high enough above
the fringing pines and cedars to be distinctly visible by day from the
crest of the nearest foothills west of the flagstaff. Along the sunset
face of this gleaming picacho there was a shelf or ledge that had
often been used by the Apaches for signaling purposes; the renegades
communicating with their kindred about the agency up the valley.
Invisible from the level of Camp Sandy, these fires by night, or smoke
and flashes by day, reached only those for whom they were
intended--the Apaches at the reservation; but Stout, who had known the
neighborhood since '65, had suggested that lookouts equipped with
binoculars be placed on the high ground back of the post. Inferior to
the savage in the craft, we had no code of smoke, fire, or, at that
time, even sun-flash signal, but it was arranged that one blaze was to
mean "Unmolested thus far." Two blazes, a few yards apart, would mean
"Important news by runner." In the latter event Plume was to push out
forty or fifty men in dispersed order to meet and protect the runner
in case he should be followed, or possibly headed off, by hostile
tribesmen. Only six Indian allies had gone with Stout and he had eyed
them with marked suspicion and disfavor. They, too, were Apache Yumas.
The day wore on slowly, somberly. All sound of life, melody, or
merriment had died out at Camp Sandy. Even the hounds seemed to feel
that a cloud of disaster hung over the garrison. Only at rare
intervals some feminine shape flitted along the line of deserted
verandas--some woman on a mission of mercy to some mourning,
sore-troubled sister among the scattered households. For several hours
before high noon the wires from Prescott had been hot with demand for
news, and with messages from Byrne or Plume to department
headquarters. At meridian, however, there came a lull, and at 2 P. M.
a break. Somewhere to the west the line was snapped and down. At 2.15
two linesmen galloped forth to find and repair damages, half a dozen
"doughboys" on a buckboard going as guard. Otherwise, all day long, no
soldier left the post, and when darkness settled down, the anxious
operator, seated at his keyboard, was still unable to wake the spirit
of the gleaming copper thread that spanned the westward wilderness.

All Sandy was wakeful, out on the broad parade, or the officers'
verandas, and gazing as one man or woman at the bold, black upheaval a
mile behind the post, at whose summit twinkled a tiny star, a single
lantern, telling of the vigil of Plume's watchers. If Stout made even
fair time he should have reached the picacho at dusk, and now it was
nearly nine and not a glimmer of fire had been seen at the appointed
rendezvous. Nine passed and 9.15, and at 9.30 the fifes and drums of
the Eighth turned out and began the long, weird complaint of the
tattoo. Nobody wished to go to bed. Why not sound reveille and let
them sit up all night, if they chose? It was far better than tossing
sleepless through the long hours to the dawn. It was nearly time for
"taps"--lights out--when a yell went up from the parade and all Sandy
started to its feet. All on a sudden the spark at the lookout bluff
began violently to dance, and a dozen men tore out of garrison, eager
to hear the news. They were met halfway by a sprinting corporal, whom
they halted with eager demand for his news. "Two blazes!" he panted,
"two! I must get in to the major at once!" Five minutes more the
Assembly, not Taps, was sounding. Plume was sending forth his fifty
rescuers, and with them, impatient for tidings from the far front,
went Byrne, the major himself following as soon as he could change to
riding dress. The last seen of the little command was the glinting of
the starlight on the gun barrels as they forded the rippling stream
and took the trail up the narrow, winding valley of the Beaver.

It was then a little after ten o'clock. The wire to Prescott was still
unresponsive. Nothing had been heard from the linesmen and their
escort, indicating that the break was probably far over as the Agua
Fria. Not a sign, except Stout's signal blazes at the picacho, had
been gathered from the front. Camp Sandy was cut off from the world,
and the actual garrison left to guard the post and protect the women,
children and the sick as eleven o'clock drew nigh, was exactly forty
men of the fighting force. It was believed that Stout's couriers would
make the homeward run, very nearly, by the route the pack-train took
throughout the day, and if they succeeded in evading hostile scouts or
parties, would soon appear about some of the breaks of the upper
Beaver. Thither, therefore, with all possible speed Plume had directed
his men, promising Mrs. Sanders, as he rode away, that the moment a
runner was encountered he would send a light rider at the gallop, on
his own good horse--that not a moment should be lost in bearing them
the news.

But midnight came without a sign. Long before that hour, as though by
common impulse, almost all the women of the garrison had gathered
about Truman's quarters, now the northernmost of the row and in plain
view of the confluence of the Sandy and the Beaver. Dr. Graham, who
had been swinging to and fro between the limits of the Shaughnessys'
and the hospital, stopped to speak with them a moment and gently drew
Angela to one side. His grave and rugged face was sweet in its
tenderness as he looked down into her brimming eyes. "Can you not be
content at home, my child?" he murmured. "You seem like one of my own
bairns, Angela, now that your brave father is afield, and I want to
have his bonnie daughter looking her best against the home-coming.
Surely Aunt Janet will bring you the news the moment any comes, and
I'll bid Kate Sanders bide with you!"

No, she would not--she could not go home. Like every other soul in all
Camp Sandy she seemed to long to be just there. Some few had even gone
out further, beyond the sentries, to the point of the low bluff, and
there, chatting only in whispers, huddled together, listening in
anxiety inexpressible for the muffled sound of galloping hoofs on soft
and sandy shore. No, she dare not, for within the four walls of that
little white room what dreams and visions had the girl not seen? and,
wakening shuddering, had clung to faithful Kate and sobbed her heart
out in those clasping, tender, loyal arms. No beauty, indeed, was
Kate, as even her fond mother ruefully admitted, but there was that in
her great, gentle, unselfish heart that made her beloved by one and
all. Yet Kate had pleaded with Angela in vain. Some strange, forceful
mood had seized the girl and steeled and strengthened her against even
Janet Wren's authority. She would not leave the little band of
watchers. She was there when, toward half-past twelve, at last the
message came. Plume's own horse came tearing through the flood, and
panting, reeking, trembling into their midst, and his rider, little
Fifer Lanigan, of Company "C," sprang from saddle and thrust his
dispatch into Truman's outstretched hand.

With women and children crowding about him, and men running to the
scene from every side, by the light of a lantern held in a soldier's
shaking hand, he read aloud the contents:

"BIVOUAC AT PICACHO, 9 P. M.

"C. O. CAMP SANDY:

"Reached this point after hard march, but no active
opposition, at 8 P. M. First party sent to build fire on
ledge driven in by hostiles. Corporal Welch shot through
left side--serious. Threw out skirmishers and drove them off
after some firing, and about 9.20 came suddenly upon Indian
boy crouching among rocks, who held up folded paper which I
have read and forward herewith. We shall, of course, turn
toward Snow Lake, taking boy as guide. March at 3 A. M. Will
do everything possible to reach Wren on time.

(Signed) "STOUT, Commanding."

Within was another slip, grimy and with dark stains. And Truman's
voice well-nigh failed him as he read:

"November --th.

"C. O. CAMP SANDY:

"Through a friendly Apache who was with me at the
reservation I learned that Captain Wren was lying wounded,
cut off from his troop and with only four of his men, in a
canon southwest of Snow Lake. With Indian for guide we
succeeded reaching him second night, but are now surrounded,
nearly out of ammunition and rations. Three more of our
party are wounded and one, Trooper Kent, killed. If not
rushed can hold out perhaps three days more, but Wren sorely
needs surgical aid.

(Signed) "BLAKELY."

That was all. The Bugologist with his one orderly, and apparently
without the Apache Yuma scouts, had gone straightway to the rescue of
Wren. Now all were cut off and surrounded by a wily foe that counted
on, sooner or later, overcoming and annihilating them, and even by the
time the Indian runner slipped out (some faithful spirit won by
Blakely's kindness and humanity when acting agent), the defense had
been reduced just one-half. Thank God that Stout with his supplies and
stalwart followers was not more than two days' march away, and was
going straightway to the rescue!

It was nearly two when Plume and his half-hundred came drifting back
to the garrison, and even then some few of the watchers were along the
bluff. Janet Wren, having at last seen pale-faced, silent Angela to
her room and bed, with Kate Sanders on guard, had again gone forth to
extract such further information as Major Plume might have. Even at
that hour men were at work in the corrals, fitting saddles to half a
dozen spare horses,--about all that were left at the post,--and Miss
Wren learned that Colonel Byrne, with an orderly or two, had remained
at Arnold's ranch,--that Arnold himself, with six horsemen from the
post, was to set forth at four, join the colonel at dawn, and together
all were to push forward on the trail of Stout's command, hoping to
overtake them by nightfall. She whispered this to sleepless Kate on
her return to the house, for Angela, exhausted with grief and long
suspense, had fallen, apparently, into deep and dreamless slumber.

But the end of that eventful night was not yet. Arnold and his
sextette slipped away soon after four o'clock, and about 4.50 there
came a banging at the major's door. It was the telegraph operator. The
wire was patched at last, and the first message was to the effect that
the guard had been fired on in Cherry Creek canon--that Private

Forrest was sorely wounded and lying at Dick's deserted ranch, with
two of their number to care for him. Could they possibly send a
surgeon at once?

There was no one to go but Graham. His patients at the post were doing
fairly well, but there wasn't a horse for him to ride. "No matter,"
said he, "I'll borrow Punch. He's needing exercise these days." So
Punch was ordered man-saddled and brought forthwith. The orderly came
back in ten minutes. "Punch aint there, sir," said he. "He's been gone
over half an hour."

"Gone? Gone where? Gone how?" asked Graham in amaze.

"Gone with Miss Angela, sir. She saddled him herself and rode away not
twenty minutes after Arnold's party left. The sentries say she
followed up the Beaver."





Next: Besieged

Previous: A Strange Coming



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