Apache Knives Dig Deep!
From: An Apache Princess
At five o'clock of this cloudless October morning Colonel Montgomery
Byrne, "of the old Army, sir," was reviling the fates that had set him
the task of unraveling such a skein as he found at Sandy. At six he
was blessing the stars that sent him. Awakened, much before his usual
hour, by half-heard murmur of scurry and excitement, so quickly
suppressed he believed it all a dream, he was thinking, half drowsily,
all painfully, of the duty devolving on him for the day, and wishing
himself well out of it, when the dream became real, the impression
vivid. His watch told him reveille should now be sounding. His ears
told him the sounds he heard were not those of reveille, yet something
had roused the occupants of Officers' Row, and then, all on a sudden,
instead of the sweet strains of "The Dawn of the Day" or "Bonnie Lass
o' Gawrie" there burst upon the morning air, harsh and blustering, the
alarum of the Civil War days, the hoarse uproar of the drum thundering
the long roll, while above all rang the loud clamor of the cavalry
trumpet sounding "To Horse."
"Fitz James was brave, but to his heart
The life blood leaped with sudden start."
Byrne sprang from his bed. He was a soldier, battle-tried, but this
meant something utterly new to him in war, for, mingling with the
gathering din, he heard the shriek of terror-stricken women. Daly's
bed was empty. The agent was gone. Elise aloft was jabbering patois
at her dazed and startled mistress. Suey, the Chinaman, came
clattering in, all flapping legs and arms and pigtail, his face livid,
his eyes staring. "Patcheese! Patcheese!" he squealed, and dove under
the nearest bed. Then Byrne, shinning into boots and breeches and
shunning his coat, grabbed his revolver and rushed for the door.
Across the parade, out of their barracks the "doughboys" came
streaming, no man of them dressed for inspection, but rather, like
sailors, stripped for a fight; and, never waiting to form ranks, but
following the lead of veteran sergeants and the signals or orders of
officers somewhere along the line, went sprinting straight for the
eastward mesa. From the cavalry barracks, the northward sets, the
troopers, too, were flowing, but these were turned stableward, back of
the post, and Byrne, with his nightshirt flying wide open, wider than
his eyes, bolted round through the space between the quarters of Plume
and Wren, catching sight of the arrested captain standing grim and
gaunt on his back piazza, and ran with the foremost sergeants to the
edge of the plateau, where, in his cool white garb, stood Plume,
shouting orders to those beneath.
There, down in the Sandy bottom, was explanation of it all. Two
soldiers were bending over a prostrate form in civilian dress. Two
swarthy Apaches, one on his face, the other, ten rods away, writhing
on his side, lay weltering in blood. Out along the sandy barren and
among the clumps of mezquite and greasewood, perhaps as many as ten
soldiers, members of the guard, were scattering in rude skirmish
order; now halting and dropping on one knee to fire, now rushing
forward; while into the willows, that swept in wide concave around the
flat, a number of forms in dirty white, or nothing at all but
streaming breechclout, were just disappearing.
Northward, too, beyond the post of No. 4, other little squads and
parties could be faintly seen scurrying away for the shelter of the
willows, and as Byrne reached the major's side, with the
to-be-expected query "Whatinhell'sthematter?" the last of the fleeing
Apaches popped out of sight, and Plume turned toward him in mingled
wrath and disgust:
"That--ass of an agent!" was all he could say, as he pointed to the
prostrate figure in pepper and salt.
Byrne half slid, half stumbled down the bank and bent over the wounded
man. Dead he was not, for, with both hands clasped to his breast, Daly
was cradling from side to side and saying things of Apaches totally
unbecoming an Indian agent and a man of God. "But who did it? and
how?--and why?" demanded Byrne of the ministering soldiers.
"Tried to 'rest two Patchie girls, sir," answered the first,
straightening up and saluting, "and her feller wouldn't stand it, I
reckon. Knifed the agent and Craney, too. Yonder's the feller."
Yonder lay, face downward, as described, a sinewy young brave of the
Apache Mohave band, his newer, cleaner shirt and his gayly ornamented
sash and headgear telling of superior rank and station among his kind.
With barely a glance at Craney, squatted beside a bush, and with teeth
and hands knotting a kerchief about a bleeding arm, Byrne bent over
the Apache and turned the face to the light.
"Good God!" he cried, at the instant, "it's Quonathay--Raven Shield!
Why, you know him, corporal!"--this to Casey, of Wren's troop,
running to his side. "Son of old Chief Quonahelka! I wouldn't have had
this happen for all the girls on the reservation. Who were they? Why
did he try to arrest them? Here! I'll have to ask him--stabbed or
not!" And, anxious and angering, the colonel hastened over toward the
agent, now being slowly aided to his feet. Plume, too, had come
sidelong down the sandy bank with Cutler, of the infantry, asking
where he should put in his men. "Oh, just deploy across the flats to
stand off any possible attack," said Plume. "Don't cross the Sandy,
and, damn it all! get a bugler out and sound recall!" For now the
sound of distant shots came echoing back from the eastward cliffs. The
pursuit had spread beyond the stream. "I don't want any more of those
poor devils hurt. There's mischief enough already," he concluded.
"I should say so," echoed the colonel. "What was the matter, Mr.
Daly? Whom did you seek to arrest?--and why?"
"Almost any of 'em," groaned Daly. "There were a dozen there I'd
refused passes to come again this week. They were here in defiance of
my orders, and I thought to take that girl Natzie,--she that led Lola
off,--back to her father at the agency. It would have been a good
lesson. Of course she fought and scratched. Next thing I knew a dozen
of 'em were atop of us--some water, for God's sake!--and lift me out
Then with grave and watch-worn face, Graham came hurrying to the spot,
all the way over from Mullins's bedside at the hospital and breathing
hard. Dour indeed was the look he gave the groaning agent, now gulping
at a gourd held to his pale lips by one of the men. The policy of
Daly's predecessor had been to feather his own nest and let the Indian
shift for himself, and this had led to his final overthrow. Daly,
however, had come direct from the care of a tribe of the Pueblo
persuasion, peace-loving and tillers of the soil, meek as the Pimas
and Maricopas, natives who fawned when he frowned and cringed at the
crack of his whip. These he had successfully, and not dishonestly,
ruled, but that very experience had unfitted him for duty over the
mountain Apache, who cringed no more than did the lordly Sioux or
Cheyenne, and truckled to no man less than a tribal chief. Blakely,
the soldier, cool, fearless, and resolute, but scrupulously just, they
believed in and feared; but this new blusterer only made them laugh,
until he scandalized them by wholesale arrest and punishment. Then
their childlike merriment changed swiftly to furious and scowling
hate,--to open defiance, and finally, when he dared lay hands on a
chosen daughter of the race, to mutiny and the knife. Graham, serving
his third year in the valley, had seen the crisis coming and sought to
warn the man. But what should an army doctor know of an Apache Indian?
said Daly, and, fatuous in his own conceit, the crisis found him
"Go you for a stretcher," said the surgeon, after a quick look into
the livid face. "Lay him down gently there," and kneeling, busied
himself with opening a way to the wound. Out over the flats swung the
long skirmish line, picturesque in the variety of its undress, Cutler
striding vociferous in its wake, while a bugler ran himself out of
breath, far to the eastward front, to puff feeble and abortive breath
into unresponsive copper. And still the same flutter of distant,
scattering shots came drifting back from the brakes and canons in the
rocky wilds beyond the stream. The guard still pursued and the Indians
still led, but they who knew anything well knew it could not be long
before the latter turned on the scattering chase, and Byrne strode
about, fuming with anxiety. "Thank God!" he cried, as a prodigious
clatter of hoofs, on hollow and resounding wood, told of cavalry
coming across the acequia, and Sanders galloped round the sandy
point in search of the foe--or orders. "Thank God! Here,
Sanders--pardon me, major, there isn't an instant to lose--Rush your
men right on to the front there! Spread well out, but don't fire a
shot unless attacked in force! Get those--chasing idiots and bring
them in! By God, sir, we'll have an Indian war on our hands as it is!"
And Sanders nodded and dug spurs to his troop horse, and sang out:
"Left front into line--gallop!" and the rest was lost in a cloud of
dust and the blare of cavalry trumpet.
Then the colonel turned to Plume, standing now silent and sore
troubled. "It was the quickest way," he said apologetically.
"Ordinarily I should have given the order through you, of course. But
those beggars are armed to a man. They left their guns in the crevices
of yonder rocks, probably, when they came for the morning music. We
must have no fight over this unless they force it. I wish to heaven we
hadn't killed--these two," and ruefully he looked at the stark
forms--the dead lover of Natzie, the gasping tribesman just beyond,
dying, knife in hand. "The general has been trying to curb Daly for
the last ten days," continued he, "and warned him he'd bring on
trouble. The interpreter split with him on Monday last, and there's
been mischief brewing ever since. If only we could have kept Blakely
there--all this row would have been averted!"
If only, indeed! was Plume thinking, as eagerly, anxiously he scanned
the eastward shore, rising jagged, rocky, and forbidding from the
willows of the stream bed. If only, indeed! Not only all this row of
which Byrne had seen so much, but all this other row, this row within
a row, this intricacy of mishaps and misery that involved the social
universe of Camp Sandy, of which as yet the colonel, presumably, knew
so very little; of which, as post commander, Plume had yet to tell
him! An orderly came running with a field glass and a scrap of paper.
Plume glanced at the latter, a pencil scrawl of his wife's inseparable
companion, and, for aught he knew, confidante. "Madame," he could make
out, and "affreusement" something, but it was enough. The orderly
supplemented: "Leece, sir, says the lady is very bad--"
"Go to her, Plume," with startling promptitude cried the colonel.
"I'll look to everything here. It's all coming out right," for with a
tantara--tantara-ra-ra Sanders's troop, spreading far and wide, were
scrambling up the shaly slopes a thousand yards away. "Go to your wife
and tell her the danger's over," and, with hardly another glance at
the moaning agent, now being limply hoisted on a hospital stretcher,
thankfully the major went. "The lady's very bad, is she?" growled
Byrne, in fierce aside to Graham. "That French hag sometimes speaks
truth, in spite of herself. How d'you find him?" This with a toss of
the head toward the vanishing stretcher.
"Bad likewise. These Apache knives dig deep. There's Mullins now--"
"Think that was Apache?" glared Byrne, with sudden light in his
eyes, for Wren had told his troubles--all.
"What the devil do you mean, Graham?" and the veteran soldier, who
knew and liked the surgeon, whirled again on him with eyes that looked
not like at all.
The doctor turned, his somber gaze following the now distant figure of
the post commander, struggling painfully up the yielding sand of the
steep slope to the plateau. The stretcher bearers and attendants were
striding away to hospital with the now unconscious burden. The few
men, lingering close at hand, were grouped about the dead Apaches. The
gathering watchers along the bank were beyond earshot. Staff officer
and surgeon were practically alone and the latter answered:
"I mean, sir, that if that Apache knife had been driven in by an
Apache warrior, Mullins would have been dead long hours ago--which he
Byrne turned a shade grayer.
"Could she have done that?" he asked, with one sideward jerk of his
head toward the major's quarters.
"I'm not saying," quoth the Scot. "I'm asking was there anyone else?"
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