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Rescue Requited








From: An Apache Princess

A change had come over the spirit of Camp Sandy's dream. The garrison
that had gone to bed the previous night, leaving Natzie silent,
watchful, wistful at the post commander's door, had hardly a thought
that was not full of sympathy and admiration for her. Even women who
could not find it possible to speak of her probable relations with
Neil Blakely dwelt much in thought and word upon her superb devotion
and her generosity. That he had encouraged her passionate and almost
savage love for him there were few to doubt, whatsoever they might
find it possible to say. That men and women both regarded her as,
beyond compare, the heroic figure of the campaign there was none to
gainsay. Even those who could not or did not talk of her at all felt
that such was the garrison verdict. There were no men, and but few
women, who would have condemned the doctor's act in leading her to
Blakely's bedside. Sandy had spoken of her all that wonderful evening
only to praise. It woke to hear the first tidings of the new day, and
to ask only What was the cause?--What had led to her wild, swift
vengeance? for Todd had in turn been carried to hospital, a
sore-stricken man. The night before Natzie was held a queen: now she
was held a captive.

It all happened so suddenly that even Plume, who witnessed the entire
incident, could not coherently explain it. Reveille was just over and
the men were going to breakfast when the major's voice was heard
shouting for the guard. Graham, first man to reach the scene, had
collided with Janet Wren, whimpering and unnerved, as he bounded into
the hallway. His first thought was that Plume's prophecy about the
knifing had come true, and that Blakely was the victim. His first
sight, when his eyes could do their office in that darkened room, was
of Blakely wresting something from the grasp of the Indian girl, whose
gaze was now riveted on that writhing object on the floor.

"See to him, doctor," he heard Blakely say, in feeble, but commanding
tone. "I will see to her." But Blakely was soon in no condition to see
to her or to anybody. The flicker of strength that came to him for a
second or two at sight of the tragedy, left him as suddenly--left him
feebler than before. He had no voice with which to protest when the
stretchermen, who bore away poor Todd, were followed instantly by
stout guardsmen who bore away Natzie. The dignity of the chieftain's
daughter had vanished now. She had no knife with which to deal death
to these new and most reluctant assailants--Graham found it under
Blakely's pillow, long hours later. But, with all her savage, lissome
strength she scratched and struck and struggled. It took three of
their burliest to carry her away, and they did it with shame-hidden
faces, while rude comrades chaffed and jeered and even shouted
laughing encouragement to the girl, whose screams of rage had drawn
all Camp Sandy to the scene. One doctor, two men, and the steward went
with their groaning burden one way to the hospital. One officer, one
sergeant, and half a dozen men had all they could do to take their
raging charge another way to the guard-house. Ah, Plume, you might
have spared that brave girl such indignity! But, where one face
followed the wounded man with sympathetic eyes, there were twenty that
never turned from the Indian girl until her screams were deadened by
the prison doors.

"She stabbed a soldier who meant her no harm," was Plume's sullen and
stubborn answer to all appeals, for good and gentle women went to him,
begging permission to go to her. It angered him presently to the
extent of repeating his words with needless emphasis and additions
when Mother Shaughnessy came to make her special appeal. Shure she had
learned how to care for these poor creatures, was her claim, along o'
having little Paquita on her hands so many days, "and now that poor
girl beyant will be screaming herself into fits!"

"Let her scream," said Plume, unstrung and shaken, "but hold you your
tongue or I'll find a separate cell for you. No woman shall be knifing
my men, and go unpunished, if I can help it," and so saying he turned
wrathfully from her.

"Heard you that now?" stormed Mother Shaughnessy, as he strode away.
"Who but he has helped his women to go unpunished--" and the words
were out and heard before the sergeant major could spring and silence
her. Before another day they were echoing all over the post--were on
their way to Prescott, even, and meeting, almost at the northward
gateway, the very women the raging laundress meant. Of her own free
will Clarice Plume was once again at Sandy, bringing with her, sorely
against the will of either, but because a stronger will would have it
so--and sent his guards to see to it--a cowed and scared and
semi-silent companion of whom much ill was spoken now about the
garrison--Elise Lebrun.

The news threw Norah Shaughnessy nearly into spasms. "'Twas she that
knifed Pat Mullins!" she cried. "'Twas she drove poor Downs to dhrink
and desartion. 'Twas she set Carmody and Shannon to cuttin' each
other's throats"--which was news to a garrison that had seen the
process extend no further than to each other's acquaintance. And more
and stormier words the girl went on to say concerning the commander's
household until Mullins himself mildly interposed. But all these
things were being told about the garrison, from which Lola and
Alchisay had fled in terror to spread the tidings that their princess
was a prisoner behind the bars. These were things that were being
told, too, to the men of Sanders's returning troop before they were
fairly unsaddled at the stables; and that night, before ever he sought
his soldier pillow, Shannon had been to "C" Troop's quarters in search
of Trooper Stern and had wrung from him all that he could tell of
Carmody's last fight on earth--of his last words to Lieutenant
Blakely.

Meantime a sorely troubled man was Major Plume. That his wife would
have to return to Sandy he had learned from the lips of Colonel Byrne
himself. Her own good name had been involved, and could only be
completely cleared when Wren and Blakely were sufficiently recovered
to testify, and when Mullins should be so thoroughly restored as to be
fit for close cross-examination. Plume could in no wise connect his
beloved wife with either the murderous assault on Mullins or the
mysterious firing of Blakely's quarters, but he knew that Sandy could
not so readily acquit her, even though it might saddle the actual deed
upon her instrument--Elise. He had ordered that Blakely should be
brought to his own quarters because there he could not be reached by
any who were unacceptable to himself, the post commander. There were
many things he wished to know about and from Blakely's lips alone. He
could not stoop to talk with other men about the foibles of his wife.
He knew that iron box in Truman's care contained papers, letters, or
something of deep interest to her. He knew full well now that, at
some time in the not far distant past, Blakely himself had been of
deep interest to her and she to Blakely. He had Blakely's last letter
to himself, written just before the lonely start in quest of Angela,
but that letter made no reference to the contents of the box or to
anything concerning their past. He had heard that Wales Arnold had
been intrusted with letters for Blakely to Clarice, his wife, and to
Captain, or Miss Janet Wren. Arnold had not been entirely silent on
the subject. He did not too much like the major, and rather rejoiced
in this opportunity to show his independence of him. Plume had gone so
far as to ask Arnold whether such letters had been intrusted to him,
and Wales said, yes; but, now that Blakely was safely back and
probably going to pull through, he should return the letters to the
writer as soon as the writer was well enough to appreciate what was
being done. Last, but not least, Plume had picked up near the door in
Blakely's room the circular, nearly flat, leather-covered case which
had dropped, apparently, from Natzie's gown, and, as it had neither
lock nor latch, Plume had opened it to examine its contents.

To his surprise it contained a beautifully executed miniature, a
likeness of a fair young girl, with soft blue eyes and heavy, arching
brows, a delicately molded face and mouth and chin, all framed in a
tumbling mass of tawny hair. It was the face of a child of twelve or
thirteen, one that he had never seen and of whom he knew nothing.
Neither cover, backing, nor case of the miniature gave the faintest
clew as to its original or as to its ownership. What was Natzie doing
with this?--and to whom did it belong? A little study satisfied him
there was something familiar in the face, yet he could not place it.

The very night of her coming, therefore, he told his wife the story
and handed her the portrait. One glance was enough. "I know it, yes,"
said Mrs. Plume, "though I, too, have never seen her. She died the
winter after it was taken. It is Mr. Blakely's sister, Ethel," and
Mrs. Plume sat gazing at the sweet girl features, with strange
emotion in her aging face. There was something--some story--behind all
this that Plume could not fathom, and it nettled him. Perhaps he, too,
was yielding to a fit of nerves. Elise, the maid, had been remanded to
her room, and could be heard moving about with heavy, yet uncertain
tread. "She is right over Blakely," quoth the major impatiently. "Why
can't the girl be quiet?"

"Why did you bring him here, then?" was the weary answer. "I cannot
control Elise. They have treated her most cruelly."

"There are things you cannot explain and that she must," said he, and
then, to change the subject, stretched forth his hand to take again
the picture. She drew it back one moment, then, remembering,
surrendered it.

"You saw this in--St. Louis, I suppose," said he awkwardly. He never
could bear to refer to those days--the days before he had come into
her life.

"Not that perhaps, but the photograph from which it was probably
painted. She was his only sister. He was educating her in the East."
And again her thoughts were drifting back to those St. Louis days,
when, but for the girl sister he so loved, she and Neil Blakely had
been well-nigh inseparable. Someone had said then, she remembered,
that she was jealous even of that love.

And now again her husband was gazing fixedly at the portrait, a light
coming into his lined and anxious face. Blakely had always carried
this miniature with him, for he now remembered that the agent, Daly,
had spoken of it. Natzie and others might well have seen it at the
reservation. The agent's wife had often seen it and had spoken of his
sorrow for the sister he had lost. The picture, she said, stood often
on his little camp table. Every Indian who entered his tent knew it
and saw it. Why, surely; Natzie, too, mused the major, and then aloud:

"I can see now what we have all been puzzling over. Angela Wren might
well have looked like this--four years ago."

"There is not the faintest resemblance," said Clarice, promptly rising
and quitting the room.

It developed with another day that Mrs. Plume had no desire to see
Miss Wren, the younger. She expressed none, indeed, when policy and
the manners of good society really required it. Miss Janet had come in
with Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Sanders to call upon the wife of the
commanding officer and say what words of welcome were possible as
appropriate to her return. "And Angela," said Janet, for reasons of
her own, "will be coming later." There was no response, nor was there
to the next tentative. The ladies thought Mrs. Plume should join
forces with them and take Natzie out of the single cell she occupied.
"Can she not be locked at the hospital, under the eye of the matron,
with double sentries? It is hard to think of her barred in that
hideous place with Apache prisoners and rude men all about her." But
again was Mrs. Plume unresponsive. She would say no word of interest
in either Angela or Natzie. At the moment when her husband was in
melting mood and when a hint from her lips would have secured the
partial release of the Indian girl, the hint was withheld. It would
have been better for her, for her husband, for more than one brave lad
on guard, had the major's wife seen fit to speak, but she would not.

So that evening brought release that, in itself, brought much relief
to the commanding officer and the friends who still stood by him.

Thirty-six hours now had Natzie been a prisoner behind the bars, and
no one of those we know had seen her face. At tattoo the drums and
fifes began their sweet, old-fashioned soldier tunes. The guard turned
out; the officer of the day buckled his belt with a sigh and started
forth to inspect, just as the foremost soldiers appeared on the porch
in front, buttoning their coats and adjusting their belts and slings.
Half their number began to form ranks; the other half "stood by,"
within the main room, to pass out the prisoners, many of whom wore a
clanking chain. All on a sudden there arose a wild clamor--shouts,
scuffling, the thunder of iron upon resounding woodwork, hoarse
orders, curses, shrieks, a yell for help, a shot, a mad scurry of many
feet, furious cries of "Head 'em off!" "Shoot!" "No, no, don't shoot!
You'll kill our own!" A dim cloud of ghostly, shadowy forms went
tearing away down the slope toward the south. There followed a
tremendous rush of troop after troop, company after company,--the
whole force of Camp Sandy in uproarious pursuit,--until in the dim
starlight the barren flats below the post, the willow patches along
the stream, the plashing waters of the ford, the still and glassy
surface of the shadowy pool, were speedily all alive with dark and
darting forms intermingled in odd confusion. From the eastward side,
from officers' row, Plume and his white-coated subordinates hastened
to the southward face, realizing instantly what must have
occurred--the long-prophesied rush of Apache prisoners for freedom.
Yet how hopeless, how mad, how utterly absurd was the effort! What
earthly chance had they--poor, manacled, shackled, ball-burdened
wretches--to escape from two hundred fleet-footed, unhampered,
stalwart young soldiery, rejoicing really in the fun and excitement of
the thing? One after another the shackled fugitives were run down and
overhauled, some not half across the parade, some in the shadows of
the office and storehouses, some down among the shrubbery toward the
lighted store, some among the shanties of Sudsville, some, lightest
weighted of all, far away as the lower pool, and so one after another,
the grimy, sullen, swarthy lot were slowly lugged back to the unsavory
precincts wherein, for long weeks and months, they had slept or
stealthily communed through the hours of the night. Three or four had
been cut or slashed. Three or four soldiers had serious hurts,
scratches or bruises as their fruits of the affray. But after all, the
malefactors, miscreants, and incorrigibles of the Apache tribe had
profited little by their wild and defiant essay--profited little, that
is, if personal freedom was what they sought.

But was it? said wise heads of the garrison, as they looked the
situation over. Shannon and some of his ilk were doing much
independent trailing by aid of their lanterns. Taps should have been
sounded at ten, but wasn't by any means, for "lights out" was the last
thing to be thought of. Little by little it dawned upon Plume and his
supporters that, instead of scattering, as Indian tactics demanded on
all previous exploits of the kind, there had been one grand, concerted
rush to the southward--planned, doubtless, for the purpose of drawing
the whole garrison thither in pursuit, while three pairs of moccasined
feet slipped swiftly around to the rear of the guard-house, out beyond
the dim corrals, and around to a point back of "C" Troop stables,
where other little hoofs had been impatiently tossing up the sands
until suddenly loosed and sent bounding away to where the North Star
hung low over the sheeny white mantle of San Francisco mountain.
Natzie, the girl queen, was gone from the guard-house: Punch, the Lady
Angela's pet pony, was gone from the corral, and who would say there
had not been collusion?

"One thing is certain," said the grave-faced post commander, as, with
his officers, he left the knot of troopers and troopers' wives
hovering late about the guard-house, "one thing is certain; with
Wren's own troopers hot on the heels of Angela's pony we'll have our
Apache princess back, sure as the morning sun."

"Like hell!" said Mother Shaughnessy.





Next: Woman-walk-no-more

Previous: The Meeting At Sandy



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