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Scot Versus Saxon








From: An Apache Princess

Three women were seated at the moment on the front veranda of the
major's quarters--Mrs. Plume, Miss Janet Wren, the captain's sister,
and little Mrs. Bridger. The first named had been intently watching
the officers as, after the dismissal of their companies at the
barracks, they severally joined the post commander, who had been
standing on the barren level of the parade, well out toward the
flagstaff, his adjutant beside him. To her the abrupt announcement
caused no surprise. She had seen that Mr. Blakely was not with his
troop. The jeweled hands slightly twitched, but her voice had the
requisite and conventional drawl as she turned to Miss Wren: "Chasing
some new butterfly, I suppose, and got lost. A--what time did--Angela
return?"

"Hours ago, I fancy. She was dressed when I returned from hospital.
Sergeant Leary seems worse to-day."

"That was nearly six," dreamily persisted Mrs. Plume. "I happened to
be at the side window." In the pursuit of knowledge Mrs. Plume adhered
to the main issue and ignored the invalid sergeant, whose slow
convalescence had stirred the sympathies of the captain's sister.


"Yes, it was nearly that when Angela dismounted," softly said Mrs.
Bridger. "I heard Punch galloping away to his stable."

"Why, Mrs. Bridger, are you sure?" And the spinster of forty-five
turned sharply on the matron of less than half her years. "She had on
her white muslin when she came to the head of the stairs to answer
me."

Mrs. Bridger could not be mistaken. It was Angela's habit when she
returned from her rides to dismount at the rear gateway; give Punch
his conge with a pat or two of the hand; watch him a moment as he
tore gleefully away, round to the stables to the westward of the big
quadrangle; then to go to her room and dress for the evening, coming
down an hour later, looking fresh and sweet and dainty as a dewy
Mermet. As a rule she rode without other escort than the hounds, for
her father would not go until the sun was very low and would not let
her go with Blakely or Duane, the only bachelor troop officers then at
Sandy. He had nothing against Duane, but, having set his seal against
the other, felt it necessary to include them both. As a rule,
therefore, she started about four, alone, and was home an hour later.
Five young maidens dwelt that year in officers' row, daughters of the
regiments,--for it was a mixed command and not a big one,--two
companies each of infantry and cavalry, after the manner of the early
70's. Angela knew all four girls, of course, and had formed an
intimacy with one--one who only cared to ride in the cool of the
bright evenings when the officers took the hounds jack-rabbit hunting
up the valley. Twice a week, when Luna served, they held these
moonlit meets, and galloping at that hour, though more dangerous to
necks, was less so to complexions. As a rule, too, Angela and Punch
contented themselves with a swift scurry round the reservation, with
frequent fordings of the stream for the joy it gave them both. They
were rarely out of sight of the sentries and never in any appreciable
danger. No Apache with hostile intent ventured near enough to Sandy to
risk reprisals. Miners, prospectors, and ranchmen were few in numbers,
but, far and wide they knew the captain's bonny daughter, and, like
the men of her father's troop, would have risked their lives to do her
a service. Their aversions as to Sandy were centered in the other sex.

Aunt Janet, therefore, had some reason for doubting the report of Mrs.
Bridger. It was so unlike Angela to be so very late returning,
although, now that Mrs. Bridger had mentioned it, she, too, remembered
hearing the rapid thud of Punch's galloping hoofs homeward bound, as
was she, at 5.45. Yet, barely five minutes thereafter, Angela, who
usually spent half an hour splashing in her tub, appeared full
panoplied, apparently, at the head of the stairs upon her aunt's
arrival, and was even now somewhere down the row, hobnobbing with Kate
Sanders. That Lieutenant Blakely should have missed retreat roll-call
was in itself no very serious matter. "Slept through at his quarters,
perhaps," said Plume. "He'll turn up in time for dinner." In fine the
major's indifference struck the captain as an evidence of official
weakness, reprehensible in a commander charged with the discipline of
a force on hostile soil. What Wren intended was that Plume should be
impressed by his formal word and manner, and direct the adjutant to
look up the derelict instanter. As no such action was taken, however,
he felt it due to himself to speak again. A just man was Wren, and
faithful to the core in his own discharge of duty. What he could not
abide was negligence on part of officer or man, on part of superior or
inferior, and he sought to "stiffen" Plume forthwith.

"If he isn't in his quarters, shall I send a party out in search,
sir?"

"Who? Blakely? Dear, no, Wren! What for?" returned the post commander,
obviously nettled. "I fancy he'll not thank you for even searching his
quarters. You may stumble over his big museum in the dark and smash
things. No, let him alone. If he isn't here for dinner, I'll 'tend to
it myself."

And so, rebuffed, as it happened, by an officer much his inferior in
point of experience and somewhat in years, Wren silently and stiffly
saluted and turned away. Virtually he had been given to understand
that his suggestion was impertinent. He reached his quarters,
therefore, in no pleasant mood, and found his sister waiting for him
with Duty in her clear and shining eyes.

A woman of many a noble trait was Janet Wren,--a woman who had done a
world of good to those in sickness, sorrow, or other adversity, a
woman of boundless faith in herself and her opinions, but not too much
hope or charity for others. The blood of the Scotch Covenanters was
in her veins, for her mother had been born and bred in the shadow of
the kirk and lived and died in the shadow of the cross. A woman with a
mission was Janet, and one who went at it unflinchingly. She had loved
her brother always, yet disapproved his marriage to so young and
unformed a woman as was his wife. Later, she had deprecated from the
start the soldier spirit, fierce in his Highland blood, that tore him
from the teachings of their gentle mother and her beloved meenister,
took him from his fair young wife when most she needed him and sent
him straightway into the ranks of the one Highland regiment in the
Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. His gallant colonel fell
at First Bull Run, and Sergeant Wren fought over his body to the
fervent admiration of the Southerners who captured both. The first War
Secretary, mourning a beloved brother and grateful to his defender,
commissioned the latter in the regulars at once and, on his return
from Libby, Wren joined the army as a first lieutenant. With genuine
Scottish thrift, his slender pay had been hoarded for him, and his now
motherless little one, by that devoted sister, and when, a captain at
the close of the war, he came to clasp his daughter to his heart, he
found himself possessed of a few hundreds more than fell to the lot of
most of his associates. It was then that Janet, motherless herself,
had stepped into the management of her brother's army home, and sought
to dominate in that as she had in everything else from early girlhood.
Wren loved her fondly, but he, too, had a will. They had many a
clash. It was this, indeed, that led to Angela's going so early to an
Eastern school. We are all paragons of wisdom in the management of
other people's children. It is in dealing with our own our limitations
are so obvious. Fond as she had become of Angela's sweet young mother,
it must be owned that whom Janet loved in this way she often
chastened. Neighbors swore it was not grief, nor illness, half so much
as sister-in-law, that wore the gentle spirit to the snapping-point.
The great strong heart of the soldier was well-nigh broken at his
loss, and Janet, who had never seen him shed a tear since early
boyhood, stood for once, at least, in awe and trembling at sight of
his awful grief. Time and nature played their part and brought him,
gradually, resignation, but never genuine solace. He turned to little
Angela with almost passionate love and tenderness. He would, mayhap,
have spoiled her had not frontier service kept him so much afield that
it was Janet who really reared her,--but not according to the strict
letter of her law. Wren knew well what that was and forbade.

Misfortunes came to Janet Wren while yet a comely woman of
thirty-five. She could have married, and married well, a comrade
captain in her brother's regiment; but him, at least, she held to be
her own, and, loving him with genuine fervor and devotion, she sought
to turn him in all things to her serious views of life, its manifold
duties and responsibilities. She had her ideal of what a man should
be--a monarch among other men, but one knowing no God but her God, no
creed but her creed, no master but Duty, no mistress but herself, and
no weakness whatsoever. A braver, simpler, kinder soul than her
captain there dwelt not in the service of his country, but he loved
his pipe, his song, his dogs, his horses, his troop, and certain
soldier ways that, during his convalescence from wounds, she had not
had opportunity to observe. She had nursed him back to life and love
and, unwittingly, to his former harmless habits. These all she would
have had him forswear, not for her sake so much, she said, but because
they were in themselves sinful and beneath him. She sought to train
him down too fine for the rugged metal of the veteran soldier, and the
fabric snapped in her hands. She had sent him forth sore-hearted over
her ceaseless importunity. She had told him he must not only give up
all his ways, but, if he would make her happy, he must put the words
of Ruth into his mouth, and that ended it. He transferred into another
corps when she broke with him; carried his sore heart to the Southern
plains, and fell in savage battle within another month.

Not long thereafter her little fortune, invested according to the
views of a spiritual rather than a temporal adviser,--and much against
her brother's wishes,--went the way of riches that have wings, and
now, dependent solely upon him, welcomed to his home and fireside, she
nevertheless strove to dominate as of yore. He had had to tell her
Angela could not and should not be subjected to such restraints as the
sister would have prescribed, but so long as he was the sole victim
he whimsically bore it without vehement protest. "Convert me all you
can, Janet, dear," he said, "but don't try to reform the whole
regiment. It's past praying for."

Now, when other women whispered to her that while Mrs. Plume had been
a belle in St. Louis and Mr. Blakely a young society beau, the
magnitude of their flirtation had well-nigh stopped her marriage, Miss
Wren saw opportunity for her good offices and, so far from avoiding,
she sought the society of the major's brooding wife. She even felt a
twinge of disappointment when the young officer appeared, and after
the initial thirty-six hours under the commander's roof, rarely went
thither at all. She knew her brother disapproved of him, and thought
it to be because of moral, not military, obliquity. She saw with
instant apprehension his quick interest in Angela and the child's
almost unconscious response. With the solemn conviction of the maiden
who, until past the meridian, had never loved, she looked on Angela as
far too young and immature to think of marrying, yet too shallow, vain
and frivolous, too corrupted, in fact, by that pernicious society
school--not to shrink from flirtations that might mean nothing to the
man but would be damnation to the girl. Even the name of this big,
blue-eyed, fair-skinned young votary of science had much about it that
made her fairly bristle, for she had once been described as an
"austere vestal" by Lieutenant Blake, of the regiment preceding them
at Sandy, the ----th Cavalry--and a mutual friend had told her all
about it--another handicap for Blakely. She had grown, it must be
admitted, somewhat gaunt and forbidding in these later years, a thing
that had stirred certain callow wits to differentiate between the
Misses Wren as Angela and Angular, which, hearing, some few women
reproved but all repeated. Miss Wren, the sister, was in fine a woman
widely honored but little sought. It was Angela that all Camp Sandy
would have met with open arms.

"R-r-robert," began Miss Wren, as the captain unclasped his saber belt
and turned it over to Mickel, his German "striker." She would have
proceeded further, but he held up a warning hand. He had come homeward
angering and ill at ease. Disliking Blakely from the first, a
"ballroom soldier," as he called him, and alienated from him later, he
had heard still further whisperings of the devotions of a chieftain's
daughter at the agency, above all, of the strange infatuation of the
major's wife, and these had warranted, in his opinion, warning words
to his senior subaltern in refusing that gentleman's request to ride
with Angela. "I object to any such attentions--to any meetings
whatsoever," said he, but sooner than give the real reason, added
lamely, "My daughter is too young." Now he thought he saw impending
duty in his sister's somber eyes and poise. He knew it when she began
by rolling her r's--it was so like their childhood's spiritual guide
and mentor, MacTaggart, erstwhile of the "Auld Licht" persuasion, and
a power.

"Wait a bit, Janet," said he. "Mickel, get my horse and tell Sergeant
Strang to send me a mounted orderly." Then, as Mickel dropped the
saber in the open doorway and departed, he turned upon her.

"Where's Angela?" said he, "and what was she doing out after recall?
The stable sergeant says 'twas six when Punch came home."

"R-r-robert, it is of that I wish to speak to you, and before she
comes to dinner. Hush! She's coming now."

Down the row of shaded wooden porticos, at the major's next door, at
Dr. Graham's, the Scotch surgeon and Wren's especial friend and crony,
at the Lynns' and Sanders's beyond, little groups of women and
children in cool evening garb, and officers in white, were gathered in
merry, laughing chat. Nowhere, save in the eyes of one woman at the
commanding officer's, and here at Wren's, seemed there anything
ominous in the absence of this officer so lately come to join them.
The voice of Angela, glad and ringing, fell upon the father's ears in
sudden joy. Who could associate shame or subterfuge with tones so
charged with merriment? The face of Angela, coming suddenly round the
corner from the side veranda, beamed instantly upon him, sweet,
trusting and welcoming, then slowly shadowed at sight of the set
expression about his mouth, and the rigid, uncompromising, determined
sorrow in the features of her aunt.

Before she could utter a word, the father questioned:

"Angela, my child, have you seen Mr. Blakely this afternoon?"

One moment her big eyes clouded, but unflinchingly they met his gaze.
Then, something in the stern scrutiny of her aunt's regard stirred all
that was mutinous within her; yet there was an irrepressible twitching
about the corners of the rosy mouth, a twinkle about the big brown
eyes that should have given them pause, even as she demurely answered:

"Yes."

"When?" demanded the soldier, his muscular hand clutching ominously at
the wooden rail; his jaw setting squarely. "When--and where?"

But now the merriment with which she had begun changed slowly at sight
of the repressed fury in his rugged Gaelic face. She, too, was
trembling as she answered:

"Just after recall--down at the pool."

For an instant he stood glaring, incredulous. "At the pool! You! My
bairnie!" Then, with sudden outburst of passionate wrath, "Go to your
room!" said he.

"But listen--father, dear," she began, imploringly. For answer he
seized her slender arm in almost brutal grasp and fairly hurled her
within the doorway. "Not a word!" he ground between his clinched
teeth. "Go instantly!" Then, slamming the door upon her, he whirled
about as though to seek his sister's face, and saw beyond her,
rounding the corner of the northwest set of quarters, coming in from
the mesa roadway at the back, the tall, white figure of the missing
man.

Another moment and Lieutenant Blakely, in the front room of his
quarters, looking pale and strange, was being pounced upon with eager
questioning by Duane, his junior, when the wooden steps and veranda
creaked under a quick, heavy, ominous tread, and, with livid face and
clinching hands, the troop commander came striding in.

"Mr. Blakely," said he, his voice deep with wrath and tremulous with
passion, "I told you three days ago my daughter and you must not meet,
and--you know why! To-day you lured her to a rendezvous outside the
post--"

"Captain Wren!"

"Don't lie! I say you lured her, for my lass would never have met
you--"

"You shall unsay it, sir," was Blakely's instant rejoinder. "Are you
mad--or what? I never set eyes on your daughter to-day--until a moment
ago."

And then the voice of young Duane was uplifted, shouting for help.
With a crash, distinctly heard out on the parade, Wren had struck his
junior down.





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