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The Meeting At Sandy

From: An Apache Princess

December, and the noonday sun at Sandy still beat hotly on the barren
level of the parade. The fierce and sudden campaign seemed ended, for
the time, at least, as only in scattered remnants could the renegade
Indians be found. Eastward from the Agua Fria to the Chiquito, and
northward from the Salado to the very cliffs of the grand canon, the
hard-worked troopers had scoured the wild and mountainous country,
striking hard whenever they found a hostile band, striving ever,
through interpreters and runners, to bring the nervous and suspicious
tribes to listen to reason and to return to their reservations. This
for long days, however, seemed impossible. The tragic death of Raven
Shield, most popular of the young chiefs, struck down, as they
claimed, when he was striving only to defend Natzie, daughter of a
revered leader, had stirred the savages to furious reprisals, and
nothing but the instant action of the troops in covering the valley
had saved the scattered settlers from universal massacre. Enough had
been done by one band alone to thrill the West with horror, but these
had fled southward into Mexico and were safe beyond the border. The
settlers were slowly creeping back now to their abandoned homes, and
one after another the little field detachments were marching to their
accustomed stations. Sandy was filling up again with something besides
the broken down and wounded.

First to come in was Stout's triumphant half hundred, the happiest
family of horse and foot, commingled, ever seen upon the Pacific
slope, for their proud lot it had been to reach and rescue Angela,
beloved daughter of the regiment, and Blakely, who had well-nigh
sacrificed himself in the effort to find and save her. Stout and his
thirty "doughboys," Brewster, the sergeant, with his twenty troopers,
had been welcomed by the entire community as the heroes of the brief
campaign, but Stout would none of their adulation.

"There is the one you should thank and bless," said he, his eyes
turning to where stood Natzie, sad and silent, watching the attendants
who were lifting Neil Blakely from the litter to the porch of the
commanding officer.

They had brought her in with them, Lola and Alchisay as well--the last
two scowling and sullen, but ruled by the chieftain's daughter. They
had loaded her with praise and thanks, but she paid no heed. Two hours
after Stout and his troopers had reached the cliff and driven away the
murderous band of renegades--Tontos and Apache Yumas--bent on stealing
her captives, there had come a little party of her own kindred in
answer to her signals, but these would have been much too late.
Blakely would have been butchered. Angela and her benefactors, too,
would probably have been the victims of their captors. Natzie could
look for no mercy from them now. Through Wales Arnold, the captain and
his men had little by little learned the story of Natzie's devotion.
In the eyes of her father, her brother, her people, Blakely was
greater even than the famous big chief, Crook, the Gray Fox, who had
left them, ordered to other duties but the year gone by. Blakely had
quickly righted the wrongs done them by a thieving agent. Blakely had
given fair trial to and saved the life of Mariano, that fiery brother,
who, ironed by the former agent's orders, had with his shackled hands
struck down his persecutor and then escaped. Blakely had won their
undying gratitude, and Stout and Arnold saw now why it was that one
young brave, at least, could not share the love his people bore for
Gran Capitan Blanco--that one was Quonothay--the Chief Raven Shield.
They saw now why poor Natzie had no heart to give her Indian lover.
They saw now why it was that Natzie wandered from the agency and
hovered for some days before the outbreak there around the post. It
was to be near the young white chief whom she well-nigh worshiped,
whom she had been accustomed to see every day of her life during his
duties at the agency. They saw now why it was the savage girl had
dared the vengeance of the Apaches by the rescue of Angela. She
believed her to be Blakely's sister, yet they could not give the
reason why. They knew very little of Neil Blakely, but what they did
know made them doubt that he could ever have been the one at fault.
Over this problem both ranchman and soldier, Arnold and Stout, looked
grave indeed. It was not like Blakely that he should make a victim of
this young Indian girl. She was barely sixteen, said Arnold, who knew
her people well. She had never been alone with Blakely, said her
kinsfolk, who came that night in answer to her signals. She had saved
Angela, believing her to be Blakely's own blood, had led her to her
own mountain refuge, and then, confident that Blakely would make
search for it and for his sister, had gone forth and found him,
already half-dazed with fever and exhaustion, and had striven to lead
his staggering horse up that precipitous trail. It was the poor
brute's last climb. Blakely she managed to bring in safety to her
lofty eerie. The horse had fallen, worn out in the effort, and died on
the rocks below. She had roused Angela with what she thought would be
joyful tidings, even though she saw that her hero was desperately ill.
She thought, of course, the white girl knew the few words of Spanish
that she could speak. All this was made evident to Arnold and Stout,
partly through Natzie's young brother, who had helped to find and
support the white chief, partly through the girl herself. It was
evident to Arnold, too, that up to the time of their coming nothing
had happened to undeceive Natzie as to that relationship. They tried
to induce her to return to the agency, although her father and brother
were still somewhere with the hostile bands, but she would not, she
would go with them to Sandy, and they could not deny her. More than
once on that rough march of three days they found themselves asking
what would the waking be. Angela, daughter of civilization, under safe
escort, had been sent on ahead, close following the courier who
scurried homeward with the news. Natzie, daughter of the wilderness,
could not be driven from the sight of Blakely's litter. The dumb,
patient, pathetic appeal of her great soft eyes, as she watched every
look in the doctor's face, was something wonderful to see. But now, at
last, the fevered sufferer was home, still only semi-conscious, being
borne within the walls of the major's quarters, and she who had saved
him, slaved for him, dared for him, could only mutely gaze after his
prostrate and wasted form as it disappeared within the darkened
hallway in the arms of his men. Then came a light step bounding along
the veranda--then came Angela, no longer clad in the riding garb in
which hitherto Natzie had seen her, but in cool and shimmering white,
with gladness and gratitude in her beautiful eyes, with welcome and
protection in her extended hand, and the Indian girl looked strangely
from her to the dark hallway within which her white hero had
disappeared, and shrank back from the proffered touch. If this was the
soldier's sister should not she now be at the soldier's side? Had she
other lodge than that which gave him shelter, now that his own was
burned? Angela saw for the first time aversion, question, suspicion in
the great black eyes from which the softness and the pleading had
suddenly fled. Then, rebuffed, disturbed, and troubled, she turned to
Arnold, who would gladly have slipped away.

"Can't you make her understand, Mr. Arnold?" she pleaded. "I don't
know a word of her language, and I so want to be her friend--so want
to take her to my home!"

And then the frontiersman did a thing for which, when she heard of it
one sunset later, his better half said words of him and to him that
overstepped all bounds of parliamentary usage, and that only a wife
would dare to employ. With the blundering stupidity of his sex, poor
Arnold "settled things" for many a day and well-nigh ruined the
sweetest romance that Sandy had ever seen the birth of.

"Ah, Miss Angela! only one place will ever be home to Natzie now. Her
eyes will tell you that."

And already, regardless of anything these women of the white chiefs
might think or say, unafraid save of seeing him no more, unashamed
save of being where she could not heed his every look or call or
gesture, the daughter of the mountain and the desert stood gazing
again after the vanished form her eyes long months had worshiped, and
the daughter of the schools and civilization stood flushing one-half
moment, then slowly paling, as, without another glance or effort, she
turned silently away. Kate Sanders it was who sprang quickly after her
and encircled the slender waist with her fond and clasping arm.

That night the powers of all Camp Sandy were exhausted in effort to
suitably provide for Natzie and her two companions. Mrs. Sanders, Mrs.
Bridger, even Mother Shaughnessy and Norah pleaded successively with
this princess of the wilderness, and pleaded in vain. Food and
shelter elsewhere they proffered in abundance. Natzie sat stubbornly
at the major's steps, and sadly at first, and angrily later, shook her
head to every proposition. Then they brought food, and Lola and
Alchisay ate greedily. Natzie would hardly taste a morsel. Every time
Plume or Graham or a soldier nurse came forth her mournful eyes would
study his face as though imploring news of the sufferer, who lay
unconscious of her vigil, if not of her existence. Graham's treatment
was beginning to tell, and Blakely was sleeping the sleep of the just.
They had not let him know of the poor girl's presence at the door.
They would not let her in for fear he might awake and see her, and ask
the reason of her coming. They would not send or take her away, for
all Sandy was alive with the strange story of her devotion. The
question on almost every lip was "How is this to end?"

At tattoo there came a Mexican woman from one of the down-stream
ranches, sent in by the post trader, who said she could speak the
Apache-Mohave language sufficiently well to make Natzie understand the
situation, and this frontier linguist strove earnestly. Natzie
understood every word she said, was her report, but could not be made
to understand that she ought to go. In the continued absence of Mrs.
Plume, both the major and the post surgeon had requested of Mrs.
Graham that she should come over for a while and "see what she could
do," and, leaving her own sturdy bairnies, the good, motherly soul had
come and presided over this diplomatic interview, proposing various
plans for Natzie's disposition for the night. And other ladies
hovering about had been sympathetically suggestive, but the Indian
girl had turned deaf ear to everything that would even temporarily
take her from her self-appointed station. At ten o'clock Mother
Shaughnessy, after hanging uneasily about the porch a moment or two,
gave muttered voice to a suggestion that other women had shrunk from

"Has she been tould Miss Angela and--him--is no kin at all, at all?"

"I don't want her told," said Mrs. Graham briefly.

And so Natzie was still there, sitting sleepless in the soft and
radiant moonlight, when toward twelve o'clock Graham came forth from
his last visit for the night, and she lifted up her head and looked
him dumbly in the face,--dumbly, yet imploring a word of hope or
comfort,--and it was more than the soft-hearted Scot could bear.
"Major," said he, as he gently laid a big hand upon the black and
tangled wealth of hair, "that lad in yonder would have been beyond the
ken of civilization days ago if it hadn't been for this little savage.
I'm thinking he'll sleep none the worse for her watching over him.
Todd's there for the night, the same that attended him before, and she
won't be strange with him--or I'm mistaken."

"Why?" asked Plume, mystified.

"I'm not saying, until Blakely talks for himself. For one reason I
don't know. For another, he's the man to tell, if anybody," and a
toss of the head toward the dark doorway told who was meant by "he."

"D'you mean you'd have this girl squatting there by Blakely's bedside
the rest of the night?" asked the commander, ruffled in spirit.
"What's to prevent her singing their confounded death song, or
invoking heathen spirits, or knifing us all, for that matter?"

"What was to prevent her from knifing the Bugologist and Angela both,
when she had 'em?" was the sturdy reply. "The girl's a theoretical
heathen, but a practical Christian. Come with us, Natzie," he
finished, one hand extended to aid her to rise, the other pointing to
the open doorway. She was on her feet in an instant, and, silently
signing her companions to stay, followed the doctor into the house.

And so it happened that when Blakely wakened, hours later, the sight
that met him, dimly comprehending, was that of a blue-coated soldier
snoozing in a reclining chair, a blue-blanketed Indian girl seated on
the floor near the foot of his bed, looking with all her soul in her
gaze straight into his wondering eyes. At his low whisper, "Natzie,"
she sprang to her feet without word or sound; seized the thin white
hand tremulously extended toward her, and, pillowing her cheek upon
it, knelt humbly by the bedside, her black hair streaming to the
floor. A pathetic picture it made in the dim light of the newborn day,
forcing itself through the shrouded windows, and Major Plume, restless
and astir the hour before reveille, stood unnoted a moment at the
doorway, then strode back through the hall and summoned from the
adjoining veranda another sleepless watcher, gratefully breathing the
fragrance of the cool, morning air; and presently two dim forms had
softly tiptoed to that open portal, and now stood gazing within until
their eyes should triumph over the uncertain light--the post commander
in his trim-fitting undress uniform, the tall and angular shape of
Wren's elderly sister--the "austere vestal" herself. It may have been
a mere twitch of the slim fingers under her tawny cheek that caused
Natzie to lift her eyes in search of those of her hero and her
protector. Instantly her own gaze, startled, was turned straight to
the door. Then in another second she had sprung to her feet, and with
fury in her face and attitude confronted the intruders. As she did so
the sudden movement detached some object that hung within the breast
of her loose-fitting sack--something bright and gleaming that
clattered to the floor, falling close to the feet of the drowsing
attendant, while another--a thin, circular case of soft leather,
half-rolled, half-bounded toward the unwelcome visitors at the door.

Todd, roused to instant action at sight of the post commander, bent
quickly and nabbed the first. The girl herself darted after the
second, whereat the attendant, misjudging her motive, dreading danger
to his betters or rebuke to himself, sprang upon her as she stooped,
and dropping his first prize, dared to seize the Apache girl with both
hands at the throat. There was a warning cry from the bed, a flash of
steel through one slanting ray of sunshine, a shriek from the lips of
Janet Wren, and with a stifled moan the luckless soldier sank in his
tracks, while Natzie, the chieftain's daughter, a dripping blade in
her uplifted hand, a veritable picture of fury, stood in savage
triumph over him, her flashing eyes fixed upon the amazed commander,
as though daring him, too, to lay hostile hands upon her.

Next: Rescue Requited

Previous: An Apache Queen

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