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Where Is Angela?








From: An Apache Princess

For a moment as they drew under shelter the stricken form of the
soldier, there was nothing the defense could do but dodge. Then,
leaving him at the edge of the pool, and kicking before them the one
cowed and cowering shirker of the little band, Blakely and the single
trooper still unhit, crept back to the rocky parapet, secured a
carbine each and knelt, staring up the opposite wall in search of the
foe. And not a sign of Apache could they see.

Yet the very slant of the arrow as it pierced the young soldier, the
new angle at which the bullets bounded from the stony crest, the
lower, flatter flight of the barbed missiles that struck fire from the
flinty rampart, all told the same story. The Indians during the hours
of darkness, even while dreading to charge, had managed to crawl,
snake-like, to lower levels along the cliff and to creep closer up the
stream bed, and with stealthy, noiseless hands to rear little shelters
of stone, behind which they were now crouching invisible and secure.
With the illimitable patience of their savage training they had then
waited, minute after minute, hour after hour, until, lulled at last
into partial belief that their deadly foe had slipped away, some of
the defenders should be emboldened to venture into view, and then one
well-aimed volley at the signal from the leader's rifle, and the
vengeful shafts of those who had as yet only the native weapon, would
fall like lightning stroke upon the rash ones, and that would end it.
Catlike they had crouched and watched since early dawn. Catlike they
had played the old game of apparent weariness of the sport, of
forgetfulness of their prey and tricked their guileless victims into
hope and self-exposure, then swooped again, and the gallant lad whose
last offer and effort had been to set forth in desperate hope of
bringing relief to the suffering, had paid for his valor with his
life. One arrow at least had gone swift and true, one shaft that,
launched, perhaps, two seconds too soon for entire success, had barely
anticipated the leader's signal and spoiled the scheme of bagging all
the game. Blakely's dive to save his fallen comrade had just saved his
own head, for rock chips and spattering lead flew on every side,
scratching, but not seriously wounding him.

And then, when they "thought on vengeance" and the three brown muzzles
swept the opposite wall, there followed a moment of utter silence,
broken only by the faint gasping of the dying man. "Creep back to
Carmody, you," muttered Blakely to the trembling lad beside him. "You
are of no account here unless they try to charge. Give him water,
quick." Then to Stern, his one unhurt man, "You heard what he said
about distant firing. Did you hear it?"

"Not I, sir, but I believe they did--an' be damned to them!" And
Stern's eyes never left the opposite cliff, though his ears were
strained to catch the faintest sound from the lower canon. It was
there they last had seen the troop. It was from that direction help
should come. "Watch them, but don't waste a shot, man. I must speak to
Carmody," said Blakely, under his breath, as he backed on hands and
knees, a painful process when one is sore wounded. Trembling,
whimpering like whipped child, the poor, spiritless lad sent to the
aid of the stricken and heroic, crouched by the sergeant's side,
vainly striving to pour water from a clumsy canteen between the
sufferer's pallid lips. Carmody presently sucked eagerly at the
cooling water, and even in his hour of dissolution seemed far the
stronger, sturdier of the two--seemed to feel so infinite a pity for
his shaken comrade. Bleeding internally, as was evident, transfixed by
the cruel shaft they did not dare attempt to withdraw, even if the
barbed steel would permit, and drooping fainter with each swift
moment, he was still conscious, still brave and uncomplaining. His
dimmed and mournful eyes looked up in mute appeal to his young
commander. He knew that he was going fast, and that whatever rescue
might come to these, his surviving fellow-soldiers, there would be
none for him; and yet in his supreme moment he seemed to read the
question on Blakely's lips, and his words, feeble and broken, were
framed to answer.

"Couldn't--you hear 'em, lieutenant?" he gasped. "I can't
be--mistaken. I know--the old--Springfield sure! I heard 'em way
off--south--a dozen shots," and then a spasm of agony choked him, and
he turned, writhing, to hide the anguish on his face. Blakely grasped
the dying soldier's hand, already cold and limp and nerveless, and
then his own voice seemed, too, to break and falter.

"Don't try to talk, Carmody; don't try! Of course you are right. It
must be some of our people. They'll reach us soon. Then we'll have the
doctor and can help you. Those saddle-bags!" he said, turning sharply
to the whimpering creature kneeling by them, and the lad drew hand
across his streaming eyes and passed the worn leather pouches. From
one of them Blakely drew forth a flask, poured some brandy into its
cup and held it to the soldier's lips. Carmody swallowed almost
eagerly. He seemed to crave a little longer lease of life. There was
something tugging at his heartstrings, and presently he turned slowly,
painfully again. "Lieutenant," he gasped, "I'm not scared to die--this
way anyhow. There's no one to care--but the boys--but there's one
thing"--and now the stimulant seemed to reach the failing heart and
give him faint, fluttering strength--"there's one thing I ought--I
ought to tell. You've been solid with the boys--you're square, and I'm
not--I haven't always been. Lieutenant--I was on guard--the night of
the fire--and Elise, you know--the French girl--she--she's got most
all I saved--most all I--won, but she was trickin' me--all the time,
lieutenant--me and Downs that's gone--and others. She didn't care.
You--you aint the only one I--I--"

"Lieutenant!" came in excited whisper, the voice of Stern, and there
at his post in front of the cave he knelt, signaling urgently.
"Lieutenant, quick!"

"One minute, Carmody! I've got to go. Tell me a little later." But
with dying strength Carmody clung to his hand.

"I must tell you, lieutenant--now. It wasn't Downs's fault. She--she
made--"

"Lieutenant, quick! for God's sake! They're coming!" cried the voice
of the German soldier at the wall, and wrenching his wrist from the
clasp of the dying man, Blakely sprang recklessly to his feet and to
the mouth of the cave just as Stern's carbine broke the stillness with
resounding roar. Half a dozen rifles barked their instant echo among
the rocks. From up the hillside rose a yell of savage hate and another
of warning. Then from behind their curtaining rocks half a dozen dusky
forms, their dirty white breechclouts streaming behind them, sprang
suddenly into view and darted, with goatlike ease and agility,
zigzagging up the eastward wall. It was a foolish thing to do, but
Blakely followed with a wasted shot, aimed one handed from the
shoulder, before he could regain command of his judgment. In thirty
seconds the cliff was as bare of Apaches as but the moment before it
had been dotted. Something, in the moment when their savage plans and
triumph seemed secure, had happened to alarm the entire party. With
warning shouts and signals they were scurrying out of the deep ravine,
scattering, apparently, northward. But even as they fled to higher
ground there was order and method in their retreat. While several of
their number clambered up the steep, an equal number lurked in their
covert, and Blakely's single shot was answered instantly by half a
dozen, the bullets striking and splashing on the rocks, the arrows
bounding or glancing furiously. Stern ducked within, out of the storm.
Blakely, flattening like hunted squirrel close to the parapet, flung
down his empty carbine and strove to reach another, lying loaded at
the southward loophole, and at the outstretched hand there whizzed an
arrow from aloft whose guiding feather fairly seared the skin, so
close came the barbed messenger. Then up the height rang out a shrill
cry, some word of command in a voice that had a familiar tang to it,
and that was almost instantly obeyed, for, under cover of sharp,
well-aimed fire from aloft, from the shelter of projecting rock or
stranded bowlder, again there leaped into sight a few scattered,
sinewy forms that rushed in bewildering zigzag up the steep, until
safe beyond their supports, when they, too, vanished, and again the
cliff stood barren of Apache foemen as the level of the garrison
parade. It was science in savage warfare against which the drill book
of the cavalry taught no method whatsoever. Another minute and even
the shots had ceased. One glimpse more had Blakely of dingy, trailing
breechclouts, fluttering in the breeze now stirring the fringing pines
and cedars, and all that was left of the late besiegers came
clattering down the rocks in the shape of an Indian shield. Stern
would have scrambled out to nab it, but was ordered down. "Back, you
idiot, or they'll have you next!" And then they heard the feeble
voice of Wren, pleading for water and demanding to be lifted to the
light. The uproar of the final volley had roused him from an almost
deathlike stupor, and he lay staring, uncomprehending, at Carmody,
whose glazing eyes were closed, whose broken words had ceased. The
poor fellow was drifting away into the shadows with his story still
untold.

"Watch here, Stern, but keep under cover," cried Blakely. "I'll see to
the captain. Listen for any shot or sound, but hold your fire," and
then he turned to his barely conscious senior and spoke to him as he
would to a helpless child. Again he poured a little brandy in his cup.
Again he held it to ashen lips and presently saw the faint flutter of
reviving strength. "Lie still just a moment or two, Wren," he murmured
soothingly. "Lie still. Somebody's coming. The troop is not far off.
You'll soon have help and home and--Angela"--even then his tongue
faltered at her name. And Wren heard and with eager eyes questioned
imploringly. The quivering lips repeated huskily the name of the child
he loved. "Angela--where?"

"Home--safe--where you shall be soon, old fellow, only--brace up now.
I must speak one moment with Carmody," and to Carmody eagerly he
turned. "You were speaking of Elise and the fire--of Downs, sergeant
----" His words were slow and clear and distinct, for the soldier had
drifted far away and must be recalled. "Tell me again. What was it?"

But only faint, swift gasping answered him. Carmody either heard not,
or, hearing, was already past all possibility of reply. "Speak to me,
Carmody. Tell me what I can do for you?" he repeated. "What word to
Elise?" He thought the name might rouse him, and it did. A feeble hand
was uplifted, just an inch or two. The eyelids slowly fluttered, and
the dim, almost lifeless eyes looked pathetically up into those of the
young commander. There was a moment of almost breathless silence,
broken only by a faint moan from Wren's tortured lips and the childish
whimpering of that other--the half-crazed, terror-stricken soldier.

"Elise," came the whisper, barely audible, as Carmody strove to lift his
head, "she--promised"--but the head sank back on Blakely's knee. Stern
was shouting at the stone gate--shouting and springing to his feet and
swinging his old scouting hat and gazing wildly down the canon. "For
God's sake hush, man!" cried the lieutenant. "I must hear Carmody." But
Stern was past further shouting now. Sinking on his knees, he was
sobbing aloud. Scrambling out into the daylight of the opening, but
still shrinking within its shelter, the half-crazed, half-broken soldier
stood stretching forth his arms and calling wild words down the echoing
gorge, where sounds of shouting, lusty-lunged, and a ringing order or
two, and then the clamor of carbine shots, told of the coming of rescue
and new life and hope, and food and friends, and still Blakely knelt and
circled that dying head with the one arm left him, and pleaded and
besought--even commanded. But never again would word or order stir the
soldier's willing pulse. The sergeant and his story had drifted
together beyond the veil, and Blakely, slowly rising, found the lighted
entrance swimming dizzily about him, first level and then up-ended;
found himself sinking, whither he neither knew nor cared; found the
canon filling with many voices, the sound of hurrying feet and then of
many rushing waters, and then--how was it that all was dark without the
cave, and lighted--lantern-lighted--here within? They had had no
lantern, no candle. Here were both, and here was a familiar face--old
Heartburn's--bending reassuringly over Wren, and someone was ----. Why,
where was Carmody? Gone! And but a moment ago that dying head was there
on his knee, and then it was daylight, too, and now--why, it must be
after nightfall, else why these lanterns? And then old Heartburn came
bending over him in turn, and then came a rejoiceful word:

"Hello, Bugs! Well, it is high time you woke up! Here, take a swig
of this!"

Blakely drank and sat up presently, dazed, and Heartburn went on with
his cheery talk. "One of you men out there call Captain Stout. Tell
him Mr. Blakely's up and asking for him," and, feeling presently a
glow of warmth coursing in his veins, the Bugologist roused to a
sitting posture and began to mumble questions. And then a burly shadow
appeared at the entrance, black against the ruddy firelight in the
canon without, where other forms began to appear. Down on his knee
came Stout to clasp his one available hand and even clap him on the
back and send unwelcome jar through his fevered, swollen arm. "Good
boy, Bugs! You're coming round famously. We'll start you back to Sandy
in the morning, you and Wren, for nursing, petting, and all that sort
of thing. They are lashing the saplings now for your litters, and
we've sent for Graham, too, and he'll meet you on the the way, while
we shove on after Shield's people."

"Shield--Raven Shield?" queried Blakely, still half dazed. "Shield was
killed--at Sandy," and yet there was the memory of the voice he knew
and heard in this very canon.

"Shield, yes; and now his brother heads them. Didn't he send his card
down to you, after the donicks, and be damned to him? You foregathered
with both of them at the agency. Oh, they're all alike, Bugs, once
they're started on the warpath. Now we must get you out into the open
for a while. The air's better."

And so, an hour later, his arm carefully dressed and bandaged,
comforted by needed food and fragrant tea and the news that Wren was
reviving under the doctor's ministrations, and would surely mend and
recover, Blakely lay propped by the fire and heard the story of
Stout's rush through the wilderness to their succor. Never waiting for
the dawn, after a few hours' rest at Beaver Spring, the sturdy
doughboys had eagerly followed their skilled and trusted leader all
the hours from eleven, stumbling, but never halting even for rest or
rations, and at last had found the trail four miles below in the
depths of the canon. There some scattering shots had met them, arrow
and rifle both, from up the heights, and an effort was made to delay
their progress. Wearied and footsore though were his men, they had
driven the scurrying foe from rock to rock and then, in a lull that
followed, had heard the distant sound of firing that told them whither
to follow on. Only one man, Stern, was able to give them coherent word
or welcome when at last they came, for Chalmers and Carmody lay dead,
Wren in a stupor, Blakely in a deathlike swoon, and "that poor chap
yonder" loony and hysterical as a crazy man. Thank God they had not,
as they had first intended, waited for the break of day.

Another dawn and Stout and most of his men had pushed on after the
Apaches and in quest of the troop at Sunset Pass. By short stages the
soldiers left in charge were to move the wounded homeward. By noon
these latter were halted under the willows by a little stream. The
guards were busy filling canteens and watering pack mules, when the
single sentry threw his rifle to the position of "ready" and the gun
lock clicked loud. Over the stony ridge to the west, full a thousand
yards away, came a little band of riders in single file, four men in
all. Wren was sleeping the sleep of exhaustion. Blakely, feverish and
excited, was wide awake. Mercifully the former never heard the first
question asked by the leading rider--Arnold, the ranchman--as he came
jogging into the noonday bivouac. Stone, sergeant commanding, had run
forward to meet and acquaint him with the condition of the rescued
men. "Got there in time then, thank God!" he cried, as wearily he
flung himself out of saddle and glanced quickly about him. There lay
Wren, senseless and still between the lashed ribs of his litter. There
lay Blakely, smiling feebly and striving to hold forth a wasted hand,
but Arnold saw it not. Swiftly his eyes flitted from face to face,
from man to man, then searched the little knot of mules, sidelined and
nibbling at the stunted herbage in the glen. "I don't see Punch," he
faltered. "Wh-where's Miss Angela?"





Next: Our Vanished Princess

Previous: Besieged



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