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From: An Apache Princess

The dawn of another cloudless day was breaking and the dim lights at
the guard-house and the hospital burned red and bleary across the
sandy level of the parade. The company cooks were already at their
ranges, and a musician of the guard had been sent to rouse his fellows
in the barracks, for the old-style reveille still held good at many a
post in Arizona, before the drum and fife were almost entirely
abandoned in favor of the harsher bugle, by the infantry of our
scattered little army. Plume loved tradition. At West Point, where he
had often visited in younger days, and at all the "old-time"
garrisons, the bang of the morning gun and the simultaneous crash of
the drums were the military means devised to stir the soldier from his
sleep. Then, his brief ablutions were conducted to the accompaniment
of the martial strains of the field musicians, alternating the sweet
airs of Moore and Burns, the lyrics of Ireland and Auld Reekie, with
quicksteps from popular Yankee melodies of the day, winding up with a
grand flourish at the foot of the flagstaff, to whose summit the flag
had started at the first alarum; then a rush into rattling "double
quick" that summoned the laggards to scurry into the silently forming
ranks, and finally, with one emphatic rataplan, the morning concert
abruptly closed and the gruff voices of the first sergeants, in
swift-running monotone, were heard calling the roll of their shadowy
companies, and, thoroughly roused, the garrison "broke ranks" for the
long routine of the day.

We have changed all that, and not for the better. A solitary trumpeter
steps forth from the guard-house or adjutant's office and, at the
appointed time, drones a long, dispiriting strain known to the drill
books as "Assembly of the Trumpeters," and to the army at large as
"First Call." Unassisted by other effort, it would rouse nobody, but
from far and near the myriad dogs of the post--"mongrel, hound, and
cur of low degree"--lift up their canine voices in some indefinable
sympathy and stir the winds of the morning with their mournful yowls.
Then, when all the garrison gets up cursing and all necessity for
rousing is ended, the official reveille begins, sounded by the
combined trumpeters, and so, uncheered by concord of sweet sounds, the
soldier begins his day.

The two infantry companies at Sandy, at the time whereof we tell, were of
an honored old regiment that had fought with Worth at Monterey--one whose
scamps of drum boys and fifers had got their teachings from predecessors
whose nimble fingers had trilled the tunes of old under the walls of the
Bishop's Palace and in the resounding Halls of the Montezumas. Plume and
Cutler loved their joyous, rhythmical strains, and would gladly have kept
the cavalry clarions for purely cavalry calls; but reveille and
guard-mounting were the only ones where this was practicable, and an odd
thing had become noticeable. Apache Indians sometimes stopped their ears,
and always looked impolite, when the brazen trumpets sounded close at hand;
whereas they would squat on the sun-kissed sands and listen in stolid,
unmurmuring bliss to every note of the fife and drum. Members of the guard
were always sure of sympathetic spectators during the one regular
ceremony--guard-mounting--held just after sunset, for the Apache prisoners
at the guard-house begged to be allowed to remain without the prison room
until a little after the "retreat" visit of the officer of the day, and,
roosting along the guard-house porch, to gaze silently forth at the little
band of soldiery in the center of the parade, and there to listen as
silently to the music of the fife and drum. The moment it was all over they
would rise without waiting for directions, and shuffle stolidly back to
their hot wooden walls. They had had the one intellectual treat of the day.
The savage breast was soothed for the time being, and Plume had come to the
conclusion that, aside from the fact that his Indian prisoners were better
fed than when on their native heath, the Indian prison pen at Sandy was not
the place of penance the department commander had intended. Accessions
became so frequent; discharges so very few.

Then there was another symptom: Sentries on the north and east front,
Nos. 4 and 5, had been a bit startled at first at seeing, soon after
dawn, shadowy forms rising slowly from the black depths of the valley,
hovering uncertainly along the edge of the mesa until they could
make out the lone figure of the morning watcher, then slowly,
cautiously, and with gestures of amity and suppliance, drawing
gradually nearer. Sturdy Germans and mercurial Celts were, at the
start, disposed to "shoo" away these specters as being hostile, or at
least incongruous. But officers and men were soon made to see it was
to hear the morning music these children of the desert flocked so
early. The agency lay but twenty miles distant. The reservation lines
came no nearer; but the fame of the invader's big maple tom-tom (we
wore still the deep, resonant drum of Bunker Hill and Waterloo, of
Jemappes, Saratoga, and Chapultepec, not the modern rattle pan
borrowed from Prussia), and the trill of his magical pipe had spread
abroad throughout Apache land to the end that no higher reward for
good behavior could be given by the agent to his swarthy charges than
the begged-for papel permitting them, in lumps of twenty, to trudge
through the evening shades to the outskirts of the soldier castle on
the mesa, there to wait the long night through until the soft
tinting of the eastward heavens and the twitter of the birdlings in
the willows along the stream, gave them courage to begin their timid
approach.

And this breathless October morning was no exception. The sentry on
the northward line, No. 4, had recognized and passed the post surgeon
soon after four o'clock, hastening to hospital in response to a
summons from an anxious nurse. Mullins seemed far too feverish. No. 4
as well as No. 5 had noted how long the previous evening Shannon and
his men kept raking and searching about the mesa where Mullins was
stabbed in the early morning, and they were in no mood to allow
strangers to near them unchallenged. The first shadowy forms to show
at the edge had dropped back abashed at the harsh reception accorded
them. Four's infantry rifle and Five's cavalry carbine had been
leveled at the very first to appear, and stern voices had said things
the Apache could neither translate nor misunderstand. The would-be
audience of the morning concert ducked and waited. With more light the
sentry might be more kind. The evening previous six new prisoners had
been sent down under strong guard by the agent, swelling the list at
Sandy to thirty-seven and causing Plume to set his teeth--and an extra
sentry. Now, as the dawn grew broader and the light clear and strong,
Four and Five were surprised, if not startled, to see that not twenty,
but probably forty Apaches, with a sprinkling of squaws, were hovering
all along the mesa, mutely watching for the signaled permission to
come in. Five, at least, considered the symptom one of sufficient
gravity to warrant report to higher authority, and full ten minutes
before the time for reveille to begin, his voice went echoing over the
arid parade in a long-draw, yet imperative "Corporal of the Gua-a-rd,
No. 5!"

Whereat there were symptoms of panic among the dingy white-shirted,
dingy white-turbaned watchers along the edge, and a man in snowy white
fatigue coat, pacing restlessly up and down in rear, this time, of the
major's quarters, whirled suddenly about and strode out on the
mesa, gazing northward in the direction of the sound. It was Plume
himself, and Plume had had a sleepless night.

At tattoo, by his own act and direction, the major had still further
strained the situation. The discovery of Blakely's watch, buried
loosely in the sands barely ten feet from where the sentry fell, had
seemed to him a matter of such significance that, as Graham maintained
an expression of professional gravity and hazarded no explanation, the
major sent for the three captains still on duty, Cutler, Sanders, and
Westervelt, and sought their views. One after another each picked up
and closely examined the watch, within and without, as though
expectant of finding somewhere concealed about its mechanism full
explanation of its mysterious goings and comings. Then in turn, with
like gravity, each declared he had no theory to offer, unless, said
Sanders, Mr. Blakely was utterly mistaken in supposing he had been
robbed at the pool. Mr. Blakely had the watch somewhere about him when
he dismounted, and then joggled it into the sands, where it soon was
trampled under foot. Sanders admitted that Blakely was a man not often
mistaken, and that the loss reported to the post trader of the flat
notebook was probably correct. But no one could be got to see, much
less to say, that Wren was in the slightest degree connected with the
temporary disappearance of the watch. Yet by this time Plume had some
such theory of his own.

Sometime during the previous night, along toward morning, he had
sleepily asked his wife, who was softly moving about the room, to
give him a little water. The "monkey" stood usually on the window
sill, its cool and dewy surface close to his hand; but he remembered
later that she did not then approach the window--did not immediately
bring him the glass. He had retired very late, yet was hardly
surprised to find her wide awake and more than usually nervous. She
explained by saying Elise had been quite ill, was still suffering, and
might need her services again. She could not think, she said, of
sending for Dr. Graham after all he had had to vex him. It must have
been quite a long while after, so soundly had Plume slept, when she
bent over him and said something was amiss and Mr. Doty was at the
front door waiting for him to come down. He felt oddly numb and heavy
and stupid as he hastily dressed, but Doty's tidings, that Mullins had
been stabbed on post, pulled him together, as it were, and, merely
running back to his room for his canvas shoes, he was speedily at the
scene. Mrs. Plume, when briefly told what had happened, had covered
her face with her hands and buried face and all in the pillow,
shuddering. At breakfast-time Plume himself had taken her tea and
toast, both mistress and maid being still on the invalid list, and,
bending affectionately over her, he had suggested her taking this very
light refreshment and then a nap. Graham, he said, should come and
prescribe for Elise. But madame was feverishly anxious. "What will be
the outcome? What will happen to--Captain Wren?" she asked.

Plume would not say just what, but he would certainly have to stand
court-martial, said he. Mrs. Plume shuddered more. What good would
that do? How much better it would be to suppress everything than set
such awful scandal afloat. The matter was now in the hands of the
department commander, said Plume, and would have to take its course.
Then, in some way, from her saying how ill the captain was looking,
Plume gathered the impression that she had seen him since his arrest,
and asked the question point-blank. Yes, she admitted,--from the
window,--while she was helping Elise. Where was he? What was he doing?
Plume had asked, all interest now, for that must have been very late,
in fact, well toward morning. "Oh, nothing especial, just looking at
his watch," she thought, "he probably couldn't sleep." Yes, she was
sure he was looking at his watch.

Then, as luck would have it, late in the day, when the mail came down
from Prescott, there was a little package for Captain Wren, expressed,
and Doty signed the receipt and sent it by the orderly. "What was it?"
asked Plume. "His watch, sir," was the brief answer. "He sent it up
last month for repairs." And Mrs. Plume at nine that night, knowing
nothing of this, yet surprised at her husband's pertinacity, stuck to
her story. She was sure Wren was consulting or winding or doing
something with a watch, and, sorely perplexed and marveling much at
the reticence of his company commanders, who seemed to know something
they would not speak of, Wren sent for Doty. He had decided on another
interview with Wren.

Meanwhile "the Bugologist" had been lying patiently in his cot,
saying little or nothing, in obedience to the doctor's orders, but
thinking who knows what. Duane and Doty occasionally tiptoed in to
glance inquiry at the fanning attendant, and then tiptoed out. Mullins
had been growing worse and was a very sick man. Downs, the wretch, was
painfully, ruefully, remorsefully sobered over at the post of the
guard, and of Graham's feminine patients the one most in need,
perhaps, of his ministration was giving the least trouble. While Aunt
Janet paced restlessly about the lower floor, stopping occasionally to
listen at the portal of her brother, Angela Wren lay silent and only
sometimes sighing, with faithful Kate Sanders reading in low tone by
the bedside.

The captains had gone back to their quarters, conferring in subdued
voices. Plume, with his unhappy young adjutant, was seated on the
veranda, striving to frame his message to Wren, when the crack of a
whip, the crunching of hoofs and wheels, sounded at the north end of
the row, and down at swift trot came a spanking, four-mule team and
Concord wagon. It meant but one thing, the arrival of the general's
staff inspector straight from Prescott.

It was the very thing Plume had urged by telegraph, yet the very fact
that Colonel Byrne was here went to prove that the chief was far from
satisfied that the major's diagnosis was the right one. With soldierly
alacrity, however, Plume sprang forward to welcome the coming
dignitary, giving his hand to assist him from the dark interior into
the light. Then he drew back in some chagrin. The voice of Colonel
Byrne was heard, jovial and reassuring, but the face and form first to
appear were those of Mr. Wayne Daly, the new Indian agent at the
Apache reservation. Coming by the winding way of Cherry Creek, the
colonel must have found means to wire ahead, then to pick up this
civil functionary some distance up the valley, and to have some
conference with him before ever reaching the major's bailiwick. This
was not good, said Plume. All the same, he led them into his cozy army
parlor, bade his Chinese servant get abundant supper forthwith, and,
while the two were shown to the spare room to remove the dust of miles
of travel, once more returned to the front piazza and his adjutant.

"Captain Wren, sir," said the young officer at once, "begs to be
allowed to see Colonel Byrne this evening. He states that his reasons
are urgent."

"Captain Wren shall have every opportunity to see Colonel Byrne in due
season," was the answer. "It is not to be expected that Colonel Byrne
will see him until after he has seen the post commander. Then it will
probably be too late," and that austere reply, intended to reach the
ears of the applicant, steeled the Scotchman's heart against his
commander and made him merciless.

The "conference of the powers" was indeed protracted until long after
10.30, yet, to Plume's surprise, the colonel at its close said he
believed he would go, if Plume had no objection, and see Wren in
person and at once. "You see, Plume, the general thinks highly of the
old Scot. He has known him ever since First Bull Run and, in fact, I
am instructed to hear what Wren may have to say. I hope you will not
misinterpret the motive."

"Oh, not at all--not at all!" answered the major, obviously ill
pleased, however, and already nettled that, against all precedent,
certain of the Apache prisoners had been ordered turned out as late as
10 P. M. for interview with the agent. It would leave him alone, too,
for as much as half an hour, and the very air seemed surcharged with
intrigue against the might, majesty, power, and dominion of the post
commander. Byrne, a soldier of the old school, might do his best to
convince the major that in no wise was the confidence of the general
commanding abated, but every symptom spoke of something to the
contrary. "I should like, too, to see Dr. Graham to-night," said the
official inquisitor ere he quitted the piazza to go to Wren's next
door. "He will be here to meet you on your return," said Plume, with
just a bit of stateliness, of ruffled dignity in manner, and turned
once more within the hallway to summon his smiling Chinaman.

Something rustling at the head of the stairs caused him to look up
quickly. Something dim and white was hovering, drooping, over the
balustrade, and, springing aloft, he found his wife in a half-fainting
condition, Elise, the invalid, sputtering vehemently in French and
making vigorous effort to pull her away. Plume had left her at 8.30,
apparently sleeping at last under the influence of Graham's medicine.
Yet here she was again. He lifted her in his arms and laid her upon
the broad, white bed. "Clarice, my child," he said, "you must be
quiet. You must not leave your bed. I am sending for Graham and he
will come to us at once."

"I will not see him! He shall not see me!" she burst in wildly.
"The man maddens me with his--his insolence."

"Clarice!"

"Oh, I mean it! He and his brother Scot, between them--they would
infuriate a--saint," and she was writhing in nervous contortions.

"But, Clarice, how?"

"But, monsieur, no!" interposed Elise, bending over, glass in hand.
"Madame will but sip of this--Madame will be tranquil." And the major
felt himself thrust aside. "Madame must not talk to-night. It is too
much."

But madame would talk. Madame would know where Colonel Byrne was gone,
whether he was to be permitted to see Captain Wren and Dr. Graham, and
that wretch Downs. Surely the commanding officer must have some
rights. Surely it was no time for investigation--this hour of the
night. Five minutes earlier Plume was of the same way of thinking. Now
he believed his wife delirious.

"See to her a moment, Elise," said he, breaking loose from the clasp
of the long, bejeweled fingers, and, scurrying down the stairs, he
came face to face with Dr. Graham.

"I was coming for you," said he, at sight of the rugged, somber face.
"Mrs. Plume--"

"I heard--at least I comprehend," answered Graham, with uplifted hand.
"The lady is in a highly nervous state, and my presence does not tend
to soothe her. The remedies I left will take effect in time. Leave her
to that waiting woman; she best understands her."

"But she's almost raving, man. I never knew a woman to behave like
that."

"Ye're not long married, major," answered Graham. "Come into the air a
bit," and, taking his commander's arm, the surgeon swept him up the
starlit row, then over toward the guard-house, and kept him half an
hour watching the strange interview between Mr. Daly, the agent, and
half a dozen gaunt, glittering-eyed Apaches, from whom he was striving
to get some admission or information, with Arahawa, "Washington
Charley," as interpreter. One after another the six had shaken their
frowsy heads. They admitted nothing--knew nothing.

"What do you make of it all?" queried Plume.

"Something's wrang at the reservation," answered Graham. "There mostly
is. Daly thinks there's running to and fro between the Tontos in the
Sierra Ancha country and his wards above here. He thinks there's more
out than there should be--and more a-going. What'd you find, Daly?" he
added, as the agent joined them, mechanically wiping his brow.
Moisture there was none. It evaporated fast as the pores exuded.

"They know well enough, damn them!" said the new official. "But they
think I can be stood off. I'll nail 'em yet--to-morrow," he added.
"But could you send a scout at once to the Tonto basin?" and Daly
turned eagerly to the post commander.

Plume reflected. Whom could he send? Men there were in plenty,
dry-rotting at the post for lack of something to limber their joints;
but officers to lead? There was the rub! Thirty troopers, twenty
Apache Mohave guides, a pack train and one or, at most, two officers
made up the usual complement of such expeditions. Men, mounts, scouts,
mules and packers, all, were there at his behest; but, with Wren in
arrest, Sanders and Lynn back but a week from a long prod through the
Black Mesa country far as Fort Apache, Blakely invalided and Duane a
boy second lieutenant, his choice of cavalry officers was limited. It
never occurred to him to look beyond.

"What's the immediate need of a scout?" said he.

"To break up the traffic that's going on--and the rancherias they must
have somewhere down there. If we don't, I'll not answer for another
month." Daly might be new to the neighborhood, but not to the
business.

"I'll confer with Colonel Byrne," answered Plume guardedly. And Byrne
was waiting for them, a tall, dark shadow in the black depths of the
piazza. Graham would have edged away and gone to his own den, but
Plume held to him. There was something he needed to say, yet could not
until the agent had retired. Daly saw,--perhaps he had already imbibed
something of the situation,--and was not slow to seek his room. Plume
took the little kerosene lamp; hospitably led the way; made the
customary tender of a "night-cap," and polite regrets he had no ice
to offer therewith; left his unwonted guest with courteous good-night
and cast an eye aloft as he came through the hall. All there was dark
and still, though he doubted much that Graham's sedatives had yet
prevailed. He had left the two men opposite the doorway. He found them
at the south end of the piazza, their heads together. They
straightened up to perfunctory talk about the Medical Director, his
drastic methods and inflammable ways; but the mirth was forced, the
humor far too dry. Then silence fell. Then Plume invaded it:

"How'd you find Wren--mentally?" he presently asked. He felt that an
opening of some kind was necessary.

"Sound," was the colonel's answer, slow and sententious. "Of course he
is much--concerned."

"About--his case? Ah, will you smoke, colonel?"

"About Blakely. I believe not, Plume; it's late."

Plume struck a light on the sole of his natty boot. "One would suppose
he would feel very natural anxiety as to the predicament in which he
has placed himself," he ventured.

"Wren worries much over Blakely's injuries, which accident made far
more serious than he would have inflicted, major, even had he had the
grounds for violence that he thought he had. Blakely was not the only
sufferer, and is not the only cause, of his deep contrition. Wren
tells me that he was even harsher to Angela. But that is all a family
matter." The colonel was speaking slowly, thoughtfully.

"But--these later affairs--that Wren couldn't explain--or wouldn't."
Plume's voice and color both were rising.

"Couldn't is the just word, major, and couldn't especially--to you,"
was the significant reply.

Plume rose from his chair and stood a moment, trembling not a little
and his fingers twitching. "You mean--" he huskily began.

"I mean this, my friend," said Byrne gently, as he, too, arose, "and I
have asked Graham, another friend, to be here--that Wren would not
defend himself to you by even mentioning--others, and might not have
revealed the truth even to me had he been the only one cognizant of
it. But, Plume, others saw what he saw, and what is now known to
many people on the post. Others than Wren were abroad that night. One
other was being carefully, tenderly brought home--led home--to your
roof. You did not know--Mrs. Plume was a somnambulist?"

In the dead silence that ensued the colonel put forth a pitying hand
as though to stay and support the younger soldier, the post commander.
Plume stood, swaying a bit, and staring. Presently he strove to speak,
but choked in the effort.

"It's the only proper explanation," said Graham, and between them they
led the major within doors.

And this is how it happened that he, instead of Wren, was pacing
miserably up and down in the gathering dawn, when the sentry startled
all waking Sandy with his cry for the corporal. This is how, far ahead
of the corporal, the post commander reached the alarmed soldier, with
demand to know the cause; and, even by the time he came, the cause had
vanished from sight.

"Apaches, sir, by the dozen,--all along the edge of the mesa,"
stammered No. 5. He could have convinced the corporal without fear or
thought of ridicule, but his voice lacked confidence when he stood
challenged by his commanding officer. Plume heard with instant
suspicion. He was in no shape for judicial action.

"Apaches!" This in high disdain. "Trash, man! Because one sentry has a
scuffle with some night prowler is the next to lose his nerve? You're
scared by shadows, Hunt. That's what's the matter with you!"

It "brought to" a veteran trooper with a round turn. Hunt had served
his fourth enlistment, had "worn out four blankets" in the regiment,
and was not to be accused of scare.

"Let the major see for himself, then," he answered sturdily. "Come in
here, you!" he called aloud. "Come, the whole gang of ye. The
concert's beginning!" Then, slowly along the eastward edge there began
to creep into view black polls bound with dirty white, black crops
untrammeled by any binding. Then, swift from the west, came running
footfalls, the corporal with a willing comrade or two, wondering was
Five in further danger. There, silent and regretful, stood the post
commander, counting in surprise the score of scarecrow forms now
plainly visible, sitting, standing, or squatting along the mesa
edge. Northernmost in view, nearly opposite Blakely's quarters, were
two, detached from the general assembly, yet clinging close
together--two slender figures, gowned, and it was at these the agent
Daly was staring, as he, too, came running to the spot.

"Major Plume," cried he, panting, "I want those girls arrested, at
once!"





Next: Apache Knives Dig Deep!

Previous: A Find In The Sands



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