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From: An Apache Princess

More morning suns than could be counted in the field of the flag had
come, and gone, but not a sign of Natzie. Wren's own troopers, hot on
Punch's flashing heels, were cooling their own as best they could
through the arid days that followed. Wren himself was now recovered
sufficiently to be told of much that had been going on,--not all,--and
it was Angela who constantly hovered about him, for Janet was taking a
needed rest. Blakely, too, was on the mend, sitting up hours of every
day and "being very lovely" in manner to all the Sanders household,
for thither had he demanded to be moved even sooner than it was
prudent to move him at all. Go he would, and Graham had to order it.
Pat Mullins was once again "for duty." Even Todd, the bewildered
victim of Natzie's knife, was stretching his legs on the hospital
porch. There had come a lull in all martial proceedings at the post,
and only two sensations. One of these latter was the formal
investigation by the inspector general of the conditions surrounding
the stabbing at Camp Sandy of Privates Mullins and Todd of the ----th
U. S. Cavalry. The other was the discovery, one bright, brilliant,
winter morning that Natzie's friend and savior, Angela's Punch, was
back in his stall, looking every bit as saucy and "fit" as ever he did
in his life. What surprised many folk in the garrison was that it
surprised Angela not at all. "I thought Punch would come back," said
she, in demure unconcern, and the girls at least, began to understand,
and were wild to question. Only Kate Sanders, however, knew how
welcome was the pet pony's coming. But what had come that was far from
welcome was a coldness between Angela and Kate Sanders.

Byrne himself had arrived, and the "inquisition" had begun. No
examinations under oath, no laborious recordings of question and
answer, no crowd of curious listeners. The veteran inspector took each
man in turn and heard his tale and jotted down his notes, and, where
he thought it wise, cross-questioned over and again. One after
another, Truman and Todd, Wren and Mullins, told their stories,
bringing forth little that was new beyond the fact that Todd was sure
it was Elise he heard that night "jabbering with Downs" on Blakely's
porch. Todd felt sure that it was she who brought him whisky, and
Byrne let him prattle on. It was not evidence, yet it might lead the
way to light. In like manner was Mullins sure now "'Twas two ladies"
stabbed him when he would have striven to stop the foremost. Byrne
asked did he think they were ladies when first he set eyes on them,
and Pat owned up that he thought it was some of the girls from
Sudsville; it might even be Norah as one of them, coming home late
from the laundresses' quarters, and trying to play him a trick. He
owned to it that he grabbed the foremost, seeing at that moment no
other, and thinking to win the forfeit of a kiss, and Byrne gravely
assured him 'twas no shame in it, so long as Norah never found it out.

But Byrne asked Plume two questions that puzzled and worried him
greatly. How much whisky had he missed? and how much opium could have
been given him the night of Mrs. Plume's unconscious escapade? The
major well remembered that his demijohn had grown suddenly light, and
that he had found himself surprisingly heavy, dull, and drowsy. The
retrospect added to his gloom and depression. Byrne had not reoccupied
his old room at Plume's, now that madame and Elise were once more
under the major's roof, and even in extending the customary
invitation, Plume felt confident that Byrne could not and should not
accept. The position he had taken with regard to Elise, her ladyship's
companion and confidante, was sufficient in itself to make him, in the
eyes of that lady, an unacceptable guest, but it never occurred to
her, although it had to Plume, that there might be even deeper
reasons. Then, too, the relations between the commander and the
inspector, although each was scrupulously courteous, were now
necessarily strained. Plume could not but feel that his conduct of
post affairs was in a measure a matter of scrutiny. He knew that his
treatment of Natzie was disapproved by nine out of ten of his command.
He felt, rather than knew, that some of his people had connived at her
escape, and though that escape had been a relief to everybody at
Sandy, the manner of her taking off was to him a mystery and a
rankling sore.

Last man to be examined was Blakely, and now indeed there was light.
He had been sitting up each day for several hours; his wounds were
healing well; the fever and prostration that ensued had left him weak
and very thin and pale, but he had the soldier's best medicine--the
consciousness of duties thoroughly and well performed. He knew that,
though Wren might carry his personal antipathy to the extent of
official injustice, as officers higher in rank than Wren have been
known to do, the truth concerning the recent campaign must come to
light, and his connection therewith be made a matter of record, as it
was already a matter of fact. Wren had not yet submitted his written
report. Wren and the post commander were still on terms severely
official; but, to the few brother officers with whom the captain
talked at all upon the stirring events through which he and his troop
had so recently passed, he had made little mention of Blakely. Not so,
however, the men; not so Wales Arnold, the ranchman. To hear these
worthies talk, the Bugologist, next to "Princess Natzie," was the
central figure of the Red Rock campaign--the one officer, "where all
had done so well," whose deeds merited conspicuous mention. Byrne knew
this better than Wren. Plume knew it not as well as Byrne, perhaps.
Sanders, Lynn, and Duane had heard the soldier stories in a dozen
ways, and it stung them that their regimental comrade should so
doggedly refuse to open his lips and give Blakely his due. It is not
silence that usually hurts a man, it is speech; yet here was a case to
the contrary.

Now just in proportion as the Wrens would have nothing to say in
praise of Blakely, the Sanders household would have nothing but
praise to say. Kate's honest heart was hot with anger at Angela,
because the girl shrank from the subject as she would from evil
speaking, lying, and slandering, and here again, to paraphrase the
Irishman, too much heat had produced the coldness already referred to.
Sanders scoffed at the idea of Natzie's infatuation being sufficient
ground for family ostracism. "If there is a man alive who owes more
than Wren does to Blakely, I'm a crab," said he, "and as soon as he's
well enough to listen to straight talk he'll get it from me." "If
there's a girl in America as heartless as Angela Wren," said Mrs.
Sanders, "I hope I never shall have to meet her." But then Mrs.
Sanders, as we know, had ever been jealous of Angela on account of her
own true-hearted Kate, who refused to say one word on the subject
beyond what she said to Angela herself. And now they had propped their
patient in his reclining-chair and arranged the little table for "the
inquisitor general," as Mrs. Bridger preferred to refer to him, and
left them alone together behind closed doors, and had then gone forth
to find that all Camp Sandy seemed to wait with bated breath for the
outcome of that interview.

Sooner than was believed possible it came. An hour, probably, before
they thought the colonel could have gathered all he wished to know,
that officer was on the front piazza and sending an orderly to the
adjutant's office. Then came Major Plume, with quick and nervous step.
There was a two-minute conference on the piazza; then both officers
vanished within, were gone five minutes, and then Plume reappeared
alone, went straight to his home, and slammed the door behind him, a
solecism rarely known at Sandy, and presently on the hot and pulseless
air there arose the sound of shrill protestation in strange
vernacular. Even Wren heard the voice, and found something reminiscent
in the sound of weeping and wailing that followed. The performer was
unquestionably Elise--she that had won the ponderous, yet descriptive,
Indian name "Woman-Walk-in-the-Night."

And while this episode was still unexpired the orderly went for
Lieutenant Truman, and Truman, with two orderlies, for a box, a bulky
little chest, strapped heavily with iron, and this they lugged into
Sanders's hall and came out heated and mystified. Three hours later,
close-veiled and in droopy desolation, "Mademoiselle Lebrun" was
bundled into a waiting ambulance and started under sufficient escort,
and the care of the hospital matron, en route for Prescott, while
Dr. Graham was summoned to attend Mrs. Plume, and grimly went. "The
mean part of the whole business," said Mrs. Bridger, "is that nobody
knows what it means." There was no one along the line, except poor
Mrs. Plume, to regret that sudden and enforced departure, but there
was regret universal all over the post when it was learned, still
later in the afternoon, that one of the best soldiers and sergeants
in the entire garrison had taken the horse of one of the herd guard
and galloped away on the trail of the banished one. Sergeant Shannon,
at sunset parade, was reported absent without leave.

Major Plume had come forth from his quarters at the sounding of the
retreat, accurately dressed as ever, white-gloved, and wearing his
saber. He seemed to realize that all eyes would be upon him. He had,
indeed, been tempted again to turn over the command to the senior
captain, but wisely thought better of it, and determined to face the
music. He looked very sad and gray, however. He returned scrupulously
the salute of the four company commanders as, in turn, each came
forward to report the result of the evening roll-call; Cutler and
Westervelt first, their companies being the nearest, then Lieutenant
Lynn, temporarily in charge of Wren's troop, its captain and first
lieutenant being still "on sick report." The sight of this young
officer set the major to thinking of that evening not so many moons
agone when Captain Wren himself appeared and in resonant, far-carrying
tone announced "Lieutenant Blakely, sir, is absent." He had been
thinking much of Blakely through the solemn afternoon, as he wandered
nervously about his darkened quarters, sometimes tiptoeing to the
bedside of his feebly moaning, petulant wife, sometimes pacing the
library and hall. He had been again for half an hour closeted with
Byrne and the Bugologist, certain letters being under inspection. He
hardly heard the young officer, Lynn, as he said "Troop 'C,' all
present, sir." He was looking beyond him at Captain Sanders, coming
striding over the barren parade, with import in his eye. Plume felt
that there was trouble ahead before ever Sanders reached the
prescribed six paces, halted, raised his hand in salute, and, just as
did Wren on that earlier occasion, announced in tones intended to be
heard over and beyond the post commander: "Sergeant Shannon, sir, with
one government horse, absent without leave."

Plume went a shade white, and bit his lips before he could steady
himself to question. Well he knew that this new devilment was due in
some way to that spirit of evil so long harbored by his wife, and
suffered by himself. All the story of the strife she had stirred in
the garrison had reached him days before. Downs's drunkenness and
desertion, beyond doubt, were chargeable to her, as well as another
and worse crime, unless all indications were at fault. Then there was
the breach between Carmody and Shannon, formerly stanch friends and
comrades, and now Carmody lay buried beneath the rocks in Bear Canon,
and Shannon, as gallant and useful a sergeant as ever served, had
thrown to the winds his record of the past and his hopes for the
future, and gone in mad pursuit of a worthless hoyden. And all because
Clarice would have that woman with her wherever she might go.

"When did this happen?" he presently asked.

"Just after stable call, sir. The horses were all returned to the
corral except the herd guard's. The men marched over, as usual, with
their halters. Shannon fell out as they entered the gate, took young
Bennett's rein as he stood ready to lead in after them, mounted and
rode round back of the wall, leaving Bennett so surprised that he
didn't know what to say. He never suspected anything wrong until
Shannon failed to reappear. Then he followed round back of the corral,
found the sergeant's stable frock lying halfway out toward the bluff,
and saw a streak of dust toward Bowlder Point. Then he came and

Plume, after a moment's silence, turned abruptly. He had suffered much
that day, and to think of his wife lying stricken and whimpering,
professing herself a sorely injured woman because compelled at last to
part with her maid, angered him beyond the point of toleration.
Tossing his saber to the China boy, he went straightway aloft, failing
to note in the dim light that two soft-hearted sympathizers were
cooing by the gentle sufferer's side.

"Well, Clarice," he broke in abruptly, "we are never to hear the end
of that she-cat's doings! My best sergeant has stolen a horse and gone
galloping after her." It is always our best we lose when our better
half is to blame, nor is it the way of brutal man to minimize the
calamity on such occasions. It did not better matters that her
much-wronged ladyship should speedily reply: "It's a wonder you don't
charge the Indian outbreak to poor Elise. I don't believe she had a
thing to do with your sergeant's stealing."

"You wouldn't believe she stole my whisky and gave it to Downs, though
you admitted she told you she had to go back that night for something
she'd dropped. You wouldn't believe she married that rascally gambler
at St. Louis before her first husband was out of the way! You shielded
and swore by her, and brought her out here, and all the time the
proofs were here in Blakely's hands. It was she, I suppose, who
broke off--"

But here, indeed, was it high time to break off. The visitors were now
visibly rising in all proper embarrassment, for Mrs. Plume had started
up, with staring eyes. "Proofs!" she cried, "in Blakely's hands! Why,
she told me--my own letters!--my--" And then brutal man was brought to
his senses and made to see how heartless and cruel was his conduct,
for Mrs. Plume went into a fit and Mrs. Lynn for the doctor.

That was a wild night at Sandy. Two young matrons had made up their
minds that it was shameful to leave poor Mrs. Plume without anybody to
listen to her, when she might so long for sympathetic hearers, and
have so much to tell. They had entered as soon as the major came forth
and, softly tapping at the stricken one's door, had been with her
barely five minutes when he came tearing back, and all this tremendous
scene occurred before they could put in a word to prevent, which, of
course, they were dying to do. But what hadn't they heard in that
swift moment! Between the two of them--and Mrs. Bridger was the
other--their agitation was such that it all had to be told. Then, like
the measles, one revelation led to another, but it was several days
before the garrison settled down in possession of an array of facts
sufficient to keep it in gossip for many a month. Meanwhile, many a
change had come over the scene.

At Prescott, then the Territorial capital, Elise Layton, nee Lebrun,
was held without bail because it couldn't be had, charged with
obtaining money under false pretenses, bigamy as a side issue, and
arson as a possible backstop. The sleep-walking theory, as advanced in
favor of Mrs. Plume, had been reluctantly abandoned, it appearing
that, however dazed and "doped" she may have been through the
treatment of that deft-fingered, unscrupulous maid, she was
sufficiently wide awake to know well whither she had gone at that
woman's urging, to make a last effort to recover certain letters of
vital importance. At Blakely's door Clarice had "lost her nerve" and
insisted on returning, but not so Elise. She went again, and had
well-nigh gotten Downs drunk enough to do as she demanded. Frankly,
sadly, Plume went to Blakely, told him of his wife's admissions, and
asked him what papers of hers he retained. For a moment Blakely had
blazed with indignation, but Plume's sorrow, and utter innocence of
wrong intent, stilled his wrath and led to his answer: "Every letter
of Mrs. Plume's I burned before she was married, and I so assured her.
She herself wrote asking me to burn rather than return them, but there
were letters and papers I could not burn, brought to me by a poor
devil that woman Elise had married, tricked into jail, and then
deserted. He disappeared afterward, and even Pinkerton's people
haven't been able to find him. Those papers are his property. You and
Colonel Byrne are the only men who have seen them, though they were
somewhat exposed just after the fire. She made three attempts to get
me to give them up to her. Then, I believe, she strove to get Downs to
steal them, and gave him the money with which to desert and bring them
to her. He couldn't get into the iron box; couldn't lug it out, and
somehow, probably, set fire to the place, scratching matches in there.
Perhaps she even persuaded him to do that as a last resort. He knew I
could get out safely. At all events, he was scared out of his wits and
deserted with what he had. It was in trying to make his way eastward
by the Wingate road that there came the last of poor Ups and Downs."

And so the story of this baleful influence over a weak, half-drugged
girl, her mistress, became known to Plume and gradually to others. It
was easy for Elise to make her believe that, in spite of the word of a
gentleman, her impulsive love letters were still held by Blakely
because he had never forgiven her. It was Elise, indeed, who had
roused her jealousy and had done her best to break that engagement
with Blakely and to lead to the match with the handsome and devoted
major. Intrigue and lying were as the breath of the woman's nostrils.
She lived in them. But Sandy was never to see her again.
"Woman-Walk-in-the-Night" was "Woman-Walk-no-More."

And now the friendless creature stood charged with more crimes than
would fill the meager space of a Territorial jail, and yet the one
originally laid at her door, though never publicly announced, was now
omitted entirely--that of assault with deadly weapon, possibly with
intent to kill. Even Mother Shaughnessy and Norah were silenced, and
Pat Mullins put to confusion. Even the latest punctured patient at the
hospital, Private Todd, had to serve as evidence in behalf of Elise,
for Graham, post surgeon, had calmly declared that the same weapon
that so nearly killed Pat Mullins had as nearly and neatly done the
deed for Todd--the keen Apache knife of Princess Natzie.

"The heathen child was making her usual night visit to her white
lover," said Wren grimly, having in mind the womanly shape he had seen
that starlit morning at Blakely's rear door.

"You're right in one guess, R-robert Wren," was the prompt answer of
his friend and fellow Scot, who glared at Janet rather than his
convalescent as he spoke. "And ye're wrang in twanty. She was
tryin', and didn't know the way. She was tryin', for she had his
watch and pocketbook. You're wrang if ye think she was ever there
before or after. The slut you saw cryin' at his back door was that
quean Elise, an' ye well know there was no love lost between them. Go
say yer prayers, man, for every wicked thought ye've had of him--or of
that poor child. Between them they saved your Angela!"

Next: The Parting By The Waters

Previous: Rescue Requited

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