Napoleon Shave-tail

Augustus Albumblatt, young and new and sleek with the latest

book-knowledge of war, reported to his first troop commander at Fort

Brown. The ladies had watched for him, because he would increase the

number of men, the officers because he would lessen the number of

duties; and he joined at a crisis favorable to becoming speedily known

by them all. Upon that same day had household servants become an

extinct race. The last one, the commanding officer's cook, had told the

commanding officer's wife that she was used to living where she could

see the cars. She added that there was no society here "fit for man or

baste at all." This opinion was formed on the preceding afternoon when

Casey, a sergeant of roguish attractions in G troop, had told her that

he was not a marrying man. Three hours later she wedded a gambler,

and this morning at six they had taken the stage for Green River, two

hundred miles south, the nearest point where the bride could see the


"Frank," said the commanding officer's wife, "send over to H troop for


"Catherine," he answered, "my dear, our statesmen at Washington say

it's wicked to hire the free American soldier to cook for you. It's too

menial for his manhood."

"Frank, stuff!"

"Hush, my love. Therefore York must be spared the insult of twenty

more dollars a month, our statesmen must be re-elected, and you and I,

Catherine, being cookless, must join the general mess."

Thus did all separate housekeeping end, and the garrison began unitedly

to eat three times a day what a Chinaman set before them, when the

long-expected Albumblatt stepped into their midst, just in time for


This youth was spic-and-span from the Military Academy, with a

top-dressing of three months' thoughtful travel in Germany. "I was

deeply impressed with the modernity of their scientific attitude," he

pleasantly remarked to the commanding officer. For Captain Duane, silent

usually, talked at this first meal to make the boy welcome in this

forlorn two-company post.

"We're cut off from all that sort of thing here," said he. "I've not

been east of the Missouri since '69. But we've got the railroad across,

and we've killed some Indians, and we've had some fun, and we're glad

we're alive--eh, Mrs. Starr?"

"I should think so," said the lady.

"Especially now we've got a bachelor at the post!" said Mrs. Bainbridge.

"That has been the one drawback, Mr. Albumblatt."

"I thank you for the compliment," said Augustus, bending solemnly from

his hips; and Mrs. Starr looked at him and then at Mrs. Bainbridge.

"We're not over-gay, I fear," the Captain continued; "but the flat's

full of antelope, and there's good shooting up both canyons."

"Have you followed the recent target experiments at Metz?" inquired

the traveller. "I refer to the flattened trajectory and the obus


"We have not heard the reports," answered the commandant, with becoming

gravity. "But we own a mountain howitzer."

"The modernity of German ordnance--" began Augustus.

"Do you dance, Mr. Albumblatt?" asked Mrs. Starr.

"For we'll have a hop and all be your partners," Mrs. Bainbridge


"I will be pleased to accommodate you, ladies."

"It's anything for variety's sake with us, you see," said Mrs. Starr,

smoothly smiling; and once again Augustus bent blandly from his hips.

But the commanding officer wished leniency. "You see us all," he

hastened to say. "Commissioned officers and dancing-men. Pretty


"Oh, Captain!" said a lady.

"And pretty old."

"Captain!" said another lady.

"But alive and kicking. Captain Starr, Mr. Bainbridge, the Doctor and

me. We are seven."

Augustus looked accurately about him. "Do I understand seven, Captain?"

"We are seven," the senior officer repeated.

Again Mr. Albumblatt counted heads. "I imagine you include the ladies,

Captain? Ha! ha!"

"Seven commissioned males, sir. Our Major is on sick-leave, and two of

our Lieutenants are related to the President's wife. She can't bear them

to be exposed. None of us in the church-yard lie--but we are seven."

"Ha! ha, Captain! That's an elegant double entendre on Wordsworth's

poem and the War Department. Only, if I may correct your addition--ha!

ha!--our total, including myself, is eight." And Augustus grew as

hilarious as a wooden nutmeg.

The commanding officer rolled an intimate eye at his wife.

The lady was sitting big with rage, but her words were cordial still:

"Indeed, Mr. Albumblatt, the way officers who have influence in

Washington shirk duty here and get details East is something I

can't laugh about. At one time the Captain was his own adjutant and

quartermaster. There are more officers at this table to-night than

I've seen in three years. So we are doubly glad to welcome you at Fort


"I am fortunate to be on duty where my services are so required, though

I could object to calling it Fort Brown." And Augustus exhaled a new


"Prefer Smith?" said Captain Starr.

"You misunderstand me. When we say Fort Brown. Fort Russell, Fort Et

Cetera, we are inexact. They are not fortified."

"Cantonment Et Cetera would be a trifle lengthy, wouldn't it?" put in

the Doctor, his endurance on the wane.

"Perhaps; but technically descriptive of our Western posts. The Germans

criticise these military laxities."

Captain Duane now ceased talking, but urbanely listened; and from time

to time his eye would scan Augustus, and then a certain sublimated

laugh, to his wife well known; would seize him for a single voiceless

spasm, and pass. The experienced Albumblatt meanwhile continued,

"By-the-way, Doctor, you know the Charite, of course?"

Doctor Guild had visited that great hospital, but being now a goaded man

he stuck his nose in his plate, and said, unwisely: "Sharrity? What's

that?" For then Augustus told him what and where it was, and that

Krankenhaus is German for hospital, and that he had been deeply

impressed with the modernity of the ventilation. "Thirty-five cubic

metres to a bed in new wards," he stated. "How many do you allow,


"None," answered the surgeon.

"Do I understand none, Doctor?"

"You do, sir. My patients breathe in cubic feet, and swallow their doses

in grains, and have their inflation measured in inches."

"Now there again!" exclaimed Augustus, cheerily. "More antiquity to be

swept away! And people say we young officers have no work cut out for


"Patients don't die then under the metric system?" said the Doctor.

"No wonder Europe's overcrowded," said Starr.

But the student's mind inhabited heights above such trifling. "Death,"

he said, "occurs in ratios not differentiated from our statistics." And

he told them much more while they booked at him over their plates. He

managed to say 'modernity' and 'differentiate' again, for he came from

our middle West, where they encounter education too suddenly, and it

would take three generations of him to speak clean English. But with

all his polysyllabic wallowing, he showed himself keen-minded, pat with

authorities, a spruce young graduate among these dingy Rocky Mountain

campaigners. They had fought and thirsted and frozen; the books that he

knew were not written when they went to school; and so far as war is to

be mastered on paper, his equipment was full and polished while theirs

was meagre and rusty.

And yet, if you know things that other and older men do not, it is as

well not to mention them too hastily. These soldiers wished that they

could have been taught what he knew; but they watched young Augustus

unfolding himself with a gaze that might have seemed chill to a less

highly abstract thinker. He, however, rose from the table pleasantly

edified by himself, and hopeful for them. And as he left them,

"Good-night, ladies and gentlemen," he said; "we shall meet again."

"Oh yes," said the Doctor. "Again and again."

"He's given me indigestion," said Bainbridge.

"Take some metric system," said Starr.

"And lie flat on your trajectory," said the Doctor.

"I hate hair parted in the middle for a man," said Mrs. Guild.

"And his superior eye-glasses," said Mrs. Bainbridge.

"His staring conceited teeth," hissed Mrs. Starr.

"I don't like children slopping their knowledge all over me," said the

Doctor's wife.

"He's well brushed, though," said Mrs. Duane, seeking the bright side.

"He'll wipe his feet on the mat when he comes to call."

"I'd rather have mud on my carpet than that bandbox in any of my

chairs," said Mrs. Starr.

"He's no fool," mused the Doctor. "But, kingdom come, what an ass!"

"Well, gentlemen," said the commanding officer (and they perceived a

flavor of the official in his tone), "Mr. Albumblatt is just twenty-one.

I don't know about you; but I'll never have that excuse again."

"Very well, Captain, we'll be good," said Mrs. Bainbridge.

"And gr-r-ateful," said Mrs. Starr, rolling her eyes piously. "I

prophecy he'll entertain us."

The Captain's demeanor remained slightly official; but walking home, his

Catherine by his side in the dark was twice aware of that laugh of his,

twinkling in the recesses of his opinions. And later, going to bed, a

little joke took him so unready that it got out before he could suppress

it. "My love," said he, "my Second Lieutenant is grievously mislaid in

the cavalry. Providence designed him for the artillery."

It was wifely but not right in Catherine to repeat this strict

confidence in strictest confidence to her neighbor, Mrs. Bainbridge,

over the fence next morning before breakfast. At breakfast Mrs.

Bainbridge spoke of artillery reinforcing the post, and her husband

giggled girlishly and looked at the puzzled Duane; and at dinner Mrs.

Starr asked Albumblatt, would not artillery strengthen the garrison?

"Even a light battery," pronounced Augustus, promptly, "would be absurd

and useless."

Whereupon the mess rattled knives, sneezed, and became variously

disturbed. So they called him Albumbattery, and then Blattery, which is

more condensed; and Captain Duane's official tone availed him nothing

in this matter. But he made no more little military jokes; he disliked

garrison personalities. Civilized by birth and ripe from weather-beaten

years of men and observing, he looked his Second Lieutenant over, and

remembered to have seen worse than this. He had no quarrel with the

metric system (truly the most sensible), and thinking to leaven it with

a little rule of thumb, he made Augustus his acting quartermaster. But

he presently indulged his wife with the soldier-cook she wanted at home,

so they no longer had to eat their meals in Albumblatt's society; and

Mrs. Starr said that this showed her husband dreaded his quartermaster

worse than the Secretary of War.

Alas for the Quartermaster's sergeant, Johannes Schmoll, that routined

and clock-work German! He found Augustus so much more German than he

had ever been himself, that he went speechless for three days. Upon his

lists, his red ink, and his ciphering, Augustus swooped like a bird

of prey, and all his fond red-tape devices were shredded to the winds.

Augustus set going new quadratic ones of his own, with an index and

cross-references. It was then that Schmoll recovered his speech and

walked alone, saying, "Mein Gott!" And often thereafter, wandering among

the piled stores and apparel, he would fling both arms heavenward and

repeat the exclamation. He had rated himself the unique human soul at

Fort Brown able to count and arrange underclothing. Augustus rejected

his laborious tally, and together they vigiled after hours, verifying

socks and drawers. Next, Augustus found more horseshoes than his papers

called for.

"That man gif me der stomach pain efry day," wailed Schmoll to Sergeant

Casey. "I tell him, 'Lieutenant, dose horseshoes is expendable. We don't

acgount for efry shoe like they was men's shoes, und oder dings dot is

issued.' 'I prefer to cake them cop!' says Baby Bismarck. Und he smile

mit his two beaver teeth."

"Baby Bismarck!" cried, joyfully, the rosy-faced Casey. "Yo-hanny, take

a drink."

"Und so," continued the outraged Schmoll, "he haf a Board of Soorvey on

dree-pound horseshoes, und I haf der stomach pain."

"It was buckles the next month. The allowance exceeded the expenditure,

Augustus's arithmetic came out wrong, and another board sat on buckles.

"Yo-hanny, you're lookin' jaded under Colonel Safetypin." said Casey.

"Have something?"

"Safetypin is my treat," said Schmoll; "und very apt."

But Augustus found leisure to pervade the post with his modernity. He

set himself military problems, and solved them; he wrote an essay on

"The Contact Squadron"; he corrected Bainbridge for saying "throw back

the left flank" instead of "refuse the left flank"; he had reading-room

ideas, canteen' ideas, ideas for the Indians and the Agency, and

recruit-drill ideas, which he presented to Sergeant Casey. Casey gave

him, in exchange, the name of Napoleon Shave-Tail, and had his whiskey

again paid for by the sympathetic Schmoll.

"But bless his educated heart," said Casey, "he don't learn me nothing

that'll soil my innercence!"

Thus did the sunny-humored Sergeant take it, but not thus the mess.

Had Augustus seen himself as they saw him, could he have heard Mrs.

Starr--But he did not; the youth was impervious, and to remove his

complacency would require (so Mrs. Starr said) an operation, probably

fatal. The commanding officer held always aloof from gibing, yet often

when Augustus passed him his gray eye would dwell upon the Lieutenant's

back, and his voiceless laugh would possess him. That is the picture I

retain of these days--the unending golden sun, the wide, gentle-colored

plain, the splendid mountains, the Indians ambling through the flat,

clear distance; and here, close along the parade-ground, eye-glassed

Augustus, neatly hastening, with the Captain on his porch, asleep you

might suppose.

One early morning the agent, with two Indian chiefs, waited on the

commanding officer, and after their departure his wife found him

breakfasting in solitary mirth.

"Without me," she chided, sitting down. "And I know you've had some good


"The best, my love. Providence has been tempted at last. The wholesome

irony of life is about to function."

"Frank, don't tease so! And where are you rushing now before the cakes?"

"To set our Augustus a little military problem, dearest. Plain living

for to-day, and high thinking be jolly well--"

"Frank, you're going to swear, and I must know!"

But Frank had sworn and hurried out to the right to the Adjutant's

office, while his Catherine flew to the left to the fence.

"Ella!" she cried. "Oh, Ella!"

Mrs. Bainbridge, instantly on the other side of the fence, brought

scanty light. A telegram had come, she knew, from the Crow Agency in

Montana. Her husband had admitted this three nights ago; and Captain

Duane (she knew) had given him some orders about something; and could

it be the Crows? "Ella, I don't know," said Catherine. "Frank talked all

about Providence in his incurable way, and it may be anything." So the

two ladies wondered together over the fence, until Mrs. Duane, seeing

the Captain return, ran to him and asked, were the Crows on the

war-path? Then her Frank told her yes, and that he had detailed

Albumblatt to vanquish them and escort them to Carlisle School to learn

German and Beethoven's sonatas.

"Stuff, stuff, stuff! Why, there he does go!" cried the unsettled

Catherine. "It's something at the Agency!" But Captain Duane was gone

into the house for a cigar.

Albumblatt, with Sergeant Casey and a detail of six men, was in truth

hastening over that broad mile which opens between Fort Brown and the

Agency. On either side of them the level plain stretched, gray with

its sage, buff with intervening grass, hay-cocked with the smoky,

mellow-stained, meerschaum-like canvas tepees of the Indians, quiet as a

painting; far eastward lay long, low, rose-red hills, half dissolved in

the trembling mystery of sun and distance; and westward, close at hand

and high, shone the great pale-blue serene mountains through the vaster

serenity of the air. The sounding hoofs of the troops brought the

Indians out of their tepees to see. When Albumblatt reached the Agency,

there waited the agent and his two chiefs, who pointed to one lodge

standing apart some three hundred yards, and said, "He is there." So

then Augustus beheld his problem, the military duty fallen to him from

Providence and Captain Duane.

It seems elementary for him who has written of "The Contact Squadron."

It was to arrest one Indian. This man, Ute Jack, had done a murder among

the Crows, and fled south for shelter. The telegram heralded him, but

with boundless miles for hiding he had stolen in under the cover of

night. No welcome met him. These Fort Brown Indians were not his friends

at any time, and less so now, when he arrived wild drunk among their

families. Hounded out, he sought this empty lodge, and here he was,

at bay, his hand against every man's, counting his own life worthless

except for destroying others before he must himself die.

"Is he armed?" Albumblatt inquired, and was told yes.

Augustus considered the peaked cone tent. The opening was on this side,

but a canvas drop closed it. Not much of a problem--one man inside a

sack with eight outside to catch him! But the books gave no rule for

this combination, and Augustus had met with nothing of the sort in

Germany. He considered at some length. Smoke began to rise through the

meeting poles of the tepee, leisurely and natural, and one of the chiefs


"Maybe Ute Jack cooking. He hungry."

"This is not a laughing matter," said Augustus to the by-standers, who

were swiftly gathering. "Tell him that I command him to surrender," he

added to the agent, who shouted this forthwith; and silence followed.

"Tell him I say he must come out at once," said Augustus then; and

received further silence.

"He eat now," observed the chief. "Can't talk much."

"Sergeant Casey," bellowed Albumblatt, "go over there and take him out!"

"The Lootenant understands," said Casey, slowly, "that Ute Jack has got

the drop on us, and there ain't no getting any drop on him."

"Sergeant, you will execute your orders without further comment."

At this amazing step the silence fell cold indeed; but Augustus was in


"Shall I take any men along, sir?" said Casey in his soldier's machine


"Er--yes. Er--no. Er--do as you please."

The six troopers stepped forward to go, for they loved Casey; but he

ordered them sharply to fall back. Then, looking in their eyes, he

whispered, "Good-bye, boys, if it's to be that way," and walked to the

lodge, lifted the flap, and fell, shot instantly dead through the heart.

"Two bullets into him," muttered a trooper, heavily breathing as the

sounds rang. "He's down," another spoke to himself with fixed eyes; and

a sigh they did not know of passed among them. The two chiefs looked at

Augustus and grunted short talk together; and one, with a sweeping lift

of his hand out towards the tepee and the dead man by it, said, "Maybe

Ute Jack only got three--four--cartridges--so!" (his fingers counted

it). "After he kill three--four--men, you get him pretty good." The

Indian took the white man's death thus; but the white men could not yet

be even saturnine.

"This will require reinforcement," said Augustus to the audience. "The

place must be attacked by a front and flank movement. It must be knocked

down. I tell you I must have it knocked down. How are you to see where

he is, I'd like to know, if it's not knocked down?" Augustus's voice was

getting high.

"I want the howitzer," he screeched generally.

A soldier saluted, and Augustus chattered at him.

"The howitzer, the mountain howitzer, I tell you. Don't you hear me? To

knock the cursed thing he's in down. Go to Captain Duane and give him my

compliments, and--no, I'll go myself. Where's my horse? My horse, I tell

you! It's got to be knocked down."

"If you please, Lieutenant," said the trooper, "may we have the Red

Cross ambulance?"

"Red Cross? What's that for? What's that?"

"Sergeant Casey, sir. He's a-lyin' there."

"Ambulance? Certainly. The howitzer--perhaps they're only flesh wounds.

I hope they are only flesh wounds. I must have more men--you'll come

with me."

From his porch Duane viewed both Augustus approach and the man stop

at the hospital, and having expected a bungle, sat to hear; but at

Albumblatt's mottled face he stood up quickly and said, "What's the

matter?" And hearing, burst out: "Casey! Why, he was worth fifty of--Go

on, Mr. Albumblatt. What next did you achieve, sir?" And as the tale was

told he cooled, bitter, but official.

"Reinforcements is it, Mr. Albumblatt?"

"The howitzer, Captain."

"Good. And G troop?"

"For my double flank movement I--"

"Perhaps you'd like H troop as reserve?"

"Not reserve, Captain. I should establish--"

"This is your duty, Mr. Albumblatt. Perform it as you can, with what

force you need."

"Thank you, sir. It is not exactly a battle, but with a, so-to-speak,


"Take your troops and go, sir, and report to me when you have arrested

your man."

Then Duane went to the hospital, and out with the ambulance, hoping that

the soldier might not be dead. But the wholesome irony of life reckons

beyond our calculations; and the unreproachful, sunny face of his

Sergeant evoked in Duane's memory many marches through long heat and

cold, back in the rough, good times.

"Hit twice, I thought they told me," said he; and the steward surmised

that one had missed.

"Perhaps," mused Duane. "And perhaps it went as intended, too. What's

all that fuss?"

He turned sharply, having lost Augustus among his sadder thoughts; and

here were the operations going briskly. Powder-smoke in three directions

at once! Here were pickets far out-lying, and a double line of

skirmishers deployed in extended order, and a mounted reserve, and men

standing to horse--a command of near a hundred, a pudding of pompous,

incompetent, callow bosh, with Augustus by his howitzer, scientifically

raising and lowering it to bear on the lone white tepee that shone in

the plain. Four races were assembled to look on--the mess Chinaman, two

black laundresses, all the whites in the place (on horse and foot, some

with their hats left behind), and several hundred Indians in blankets.

Duane had a thought to go away and leave this galling farce under the

eye of Starr for the officers were at hand also. But his second thought

bade him remain; and looking at Augustus and the howitzer, his laugh

would have returned to him; but his heart was sore for Casey.

It was an hour of strategy and cannonade, a humiliating hour, which Fort

Brown tells of to this day; and the tepee lived through it all. For it

stood upon fifteen slender poles, not speedily to be chopped down by

shooting lead from afar. When low bullets drilled the canvas, the chief

suggested to Augustus that Ute Jack had climbed up; and when the bullets

flew high, then Ute Jack was doubtless in a hole. Nor did Augustus

contrive to drop a shell from the howitzer upon Ute Jack and explode

him--a shrewd and deadly conception; the shells went beyond, except one,

that ripped through the canvas, somewhat near the ground; and Augustus,

dripping, turned at length, and saying, "It won't go down," stood

vacantly wiping his white face. Then the two chiefs got his leave to

stretch a rope between their horses and ride hard against the tepee. It

was military neither in essence nor to see, but it prevailed. The tepee

sank, a huge umbrella wreck along the earth, and there lay Ute Jack

across the fire's slight hollow, his knee-cap gone with the howitzer

shell. But no blood had flown from that; blood will not run, you know,

when a man has been dead some time. One single other shot had struck

him--one through his own heart. It had singed the flesh.

"You see, Mr. Albumblatt," said Duane, in the whole crowd's hearing,

"he killed himself directly after killing Casey. A very rare act for

an Indian, as you are doubtless aware. But if your manoeuvres with his

corpse have taught you anything you did not know before, we shall all be


"Captain," said Mrs. Starr, on a later day, "you and Ute Jack have ended

our fun. Since the Court of Inquiry let Mr. Albumblatt off, he has not

said Germany once--and that's three months to-morrow."

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