A Call For Help

: An Apache Princess

That night the wire across the mountains to Prescott was long alive

with news, and there was little rest for operator, adjutant, or

commanding officer at Sandy. Colonel Byrne, it seems, had lost

telegraphic touch with his chief, who, quitting Camp McDowell, had

personally taken the field somewhere over in the Tonto Basin beyond

the Matitzal Range, and Byrne had the cares of a continent on his

hands. Three of the five c
mmands out in the field had had sharp

encounters with the foe. Official business itself was sufficiently

engrossing, but there were other matters assuming grave proportions.

Mrs. Plume had developed a feverish anxiety to hie on to the Pacific

and out of Arizona just at a time when, as her husband had to tell

her, it was impossible for him, and impolitic for her, to go. Matters

at Sandy, he explained, were in tangled shape. Mullins partially

restored, but still, as Plume assured her, utterly out of his head,

had declared that his assailants were women; and other witnesses,

Plume would not give names, had positively asserted that Elise had

been seen along the sentry post just about the time the stabbing

occurred. Everything now, said he, must depend on Captain Wren, who

was known to have seen and spoken to Elise, and who could probably

testify that she returned to their roof before the tragic affair of

the night. But Wren was now away up in the mountains beyond Snow Lake

and might be going far over through Sunset Pass to the Colorado

Chiquito. Meantime he, Plume, was responsible for Elise, in duty bound

to keep her there to face any accuser. In her nervous, semi-hysterical

state the wife could not well be told how much she, too, was involved.

It was not necessary. She knew--all Fort Whipple, as Prescott's

military post was called, knew all about the fire that had destroyed

the "beetle shop" and Blakely's belongings. Elise, in wild excitement,

had rushed to her mistress with that news and the further information

that Downs was gone and could not be found. This latter fact, indeed,

they learned before Plume ever heard of it--and made no mention of it

in his presence.

"I shall have to run down to Sandy again," said Byrne, to Plume. "Keep

up your heart and--watch that Frenchwoman. The jade!" And with the

following day he was bounding and bumping down the stony road that led

from the breezy, pine-crested heights about headquarters to the sandy

flats and desert rocks and ravines fifty miles to the east and

twenty-five hundred feet below. "Shall be with you after dark," he

wired Cutler, who was having a bad quarter of an hour on his own

account, and wishing all Sandy to the devil. It had transpired that

Strom's rival ranchman, a little farther down the valley, was short

just one horse and set of horse equipments. He had made no complaint.

He had accused nobody. He had never failed in the past to appear at

Sandy with charge of theft and demand for damages at the expense of

the soldiery whenever he missed an item, big or little--and sometimes

when he didn't miss a thing. But now he came not at all, and Cutler

jumped at the explanation: he had sold that steed, and Downs, the

deserter, was the purchaser. Downs must have had money to aid in his

escape. Downs must have received it from someone eager to get him out

of the way. It might well be Elise, for who else would trust him? and

Downs must be striking for the south, after wide detour. No use now

to chase him. The wire was the only thing with which to round him up,

so the stage stations on the Gila route, and the scattered army posts,

were all notified of the desertion, and Downs's description, with all

his imperfections, was flashed far and wide over the Territory. He

could no more hope to escape than fly on the wings of night. He would

be cut off or run down long before he could reach Mexico; that is, he

would be if only troopers got after him. The civil list of Arizona

in 1875 was of peculiar constitution. It stood ready at any time to

resolve itself into a modification of the old-day underground

railways, and help spirit off soldier criminals, first thoughtfully

relieving them of care and responsibility for any surplus funds in

their possession.

And with Downs gone one way, Wren's troop gone another, and Blakely

here clamoring to follow, Cutler was mentally torn out of shape. He

believed it his duty to hold Blakely at least until the colonel came,

and he lacked the "sand" to tell him so.

From Wren not another word had been received direct, but Bridger at

the agency had sent word that the Indians there were constantly in

receipt of news from the hostiles that filled them with excitement.

Wren, at last accounts, had gone into the mountains south of Sunset

Pass toward Chevlon's Fork, and his trail was doubtless watched to

head off couriers or cut down stragglers. Blakely's appeal to be

allowed to follow and join his troop had been declared foolish, and

the attempt foolhardy, by Captain Cutler. This and not the real reason

was given, coupled of course, with the doctor's dictum. But even

Graham had begun to think Blakely would be the better for anything

that would take him away from a station where life had been one swift

succession of ills and mishaps.

And even Graham did not dream how sorely Blakely had been hit. Nor

could he account for the access of nervous irritability that possessed

his patient all the livelong day, while waiting, as they all were, for

the coming of Colonel Byrne. Mrs. Sanders declared to Mrs. Graham her

private impression that he was on the verge of prostration, although,

making an effort, Blakely had appeared at breakfast after an early

morning walk, had been most courteous, gentle, and attentive to her

and to her wholesome, if not actually homely, Kate. How the mother's

heart yearned over that sweet-natured, sallow-faced child! But after

breakfast Blakely had wandered off again and was out on the mesa,

peering through a pair of borrowed glasses over the dreary eastward

landscape and up and down the deep valley. "How oddly are we

constituted!" said Mrs. Sanders. "If I only had his money, I'd never

be wearing my heart out in this desert land." She was not the only

army wife and mother that should have married a stockbroker--anything

rather than a soldier.

The whole post knew by noon that Byrne was coming, and waited with

feverish impatience. Byrne was the power that would put an end to the

doubts and distractions, decide who stabbed Pat Mullins, who set fire

to the "beetle shop," where Epsom Downs had gone, and could even

settle, possibly, the long-doubtful question, "Who struck Billy

Patterson?" Sandy believed in Byrne as it did in no one since the days

of General Crook. With two exceptions, all Sandy society was out on

the parade, the porticoes, or the northward bluff, as the sun went

down. These two were the Misses Wren. "Angela," said Miss Janet, "is

keeping her room to-day, and pretending to keep her temper"--this to

Kate Sanders, who had twice sought admission, despite a girlish awe

of, if not aversion to, this same Aunt Janet.

"But don't you think she'd like to see me just a little while, Miss

Wren?" the girl inquired, her hand caressing the sleek head of one of

the big hounds as she spoke. Hounds were other objects of Miss Wren's

disfavor. "Lazy, pilfering brutes," she called them, when after hours

of almost incredible labor and ingenious effort they had managed to

tear down, and to pieces, a haunch of venison she had slung to the

rafters of the back porch. "You can come in, Kate, provided you keep

out the dogs," was her ungracious answer, "and I'll go see. I think

she's sleeping now, and ought not to be disturbed."

"Then I won't disturb her," was Miss Sanders's prompt reply, as she

turned away and would have gone, but the elder restrained her. Janet

did not wish the girl to go at all. She knew Angela had asked for her,

and doubtless longed to see her; and now, having administered her

feline scratch and made Kate feel the weight of her disapproval, she

was quite ready to promote the very interview she had verbally

condemned. Perhaps Miss Sanders saw and knew this and preferred to

worry Miss Wren as much as possible. At all events, only with

reluctance did she obey the summons to wait a minute, and stood with a

pout on her lips as the spinster vanished in the gloom of the hallway.

Angela could not have been asleep, for her voice was audible in an

instant. "Come up, Kate," she feebly cried, just as Aunt Janet had

begun her little sermon, and the sermon had to stop, for Kate Sanders

came, and neither lass was in mood to listen to pious exhortation.

Moreover, they made it manifest to Aunt Janet that there would be no

interchange of confidences until she withdrew. "You are not to talk

yourselves into a pitch of excitement," said she. "Angela must sleep

to-night to make up for the hours she lost--thanks to the abominable

remarks of that hardened young man." With that, after a pull at the

curtain, a soothing thump or two at Angela's pillow, and the muttered

wish that the coming colonel were empowered to arrest recalcitrant

nieces as well as insubordinate subs, she left them to their own

devices. They were still in eager, almost breathless chat when the

crack of whip and sputter of hoofs and wheels through gravelly sands

told that the inspector's ambulance had come. Was it likely that

Angela could sleep until she heard the probable result of the

inspector's coming?

He was closeted first with Cutler. Then Dr. Graham was sent for, and

the three walked over to the hospital, just as the musicians were

forming for tattoo. They were at Mullins's bedside, with the steward

and attendants outside, when taps went wailing out upon the night.

There were five minutes of talk with that still bewildered patient.

Then Byrne desired to see Mr. Blakely at once and alone. Cutler

surrendered his office to the department inspector, and thither the

lieutenant was summoned. Mrs. Sanders, with Mrs. Truman, was keeping

little Mrs. Bridger company at the moment, and Blakely bowed

courteously to the three in passing by.

"Even in that rough dress," said Mrs. Sanders reflectively, as her

eyes followed the tall, straight figure over the moonlit parade, "he

is a most distinguished looking man."

"Yes," said Mrs. Bridger, still unappeased. "If he were a Sioux, I

suppose they'd call him 'Man-In-Love-With-His-Legs.'" Blakely heard

the bubble of laughter that followed him on his way, and wished that

he, too, felt in mood as merry. The acting sergeant major, a clerk,

and young Cassidy, the soldier telegraph operator, seated at the

westward end of the rough board porch of the adjutant's office, arose

and saluted as he entered. Byrne had sent every possible hearer out of

the building.

Five minutes the conference lasted, no sound coming from within.

Cutler and Graham, with Captain Westervelt, sat waiting on the porch

of the doctor's quarters, Mrs. Graham being busy with her progeny

aloft. Others of the officers and families were also on the piazzas,

or strolling slowly up and down the pathway, but all eyes wandered

from time to time toward the dim light at the office. All was dark at

the barracks. All was hushed and still about the post. The sentry call

for half-past ten was still some minutes' distant, when one of the

three seated figures at the end of the office porch was seen to rise.

Then the other two started to their feet. The first hastened to the

door and began to knock. So breathless was the night that over on the

verandas the imperative thumping could be distinctly heard, and

everyone ceased talk and listened. Then, in answer to some query from

within, the voice of young Cassidy was uplifted.

"I beg pardon, sir, but that's the agency calling me, and it's hurry."

They saw the door open from within; saw the soldier admitted and the

door closed after him; saw the two men waiting standing and expectant,

no longer content to resume their chat. For three minutes of suspense

there came no further sound. Then the door was again thrown open, and

both Byrne and Blakely came hurrying out. In the memory of the

earliest inhabitant never had Sandy seen the colonel walk so fast.

Together they came striding straight toward Cutler's, and the captain

arose and went to meet them, foreboding in his soul. Graham and

Westervelt, restrained by discipline, held back. The women and younger

officers, hushed by anxiety, gazed at the swift-coming pair in dread

and fascination. There was a moment of muttered conference with the

commanding officer, some hurried words, then Blakely was seen to

spring away, to be recalled by Cutler, to start a second time, only to

be again recalled. Then Cutler, shouting, "Mr. Doty, I need you!"

hurried away toward the office, and Blakely, fairly running, sped

straight for the barracks of Wren's troop. Only Byrne was left to

answer the storm of question that burst upon him all at once, women

thronging about him from all along the line.

"We have news from the agency," said he. "It is from Indian runners,

and may not be reliable--some rumor of a sharp fight near Sunset


"Are there particulars, colonel--anybody killed or wounded?" It was

Mrs. Sanders who spoke, her face very pale.

"We cannot know--as yet. It is all an Indian story. Mr. Blakely is

going at once to investigate," was the guarded answer. But Mrs.

Sanders knew, as well as a dozen others, that there were

particulars--that somebody had been killed or wounded, for Indian

stories to that effect had been found singularly reliable. It was

Wren's troop that had gone to Sunset Pass, and here was Wren's sister

with question in her eye, and at sight of her the colonel turned and

hurried back to headquarters, following the post commander.

Another moment and Blakely, in the broad light streaming suddenly from

the office room of Wren's troop, came speeding straight across the

parade again in the direction of Sanders's quarters, next to the last

at the southward end of the row. They sought, of course, to intercept

him, and saw that his face was pale, though his manner was as composed

as ever. To every question he had but one thing to say: "Colonel Byrne

and the captain know all that I do--and more. Ask them." But this he

said with obvious wish to be questioned no further,--said it gently,

but most firmly,--and then, with scant apology, passed on. Five

minutes more and Nixon was lugging out the lieutenant's field kit on

the Sanders's porch, and Blakely, reappearing, went straight up the

row to Wren's. It was now after 10.30, but he never hesitated. Miss

Janet, watching him from the midst of her friends, saw him stride,

unhesitatingly, straight to the door and knock. She followed

instantly, but, before she could reach the steps, Kate Sanders, with

wonder in her eyes, stood faltering before him.

"Will you say to Miss Angela that I have come as I promised? I am

going at once to--join the troop. Can I see her?" he asked.

"She isn't well, Mr. Blakely. She hasn't left her room to-day." And

Miss Sanders began herself to tremble, for up the steps came the

resolute lady of the house, whom seeing, Mr. Blakely honored with a

civil bow, but with not a word.

"I will hear your message, Mr. Blakely," said Miss Wren, pallid, too,

and filled with wordless anxiety, but determined none the less.

"Miss Sanders has heard it, madam," was the uncompromising answer.

"Will you see Miss Angela, please?" This again to Kate--and, without

another word, she went.

"Mr. Blakely," began the lady impressively, "almost the last thing my

brother said to me before leaving the post was that he wished no

meetings between you and Angela. Why do you pursue her? Do you wish to

compel me to take her away?"

For a moment he was silent. Then, "It is I who must go, Miss Wren,"

was the answer, and she, who expected resentment, looked at him in

surprise, so gentle, so sorrowing was his tone. "I had hoped to bear

her message, but shall intrude no more. If the news that came to-night

should be confirmed--and only in that event--say to her, if you

please, that I shall do my best to find her father."