BY THE AUTHOR OF
"THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER."
CAPT. CHARLES KING, U.S.A.,
AUTHOR OF "KITTY'S CONQUEST," ETC.
PHILADELPHIA: J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY. 1890.
Copyright, 1886, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
Copyright, 1887, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
CAPTAIN THIRD REGIMENT OF CAVALRY,
ONE OF THE NOBLEST MEN, ONE OF THE KNIGHTLIEST SOLDIERS, AND ONE OF THE MOST INEXCUSABLE SACRIFICES IN THE HISTORY OF OUR ARMY,
OF SCENES WHEREIN HE WAS LOVED AND HONORED,
The kind reception accorded "The Colonel's Daughter" was a surprise and delight to the author, nevertheless it was a long time before he could be induced to write this sequel.
When Mr. Sam Slick, at the first essay, shot the cork out of a floating bottle some thirty yards away, he had the deep sagacity never to pull trigger again, well knowing he could not improve on the initial effort, and so Prudence whispered that with the Finis to the story of Jack Truscott and sweet Grace Pelham there had best come a full stop.
But many a plea has been received to "Tell us more about the —th," and at last the motion prevailed. Thackeray has said, "It is an unfair advantage which the novelist takes of the hero and heroine to say good-by to the two as soon as ever they are made husband and wife, and I have often wished that we should hear what occurs to the sober married man as well as to the ardent bachelor; to the matron as to the blushing spinster." And so, many of the characters of the old story reappear upon the scene. That they will be welcomed for the sake of auld lang syne has been promised, and that they and their associates may find new interest in the eyes of the indulgent reader is the prayer of
I.—TWO TROOPERS 5
II.—GARRISON TALK 20
IV.—IMPENDING SHADOWS 59
V.—MARION SANDFORD 72
VI.—AT THE FRONT 84
VII.—WAR RUMORS 100
VIII.—AT RUSSELL 112
IX.—RAY TO THE FRONT 125
X.—A JUNE SUNDAY 147
XI.—THE WOLF AND THE SHEEPFOLD 162
XII.—A SERANADE 177
XIV.—RAY'S RIDE FOR LIFE 207
XV.—RESCUE AT DAWN 222
XVI.—HOW WE HEARD THE NEWS 232
XVII.—A COWARD'S DEED 246
XIX.—IN CLOSE ARREST 272
XX.—A CORNERED RAT 286
XXI.—RAY'S TROUBLES 296
XXII.—A SHOT AT MIDNIGHT 309
XXIII.—IN CLOSER TOILS 322
XXIV.—THE GRASP OF THE LAW 334
XXV.—WHOSE GAUNTLET? 345
XXVIII.—THE COLORS ENTWINE 396
XXIX.—A CAVALRY WEDDING 419
A SEQUEL TO THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER.
"Ray, what would you do if some one were to leave you a fortune?"
"Humph! Pay for the clothes I have on, I suppose," is the answer, half humorous, half wistful, as the interrogated party, the younger of two officers, glances down at his well-worn regimentals. "That's one reason I'm praying we may be sent to reinforce Crook up in the Sioux country. No need of new duds when you're scouting for old 'Gray Fox,' you know."
"I thought you wanted to take a leave this summer and visit the old home in Kentucky," says the major, with a look of rather kindly interest from under his shaggy eyebrows.
"Want must be my master, then. I couldn't pay my way home if they'd take me as freight," replies the lieutenant, in the downright and devil-may-care style which is one of his several pronounced characteristics. "Of course," he continues presently, "I would like to look in on the mother again; she's getting on in years now and isn't over and above strong, but she has no cares or worries to speak of; she don't know what a reprobate I am; sister Nell is married and out of the way; the old home is sold and mother lives in comfort on the proceeds; she's happy up at Lexington with her sister's people. What's the use of my going back to Kentuck and being a worry to her? Before I'd been there a week I'd be spending most of my time down at the track or the stables; I could no more keep away from the horses than I could from a square game, and she hates both,—they swamped my father before I knew an ace from an ant-hill. No, sir! The more I think of it the more I know the only place for me is right here with the old regiment. What's more, the livelier work we have in the field and the less we get of garrison grind the better it is for me. I almost wish we were back in Arizona to-day."
"Why, confound it! man, it isn't a year since we left there," breaks in the major, impatiently, "and we haven't begun to get a taste of civilization yet. You let the women in the regiment hear you talk of wanting to go back there, or what's worse, going up to join Crook in Wyoming, and they'll mob you. Who was it your sister married?" he suddenly asks.
"A man named Rallston,—a swell contractor or something up in Iowa. I never saw him; indeed, it's nearly nine years since I saw her; but she promised to be a beauty then, and they all say she grew up a beauty; but Nell was headstrong and always in mischief, and I'm glad she's settled down. She used to write to me when she was first married, four years ago, and send me occasional 'tips' for Christmas and birthdays, and she was going to give me a Lexington colt when I came East, but she's quit all that, because I was an ungrateful cub and never answered, I suppose. She knows there's nothing I hate worse than writing, and oughtn't to be hard on me. It's all I can do to send a monthly report to the mother."
"Did you say you never saw her husband?" asks the major after a pause, in which he had been apparently studying the quick-tripping hoofs of Ray's nimble sorrel.
"No; never set eyes on him. It was a sudden smite,—one of those flash-in-the-pan, love-at-first-sight affairs. He was down in Kentucky buying horses, saw her at a party, and made no end of fuss over her; had lots of money and style, you know, and the first I heard of it they were married and off. It was our first year in Arizona, and mails were a month old when they got to us."
"How long is it since you heard from her?" says the major, after another pause.
Mr. Ray looks up in some surprise. He hardly knows what to make of this display of curiosity on the part of his ordinarily indifferent companion, but he answers quietly enough,—
"Over a year, I reckon. She was in Omaha then and Rallston was away a good deal,—had big cattle interests somewhere; I know that mother used to ask if Nell told me much about him, and she seemed anxious. Nell herself said that mother was much opposed to the match,—didn't seem to take to Rallston at all,—but she was bound to have him, and she did, and she's just that high-strung sort of girl that if disappointed or unhappy would never let on to the mother as long as she lived."
They are riding slowly in from troop-drill, the battalion commander and a pet of his, Mr. Ray, of the —th Cavalry. It is one of those exquisite May mornings when the rolling prairies of Western Kansas seem swimming in a soft, hazy light, and the mirage on the horizon looks like a glassy sea. The springy turf is tinted with the hues of myriads of wild flowers, purple, pale blue, and creamy white; the mountain breeze that is already whirling the dust-clouds on the Denver plains has not yet begun to ruffle the cottonwoods or the placid surface of the slow-moving stream, and in many a sheltered pool the waters of the "Smoky Hill" gleam like silvered mirror, without break or flaw. Far out on the gentle slopes small herds of troop-horses or quartermaster's "stock," each with its attendant guard, give life to the somewhat sombre tone of the landscape, while nearer at hand two or three well-filled cavalry "troops" with fluttering guidons are marching silently in towards the little frontier garrison that lies in a shallow dip in the wide, treeless prairie.
Bits of color are rare enough, save the faint hues of the flowerets,—almost as indistinguishable in the general effect as their fairy fragrance on the air. Aloft, the sky is all one blaze of sunshine, that seems to bleach it into palest, most translucent blue. Far to the west some fleecy clouds are rolling up from the horizon, wafted from the peaks of the hidden Rockies. Down in the "swale," the wooden barracks, stables, quarters, and storehouses are all one tint of economical brown, brightened only by the hues of the flag that hangs high over the scene. Beyond the shallow valley and across the stream, looking only long rifle-shot away, but a good two miles when one comes to walk it, a brick school-house with glistening cupola stands sentinel in the centre of the scattering frontier town; there, too, lies the railway station, from which an ugly brown freight-train is just pulling out Denverwards, puffing dense clouds of inky smoke to the sky. Space, light, and air there are in lavish profusion. Shade there is little or none, except close along the winding stream; but shade is a thing neither sought nor cared for, as the sun-tanned faces of the troopers show. Every now and then a trumpet-call floats softly over the prairie, or the ringing, prolonged word of command marks some lazily-executed manoeuvre on the homeward way. Drill is over; the sharp eyes and sharper tongue of the major no longer criticise any faulty or "slouchy" wheel; the drill proper has been stiff and spirited, and now the necessary changes of direction are carried out in a purely perfunctory manner, while the battalion commander and his subaltern, troops and all, amble back and give their steeds a breathing spell.
Typical cavalrymen are those two, who, chatting quietly together, are riding somewhat in advance of the returning companies. The major is a man a trifle over forty, short, stout, with massive shoulders, chest, and thighs, a neck like a bull, a well-shaped head covered with straight, close-cropped, brown hair, innocent of kink or curl; a florid face, bronzed and tanned by years of life in sun and wind and storm; clean-shaven but for the drooping brown moustache that conceals the rugged lines of his mouth, and twinkling blue-gray eyes that peer out with searching gaze from under their shaggy brows. Firmness, strength, self-reliance, even sternness, can be read in every line; but around the gathering crowsfeet at the corners of his eyes, and lurking under the shadow of the grim moustache, are little curves or dimples or something, that betray to the initiated the presence of a humorous vein that softens the asperity of the soldier. Some who best know him can detect there a symptom of tenderness and a possibility of sentiment, whose existence the major would indignantly deny. The erect carriage of the head, the square set of the shoulders, the firm yet easy seat in the saddle, speak of the experienced soldier, while in the first word that falls from his lips one hears the tone of the man far more at home in camp than court. There is something utterly blunt and abrupt in his manner, a scathing contrast to the affected drawl brought into the regiment by recent importations from the East, and assiduously copied by a professed Anglo-maniac among the captains. Rude indeed may he sometimes be in his speech, "and little versed in the set phrase of peace," but through it all is the ring of sturdy honesty and independence. He uses the same tone to general and to private soldier alike; extending the same degree of courtesy to each. No one ever heard of "old Stannard's" fawning upon a superior or bullying an inferior; to all soldiers he is one and the same,—short, blunt, quick, and to the point. Literally he obeys the orders of his chiefs, and literally and promptly he expects his own to be obeyed. He has his faults, like the best of men: he will growl at times; he is prone to pick flaws, and to say sharp and cutting things, for which he is often ashamed and sorry; he can see little good in the works or words of the men he dislikes; he absolutely cannot praise, and he is over-quick to blame; but after all he is true as steel, as unswerving as the needle, and no man, no woman could need a stancher friend than the new major of the —th, "old Stannard."
As for Ray, no officer in the regiment is better known or more talked about. Ten years of his life he has spent under the standard of the —th, barring a very short but eventful detail at "the Point." Nebraska, Kansas, and Arizona he knows as well as the savannas of his native blue-grass country. He has been in more skirmishes with the regiment and more scrapes of his own than any fellow of his age in service, but he has the faculty of "lighting on his feet every time," as he himself would express it, and to-day he rides along as buoyantly and recklessly as he did ten years ago, and the saddle is Ray's home. Ephemeral pleasure he finds in the hop-room, for he dances well; perennial attraction, his detractors say, he finds at the card-table, but Ray is never quite himself until he throws his leg over the horse he loves. He is facile princeps the light rider of the regiment, and to this claim there are none to say him nay. A tip-top soldier too is Ray. Keen on the scout, tireless on the trail, daring to a fault in action, and either preternaturally cool or enthusiastically excited when under fire. He is a man the rank and file swear by and love. "You never hear Loot'nant Ray saying 'Go in there, fellers.' 'Tis always, 'Come on, boys.' That's why I like him," is the way Sergeant Moriarty puts it. Among his comrades, his brother officers that is to say, opinions are divided. Ray has trusty friends and he has his bitter enemies, though the latter, when charged with the fact, are prone to say that no one is so much Ray's enemy as Ray himself,—an assertion which cannot be altogether denied. But as his own worst enemy Ray is thoroughly open and above-board; he has not a hidden fault; his sins are many and they are public property for all he cares; whereas the men who dislike Ray in the regiment are of the opposite stamp. Among themselves they pick him to pieces with comparative safety, but outside their limited circle, the damnation of faint praise, the covert insinuations, or that intangible species of backbiting which can,
"Without sneering, others teach to sneer,"
has to be their resort, and for good reason. Ray tolerates no slander, and let him once get wind of the fact that some man has maligned him, there is a row in the camp. Minding his own business, however unsuccessfully, he meddles with the affairs of no one else, and thinking twice before he alludes once to the shortcomings of a comrade, he claims that consideration for himself, but doesn't get it. There be men who outrival the weaker sex in the sinister effect they can throw into the faintest allusion to another's conduct, and in the dexterity with which they evade the consequences, and of such specimens the —th has its share. There was Crane, whom Ray had fearfully snubbed and afterwards "cut" in Arizona; there was Wilkins, whom Ray had treated with scant courtesy for over a year, because of some gossip that veteran had been instrumental in putting into circulation; there was Captain Canker, who used to like and admire Ray in the rough old days in the canons and deserts, but who had forfeited his esteem while they were stationed at Camp Sandy, and when they met again in Kansas, Ray touched his cap to his superior officer but withheld his hand. Canker felt very bitterly towards Ray, claiming that there was no officer in the regiment whom he had treated with such marked courtesy, and to this, when he heard it, Ray made response in his characteristic way. He would have no middleman. He went straight to Canker and said his say in few terse words: "You consider me unjustified in refusing to treat you as a friend, Captain Canker; now let us have no misunderstanding whatever. Your conduct towards my best friend, Captain Truscott, and towards—towards another good friend of mine at Sandy, was an outrage in my opinion, and I have yet to learn that you have expressed regret or made amends. That's my position, sir; and if you care for my friendship, you know how to regain it." Canker was too much astonished by such directness to make any reply. Other officers who happened to be standing near maintained an embarrassed silence, and Ray faced about and walked off. "For all the world," said Wilkins, "as though he had that d——d chip on his shoulder again and was begging somebody to knock it off." Canker was hit in a sore place. Long before this occurrence he realized that several officers of the regiment had withdrawn every semblance of esteem in their intercourse with him. He well knew why, but the officer whose cause Ray so vehemently championed was away on detached service, and Canker really did not know just what to do, and was too proud and sensitive to seek advice. He was a gallant soldier in the field, but a man of singularly unfortunate disposition,—crabbed, cranky, and suspicious; and thus it resulted that he, too, joined the little band of Ray haters, despite the fact that he felt ashamed of himself for so doing.
Then there was Gleason,—"That man Gleason," as he was generally alluded to, and to those familiar with army life or army ways the mere style is indicative of this character. For good and sufficient reason Mr. Ray had slapped Mr. Gleason's face some years back, when the —th was serving in Arizona, and there was no possible reason for his failure to seek the immediate reparation due him as an officer, no possible reason except the absolute certainty of Ray's promptly according him the demanded luxury. The —th was commanded by a colonel of the old school in those days, one who had observed "the code" when a junior officer, and would have been glad to see it carried out to this day; but Gleason was not made of that stuff, and to the scandal of the regiment and the incredulous mirth of Mr. Ray, Gleason pocketed the blow as complacently as he did the money he had won from the Kentuckian by a trick which was transparent to every looker-on, and would have been harmless with Ray—had he been himself. Those were the rough days of the regiment's campaign against the Apaches; officers and men were scattered in small commands through the mountains; in the general and absorbing interest of the chase and scout after a common foe there was no time to take up and settle the affair as something affecting the credit of the entire corps; many officers never heard of it at all until long afterwards, and then it was too late; but to this day Gleason stood an unsparing, bitter, but secret and treacherous enemy of the younger officer. He hated Ray with the venom of a snake.
So far as the regiment was concerned, the enmity of a man of Gleason's calibre could hardly be of consequence. Like Canker, he had come into the —th from the "supernumerary list" at the time of the general reorganization in '71. Scores of infantry officers left out of their regiments by consolidation were saddled upon the cavalry and artillery, and in many instances proved utterly out of their element in the mounted service. All the cavalry regiments growled more or less at the enforced addition to their list of "total commissioned," and the —th had not been especially fortunate. Many a fine soldier and excellent comrade had come into the cavalry in this way, and of them the —th had found a few; but a dozen or more, valuable neither as soldiers nor comrades, had drifted into the mounted service, and of these the regiment had, to say the least, its full share. "All I've got to remark on the subject," said old "Black Bill," the senior major at that eventful period,—"all I've got to remark is simply this: those infantry fellows showed profound discrimination in getting rid of their chaff, but they had no mercy on us. When a man ain't good enough for a doughboy officer he ain't fit for anything."
Now, it by no means resulted from inefficiency on their part that so many of the transferred officers had left their own regiments. Many had requested the move; many more were rendered supernumerary as being the juniors of their grades; but there were others still who ranked well up in their old regiments, and yet were mysteriously "left out in the cold." And of such was "that man Gleason." Six years had he served with the new regiment in the field, and not a friend could he muster among the officers,—not one who either liked or respected him,—not one who more than tolerated him except among the two or three who daily and nightly haunted the card-room at the trader's store; but to hear Gleason talk one would fancy him to be on terms of intimacy with every "solid" man of the regiment, and the casual visitor at the garrison would be more than apt to leave it with the impression that Gleason was the figure-head of the commissioned element. He had fair manners; his appearance was prepossessing; he was bland and insinuating among daily associates, confidential and hospitable with strangers. A visitor could go nowhere without meeting Gleason, for his social status was just so balanced between adverse influences that one could neither forbid nor welcome him to his home. No matter who might be the entertaining officer, the first to call and pay his respects to the guest would be that objectionable Gleason, and very sprightly and interesting could he be. Ten to one the chances were that when he took his departure he had left a pleasant impression on the mind of the new arrival, who would find himself at a loss to account for the evident perturbation with which his host proper regarded his acceptance of Gleason's hospitable invitations. Gleason's horse, Gleason's dogs or guns or rods were promptly at the door for him to try, and when others sought to do him honor, and other invitations came to hunt or ride or dine, Gleason had the inside track, and somehow or other it seemed to make the better men of the —th retire into their shells when they heard of it. This had been the way with visiting officers from other posts and regiments when in Arizona, and the same thing was being repeated here in Kansas. The —th did not like it, but could not exactly see how to help it. The only vulnerable and tangible points upon which he could be "sent to Coventry" were shady transactions at cards or horse-racing that had occurred in Arizona, and his failure to resent Ray's blow; but two and three years had elapsed since these occurrences; the scattered condition of the regiment had prevented regimental notice of them at the time, and it was generally held that now it was too late for any such action. With any other man coldness, distance of manner, or at the least the pronounced snubs that greeted Gleason, would have long since had effect, but he was proof against such methods, and no sooner detected them than he found excuses to force himself upon the attention or conversation of the officer, and in so insidious a way as to disarm resistance. He would fairly beam with cordiality and respect upon the commanding officer who was short and gruff with him; he would invade old Stannard's quarters to ask his advice about the purchase of a horse or the proper method of dealing with some one of his men,—and the major had a soft side in looking after the rights of the rank and file; he would drop in to ask Mrs. Stannard the name of a new flower he had picked up out near the targets. He cared no more for flowers than she did for him, but it gave him temporary admission, generally when other ladies had called for a morning chat, and though she cordially disliked him, Mrs. Stannard was too thorough a lady to show the least discourtesy to an officer of her husband's regiment. Gleason well knew it, and laid his plans accordingly. For a long time, indeed, there were ladies who could not understand why Mr. Gleason should be so contemptuously spoken of by the officers. He was so thoughtful, so delicate, and then he was so lonely. Gleason was a widower, whose eyes would often overflow when he spoke of the little woman whom he had buried years ago down in Connecticut; but when Mrs. Turner once questioned Captain Baxter, who knew them when they were in the old infantry regiment in Louisiana, and referred to its being so sad and touching to hear Mr. Gleason talk of his dead wife and their happy days among the orange-groves near Jackson Barracks, the captain astonished her by an outburst of derisive laughter. "Happy, madam?" said he; "by gad! if ever a woman died of neglect, abuse, and ill-treatment Mrs. Gleason did, and next time he attempts to gull you with sentiment, just you refer him to me." But then, as Mrs. Turner said, poor Captain Baxter's finer sensibilities seemed to have been blunted by a lifetime in the quartermaster's department, and for quite a while Mr. Gleason was one of her favorites,—quite a devotee in fact, until the disastrous day when she discovered that so far from having been ill and unable to ride with her, as he claimed, he had been spending the afternoon in the fascinations of poker. One by one the ladies of the —th had learned to trust Mr. Gleason as little as did their lords, but there was no snubbing him. "Snubs," said the senior major, "are lost on such a pachydermatous ass as Gleason," and however tough might be his moral hide, and however deserved might have been the applied adjective, the major was in error in calling Gleason an ass. Intriguing, full of low malice and scheming, a "slanderer and substractor" he certainly was, but no fool. More's the pity, Mr. Gleason was far too smart for the direct methods and simple minds of his associates in the —th. He never in all his life failed to take full note of every slight or coldness, and though it was his role to hide the sting, and "smile and smile and be a villain still," never was it his purpose to permit the faintest snub to go unpunished. Sooner or later, unrelentingly but secretly he would return that stab with interest ten times compounded. And sooner or later to the bitter end he meant to feed fat his ancient grudge on Ray.
Up to this time he had scant opportunity. For two or three years preceding their removal to the East Gleason had been stationed in Southern Arizona, while Ray, after months of lively service in the mountains, had been sent to regimental headquarters, and marched with them when they came into Kansas. Now once more six companies were gathered at the post of the standard,—two were tenting on the prairie just outside the garrison, the other four were regularly in barracks, and the concentration there boded a move or "business" of some kind. "Old Catnip," the colonel, was East, but the lieutenant-colonel was commanding, and the junior major was there. Drills were incessant, but scouts were few, and after the years of "go-as-you-please" work in Arizona the —th was getting rapidly back into soldierly shape. The little frontier fort was blithe and gay with its merry populace. All the officers' families had joined; several young ladies were spending the spring in garrison and taking their first taste of military life; hops and dances came off almost every night, a "german" every week; rides, drives, hunts, and picnic-parties were of daily occurrence; the young officers were in clover, the young ladies in ecstasy, the young matrons—perhaps not quite so well pleased as when they had the field to themselves in Arizona, where young ladies had been few and far between, and all promised delightfully for the coming summer,—all but the war-cloud rising in the far Northwest.
It was a picturesque group that assembled every pleasant morning on the veranda of the colonel's quarters. There had been a time in the not very distant past of the regiment when the ladies gathered almost anywhere else in preference, but that was when Colonel Pelham had retained the command, and when his wife sought to rule the garrison after methods of her own devising. However successful may be such feminine usurpation for a time, it is at best but a temporary power, for women are of all things revolutionary. The instances where some ambitious matron has sought to assume the control of the little military bailiwick known as "the garrison" are numerous indeed, but the fingers of one hand are too many to keep tally of the cases of prolonged and peaceful reign. Mrs. Pelham's queendom had been limited to a very brief fortnight,—so 'twas said in the regiment,—despite the fact that the more prominent members of the social circle of the —th had been quite ready to do her every homage on her first arrival,—provided the prime ministry were not given to some rival sister. But Mrs. Pelham's administration had been fraught with errors and disasters enough to wreck a constitutional monarchy, and, as a result, affairs were in a highly socialistic, if not nihilistic condition for some months after the return of the regiment from its exile in Arizona. Only a few of the officers had taken their families thither with them, for the journey in those days was full of vast discomfort and expense, and life there was an isolation; but those ladies who had shared the heat and burden of the Arizona days with their lords were not unnaturally given to regarding themselves as entitled to more consideration as regimental authorities than those of their sisterhood who had remained in comfort in the East. Then, too, there was a little band of heroines who had made the march "cross country" with the —th, and held themselves (and were held by the men) as having a higher place on the regimental unwritten records than those who were sent home by way of the Pacific, San Francisco, and the one railway that then belted the continent. Of these heroines Mrs. Pelham was not, and when she rejoined at Fort Hays, got her house in order and proceeded, though with inward misgiving, to summon her subjects about her, she found that even the faint rally on which she had counted was denied her. The ladies who knew her at Camp Sandy had thrown off the yoke, and those who were joining for the first time had been unmistakably cautioned by the determined Amazons of the homeward march. Courtesy, civility, and a certain degree of cordiality when in their social gatherings, the ladies were willing to extend to the colonel's wife, but the declaration of independence had been signed and sealed,—they would have no more of her dominion.
To a woman of her character garrison life was no longer tolerable to Mrs. Pelham; the colonel, too, was getting tired of it, was aging rapidly and no longer able to take his morning gallops. Then, too, he was utterly lonely; his one daughter, the light of his old eyes, had married the man of her choice during the previous year; his sons were scattered in their own avocations, and the complaints and peevishness of his wife were poor companions for his fireside. The officers welcomed him to their club-room, and gladly strove to interest him in billiards or whist, to the exclusion of the Gleason clique and concomitant poker, which was never played in the colonel's presence; but even this solace was denied him by his wife. She was just as lonely at home, poor lady, and she had to have some one to listen to her long accumulation of feminine trials and grievances, otherwise the overcharged bosom would burst. We claim it an attribute of manhood that "to suffer and be strong" is an every-day affair; but the best of men feel infinite relief in having some trusted friend who will listen in patience to the oft-told story of their struggle. To suffer, be strong, and be silent is a task for the stoutest of our sex, but woman triumphs over nature itself in accomplishing the triple feat, and undergoes a torture that outrivals martyrdom. Suffer Mrs. Pelham could and did, if her voluble lamentations could be credited; strong she deemed herself beyond all question, in not having succumbed to the privations and asperities of Western life, but silent? ah, no! Poor old Pelham's life had become a perennial curtain-lecture, so Lieutenant Blake expressed it, and when January came, and with it an opportunity to accept a pleasant detail in the East, the colonel lost no time in taking his departure. He left the —th with a sorrowful heart, for officers and men were strongly attached to the old soldier who had for years past shared every exile with them, but they could not bear his domineering wife, and many a fellow who hadn't told an appreciable lie for six months gulped unconscionably when it came to saying good-by to Mrs. Pelham. How could an honest man say he regretted her going? Stout old Bucketts, the quartermaster, looked her straight in the eye and wished her a pleasant journey and a long and happy visit East, whereat several ladies gasped audibly, yet told it over and over afterwards with infinite delight. The majority of the officers contented themselves with saying that the garrison would not be the same place without the colonel and herself, which was gospel truth despite its ambiguity, but Gleason came in from a hunt purposely to say farewell, and was most effusive in his regrets at her ladyship's departure, and as for the ladies of the regiment. Ah, well! Why should they be any different, any more frank in garrison than out of it? There was not one of their number who did not inwardly rejoice at Mrs. Pelham's going, but they clouded their gentle faces in decorous mourning; they grouped about her on the piazza when the hour for parting came, looking infinitely pathetic and picturesque, and the soft voices were touching in their subdued sorrow; there were even eyes that glistened with unshed tears, and both Mrs. Raymond and Mrs. Turner begged that she would write to them, and heaven only knows what all. Who that saw it could doubt the forgiving nature of the gentler sex? Who dare asperse the sweet sincerity of feminine friendship?
But Lady Pelham had gone, and gone for good they hoped; the lieutenant-colonel had arrived and assumed command, and Major and Mrs. Stannard made their first appearance at regimental headquarters. A new era had dawned on the —th; the staff sent in their resignations, and were promptly and pleasantly notified by the new commander that he hoped they would not deprive him of services that had been so valuable to his predecessor; whereat they resumed duty with lighter hearts. It was all well enough where Bucketts was concerned; he had been quartermaster for years and no one expected anything else, but there were those in the regiment who hoped there might be a change in the adjutancy. The office was held by one of the senior lieutenants, to be sure, and one who possessed many qualifications which were conceded, but his appointment had been something of an accident.
He, too, had come into the —th by transfer in '71 for the avowed purpose of seeking service on the Western frontier with the cavalry. As it was the artillery which he abandoned for that purpose, the —th admitted that here was a fellow who might be worth having, but, to the scandal of the entire regiment, no sooner was the order issued which doomed them to a five years' exile in Arizona—then overrun with hostile Apaches—than the newly transferred gentleman accepted a detail as aide-de-camp on the staff of a general officer, and the —th went across to the Pacific and presently were lost to recollection in the then inaccessible wilds of that marvellous Territory. Here they spent four long years of hard scouting, hard fighting, and no little suffering, while the aide in question was presumably enjoying himself in unlimited ball and opera in a gay Southern capital. Suddenly he turned up in their midst just in time to take part in the closing campaign which left the Apaches for several years a disarmed and subjugated race; he happened to get command of a well-seasoned and thoroughly experienced "troop," and through no particular personal merit, but rather by the faculty he had of seeking the advice of the veteran sergeants in the company, he had won two or three lively little fights with wandering bands of hostiles, and had finally been quite enviably wounded. It was all a piece of his confounded luck, said some of the —th not unnaturally. Many a gallant fellow had been killed and buried, many another wounded and not especially mentioned, and all of them had done months of hard work where Billings had put in only so many days, but here he came in at the eleventh hour, and they, who had borne the heat and burden of the campaign and received every man his penny, couldn't help a few good-natured slings at the fact that Billings's penny was just as big and round as theirs. The department commander had been close at hand every time that fortunate youth came in from a scout, and even Ray, who was incessantly seeking the roughest and most dangerous service, could not repress a wistful expression of his views when he heard of the final scrimmage far up towards Chevelon's Fork. "Here we fellows have been bucking against this game for nigh onto four years now, and if ever we raked in a pile it's all been ante'd up since, and now Billings comes in fresh—never draws but he gets a full hand—and he scoops the deck. He has too much luck for a white man." The remark was one that, said by Ray himself in his whimsical and downright manner, was destitute of any hidden meaning, and Billings, who had not seen Ray for years, would never have misunderstood it, but when he first heard it six months afterwards, and while Ray and himself had yet to meet, it was told semi-confidentially, told as Ray never said it, told in fact—by Gleason; and Billings, who was of a nervous, sensitive disposition, as outspoken in a way as Ray was in his, was hurt more than a little. He had known Ray a dozen years before when both were wearing the gray as cadets at the Point, but they were in different classes and by no means intimate. Each, however, had cordially liked the other, and Billings would have been slow to believe the statement as told him for a single instant except for two things,—one was that Gleason was a new acquaintance of whom up to that time he knew nothing really discreditable; the other was that just before the regiment came East from Arizona the adjutancy became vacant, Lieutenant Truscott, who had long held the position, was detailed for duty at West Point and speedily promoted to his captaincy; Billings was brought in wounded and sent off by sea to San Francisco as soon as he could travel, and so heard little of the particulars of some strange mystery that was going on at regimental headquarters, and when, some months later, he rejoined the regiment in Kansas, it was with much mental perturbation that he received from "Old Catnip" the offer of the still vacant adjutancy.
Of course, he had heard by that time just why Truscott had resigned and refused to re-accept the position; he also knew that the colonel had said that he could give it to no officer who had not served with them in the rough days in Arizona; and, moreover, that he had once declared that offering the adjutancy to a second lieutenant was equivalent to saying that no first lieutenant was capable of performing the duties. But he did not know that soon after Truscott's resignation the colonel had tendered the adjutancy to Ray, and that impolitic youth had promptly declined. He knew, as did the whole regiment, that for Truscott Ray had an enthusiastic admiration and regard, and for that matter, Billings himself had reason to look upon the ex-adjutant as a friend worth having; but he did not suspect, as some at old Camp Sandy more than suspected, that Ray had been offered his place. The colonel, in his surprise and mortification, would speak of it to no one. Ray, in his blunt honesty, conceived it to be his duty to regard the offer as confidential, since he had declined, and so, snubbed any one who strove to extract information. Most of the senior lieutenants were on detached service when they came in from Arizona. Everybody thought Stryker would get the detail as soon as he returned from abroad, whither he had gone on leave after making, as mountain scout leader, the best four years' record in the regiment; but Stryker came just as Billings did, and to Billings, not Stryker, was the adjutancy tendered. What made the regiment indignant was, that so far from being in the least put out about it, Stryker placidly remarked that Billings was the very man for the place. "He isn't entitled to it," said the —th; "in ten years' service he hasn't spent ten months with us." But Stryker did not see fit to tell them what he knew and the colonel knew,—that he had been tendered and had accepted the position of aide-de-camp to his old Arizona chief, and was daily awaiting orders to join; and Ray was off scouting with his troop when Billings reached headquarters, and had to face, as he supposed, an opposition. Stannard was the only man who really knew very much about him as a cavalry officer, and Stannard's opinion was what brought it all about. They had served for some months at the same post, and both the major and his clear-sighted wife had taken a fancy to the young officer, whose first appearance in "citified garb and a pince-nez" gave little promise of future usefulness in the field. Pelham and Stannard knew that it had to be Billings or a second lieutenant, but Billings had at first no such intimation. Possibly his strong sense of self-esteem might have stood in the way of acceptance had he supposed that he was merely a last resort. Stannard really hoped he would be the appointee, but all he would say to the colonel when asked for his opinion was, "I have had less to find fault with in him than any officer who ever served in my troop; but then he was only with me six months or so. I like him," which was tantamount to saying others probably wouldn't. But Stannard and Billings were firm friends, as anybody could see, and the colonel was quick to note that when Stannard had given Billings anything to do, he bothered himself no further about the matter, instead of going along and supervising as was his wont with most of the others. "If he's good enough for Stannard, he'll do for me," was the colonel's comment, and when Billings sought to decline the appointment offered, hinting, with well-meant but awkward delicacy, that perhaps it ought to go to some man of more established reputation and record in the regiment, the colonel cut him short with, "Here, Mr. Billings, I must have some one at once; old Bucketts has been doing office-work as both quartermaster and adjutant until he is getting used up, and young Dana is only good for parade and guard-mounting. I'll detail you as acting adjutant, and if you like it, at the end of a week we'll make the appointment permanent. Consult your friends meantime, if you choose." And so it happened that when Stannard said, "Take it," and Stryker told him quietly that there were reasons why he himself would have had to decline, Billings shook his head a few minutes in thinking over what he had heard of Mrs. Pelham, and wished he might see Ray and make him understand that he thought the place should go to him, but Stannard said, emphatically, that Ray was too harum-scarum for office-work, good as he was in the field. And then came a brief letter from Truscott, cordial and straight to the point as ever. It wound up by saying, "The colonel attributes your hesitation to the fact that you think it ought to go to some man who has served longer with the regiment. We respect that, and appreciate it; but you are offered this with the best backing in the regiment,—Stannard's,—and with that you can afford to laugh at anything the growlers may say."
The next morning the order was issued in due form. That afternoon Mr. Ray, returning dusty and unshorn from a two weeks' scout up the Saline, was informed of the fact as he stood at the stables unstrapping from the back of his sorrel the carcass of a fat antelope, gave a low whistle, remarked, "Well, I'm damned!" and, as bad luck would have it, postponed rushing in to congratulate Billings until dinner, when, to his genuine disappointment, the latter did not appear. He was dining at the colonel's to meet some officers from Leavenworth, and when the new adjutant went to his rooms late that night he had not seen Ray at all, but there was that man Gleason smoking a cigar, sipping a toddy, and evidently primed for a chat. Already Billings had begun to look upon him with disfavor, but could find no reason to avoid him entirely; he did not welcome the unwanted guest; he could not chill him. Gleason had his chat, and, when Ray stepped forward with sunny smile and glistening white teeth and cordial, outstretched hand the next morning, Billings looked him in the eye, took his hand, but there was no warmth in the welcome, and Ray felt rebuffed. "I heard Ned Billings had developed into something of a snob," said he afterwards, "but he's changed more, for a frank-hearted fellow that he was ten years ago, than any man I know." And so it happened that two men whose lives were closely interwoven from that time on, who had much in common, who, "had they but known," could never have drifted apart, began the next stage with an unknown, unseen, yet undeniable influence thrusting them asunder. And it was of these two men that the picturesque group on the colonel's piazza happened to be speaking this very May morning as the major and Mr. Ray, dismounting at the south gate, strolled lazily up the lane. It was the habit of the former when not on military duty to thrust his hands deep down into his trousers pockets, and allow his ample and aldermanic paunch to repose its weight upon his sabre-belt. As the belt was worn only at the hours of drill or parade, it followed that there were lapses of time wherein the paunch knew no such military trammel, and a side elevation of the battalion commander warranted the simile put in circulation by Lieutenant Blake: "The major looked as though he had swallowed a drum." Ray, on the contrary, was slimly, even elegantly built, a trifle taller than his bulky superior, and though indolent in his general movements, excitement or action transformed him in an instant. Then in every motion he was quick as a cat. It was his wont to wear his forage-cap far down over his forehead and canted very much over the right eye, while, contrary to the fashion of that day, his dark hair fell below the visor in a sweeping and decided "bang" almost to his eyebrows, which were thick, dark brown, and low-arched. A semi-defiant backward toss of the head was the result as much perhaps of the method of wearing his cap as of any pronounced mental characteristic. When Stannard was talking eagerly of any subject his hands went deeper into his pockets, his head thrust forward, and his eyes fairly popped, as though slight additional pressure would project them into space like many-tinted grape-shot. If he were standing still, he tilted on his toes and dropped his head to one side as he expounded, until the ear wellnigh reposed upon the shoulder-strap. Ray, on the other hand, threw his head farther back and, unless he was angry, showed his white teeth to the molars.
As they came along the walk from the main gate and passed one by one the snug little brown cottages known as the officers' quarters, the ladies grouped on the colonel's piazza began their very natural comment,—there were no other men in sight on that side of the garrison.
"Last year you never saw Major Stannard without Mr. Billings; now you never see him with him, and he is just as chummy with Mr. Ray," remarked our old friend Mrs. Turner, who was languidly swinging in the hammock, her eyes commanding a view of the sidewalk, and the sidewalk commanding a view of her very presentable feet encased in a new pair of French heeled slippers, and stockings whose delicate mauve tint matched the ribbons of her airy dress.
"Well, Mr. Billings is adjutant and cooped up in the office all day," was the reply of Mrs. Raymond, who could readily find reason for taking exception to the remarks or theories of her next-door neighbor and social rival.
There were five ladies in the group, all under thirty, two of them under twenty, only one unmarried, none of them avowedly interested in either of the two officers slowly approaching. No one of them, however, neglected a sweeping glance at her draperies or some slight readjustment of pose or petticoat. Possibly the formality would have been equally observed had they all been over fifty.
"I never could understand why Mr. Billings was made adjutant," remarked the one spinster, her eyes dreamily resting on the lithe form of Mr. Ray. "I don't mean, of course, that he doesn't do very well, but—there were so many others who would have—at least who deserved it so much more."
"Well, you must remember this," responded Mrs. Turner, "there wasn't anybody else when it was given to him, and there was no real reason why the colonel should remove him when he took command. Mr. Stryker was going as aide-de-camp; Mr. Gleason—well, anybody knows he wouldn't do; Mr. Crane and Mr. Wilkins were neither of them fit for it; Mr. Ray wouldn't have it, and Mr. Blake and Mr. Freeman hadn't joined. It was really Billings or nobody, except, of course, the second lieutenants. Dear me! how I wish one of them could have been appointed!" And Mrs. Turner sighed pathetically. The younger officers were her especial henchmen, and each in turn paid his devotion a year or more at the shrine. If any one of them had been put in power, how much easier 'twould have been to get the band every evening! and then the hops wouldn't have to close at midnight either! and Mrs. Turner was devoted to dancing.
"But papa says Mr. Billings is right about not letting the band play after midnight," broke in the young lady, whose years had been spent in many a garrison, and whose papa—the post surgeon—had pronounced views on matters of military and medical discipline. "Papa says the officers have no right to make the band play until late at night unless they pay them extra. They have to be up at reveille, and it's a shame to make them work all day and at night too!"
"The doctor is by no means alone in that idea," began a third speaker in a quiet voice, and both Mrs. Turner and Mrs. Raymond, who had impulsively burst into speech at the same instant, checked their nimble tongues, bridled, sweetly said, "I beg your pardon, Mrs. Stannard," and inclined attentive ears to a lady who at the moment had stepped from the open door-way to the piazza. It was evident that she was a late arrival, in whose presence the others felt bound to observe the deferential manners which further intimacy would possibly extinguish. "Indeed," she went on, "only this morning at breakfast Colonel Foster was saying that the bandsmen were getting their full share of work, and that Mr. Billings was quite right in the stand he made in the matter."
"Ah, Mrs. Stannard, I don't wonder Mr. Billings is devoted to you!" said Mrs. Raymond. "You are always ready to defend him."
"He was in our troop, you know, and I feel that he belongs to us to a certain extent," said Mrs. Stannard, smiling brightly, and nodding pleasant greetings to the two officers who were passing at the moment, still intent in their earnest talk. The major merely glanced at the piazza and pulled off his cap, as though he wished its fair occupants were beyond saluting distance. Ray bowed with laughing grace, and sung out cheerily,—
"Don't expect the major home just yet, Mrs. Stannard; he's giving me fits, and I'm in for a lecture."
The ladies were silent a moment, until the pair had passed on out of earshoot. Then Mrs. Turner took up the cudgels again.
"And yet, Mrs. Stannard, it wasn't so when Mr. Truscott was adjutant. We could have the band night after night if we wanted to, and surely you won't say that Mr. Truscott wasn't the very paragon of an adjutant."
"No, indeed," was the reply. "We all know how unequalled Mr. Truscott was; but then, were not the conditions very different, Mrs. Turner? For instance, in Arizona the band was not mounted, the men had no stable duty, and it was so hot in the daytime that they really had no duty to perform but to play after dark when it was cool. Now, here they have their horses, they have two parades each day; they practice every morning, and play on the parade every afternoon; that, with morning and evening stable duty, keeps them very busy, and don't you think Mr. Billings is right?"
Now, all this was well understood by both Mrs. Turner and Mrs. Turner's friends, and as put by Mrs. Stannard, the case was clearly in favor of the bandsmen and the adjutant. Down in the depths of her consciousness Mrs. Turner was well aware of the fact. She had gone over the fight with her liege lord, the captain, more than once since the spring weather had set in and the services of the band were in requisition several hours each day. She knew perfectly well that there was no parallel in the conditions existing in Arizona in Mr. Truscott's time and those of the day in Kansas with Billings. Still, she wanted to contrast the men and their methods, and, as is not unusual, pronounced the abstract statement that "it wasn't so with Mr. Truscott. Then we could have the band night after night." She was only stating a fact, was her mental justification, but that she was doing an injustice she would probably have not admitted for an instant.
Mrs. Stannard, however, had seen through the argument, and in her courteous way had shattered its effect. This put Mrs. Turner on her mettle, and she half rose from the hammock.
"Don't for a moment think I mean to criticise Mr. Billings, Mrs. Stannard; I really like him, very much; only it's so poky not to have the band now. The evenings are so lovely for dancing, and with so many young officers here, it seems such a pity to waste so much time. They are out drilling or shooting, or something, all day long, and who knows but what they'll all be ordered off somewhere the next minute? Then we can have the band all day and nobody to dance with. It's always the way."
"Well, I like Mr. Billings, too," said Mrs. Raymond, eager to say something pleasant of Mrs. Stannard's friend; "and Captain Raymond says he is a very soldierly officer,—very military, I mean,—and knows his duties so well, only we can't help contrasting him with Mr. Truscott. Mr. Truscott was so dignified and calm and deliberate, while Mr. Billings is a regular bunch of springs. They say he's very quick and irascible; real peppery, you know; but I suppose that is because they bother him a good deal."
"Mr. Billings has a very nervous temperament I know," replied Mrs. Stannard, "but we never thought him ill-tempered at Fort Gaines, and certainly Captain Truscott thinks all the world of him. They correspond constantly, and only last evening he showed me a letter just received from the captain."
"Did he?" said Mrs. Turner, with sudden interest. "What did he say about Grace?"
"About Mrs. Truscott?" said Mrs. Stannard, smilingly. "He said a good deal about her. She was so bright and well and so pleased with West Point, and they had such lovely quarters, looking right out on the plain where they could see everything that was going on, and Miss Sanford was visiting them——"
"What Miss Sanford?" asked Mrs. Turner, with that feminine impetuosity which is born of an incredulity as to any one's being able to convey information in one's own time and way.
"Miss Marion Sanford. She was a classmate of Mrs. Truscott's in their school-days, and belongs to a wealthy New Jersey family, Mr. Billings says."
"Oh, I know!" said Mrs. Raymond. "She's that handsome girl in the album that Grace had at Sandy, don't you know? with the Worth dress and the something or other the matter with her forehead,—a burn or a birth-mark,—wears her hair so low over it. Don't you know? Grace told us she had such a sad history,—her mother died when she was sixteen and her father married again, and she has her mother's fortune and had gone abroad. She was travelling with the Zabriskies and was presented at court last year, and the Prince of Wales said something or other about her. Don't you know? we read it in the New York something as we were coming out on the Kansas Pacific last fall. My! Just think of her at West Point! What a catch!" And Mrs. Raymond paused, breathless with admiration, not with effort. Talking fatigued her far less than silence.
"Yes, Mrs. Raymond, that is the very one, I believe," continued Mrs. Stannard in her pleasant tones, as soon as the lady came to a full stop. "Mr. Billings says that he has heard that her father married a very unpleasant woman the last time, and that 'twas said he would be——"
"What! Mr. Billings said that? Oh, Mrs. Stannard, how rejoiced I am to hear it! Captain Turner tried to make me believe that he was another Truscott in his horror of gossip. Now, won't I crow over him when he comes in to dinner?"
"Not crow, dear,—cackle," suggested Mrs. Raymond, mildly; "it's the other sex that does the crowing."
"Very possibly I have betrayed a trust," laughed Mrs. Stannard, coming to the rescue in the interests of harmony. "It was my mistake in referring to it. Do tell me about Mrs. Truscott; you know I never met her."
"What is there to tell except that she is Mrs. Truscott," half laughed, half pouted Mrs. Turner, who never quite forgave the fact that her queendom, real or imaginary, had been invaded by that very lady a year before, to the temporary loss of her throne. As Grace Pelham, Mrs. Truscott had won all hearts at Sandy. "She is undeniably pretty and lady-like; but what else can any one say of her? Stylish? no. Now, Mrs. Raymond, you need not try and say you think her stylish, because only last year at Prescott you wouldn't admit it. And as to her winning Mr. Truscott as she did, it is simply incomprehensible. What men see in some women is beyond me. She is neither deep, nor intellectual, nor particularly well read that I ever saw or heard of, and how she's a match for him, as people say, I can't see. He's just head over heels in love with her,—at least he was,—and she was simply wrapped up in him,—at least she is. You ought to have seen the letter she wrote Mrs. Page a few months ago; all about her happiness and Jack,—just as if there never had been another man in the world worth looking at. She'd have been just as rapturous over Mr. Glenham if she'd married him as she promised to do, I haven't a doubt, or Ray. He was ready to bow down and worship her at one time; and she encouraged him not a little before we left Sandy, too."
"Don't you believe that," interposed Mrs. Raymond. "They were warm friends, I know, but Ray was never her lover."
"You always will contradict me, Nellie," protested Mrs. Turner; "but if you could not see what every one else saw you were simply blind. I wonder she doesn't sometimes regret not marrying Glenham, though. They say he has gone abroad and has more money than he can ever spend."
"More than he ever could if he's as close as he was in Arizona," interposed Mrs. Raymond.
"But did you not know that Captain Truscott's ventures were coming out wonderfully well?" asked Mrs. Stannard, eager to give a pleasanter tone to the talk. "I heard not only that was true, but that an uncle had left him a good deal of money. One thing is certain, they have fitted up their quarters beautifully at the Point, and are living there in a good deal of style."
"Here come the officers in from drill," exclaimed Mrs. Turner, as a group of bronzed and soldierly-looking men came suddenly around the corner of the adjutant's office and strolled towards them. "Ask Captain Merrill, he will know. Captain Merrill," she called, raising her voice. "Do come here a moment." And obediently he came, doffing his cap and accepting the seat tendered him beside her by Mrs. Raymond.
"You were at the Point last month. Is it true that Captain Truscott has a good deal of money now?"
"Can't prove it by me, madame," said Merrill, sententiously. "Ask Blake. He's our Jenkins. How is it, Blake?"
"Don't call me pet names, dearie. 'When my tongue blabs then let mine eyes not see,'" declaimed Mr. Blake, sauntering up to the group and swinging a long, lean leg over the railing. "What do you want to know?"
"Is Mr.—Captain Truscott rich?"
"If my individual experiences are indicative, I should say he was boundless in wealth and prodigality."
"He lent me a hundred dollars when I was East on leave, and I know he never expects to see it again."
"I declare, Mr. Blake, you are as bad as Mr. Ray!"
"They are scoundrels and substractors that say so of me. Mrs. Turner, you—you make me blush. Ray, come hither and bear me consolation. Friend of my youth, Merrill calls me Jenkins; Mrs. Turner calls me bad as you; and you—called me with a pair of kings when mine was a bobtail. The world is hollow, Ray."
"Mr. Blake! Will you stop your everlasting nonsense and tell us about Truscott? When were you there?"
"Mrs. Turner, you aggrieve me, but I was there in April."
"And are they so delightfully situated?"
"Was Miss Sanford there?"
"She came, alas! the very eve I hied me hence. I saw her but a moment; 'twas——"
"You saw her? Tell us what she's like. Is she pretty? is she sweet-mannered as they say?"
"Sweet? She's sweet, aye, dix-huit; at least she was a year agone. Pretty? Ah me!" And Blake sighed profoundly, and straddled the rail a picture of dejection. His auditors groaned in chorus, the customary recognition of one of Blake's puns, but gathered about him in manifest interest. With all his rattling nonsense he was a regimental pet.
"But where is she from? What connection of the New Jersey Sanford?"
"The Autocrat of the Preakness Stable, mean you? Marry, I know not. She is a Sanford and has a Sanford's wealth, but 'twas not for me. She adores a horse and worships a horseman. This I gathered from our too brief converse. I strove to win her ear with poesie, but she bade me cease. Her soul is not attuned to melody,—she'd none of mine. She preferred my Lady Truscott and buttered muffins."
"What did Truscott say about Crook's fight with Crazy Horse?" asked Ray, who looked blank enough at Blake's jargon, and wanted facts.
"I don't think Jack liked the looks of things," said Blake, relapsing into sudden gravity. "He told me that he thought it more than likely we'd all be in the field again in less than a month."
"We?" said Merrill. "It isn't a matter that affects Truscott one way or another. He has his four years' detail at the Point. What difference does it make to him whether we're ordered up to reinforce Crook?"
"Just this difference, my bully rook: that Truscott would catch us before we got to Laramie—unless we went by rail."
"Why, Blake, you're addled!" replied the captain, in that uncomplimentary directness which sometimes manifests itself among old comrades of the frontier, even in the presence of the gentler sex. "Why, Mr. Blake, you don't suppose he is going to give up his young wife, his lovely home, his pleasant duties, to join for a mere Indian campaign, do you?" asked more than one present, and a general murmur of dissent went round. "What do you say, major?" said one voice, in direct appeal to the senior officer of the group.
"It depends on what you consider a 'mere Indian campaign,'" was the cool response.
"But as to Truscott's going, what do you think, Ray?"
"I don't think anything about it. I know."
"What is so rare as a day in June?" sings the poet, and where can a day in June be more beautiful than at this Highland Gate of the peerless Hudson? It is June of the Centennial year, and all the land is ablaze with patriotic fervor. From North, from South, from East and West, the products of a nation's ingenuity or a nation's toil have been garnered in one vast exhibition at the Quaker City; and thither flock the thousands of our people. It is June of a presidential nomination, and the eyes of statesmen and politicians are fixed on Cincinnati. It is the celebration of the first century of a nation's life that engrosses the thoughts of millions of hearts, and between that great jubilee and that quadrennial tempest-in-a-teapot, the nomination, who but a few lonely wives and children have time to think of those three columns far, far out in the broad Northwest,—those three columns of regulars, cavalry and infantry, rough-garbed, bronzed and bearded, steadily closing in towards the wild and beautiful region along the northern water-shed of the Big Horn Range, where ten thousand hostile Indians are uneasily watching their coming? On the Atlantic seaboard comrades in full-dress uniform, with polished arms, are standing guard over government treasures on exhibition, and thoughtless thousands wonder at the ease and luxury of the soldier's life. Out on the frontier, in buckskin and flannel, slouch hats and leggings, and bristling prairie-belts, the little army is concentrating upon an outnumbering foe, whose signal-fires light the way by night, whose trail is red with blood by day. From the northeast, up the Yellowstone, Terry of Fort Fisher fame, the genial, the warm-hearted general, whose thoughts are ever with his officers and men, leads his few hundred footmen, while Custer, whose division has flashed through battery after battery, charge after charge, in the great Rebellion, now rides at the head of a single regiment. From the northwest, down the Yellowstone, with but a handful of tried soldiery, comes Gibbon; he who led a corps at Gettysburg and Appomattox. From the south, feeling his way along the eastern base of the Big Horn, with less than two thousand troopers and footmen, marches the "Gray Fox," the general under whom our friends of the —th so long and so successfully battled with the Apaches of Arizona. He has met his match this time. Cheyenne, Ogallalla, Brule, Uncapapa, Minneconjou, Sans Arc, and Blackfoot, all swarm over the broad and breezy uplands in his front, or lurk in the deep shade of the lovely valleys. Twice have they sprung upon him and checked his advance. Once only has he been forced to hesitate, but now, as the longest days of the year approach and the glistening dome of Snow Peak is yet warm with the flush of the setting sun, when "morn, in russet mantle clad," tinges the eastern slopes with glowing light; now, at last, the long-dreaded leaders of the border warfare are being hemmed in between the encircling advance. Now may we look for stirring work along the bluffs and boulders of the Big Horn.
And June, Centennial June, has come to West Point. Examinations are going briskly on, four buoyant classes are all excitement with the joyous prospects of the season: the seniors look forward to the speedy coming of the longed-for diploma and the prized commission, for relief from the restraint of academic life and for the broader field of the army; the second, the juniors, to reaching the dignity of "first-class camp," with the highest offices and honors to be achieved so long as they shall wear the gray; the third, ah! they are the furloughmen, so soon to be restored for two brief months to home and kindred after the two years of rigid discipline and ceaseless duty; the fourth, to step at once and for all from the meekness of "plebedom" and become the envied "old cadet." June brings bliss for all,—for all but those who fail.
And June brings joy to sisters and sweethearts by the dozen, to fond mammas, to proud paternals, who throng the hostelries of the Point and the neighborhood, and swarm in lively interest all over the historic spot, listening with uncomprehending but tireless patience to examinations on fortification or grand tactics, mechanics or calculus; gasping with excitement over dashing charges on the "cavalry plain," shuddering over the reckless daring in the riding-hall, stopping their ears against the thunder of the great guns at the batteries, and beating time with head and foot to the spirited quicksteps of the band. Dress-parade, the closing ceremony of each day, concentrates the entire assemblage along the shaded walk that borders on the west the beautiful green carpet of the "infantry plain," and, at last, as the four gray and white companies go dancing off in double-time through the grim sally-port beneath the barracks, and the carriages and stages whirl away the watching throngs, and the plumed cadet officers scurry off to supper, and, group after group, the spectators saunter homewards, the band disappears below the crest of the plain towards "Bumtown," and little by little the light turns to violet on the wooded heights across the swirling Hudson, and silence settles down upon the scene.
Gazing out from under the foliage of the great elms, watching these very changes, two ladies are seated upon the piazza of the officers' quarters opposite the southern half of the plain. One is a young matron, whose eyes once seen are not soon forgotten,—so soft, so deep, so brown, so truthful are they under the long curling lashes, under the low-arched, heavy brows. Beautiful eyes were they when, in all their girlish fearlessness and innocence, they first beamed upon our old friends of the —th in the days of exile in Arizona. Lovelier still are they now in that consummation of a woman's happiness,—a worshipped wifehood. It was early in the previous winter when Captain Truscott brought his fair bride to make her home among the scenes so dear to both, and her life has been one song of unutterable gladness. If earth contained a thing to wish for in those six months, Grace Truscott could not name it. Her pretty army house is the gem of the military community, the envy of many a wife. Her husband is a man whom all men honor and hold in deep esteem. In strength, in dignity, in soldierly ability, and in his devotion to her he is all her heart could ask. If she loved him dearly when they were married, her love has developed into almost an idolatry,—"Jack" is her world. Not that she talks or writes very much of that matter, however; for quite a wise little head is that which is perched on Mrs. Truscott's white shoulders. Once in a while in some letter to an old and trusted friend she finds it more than she can do to utterly repress her overwhelming sense of bliss, and then she lets slip some little confession of which Jack is the subject. She never dreamed a man could be so lovely, so delicate, so thoughtful, so considerate, so everything that was simply perfect, is the way she has once or twice found herself constrained to clinch the matter in default of adjectives sufficiently descriptive. "Every day he develops some new, lovely, and unsuspected trait," she once confided to her friend Mrs. Tanner (with whom she has corresponded quite regularly since her marriage, and to whom we are indebted for some of these interesting details), and as Jack Truscott was confessedly a man of many admirable qualities before his matrimonial alliance, it may be conjectured that ere the waning of her honeymoon Mrs. Jack's enumeration table was beginning to prove inadequate. And bliss has been, and is, becoming to Grace. She has lost none of the girlish delicacy of expression which was so marked a characteristic of her youthful beauty a year before, still she has rounded somewhat, and both mentally and physically has developed. The slender white hand that rests upon the volume of Carlyle in her lap looks less fragile than it did that day at old Camp Sandy when, in Tanner's library searching for the children's books among the shelves, it showed itself to Truscott's eyes without a certain ring. Mrs. Jack does not fancy Carlyle. He is too crabbed by far, she thinks, and she wonders how and where people get such distorted views of life, but the captain has been reading him a great deal during the past two months, and anything that interests him is food for her. Happy she is beyond all question, happy as woman ever becomes in this world where happiness is never perfect. If it were, where would be the use of heaven hereafter? And as she sits here gazing out upon the soft lights and shadows settling upon the distant hills, her sweet, mobile face is fit subject for the brush of some inspired painter who seeks a model for an ideal picture,—"I Ask No More."
It is twilight, too, the hour of all others when the faintest sorrow is apt to assert itself upon reposeful features,—the hour when it takes a very happy woman to look happy; yet Grace Truscott's eyes tell of only one story,—love, peace, tranquillity; and at last the silence is broken by the remark, which is naturally the result of a woman's undisturbed contemplation of such a face,—
"I declare, Grace, it is enough to make one want to marry just to look at you!"
Mrs. Truscott returns to earth with sudden bound, dropping her blissful day-dream with a merry laugh and a blush that refuses to down at her bidding. She holds forth her hand appealingly, leaning forward in the great wicker rocking-chair in which, till now, she has been lazily inclining.
"How absurd, to be sure! I wish you would seize me and shake me, Marion, whenever you see me going off into dreamland like that. It is simply detestable. Yet, I can't help it. Oh!" with sudden impulse, "wait till you marry some one the least like Jack, and then see for yourself."
"But I never shall marry any one the least like Jack," replies Miss Sanford. "To begin with, you would not be apt to admit any such man could exist. Now, don't bristle all over, Grace; you are not in the least absurd,—to ordinary people that is; you really behave very creditably for so young a wife, but you are quite warranted in betraying your admiration to me. I like it. It was simply mean of me to interrupt your revery as I did, but the exclamation was involuntary. I had been watching your face for several minutes, and thinking how few, how very few women are blessed as you are."
Mrs. Truscott's eyes filled with tears, and her hand sought and clasped that of her friend. A most unusual caress for her.
"Sometimes I fear I'm growing very selfish in it all, Marion, and I blame myself more than I can tell you when these spells come over me. We had planned to make your visit lovely,—Jack and I,—and here, the moment we are alone together, I go mooning off and leaving you to be entertained by the sight of my imbecility." Mrs. Truscott gave herself a vigorous shake. "There! Now tell me about your walk. Was Mr. Ferris pleasant?"
"Pleasant? Very! They all are for that matter, and I hate to think how much I've lost in being away all May. Father insisted though, and so those six weeks had to be spent at —— with them. It is mockery to call it home." And a deep trouble seemed to settle on her beautiful face.
Mrs. Truscott leaned nearer to her friend, an eager tremor in her voice.
"Listen, Marion dear," she spoke; "I cannot allude to the subject except when you do; but, much as your father loves you, he must see now that it is next to impossible for you to live at home, and after her conduct this spring,—first demanding that you should come instead of spending May with us as was arranged, and then making it so wretched for you, and finally almost driving you from the house,—it is useless to think of going back this summer. Do spend it with us. We both ask it, Jack and I. It was such a disappointment to lose you in May, and now that we've got you again,—though you said 'twas only for a week,—we talked it all over last night, Maid Marion,"—and here Mrs. Truscott has recourse to one of the pet names of their school-days,—"we talked it all over, Jack and I, and that was one of the things he went to the city for to-day. He had determined to ask your father to let you spend the summer here. I want it so much, so does Jack, for he may have to go to Kentucky to buy horses for the cavalry stables. Marion, do stay if he will let you." And both Mrs. Truscott's white hands now seized and clasped the unresisting, passive members that lay, still gloved, in her companion's lap.
For a moment there was no move. Two big tears were starting from Miss Sanford's eyes; her sweet, sensitive lips were twitching nervously. She glanced hurriedly up and down the broad road in front of the quarters,—they were unobserved and alone,—and, leaning back in her chair, she gently withdrew one hand and held her handkerchief to her face. Mrs. Truscott quickly rose and bent over her, pressed her lips one instant upon the luxuriant hair that fell thickly over the girl's forehead; then, twining her arm around her head, nestled her own soft cheek where she had pressed her lips. And there she hovered, saying nothing more, waiting until the little rain-cloud had passed away.
Presently there came the sound of quick, springy footsteps along the asphalt from the direction of the barracks. Mrs. Truscott raised her head.
"It is Sergeant Wolf, Marion. I think he is coming here."
Miss Sanford started up, wiped her eyes and half turned her back, as a young soldier in the undress uniform of a cavalry sergeant entered the gateway, and, halting at the foot of the steps, respectfully raised hand to his cap, and stood there as though addressing an officer.
"Pardon me, madame," he asked, with a distinctly German accent, but with the intonation of a gentleman on every syllable. "The captain has not yet returned?"
"Not yet, sergeant; I expect him on the eight-thirty train."
"It is about Corporal Stein, madame; he has overstayed his pass."
"I presume Mr. Waring should be told. Have you seen him?"
"Madame, the lieutenant is neither at his quarters nor the mess."
"Then there is nothing further to be done that I know of," said Mrs. Truscott, whose girlhood had been passed in garrison at times, and whose earliest recollections were of papa's dragoons. "I will tell the captain as soon as he returns." And she stepped backward towards the chairs.
The sergeant paused one moment. He was tall, lithe, of graceful and muscular mould; his face was of the singular Saxon cast,—so very fair; his eyes were blue and clear, his nose and mouth finely shaped; his teeth were white and even, his hair crisp and curly, and the very color of bleached straw, but redeemed from that dead, soda-dried effect by the sheen of every lock; his face was oval; clean-shaved but for the upper lip, whose long, blond moustache twirled trooper-fashion till the ends almost swept his ears. He was a handsome fellow, and his manners and language bespoke him a man of education. After the moment's hesitation, he again touched his cap and quitted the little garden, walking with quick, brisk steps and erect carriage away towards the upper end of the row.
Mrs. Truscott stood silently looking after him a moment, then she turned:
"Did you notice his hands, Marion?"
"Certainly; I did the first time I saw him, and he is always here. You say Wolf is an assumed name?"
"Yes. Jack says there can be no question but that he is an educated German officer who has had to quit the service there for some crime or trouble. He came here just when I did, last December; and Jack says he is the finest first sergeant he ever saw, though I believe the men don't fancy him. He speaks French as well as he does English, and there is apparently nothing he does not know about cavalry service."
"And how did he happen to be in the army?"
"I do not know; there was nothing else for him to do, I suppose. The old first sergeant of the cavalry detachment here was discharged last fall, and when a new one was needed, and there seemed to be no really good one in the troop, Jack wrote to a recruiting officer in the city to send him a first-class man. One day he got a letter saying that a young German desired to enlist for cavalry service who was evidently a thorough soldier, and that there was some mystery about him. He was dressed like a gentleman, but had not a cent of money, and claimed to have arrived only within three days from the old country. Next day the man himself came here. Jack had told me nothing about the letter. The servant said there was a gentleman in the parlor wanted to see the captain. Jack was away at the riding-hall, and I went into the parlor, and there stood this tall, fine-looking fellow. I thought, of course, he must be some officer on leave,—some one whom Jack knew. It was a little dark,—one of those rainy December days, and he had his back to the light,—but the moment he spoke and I heard the German accent I saw there was a mistake. He seemed greatly embarrassed, said he had been told he would find the captain here, apologized for the intrusion, and started for the door, when I saw his face was as white as a sheet and that he was staggering, and the next thing I knew he had dropped like a fainting woman in the big arm-chair. Something told me he was weak from want of food. I called Mary, and got some wine and made him drink it, and pretty soon he revived, and then Jack came, and I left them together. He said that he had eaten nothing for three days and was exhausted.
"Well, Jack questioned him closely that evening after he had made him rest and had fed him well, poor fellow! and the result was that in a day or two he regularly enlisted. Jack really tried to induce him not to, telling him that a man of his education would surely find something better, but it was useless. He said that if he could not enlist here he would go back to New York and enter for service on the frontier, so, finally, it was settled. He was made a corporal in a few weeks, and now he is first sergeant. He is invaluable in that respect; still, I do wish there were no mystery. I hate mysteries. He is never seen with the men at all, and when not on duty he is always reading. Jack lends him books that no other soldier cares to look at and that they do not have in the troop library. That is what brings him here so often. He comes every day or two with a book he has read and wants another; but his name isn't Wolf. Somewhere, he has a seal ring with a crest on it, and last month—there had been some trouble among the men, and two hard characters had laid in wait for the sergeant one dark night near the stables and assaulted him, but he was too quick and powerful for them, though they escaped—last month he brought Jack a sealed packet which he asked him to keep, and if anything happened to him it was to be returned to an address he gave in Dresden. It's really quite a romance, but I wish——" And Mrs. Truscott broke off abruptly without saying what she did wish.
Miss Sanford was silent. She had recovered her self-control, and the traces of recent tears were vanishing. Once more Mrs. Truscott seated herself by her side.
"You will stay with us, won't you?" she said, with that uninterrogative accent on the "won't" which is indicative of a conviction on part of the questioner that denial is impossible.
"Yes, Grace, gladly, if Captain Truscott can win papa over to it. I shall be far happier here, and he will at least have peace at home. She will be satisfied and content if I am not there. How can I thank you enough, Gracie? I had almost made up my mind to ask Mrs. Zabriskie to take me back to Europe with her. You know she returns on the 'Werra' in July."
"Indeed you shall not. I had counted on having you for bridesmaid, and you would not come home. That was the only disappointment in my wedding; but, after all, since Mr. Ray couldn't come, there would have been a groomsman short if you had been there."
"Why didn't he come? You never told me."
"Why? Poor Mr. Ray! He wrote one of his laughing letters to Jack to say that he'd be switched if he was going to play hangman at his own execution. You never knew such a queer fellow as he is. The real reason was that he could not afford to come East from Kansas and give us a wedding present too. Jack and I would have far rather had him drop the present, but could not see how to tell him. He sent us that lovely ice-cream set, you know,—one of the prettiest of all my presents. Everybody thought Ray must have been studying up on art, it was so graceful and pretty. Mr. Gleason, I believe it was, said that Ray wrote to Colonel Thayer of the lieutenant-general's staff and had him buy it: he was in Chicago when we were married,—you know that was Grandmother De Ruyter's stipulation,—and that Colonel Thayer, not Ray, was entitled to the credit for taste; but Jack says that there is far more to Ray than most people give him credit for. He's a loyal friend anyway!"
"What was the name of that droll creature who was here last April,—Drake? Blake?"
"Mr. Blake? Oh, yes! He is one of the characters of the regiment. He is the book of nonsense on two very long legs, but he is full of fun and full of goodness. He is not at all Mr. Ray's kind, however. Jack says that Mr. Ray is the man of all others whom he would most expect to come to the front in a general war, and that nothing could shake his faith in him. Ray could never do or say a dishonorable thing."
"And wasn't it Mr. Ray who saved you when your horse was running away?"
"The very man. You glory so in daring horsemanship, Marion, I just wish you could see Ray ride. Jack is splendid, of course, but he is so much larger, heavier, you know. Ray rides as lightly as a bird flies; he seems just part of a horse, as indeed Jack does, but then there's this difference: Mr. Ray rides over hurdles and ditches and prairie-dog holes and up and down hill just like an Indian, and the wonder is he isn't killed. Jack is a fine horseman,—nobody looks better in the saddle than he,—but then Jack rarely rides at top speed,—never, unless there's some reason for it.
"See, Marion, it's almost dark. Shall we go in the parlor and light the lamps?"
"Grace, wasn't Mr. Ray just a little bit in love with you once?"
"Honestly, Marion, no! I know he admired me, and I liked him, and had reason to like him greatly, for he was a true friend to me when I wanted one at Sandy. Once he was a wee bit sentimental," and even in the dusk Grace could feel that Marion saw the flush that mounted to her very brows, "but that was when I fainted after the runaway; never before, never since. Don't talk nonsense, Maidie."
"I think I should like to know him," said Miss Sanford, as she rose to enter the hall.
"I know you would. Only—well, you might not like him entirely, either. Jack should be here in less than half an hour now, then we'll have tea. Oh, Marion! I'm so glad you will stay, so will he be."
On the parlor-table, as they entered, lay two letters. Turning up the gas, Mrs. Truscott scanned the superscriptions. Both were addressed to her husband. One was postmarked Fort Hays.
"This is the one Jack will open first," she said to her friend. "I don't know whom the other comes from, but this is news from the regiment. It is Mr. Billings's writing, and Jack is always eager for news from him."
"Mr. Ferris asked me this evening, while we were walking, if Captain Truscott had any news from his regiment. He seemed unusually interested. I could not tell why, but it was something about General Crook being heavily reinforced by troops from somewhere. They were talking of it down at the mess to-day, and Mr. Waring said that if his regiment were ordered on that duty, he would apply by telegraph to Washington for orders to join it at once. There was some embarrassment then, because one of the gentlemen present—Mr. Ferris wouldn't say who—belonged to a regiment already there on that very campaign, and he had not applied for orders at all, and wasn't going to, and——Why, Grace! What is the matter?"
With her face rapidly paling Grace Truscott had stood gazing piteously at her companion, and then, seizing the letter in her trembling hands, she stood glaring at the address. For a moment she made no reply, and again Miss Sanford, alarmed, repeated her question.
"Marion! Marion! It means that I know now why Jack did not show me Major Stannard's last letter. It means that this letter from the adjutant is to tell Jack that the —th is ordered into the field. It means—it means"—and she threw herself prone upon the sofa, clinching her hands above her head—"it means that my dream of delight is shattered; they will take my husband from me."
"But how—but why, Grace? I don't understand. Mr. Ferris said distinctly that Captain Truscott would not be affected, that he had just begun his detail here. If an officer doesn't have to go when his regiment is already in the field, how can your husband be required?"
"My husband! Marion. You don't know him, neither does Mr. Ferris, if that's his idea. My husband would never wait to be ordered to join his comrades on campaign. If that letter says the —th is to go, that ends it all, for Jack will start to-morrow."
When Captain Truscott drove up from the ferry and sprang from the carriage at his gate, a cheerful light beamed from the open door and windows of his home, and Grace, all loving greeting, met him on the piazza. He could not but note the warmth of her embrace and welcome; but Jack had been in town since early morning and never before since their marriage had they been separated a single day. In the dim twilight on the piazza he could not see what was apparent as soon as they entered the parlor,—that his young wife's face was unusually pale and her lovely eyes showed suspicious trace of tears; but he could only glance an anxious inquiry, there was then no time for more, as Miss Sanford stood smilingly at the centre-table.
Truscott stepped forward with his old-fashioned courtesy and bowed over her extended hand. A few words of pleasant welcome and greeting were exchanged, a few inquiries as to whom he had seen in New York and what had been the result of his various commissions. Then as the dining-room door was opened and the maid announced that tea was served, Truscott looked inquiringly at the table.
"Any mail, Gracie?"
"Oh, yes, Jack. I put them under Carlyle; two letters."
The captain merely glanced at the superscription of the first letter, but when the second caught his eye, he shot one quick look at his wife, their eyes met, and leaving the first letter upon the table, he stowed the heavier missive in the breast-pocket of the civilian suit he was wearing, led the way to the dining-room door, and there smilingly bowed the ladies to the brightly-lighted table, and demanded of Miss Sanford an immediate and detailed account of the day's conquests.
Not until near midnight could Grace see her husband alone.
It was "band night," and long before they had finished tea rich strains of music came floating in from the parade, and, as is always the case, visitors began to arrive. Several ladies and officers dropped in during the evening; they sat on the piazza enjoying the serenade until the shrill piping of the fifes and rattle of the drums sounding tattoo sent the musicians off to bed and numerous pairs of white trousers scurrying towards the cadet barracks. They watched the simultaneous "dousing of the glim" in the long facade as the clock struck ten and the three taps of the drum ordered "lights out." Then they entered the parlor and Grace had to sing. For the last year she had gloried in singing, her voice seemed so rich with melody, her heart so rich with joy. To-night all the strange old feeling came back. It made her think of those wretched days at Sandy, when with Jack thousands of miles away, perhaps never to see or speak to her again, she had to sing because her father loved it so. She was a soldier's daughter, a soldier's wife, and she rallied all her strength and pride and strove to be blithe and animated and entertaining. From her first appearance Mrs. Truscott had been a favorite in that somewhat exacting garrison, perhaps the hardest one in the army in which to achieve popularity, because of the various cliques and interests; and now that that very interesting Miss Sanford was with her, their pretty home on the plain was always a rendezvous for the socially disposed. And so it happened that all the long evening neither she nor Jack could obtain release from their duties as entertainers. Eleven o'clock came before the last of the ladies departed, and then Mr. Ferris lingered for a tete-a-tete with Miss Sanford, and poor Grace found herself compelled to sit and talk with Mr. Barnard, who was a musical devotee and afflicted with a conviction that they ought to sing duets, and Mrs. Truscott could not be induced to sing duets with any man, unless Jack would try.
She knew that he had gone to the little library where he kept his favorite books and did his writing. She heard the door close after him, and, with unutterable longing, she desired to go and throw herself upon her favorite perch, his knee, and twine her arms around his neck and bury her head upon his broad shoulder. She could think of nothing but that fateful letter from Hays. She wished that it might be Mr. Waring who had come in, for he was in the cavalry and would know something of what really was going on out on the frontier. She was feverishly anxious to learn the truth, and twice directed the talk that way, but Mr. Barnard was obtuse. He only vaguely knew from remarks he had heard at mess that General Crook had called for reinforcements, and that Sheridan was ordering up cavalry and infantry to his support. He did not know what cavalry,—in fact, he did not care,—he was in the artillery, and, forgetful of Modoc experiences, believed that Indian fighting was an abnormal species of warfare of which men of his advanced education were not expected to take cognizance. That it ever could call for more science, skill, and pluck than the so-called civilized wars of which Mr. Barnard was a conscientious student he would probably never have admitted, and his comment at mess on the frequently-recurring tales of unsuccessful attack upon savage foes was the comprehensive remark that the affair must have been badly handled; "those fellows of the cavalry didn't seem to understand the nature of the work they had to tackle." As those were the days before a cavalry superintendent went to the Academy and showed an astonished academic board what a cavalryman's idea of scholarship and discipline really was, it followed that the corps of instructors was made up almost entirely from the more scientific arms; only two or three cavalrymen were on the detail of forty officers, and they were mainly for duty as instructors in tactics and horsemanship. So when Mr. Barnard dreamily blew the smoke of his cigarette through his elevated nostrils and gave it as his opinion that those cavalry fellows didn't seem to understand their work, his audience, consisting mainly of staff and artillery officers, gave the acquiescence of silence or the nod of wisdom; and the casual visitor would have left with the impression that the whole mistake of this Indian business lay in failure to consult the brilliantly-trained intellects of the higher corps. Odd as it may seem, it is the men who have had the least to do with Indians and Indian fighting who have apparently the most ideas on the subject. This is not a paradox. Those who have spent several years at it probably started in with just as many, and exploded them one after another.