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Along the line of the railroad were the deserted towns, and we even saw a whole village moving on flat cars. The portable houses of one story and the canvas rolls of tents, which would soon be set up to form a street of saloons, were piled up as high as was safe, and made the strangest sort of freight train. The spots from which they had been removed were absolutely the dreariest of sights. A few poles, broken kegs, short chimneys made in rude masonry of small round stones, heaps of tin cans everywhere, broken bottles strewing the ground, while great square holes yawned empty where, a short time before, a canvas roof covered a room stored with clumsy shelves laden with liquor. Here and there a smoke-stained barrel protruded from the ground. They were the chimneys of some former dug-outs. I cannot describe how startled I was when I first came near one of these improvised chimneys, and saw smoke pouring out, without any other evidence that I was walking over the home of a frontier citizen. The roof of a flat dug-out is level with the earth, and as no grass consents to grow in these temporary villages, there is nothing to distinguish the upturned soil that has been used as a covering for the beams of the roof of a dwelling from any of the rest of the immediate vicinity. A portion of this moving village had already reached the end in the railroad, and named itself Ellsworth, with streets called by various high-sounding appellations, but marked only by stakes in the ground.

At Fort Harker we found a forlorn little post--a few log houses bare of every comfort, and no trees to cast a shade on the low roofs. The best of the quarters, belonging to the bachelor commanding officer, were offered to General Sherman and his party. We five women had one of the only two rooms. It seems like an abuse of hospitality, even after all these years, to say that the floor of uneven boards was almost ready for agricultural purposes, as the wind had sifted the prairie sand in between the roughly laid logs, and even the most careful housewife would have found herself outwitted if she had tried to keep a tidy floor. I only remember it because I was so amused to see the dainty women stepping around the little space left in the room between the cots, to find a place to kneel and say their prayers. I had given up, and gone to bed, as often before I had been compelled to tell my thanks to the Heavenly Father on my pillow, for already in the marches I had encountered serious obstacles to kneeling. The perplexed but devout women finally gave up attempting a devotional attitude, turned their faces to the rough wall, and held their rosaries in their fingers, while they sent up orisons for protection and guidance. They were reverential in their petitions; but I could not help imagining how strange it must seem to these luxuriously raised girls, to find themselves in a country where not even a little prayer could be said as one would wish. It must have been for exigencies of our life that Montgomery wrote the comforting definition that "Prayer is the soul's sincere desire," "The upward lifting of an eye," etc., and so set the heart at rest about how and where the supplication of the soul could be offered.

[Illustration: A MATCH BUFFALO HUNT.]

At Fort Harker we bade good-by to our delightful party, the frolic and light-heartedness departed, and the serious side of existence appeared. I had but little realization that every foot of our coming march of eighty miles was dangerous. We had an ambulance lent us, and accompanied a party that had an escort. There were stage-stations every ten or fifteen miles, consisting of rude log or stone huts, huddled together for safety in case of attack. The stables for the relays of horses were furnished with strong doors of rough-hewn timber, and the windows closed with shutters of similar pattern. The stablemen and relays of drivers lived in no better quarters than the horses. They were, of course, intrepid men, and there was no stint in arming them with good rifles and abundance of ammunition. They were prepared for attack, and could have defended themselves behind the strong doors--indeed, sustained a siege, for the supplies were kept inside their quarters--had not the Indians used prepared arrows that could be shot into the hay and thus set the stables on fire. These Plainsmen all had "dug-outs" as places of retreat in case of fire. They were very near the stables, and connected by an underground passage. They were about four feet deep. The roof was of timbers strong enough to hold four or five feet of earth, and in these retreats a dozen men could defend themselves, by firing from loopholes that were left under the roof-beams. Some of the stage-stations had no regular buildings. We came upon them without being prepared by any signs of human life, for the dug-outs were excavated from the sloping banks of the creeks. A few holes in the side-hill, as openings for man and beast, some short chimneys on the level ground, were all the evidence of the dreary, Columbarium homes. Here these men lived, facing death every hour rather than earn a living in the monotonous pursuit of some trade or commonplace business in the States. And at that time there were always desperadoes who would pursue any calling that kept them beyond the reach of the law.

This dreary eighty miles over a monotonous country, varied only by the undulations that rolled away to Big Creek, was over at last, and Fort Hays was finally visible--another small post of log huts like Fort Harker, treeless and desolate, but the stream beyond was lined with white canvas, which meant the tents of the Seventh Cavalry.

[Illustration: GATHERING AND COUNTING THE TONGUES.]

Again it seemed to me the end of all the troubles that would ever enter into my life had come, when I was lifted out of the ambulance into my husband's tent. What a blessing it is that there is a halcyon time in sanguine youth, when each difficulty vanquished seems absolutely the last that will ever come, and when one trouble ends, the stone is rolled against its sepulchre with the conviction that nothing will ever open wide the door again. We had much to talk about in camp. The first campaign of a regiment is always important to them, and in this case, also, the council, the Indian village, and its final destruction, were really significant events. A match hunt they had carried out was a subject of interest, and each side took one ear in turn, to explain why they won, or the reasons they lost. Mr. Theodore Davis, the artist whom the Harpers sent out for the summer, was drawing sketches in our tent, while we advised or commented. It seemed well, from the discussions that followed, that rules for the hunt had been drawn up in advance. It was quite a ranking affair, when two full majors conducted the sides. As only one day was given to each side, the one remaining in camp watched vigilantly that the party going out held to the rule, and refrained from starting till sunrise, while the same jealous eyes noticed that sunset saw all of them in camp again. One of the rules was, that no shots should be counted that were fired when the man was dismounted. This alone was a hard task, as at that time the splendid racing of the horse at breakneck speed, with his bridle free on his neck, and both hands busy with the gun, was not an accomplished feat. The horses were all novices at buffalo-hunting, also, and the game was thin at that season--so thin that a bison got over a great deal of territory in a short time. I remember the General's telling me what an art it was, even after the game was shot, to learn to cut out the tongue. It was wonderful that there was such success with so much to encounter. The winning party kept their twelve tongues very securely hidden until the second day, when the losers produced the eleven they had supposed would not be outdone. My husband was greatly amused at one of our officers, who hovered about the camp-fires of the opposite party and craftily put questions to ascertain what was the result of the first day.

[Illustration: SUPPER GIVEN BY THE VANQUISHED TO THE VICTORS OF THE MATCH BUFFALO HUNT.]

All this was told us with great glee. Diana's interests were centred in the success of that party with whom her best beloved, for the time, hunted. The officers regretted our absence at their great "feed," as they termed it, and it must, indeed, have been a great treat to have for once, in that starving summer, something palatable. Two wall-tents were put together so that the table, made of rough boards, stretching through both, was large enough for all. Victors and vanquished toasted each other in champagne, and though the scene was the plainest order of banquet, lighted by tallow candles set in rude brackets sawed out of cracker-box boards and fastened to the tent-poles, and the only draping a few cavalry guidons, the evening brightened up many a dreary day that followed. Gallant Captain Louis McLane Hamilton, who afterward fell in the battle of the Washita, was the hero of the hour, and bore his honors with his usual modesty. Four out of twelve buffaloes was a record that might have set a less boastful tongue wagging over the confidences of the evening camp-fire. I do not think he would have permitted Mr. Davis to put his picture in the illustration if he could have helped it. He was gifted with his pencil also; he drew caricatures admirably, and after a harmless laugh had gone the rounds, he managed, with the utmost adroitness, to get possession of the picture and destroy it, thus taking away the sting of ridicule, which constant sight of the caricature might produce. How I came into possession of one little drawing is still a mystery, but it is very clever. Among our officers was one who had crossed the Plains as a citizen a year or two previous, and his habit of revealing mines of frontier lore obtained on this one trip was somewhat tiresome to our still inexperienced officers. At last, after all had tried chasing antelope, and been more and more impressed in their failures with the fleetness of that winged animal, Captain Hamilton made a sketch representing the boaster as shooting antelope with the shot-gun. The speck on the horizon was all that was seen of the game, but the booted and spurred man kneeling on the prairie was admirable. It silenced one of the stories, certainly, and we often wished the pencil could protect us further from subsequent statements airily made on the strength of the one stage-journey.

I had arrived in the rainy season, and such an emptying of the heavens was a further development of what Kansas could do. But nothing damped my ardor; no amount of soakings could make me think that camping-ground was not an Elysian field. The General had made our tent as comfortable as possible with his few belongings, and the officers had sent in to him, for me, any comfort that they might have chanced to bring along on the march. I was, it seemed, to be especially honored with a display of what the elements could do at night when it was too dark to grope about and protect our tent. The wind blew a tornado, and the flashes of lightning illumined the tent and revealed the pole swaying ominously back and forth. A fly is an outer strip of canvas which is stretched over the tent to prevent the rain from penetrating, as well as to protect us in the daytime from the sun. This flapped and rattled and swung loose at one end, beating on the canvas roof like a trip-hammer, for it was loaded with moisture; and the wet ropes attached to it, and used to guy it down, were now loose, and lashed our rag house in an angry, vindictive manner. My husband, accustomed to the pyrotechnic display of the elements, slept soundly through the early part of the storm. But lightning "murders sleep" with me, and, consequently, he was awakened by a conjugal joggle, and on asking, "What is it?" was informed, "It lightens!" Often as this statement was made to him in his sudden awakenings, I do not remember his ever meeting it with any but a teasing, laughing reply, like: "Ah! indeed; I am pleased to be informed of so important a fact. This news is quite unexpected," and so on, or "When, may I inquire, did you learn this?" On this occasion, however, there was no attempt to quiet me or delay precautions. Feeling sure that we were in for it for the night, he unfastened the straps that secured the tent in front, and crept out to hammer down the tent-pins and tether the ropes. But it was of no earthly use. After fruitless efforts of his own, he called the guard from their tents, and they went energetically to work with the light of our lantern. Ropes wrenched themselves away from the tent-pins, straps broke, whole corners of the tent were torn out, even while the men were hanging with all their might to the upright poles to try and keep the ridge-pole steady, and clinging to the ropes to keep them from loosening entirely and sailing off in the air with the canvas.

In the midst of this fracas, with the shouts of the soldiers calling to one another in the inky darkness, the crash of thunder and the howling of the tempest, the wife of a brave soldier was hiding her head under the blankets, and not one sound emerged from this temporary retreat. The great joy of getting out to camp at last was too fresh to extract one word, one whimper of fear from under the bedding. The sunniest day at Fort Riley could not be exchanged, could not even be mentioned in the same breath, with that tornado of wind and rain.

The stalwart arms of the soldiers failed at last. Their brawny chests were of no more use, thrust against the tent-poles, than so many needles. Over went the canvas in a heap, the General and his men hanging on to the ridge-pole to clear it from the camp bed and save any accident.

The voices of officers in an adjoining tent called out to come over to them. One, half dressed, groped his way to us and said there was yet room for more in his place, and, besides, he had a floor. It was a Sibley, which, having no corners with which those Kansas breezes can toy, is much more secure. I was rolled in the blankets and carried through the blinding rain to our hospitable neighbors'. The end of a tallow dip gave me a glimpse only of many silent forms rolled in blankets and radiating from the centre like the spokes of a wagon wheel. The officer owning this tent had taken the precaution, while at Leavenworth, to have a floor made in sections, so that it could be easily stowed away in the bottom of a prairie-schooner in marching.

My husband laid me down, and we were soon two more spokes in the human wheel, and asleep in a trice. Next morning I wakened to find myself alone, with a tin basin of water and a towel for my toilet beside me. My husband had to dress me in his underclothing, for everything I had was soaked. My shoes were hopeless, so I was dropped into a pair of cavalry boots, and in this unpicturesque costume, which I covered as best I could with my wet dress, I was carried through the mud to the dining-tent, and enthroned _Ã  la_ Turk, on a board which the cook produced from some hiding-place, where he had kept it for kindlings. There were not a few repetitions of this stormy reception in the years that followed, for Kansas continued its weather vagaries with unceasing persistency, but this, being my first, is as fresh in my mind as if it occurred but yesterday.

The tent might go down nightly for all I cared then. Every thought of separation departed, and I gave myself up to the happiest hours, clamping about the tent in those old troop boots, indifferent whether my shoes _ever_ dried. The hours flew too fast, though, for very soon preparations began for a scout, which my husband was to command. It took a great deal of comforting to reconcile me to remaining behind. The General, as usual, had to beg me to remember how blessed we were to have been permitted to rejoin each other so early in the summer. He told me, over and over again, that there was nothing, he felt, that I would not encounter to come to him, and that if he was detained, he would send for me. Eliza and a faithful soldier were to be left to care for us. The cavalry departed, and again the days lengthened out longer and longer, until each one seemed forty-eight hours from sun to sun. We could scarcely take a short walk in safety. The Indians were all about us, and daily the sentinels were driven in, or attempts were made to stampede the horses and mules grazing about the post. The few officers remaining, in whose care we were placed, came or sent every day to our tents, which were up the creek a short distance, to inquire what they could do for our comfort. Mrs. Gibbs, with her boys, had joined her husband, and we were their neighbors.

It seemed, sometimes, as if we _must_ get outside of our prescribed limits, the rolling bluffs beyond, tinged with green and beginning to have prairie flowers, looked so tempting. One evening we beguiled an officer, who was sitting under our tent fly, which was stretched in front for a shade, to take us for a little walk. Like many another man in the temporary possession of wheedling women, he went with us a little, and "just a little farther." Diana would have driven all thought of everything else save herself out of the gravest head. At last our escort saw the dark coming on so fast he insisted upon going home, and we reluctantly turned. As we came toward the post, the shadows were deepening in the twilight, and the figures of the sentinels were not visible. A flash, followed by a sound past our ears, that old campaigners describe as never to be forgotten when first heard, was the warning that we three were taken for Indians and fired upon by the sentinel. Another flash, but we stood rooted to the spot, stunned by surprise. The whizz and zip of the bullet seemed to be only a few inches from my ear. Still we were dazed, and had not the officer gained his senses our fate would have been then and there decided. The recruit, probably himself terrified, kept on sending those deadly little missives, with the terrible sound cutting the air around us. Our escort shouted, but it was too far for his voice to carry. Then he told us to run for our lives to a slight depression in the ground, and throw ourselves on our faces. I was coward enough to burrow mine in the prairie-grass, and for once in my life was devoutly grateful for being slender. Still, as I lay there quaking with terror, my body seemed to rise above the earth in such a monstrous heap that the dullest marksman, if he tried, might easily perforate me with bullets. What ages it seemed while we waited in this prostrate position, commanded by our escort not to move! The rain of bullets at last ceased, and blessed quiet came, but not peace of mind. The officer told us he would creep on his hands and knees through the hollow portions of the plain about the post, approach by the creek side, and inform the sentinels along the line, and as soon as they all knew who we were he would return for us. With smothered voices issuing from the grass where our faces were still crushed as low as we could get them, we implored to be allowed to creep on with him. We prayed him not to leave us out in the darkness alone. We begged him to tell us how he could ever find us again, if once he left us on ground that had no distinctive features by which he could trace his way back. But he was adamant: we must remain; and the ring of authority in his tone, besides the culprit feeling we had for having endangered his life, kept us still at last. As we lay there, our hearts' thumping seemed to lift us up in air and imperil anew our wretched existence. The pretty, rounded contour of the girl, which she had naturally taken such delight in, was now a source of agony to her, and she moaned out, "Oh! how high I seem to be above you! Oh, Libbie, do you think I lie as flat to the ground as you do?" and so on, with all the foolish talk of frightened women.

When at last our deliverer came, my relief at such an escape was almost forgotten in the mortification I felt at having made so much trouble; and I thought, with chagrin, how quickly the General's gratitude to find we had escaped the bullets would be followed by temporary suspension of faith regarding my following out his instructions not to run risks of danger and wander away from the post. I wrote him an abject account of our hazardous performance. I renewed every promise. I asked to be trusted again, and from that time there were no more walks outside the beat of the sentinel.

An intense disappointment awaited me at this time, and took away the one hope that had kept up my spirits. I was watching, from day to day, an opportunity to go to my husband at Fort McPherson, for he had said I could come if any chance offered. I was so lonely and anxious, I would gladly have gone with the scout who took despatches and mail, though he had to travel at night and lie in the ravines all day to elude the sharp eyes of the Indians. I remember watching Wild Bill, as he reported at the commanding officer's tent to get despatches for my husband, and wishing with all my heart that I could go with him. I know this must seem strange to people in the States, whose ideas of scouts are made up from stories of shooting affrays, gambling, lynching and outlawry. I should have felt myself safe to go any distance with those men whom my husband employed as bearers of despatches. I have never known women treated with such reverence as those whom they honored. They were touched to see us out there, for they measured well every danger of that country; and the class that followed the moving railroad towns were their only idea of women, except as they caught glimpses of us in camp or on the march. In those border-towns, as we were sometimes compelled to walk a short distance from the depot to our ambulance, the rough characters in whom people had ceased to look for good were transformed in their very attitude as we approached. Of course, they all knew and sincerely admired the General, and, removing their hats, they stepped off the walk and cast such looks at me as if I had been little lower than the angels. When these men so looked at me, my husband was as proud as if a President had manifested pleasure at sight of his wife, and amused himself immensely because I said to him, after we were well by, that the outlaws had seemed to think me possessed of every good attribute, while to myself my faults and deficiencies appeared to rise mountains high. I felt that if there was a Christian grace that my mother had not striven to implant in me, I would cultivate it now, and try to live up to the frontier citizen's impression of us as women.

I think the General would have put me in the care of any scout that served him, just as readily as to place me in the keeping of the best officer we had. There was not a trust he reposed in them that they did not fulfill. Oh, how hard it was for me to see them at that time, when starting with despatches to my husband, swing themselves into the saddle and disappear over the divide! I feel certain, with such an end in view as I had, and with the good health that the toughening of our campaigns had given me, I could have ridden all night and slept on the horse-blanket in the ravines daytimes, for a great distance. Had I been given the opportunity to join my husband by putting myself in their charge, there would not have been one moment's hesitation on my part. I knew well that when "off duty" the scout is often in affrays where lynching and outlawry are every-day events of the Western towns; but that had no effect upon these men's sense of honor when an officer had reposed a trust in them. Wild Bill, California Joe, Buffalo Bill, Comstock, Charlie Reynolds, and a group of intrepid men besides, who from time to time served under my husband, would have defended any of us women put in their charge with their lives.

I remember with distinctness what genuine admiration and gratitude filled my heart as these intrepid men rode up to my husband's tent to receive orders and despatches. From my woman's standpoint, it required far more and a vastly higher order of courage to undertake their journeys than to charge in battle. With women, every duty or task seems easier when shared by others. The most cowardly of us might be so impressionable, so sympathetic, in a great cause that we saw others preparing to defend, that it would become our own; and it is not improbable that enthusiasm might take even a timid woman into battle, excited and incited by the daring of others, the bray of drums, the clash of arms, the call of the trumpet. But I doubt if there are many who could go off on a scout of hundreds of miles, and face death alone. It still seems to me supreme courage. Imagine, then, my gratitude, my genuine admiration, when my husband sent scouts with letters to us, and we saw them in returning swing lightly into the saddle and gallop off, apparently unconcerned, freighted with our messages of affection.