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One stone the more swings to her place In that dread Temple of Thy worth; It is enough that through Thy grace I saw naught common on Thy earth.
 The next morning I was wakened by the soft voice of Aunty Boone, our cook, saying:
 "You better get up! Revilly blow over at the fort long time ago. Wonder it didn't blow your batter-cakes clear away. Mat and Beverly been up since 'fore sunup."
 Aunty Boone was the biggest woman I have ever seen. Not the tallest, maybe--although she measured up to a height of six feet and two inches--not the fattest, but a woman with the biggest human frame, overlaid with steel-hard muscles. Yet she was not, in her way, clumsy or awkward. She walked with a free stride, and her every motion showed a powerful muscular control. Her face was jet-black, with keen shining eyes, and glittering white teeth. In my little child-world she was the strangest creature I had ever known. In the larger world whither the years of my manhood have led me she holds the same place.
 She had been born a princess of royal blood, heir to a queenship in her tribe in a far-away African kingdom. In her young womanhood, so the tale ran, the slave-hunter had found her and driven her aboard a slave-ship bound for the American coast. He never drove another slave toward any coast. In Virginia her first purchaser had sold her quickly to a Georgia planter whose _heirs_ sent her on to Mississippi. Thence she soon found her way to the Louisiana rice-fields. Nobody came to take her back to any place she had quitted. "Safety first," is not a recent practice. She had enormous strength and capacity for endurance, she learned rapidly, kept her own counsel, obeyed no command unless she chose to do so, and feared nothing in the Lord's universe. The people of her own race had little in common with her. They never understood her and so they feared her. And being as it were outcast by them, she came to know more of the ways and customs, and even the thoughts, of the white people better than of her own. Being quick to imitate, she spoke in the correcter language of those whom she knew best, rather than the soft, ungrammatical dialect of the plantation slave or the grunt and mumble of the isolated African. Realizing that service was to be her lot, she elected to render that service where and to whom she herself might choose.
 One day she had walked into New Orleans and boarded a Mississippi steamer bound for St. Louis. It took three men to eject her bodily from the deck into a deep and dangerous portion of the stream. She swam ashore, and when the steamer made its next stop she walked aboard again. The three men being under the care of a physician, and the remainder of the crew burdened with other tasks, she was not again disturbed. Some time later she appeared at the landing below Fort Leavenworth, and strode up the slope to the deserted square where Esmond Clarenden stood before his little store alone in the deepening twilight.
 I have heard that she had had a way of appearing suddenly, like a beast of prey, in the dusk of the evening, and that few men cared to meet her at that time alone.
 My uncle was a snug-built man, sixty-two inches high, with small, shapely hands and feet. Towering above him stood this great, strange creature, barefooted, ragged, half tiger, half sphinx.
 "I'm hungry. I'll eat or I kill. I'm nobody's slave!"
 The soft voice was full of menace, the glare of famine and fury was in the burning eyes, and the supple cruelty of the wild beast was in the clenched hands.
 Esmond Clarenden looked up at her with interest. Then pointing toward our house he said, calmly:
 "Neither are you anybody's master. Go over there to the kitchen and get your supper. If you can cook good meals, I'll pay you well. If you can't, you'll leave here."
 Possibly it was the first time in her strange and varied career that she had taken a command kindly, and obeyed because she must. And so the savage African princess, the terror of the terrible slave-ship, the untamed plantation scourge, with a record for deeds that belong to another age and social code, became the great, silent, faithful, fearless servant of the plains; with us, but never of us, in all the years that followed. But she fitted the condition of her day, and in her place she stood, where the beloved black mammy of a gentler mold would have fallen.
 She announced that her name was Daniel Boone, which Uncle Esmond considered well enough for one of such a westward-roving nature. But Jondo declared that the "Daniel" belonged to her because, like unto the Bible Daniel, no lion, nor whole den of lions, would ever dine at her expense. To us she became Aunty Boone. With us she was always gentle--docile, rather; and one day we came to know her real measure, and--we never forgot her.
 I bounced out of bed at her call this morning, and bounced my breakfast into a healthy, good-natured stomach. The sunny April of yesterday had whirled into a chilly rain, whipped along by a raw wind. The skies were black and all the spring verdure was turned to a sickish gray-green.
 "Weather always fit the times," Aunty Boone commented as she heaped my plate with the fat buckwheat cakes that only she could ever turn off a griddle. "You packin' up for somepin' now. What you goin' to get is fo'casted in this here nasty day."
 "Why, we _are_ going away!" I cried, suddenly recalling the day before. "I wish, though, that Mat could go. Wouldn't you like to go, too, Aunty? Only, Bev says there's deserts, where there's just rocks and sand and everything, and no water sometimes. You and Mat couldn't stand that 'cause you are women-folks."
 I stiffened with importance and clutched my knife and fork hard.
 "Couldn't!" Aunty Boone gave a scornful grunt. "Women-folks stands double more 'n men. You'll see when you get older. I know about you freightin' off to Santy Fee. _You_ don't know what desset is. _You_ never _see sand_. You never _feel_ what it is to _want watah_. Only folks 'cross the ocean in the real desset knows that. Whoo-ee!"
 I remembered the weird tales she had told us of her girlhood--tales that had thrilled me with wonder--told sometimes in the twilight, sometimes by the kitchen fire on winter nights, sometimes on long, still, midsummer afternoons when the air quivered with heat and the Missouri hung about hot sand-bars, half asleep.
 "What do you know about this trip, Aunty Boone?" I asked, eagerly; for although she could neither read nor write, she had a sponge-like absorbing power for keeping posted on all that happened at the fort.
 "Cla'n'den"--the woman never called my uncle by any other name--"he's goin' to Santy Fee, an' you boys with him, 'cause--"
 She paused and her shining eyes grew dull as they had a way of doing in her thoughtful or prophetic moments.
 "He knows what for--him an' Jondo. One of 'em's storekeeper an' t'other a plainsman, but they tote together always--an' they totin' now. You can't see what, but they totin', they totin', just the same. Now run out to the store. Things is stirrin'. Things is stirrin'."
 I bolted my cakes, sodden with maple syrup, drank my mug of milk, and hurried out toward the storehouse.
 Fort Leavenworth in the middle '40's was sometimes an indolent place, and sometimes a very busy one, depending upon the activity of the Western frontier. On this raw April morning everything was fairly ajerk with life and motion. And I knew from child-experience that a body of soldiers must be coming up the river soon. Horses were rushed to-day where yesterday they had been leisurely led. Orders were shouted now that had been half sung a week ago. Military discipline took the place of fatigue attitudes. There was a banging of doors, a swinging of brooms, a clatter of tin, and a clanging of iron things. And everywhere went that slapping wind. And every shallow place in the ground held a chilly puddle. The government buildings always seemed big and bare and cold to me. And this morning they seemed drearier than ever, beaten upon by the fitful swish of the rain.
 In contrast with these were my uncle's snug quarters, for warmth was a part of Esmond Clarenden's creed. I used to think that the little storeroom, filled with such things as a frontier fort could find use for, was the biggest emporium in America, and the owner thereof suffered nothing, in my eyes, in comparison with A.T. Stewart, the opulent New York merchant of his day.
 As I ran, bareheaded and coatless, across the wide wet space between our home and the storehouse a soldier came dashing by on horseback. I dodged behind him only to fall sprawling in a slippery pool under the very feet of another horseman, riding swiftly toward the boat-landing.
 Neither man paid any attention to me as I slowly picked myself up and started toward the store. The soldier had not seen me at all. The other man's face was dark, and he wore the dress of the Mexican. It was only by his alertness and skill that his horse missed me, but as he hurried away he gave no more heed to me than if I had been a stone in his path.
 I had turned my ankle in the fall and I could only limp to the storehouse and drop down inside. I would not cry out, but I could not hold back the sobs as I tried to stand, and fell again in a heap at Jondo's feet.
 "Things were stirrin'" there, as Aunty Boone had said, but withal there was no disorder. Esmond Clarenden never did business in that way. No loose ends flapped about his rigging, and when a piece of work was finished with him, there was nothing left to clear away. Bill Banney, the big grown-up boy from Kentucky, who, out of love of adventure, had recently come to the fort, was helping Jondo with the packing of certain goods. Mat and Beverly were perched on the counter, watching all that was being done and hearing all that was said.
 "What's the matter, little plainsman?" Jondo cried, catching me up and setting me on the counter. "Got a thorn in your shoe, or a stone-bruise, or a chilblain?"
 "I slipped out there behind a soldier on horseback, right in front of a little old Mexican who was just whirling off to the river," I said, the tears blinding my eyes.
 "Why, he's turned his ankle! Looks like it was swelling already," Mat Nivers declared, as she slid from the counter and ran toward me.
 "It's a bad job," Jondo declared. "Just when we want to get off, too."
 "Can't I go with you to Santa Fé, Uncle Esmond?" I wailed.
 "Yes, Gail, we'll fix you up all right," my uncle said, but his face was grave as he examined my ankle.
 It was a bad job, much worse than any of us had thought at first. And as they all gathered round me I suddenly noticed the same Mexican standing in the doorway, and I heard some one, I think it was Uncle Esmond, say:
 "Jondo, you'd better take Gail over to the surgeon right away--" His voice trailed off somewhere and all was blank nothingness to me. But my last impression was that my uncle stayed behind with the strange Mexican.
 In the excitement everybody forgot that I had on neither hat nor coat as they carried me through the raw wet air to the army surgeon's quarters beyond the soldiers' barracks.
 A chill and fever followed, and for a week there was only pain and trouble for me. Nothing else hurt quite so deeply, however, as the fear of being left behind when the Clarendens should start for Santa Fé. I would ask no questions, and nobody mentioned the trip, for which everything was preparing. I began at last to have a dread of being left in the night, of wakening some morning to find only Mat and myself with Aunty Boone in the little log house. Uncle Esmond had already been away for three days, but nobody told me where he had gone, nor why he went, nor when he would come back. It kept me awake at night, and the loss of sleep made me nervous and feverish.
 One afternoon about a week after my accident, when Beverly and Mat were putting the room in order and chattering like a couple of squirrels, Beverly said, carelessly:
 "Gail, it's been a half a week since Uncle Esmond went down to our other store in Independence, and we are going to start on our trip just as soon as he gets back, unless he sends for me and Jondo."
 I knew that he was trying to tell me that they meant to go without me, for he hurried out with the last words. No boy wants to talk to a disappointed boy, and I had to clinch my teeth hard to keep back the tears.
 "I want to get well quicker, Mat. I want to go to Santa Fé with Beverly," I wailed, making a desperate effort to get out of bed.
 "You cuddle right down there, Gail Clarenden, if you want to get well at all. If you're real careful you'll be all right in a day or two. Let's wait for Uncle Esmond to come home before we start any worries."
 It was in her voice, girl or woman, that comforting note that could always soothe me.
 "Mat, won't you try to get them to let me go?" I pleaded.
 She made no promises, but busied herself with getting my foot into its place again, singing softly to herself all the while. Then she read me stories from our few story-books till I fell asleep.
 It was twilight when I wakened. Where I lay I could hear Esmond Clarenden and Aunty Boone talking in the kitchen, and I listened eagerly to all they said.
 "But it's no place for a woman," my uncle was urging, gravely.
 "I ain't a woman, I'm a cook. You want cooks if you eats. Mat ain't a woman, she's a girl. But she's stronger 'n Beverly. If you can't leave him, how can you leave her? An' Gail never get well if he's left here, Cla'n'den, now he's got the goin' fever. Never! An' if you never got back--"
 "I don't believe he would get well, either." Then Uncle Esmond spoke lower and I could not hear any more.
 Pretty soon Mat and Beverly burst open the door and came dancing in together, the sweet air of the warm April evening coming in with them, and life grew rose-colored for me in a moment.
 "We are all going to Santa Fé over the long trail. Every last gun of us. Aunty Boone, and Mat, and you, and me, and Jondo, and Uncle Esmond, rag-tag and bobtail. Whoop-ee-diddle-dee!" Beverly threw up his cap, and, catching Mat by the arms, they whirled around the room together.
 "Who says so, Bev?" I asked, eagerly.
 "Them as knows and bosses everything in this world. Jondo told me, and he's just the boss's shadow. Now guess who," Beverly replied.
 "It's all true, Gail," Mat assured me. "Esmond Clarenden _is_ going to Santa Fé in spite of 'war, pestilence, famine, and sword,' as my _History of the World_ says, and he _is_ going to take son Beverly, and son Gail to watch son Beverly; and Miss Mat Nivers to watch both of them and shoo Indians away; and Aunt Daniel Boone to scare the Mexicans into the Gulf of California, if they act ugly, see!"
 She capered about the room, and as she passed me she stooped and patted me on the forehead. I didn't want her to do that. I had taken a long jump away from little-boy-dom a week ago, but I was supremely content now that all of us were to take the long trail together.
 That evening while Mat and Beverly went to look after some fishing-lines they had set--Mat and Bev were always going fishing--and Jondo was down at the store, the officer in command of the fort came in. He paid no attention to me lying there, all eyes and ears whenever shoulder-straps were present.
 "What did you decide to do about the trip to Santa Fé?" he asked, as he tipped back in his chair and settled down to cigars and an evening chat.
 "We shall be leaving on the boat in the morning," my uncle replied.
 The colonel's chair came down with a crack. "You don't mean it!" he exclaimed.
 "I told you a week ago that I would be starting as soon as possible," Esmond Clarenden said, quietly.
 "But, man, the war is raging, simply raging, down in Mexico right now. Our division will be here to commence drill in a few weeks, and we start for the border in a few months. You are mad to take such a risk." The commander's voice rose.
 "We must go, that's all!" my uncle insisted.
 "We? We? Who the devil are 'we'? None of my companies mutinied, I hope."
 The words did not sound like a joke, and there was little humor in the grim face.
 "'We' means Jondo, Banney, a young fellow from Kentucky--" Uncle Esmond began.
 "Humph! Banney's father carried a gun at Fort Dearborn in 1812. I thought that young fellow came here for military service," the colonel commented, testily.
 "Rather say he came for adventure," Esmond Clarenden suggested.
 "He'll get a deuced lot of it in a hurry, if you persuade him off with you."
 A flush swept over Esmond Clarenden's face, but his good-natured smile did not fail as he replied:
 "I don't persuade anybody. The rest of the company are my two nephews and the little girl, my ward, with our cook, Daniel Boone, as commander-in-chief of the pots and pans and any Indian meat foolish enough to fall in her way."
 Then came the explosion. Powder would have cost less than the energy blown off there. The colonel stamped and swore, and sprang to his feet in opposition, and flung himself down in disgust.
 "Women and children!" he gasped. "Why do you sacrifice helpless innocent ones?"
 Just then Aunty Boone strode in carrying a log of wood as big as a man's body, which she deftly threw on the fire. As the flame blazed high she gave one look at the young officer sitting before it, and then walked out as silently and sturdily as she had entered. It was such a look as a Great Dane dog full of superiority and indifference might have given to a terrier puppy, and from where I lay I thought the military man's face took on a very strange expression.
 "I 'sacrifice my innocent ones,'" my uncle answered the query, "because they will be safer with me than anywhere else. Young as they are, there are some forces against them already."
 "Well, you are going to a perilous place, over a most perilous trail, in a most perilous time of national affairs, to meet such treacherously villainous men as New Mexico offers in her market-places right now? And all for the sake of the commerce of the plains? Why do you take such chances to do business with such people, Clarenden?"
 Esmond Clarenden had been staring at the burning logs in the big fireplace during this conversation. He turned now and faced the young army officer squarely as he said in that level tone that we children had learned long ago was final:
 "Colonel, I'd go straight to hell and do business with the devil himself if I had any business dealings with him."
 The colonel's face fell. Slowly he relighted his cigar, and leaned back again in his chair, and with that diplomacy that covers a skilful retreat he said, smilingly:
 "If any man west of the Missouri River ever could do that it would be you, Clarenden. By the holy Jerusalem, the military lost one grand commander when you chose a college instead of West Point, and the East lost one well-bred gentleman from its circles of commerce and culture when you elected to do business on the old Santa Fé Trail instead of Broadway. But I reckon the West will need just such men as you long after the frontier fort has become a central point in the country's civilized area. And, blast you, Clarenden, blast your very picture! No man can help liking you. Not even the devil if he had the chance. Not one man in ten thousand would dare to make that trip right now. You've got the courage of a colonel and the judgment of a judge. Go to Santa Fé! We may meet you coming back. If we do, and you need us, command us!"
 He gave a courteous salute, and the two began to talk of other things; among them the purposes that were bringing young men westward.
 "So Banney, right out of old blue-grassy Kentucky, is going to back out of here and go with you," the colonel remarked.
 "I've hired him to drive one team. It's a lark for him, but the army would be a lark just the same," Esmond Clarenden declared. "He says he is to kill rattlesnakes and Mexicans, while Jondo kills Indians and I sit tight on top of the bales of goods to keep the wind from blowing them away. And the boys are to be made bridle-wise, _plains-broke_ for future freighting. That's all that life means to him right now."
 I do not know what else was said, nor what I heard and what I dreamed after that. If this journey meant a lark to a grown-up boy, it meant a pilgrimage through fairyland to a young boy like myself.
 And so the new life opened to us; and if the way was fraught with hardship and danger, it also taught us courage and endurance. Nor must we be measured by the boy life of to-day. Children lived the grown-up life then. It was all there was for them to live.
 The yellow Missouri boiled endlessly along by the foot of the bluff. The flag flapped broadly in the strong breeze that blew in from the west; the square log house--the only home we had ever known--looked forlornly after us, with its two front windows with blinds half drawn, like two half-closed, watching eyes; the cottonwoods and elms, the tiny storehouse--everything--grew suddenly very dear to us. The fort buildings throwing long shadows in the early morning, the level-topped forests east of the Missouri River, and the budding woodland that overdraped the ravines to the west, even in their silence, seemed like sentient things, loving us, as we loved them.
 We children had gone all over the place before sunrise and touched everything, in token of good-by; from some instinct tarrying longest at the flagpole, where we threw kisses to the great, beautiful banner high above us. Now, at the moment of leaving all these familiar things of all our years, a choking pain came to our throats. Mat's eyes filled with tears and she looked resolutely forward. Beverly and I clutched hands and shut our teeth together, determined to overcome this home-grip on our hearts. Aunty Boone sat in a corner of the deck as the boat swung out into the stream, her eyes dull and unseeing. She never spoke of her thoughts, but I have wondered often, since that big day of my young years, if she might not have recalled other voyages: the slave-ship putting out to sea with the African shores fading behind her; and the big river steamer at the New Orleans dock where brutal hands had hurled her from the deck into the dangerous floods of the Mississippi. This was her third voyage, a brief run from Fort Leavenworth to Independence. She was apart from her fellow-passengers as in the other two, but now nobody gave her a curse, nor a blow.