Category: The Price of the Prairie, A Story of Kansas
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All these regiments made history and left records of unfading glory.

While the Kansas volunteers had been floundering in the snow-heaped sand-dunes of the Cimarron country, General Sheridan's anxiety for our safety grew to gravest fears. General Custer's feeling was that of impatience mingled with anxiety. He knew the tribes were getting farther away with every twenty-four hours' delay, and he shaped his forces for a speedy movement southward.

The young general's military genius was as strong in minute detail as in general scope. His command was well directed. Enlisted under him were a daring company of Osage scouts, led by Hard Rope and Little Beaver, two of the best of this ever loyal tribe. Forty sharpshooters under Colonel Cook, and a company of citizen scouts recruited by their commanding officer, Pepoon, were added to the regular soldiery of the Seventh Cavalry.

These citizen scouts had been gathered from the Kansas river valleys. They knew why they had come hither. Each man had his own tragic picture of the Plains. They were a silent determined force which any enemy might dread, for they had a purpose to accomplish--even the redemption of the prairie from its awful peril.

The November days had slipped by without our regiment's appearance. The finding of an Indian trail toward the southwest caused Sheridan to loose Custer from further delay. Eagerly then he led forth his willing command out of Camp Supply and down the trail toward the Washita Valley, determined to begin at once on the winter's work.

The blizzard that had swept across the land had caught the Indian tribes on their way to the coverts of the Wichita Mountains, and forced them into winter quarters. The villages of the Cheyenne, the Kiowa, and the Arapahoe extended up and down the sheltering valley of the Washita for many miles. Here were Black Kettle and his band of Cheyenne braves--they of the loving heart at Fort Hays, they who had filled all the fair northern prairie lands with terror, whose hands reeked with the hot blood of the white brothers they professed to love. In their snug tepees were their squaws, fat and warm, well clothed and well fed. Dangling from the lodge poles were scalps with the soft golden curls of babyhood. No comfort of savage life was lacking to the papooses here. And yet, in the same blizzards wherein we had struggled and starved, half a score of little white children torn from their mothers' clinging arms, these Indians had allowed to freeze to death out on the Plains, while the tribes were hurrying through the storm to the valley. The fathers of some of these lost children were in that silent company under Pepoon, marching now with the Seventh Cavalry down upon the snow-draped tepees of Black Kettle and his tribe.

Oh, the cost of it all! The price paid out for a beautiful land and sheltered homes, and school privileges and Sabbath blessings! It was for these that men fought and starved and dared, and at last died, leaving only a long-faded ripple in the prairie sod where an unmarked grave holds human dust returned to the dust of the earth.

In the shelter of the Washita Valley on that twenty-seventh day of November, God's vengeance came to these Indians at the hands of General Custer. He had approached their village undiscovered. As the Indians had swooped down on Forsyth's sleeping force; as the yells of Black Kettle's braves had startled the sleeping settlers at dawn on Spillman Creek, the daybreak now marked the beginning of retribution. While the Seventh Cavalry band played "Garry Owen" as a signal for closing in, Custer's soldiery, having surrounded the village, fell upon it and utterly destroyed it. Black Kettle and many of his braves were slain, the tepees were burned, the Indians' ponies were slaughtered, and the squaws and children made captives.

News of this engagement reached Sheridan's garrison on the day after our arrival, with the word also that Custer, unable to cope with the tribes swarming down the Washita River, was returning to Camp Supply with his spoils of battle.

"Did you know, Phil," Bud Anderson said, "that Cuthter'th to have a grand review before the General and hith thtaff when he geth here to-morrow, and that'th all we'll thee of the thircuth. My! but I wish we could have been in that fight; don't you?"

"I don't know, Bud, I'd hate to come down here for nothing, after all we've gone through; but don't you worry about that; there'll be plenty to be done before the whole Cheyenne gang is finished."

"It'll be a sight worth seein' anyhow, this parade," O'mie declared. "Do you remember the day Judge Baronet took his squad out av Springvale, Phil? What a careless set av young idiots we were then?"

Did I remember? Could I be the same boy that watched that line of blue-coats file out of Springvale and across the rocky ford of the Neosho that summer day? It seemed so long ago; and this snow-clad valley seemed the earth's end from that warm sunny village. But Custer's review was to come, and I should see it.

It was years ago that this review was made, and I who write of it have had many things crowded into the memory of each year. And yet, I recall as if it were but yesterday that parade of a Plains military review. It was a magnificent sunlit day. The Canadian Valley, smooth and white with snow, rose gently toward the hills of the southwest. Across this slope of gleaming whiteness came Custer's command, and we who watched it saw one of those bits of dramatic display rare even among the stirring incidents of war.

Down across the swell, led by Hard Rope and Little Beaver, came the Osage scouts tricked out in all the fantastic gear of Indian war coloring, riding hard, as Indians ride, cutting circles in the snow, firing shots into the air, and chanting their battle songs of victory. Behind them came Pepoon's citizen scouts. Men with whom I had marched and fought on the Arickaree were in that stern, silent company, and my heart thumped hard as I watched them swinging down the line.

And then that splendid cavalry band swept down the slope riding abreast, their instruments glistening in the sunlight, and their horses stepping proudly to the music as the strains of "Garry Owen to Glory" filled the valley.

Behind the band were the prisoners of war, the Cheyenne widows and orphans of Black Kettle's village riding on their own ponies in an irregular huddle, their bright blankets and Indian trinkets of dress making a division in that parade, the mark of the untrained and uncivilized. After these were the sharpshooters led by their commander, Cook, and then--we had been holding our breath for this--then rode by column after column in perfect order, dressed to the last point of military discipline, that magnificent Seventh Cavalry, the flower of the nation's soldiery, sent out to subdue the Plains. At their head was their commander, a slender young man of twenty-nine summers, lacking much the fine physique one pictures in a leader of soldiers. But his face, from which a tangle of long yellow curls fell back, had in it the mark of a master.

This parade was not without its effect on us, to whom the ways of war were new. Well has George Eliot declared "there have been no great nations without processions." The unwritten influence of that thrilling act of dramatic display somehow put a stir in the blood and loyalty and patriotism took stronger hold on us.

We had come out to break the red man's power by a winter invasion. Camp Supply was abandoned, and the whole body made its way southward to Fort Cobb. To me ours seemed a tremendous force. We were two thousand soldiers, with commanders, camp officials, and servants. Our wagon train had four hundred big Government wagons, each drawn by six mules. We trailed across the Plains leaving a wide and well marked path where twenty-five hundred cavalry horses, with as many mules, tramped the snow.

The December of the year 1868 was a terror on the Plains. No fiercer blizzard ever blew out of the home of blizzards than the storms that fell upon us on the southward march.

Down in the Washita Valley we came to the scene of Custer's late encounter. Beyond it was a string of recently abandoned villages clustering down the river in the sheltering groves where had dwelt Kiowa, Arapahoe, and Comanche, from whose return fire Custer saved himself by his speedy retreat northward after his battle with Black Kettle's band.

A little company of us were detailed to investigate these deserted quarters. The battle field had a few frozen bodies of Indians who had been left by the tribe in their flight before the attack of the Seventh Cavalry. There were also naked forms of white soldiers who had met death here. In the villages farther on were heaps of belongings of every description, showing how hasty the exodus had been. In one of these villages I dragged the covering from a fallen snow-covered tepee. Crouched down in its lowest place was the body of a man, dead, with a knife wound in the back.

"Poor coward! he tried hard to get away," Bud exclaimed.

"Some bigger coward tried to make a shield out of him, I'll guess," I replied, lifting the stiff form with more carefulness than sentiment. As I turned the body about, I caught sight of the face, which even in death was marked with craven terror. It was the face of the Rev. Mr. Dodd, pastor of the Springvale Methodist Church South. In his clenched dead hands he still held a torn and twisted blanket. It was red, with a circle of white in the centre.

On the desolate wind-swept edge of a Kiowa village Bud and I came upon the frozen body of a young white woman. Near her lay her two-year-old baby boy. With her little one, she had been murdered to prevent her rescue, on the morning of Custer's attack on the Cheyennes, murdered with the music of the cavalry band sounding down the valley, and with the shouts and shots of her own people, ringing a promise of life and hope to her.

Bud hadn't been with Forsyth, and he was not quite ready for this. He stooped and stroked the woman's hair tenderly and then lifted a white face up toward me. "It would have happened to Marjie, Phil, long ago, but for O'mie. They were Kiowath, too," he said in a low voice.

After that moment there was no more doubt for me. I knew why I had been spared in Colorado, and I consecrated myself to the fighting duty of an American citizen, "Through famine and fire and frost," I vowed to myself, "I give my strength to this work, even unto death if God wills it."

Tenderly, for soldiers can be tender, the body of the mother and her baby were wrapped in a blanket and placed in one of the wagons, to be carried many miles and to wait many days before they were laid to rest at last in the shadow of Fort Arbuckle.

I saw much of O'mie. In the army as in Springvale, he was everybody's friend. But the bitter winter did not alleviate that little hacking cough of his. Instead of the mild vigor of the sunny Plains, that we had looked for was the icy blast with its penetrating cold, as sudden in its approach as it was terrible in its violence. Sometimes even now on winter nights when the storms sweep across the west prairie and I hear them hurl their wrathful strength against this stanch stone house with its rounded turret-like corners, I remember how the wind blew over our bivouacs, and how we burrowed like prairie dogs in the river bank, where the battle with the storm had only one parallel in all this campaign. That other battle comes later.

But with all and all we could live and laugh, and I still bless the men, Reed and Hadley and John Mac and Pete, whose storm cave was near mine. Without the loud, cheery laugh from their nest I should have died. But nobody said "die." Troop A had the courage of its convictions and a breezy sense of the ludicrous. I think I could turn back at Heaven's gate to wait for the men who went across the Plains together in that year of Indian warfare.

This is only one man's story. It is not an official report. The books of history tell minutely how the scattered tribes submitted. Overwhelmed by the capture of their chief men, on our march to Fort Cobb, induced partly by threatened danger to these captive chiefs, but mostly by bewilderment at the presence of such a large force in their country in midwinter, after much stratagem and time-gaining delays they came at last to the white commander's terms, and pitched their tepees just beyond our camp. Only one tribe remained unsubdued: the Cheyennes, who with trick and lie, had managed to elude all the forces and escape to the southwest.

We did not stay long at Fort Cobb. The first week of the new year found us in a pleasanter place, on the present site of Fort Sill. It was not until after the garrison was settled here that I saw much of these Indian tribes, whom Custer's victory on the Washita, and diplomatic handling of affairs afterwards, had brought into villages under the guns of our cantonment.

I knew that Satanta and Lone Wolf, chief men of the Kiowas, were held as hostages, but I had not been near them. Satanta was the brute for whom the dead woman with her little one had been captured. Her form was mouldering back to earth in her grave at Fort Arbuckle, while he, well clothed and well fed, was a gentleman prisoner of war in a comfortable lodge in our midst.

The East knew little of the Plains before the railroads crossed them. Eastern religious papers and church mission secretaries lauded Satanta as a hero, and Black Kettle, whom Custer had slain, as a martyr; while they urged that the extreme penalty of the civil law be meted out to Custer and Sheridan in particular, and to the rest of us at wholesale.

One evening I was sent by an officer on some small errand to Satanta's tent. The chief had just risen from his skin couch, and a long band of black fur lay across his head. In the dim light it gave his receding forehead a sort of square-cut effect. He threw it off as I entered, but the impression it made I could not at once throw off. The face of the chief was for the moment as suggestive of Jean Pahusca's face as ever Father Le Claire's had been.

"If Jean is a Kiowa," I said to myself, "then this scoundrel here must be his mother's brother." I had only a few words with the man, but a certain play of light on his cunning countenance kept Jean in my mind continually.

When I turned to go, the tent flap was pulled back for me from the outside and I stepped forth and stood face to face with Jean Pahusca himself, standing stolidly before me wrapped in a bright new red blanket. We looked at each other steadily.

"You are in my land now. This isn't Springvale." There was still that French softness in his voice that made it musical, but the face was cruel with a still relentless, deadly cruelty that I had never seen before even in his worst moods.

The Baronets are not cowardly by nature, but something in Jean always made me even more fearless. To his taunting words, "This isn't Springvale," I replied evenly, "No, but this is Phil Baronet still."

He gave me a swift searching look, and turning, disappeared in the shadows beyond the tents.

"I owe him a score for his Arickaree plans," I said to myself, "and his scalp ought to come off to O'mie for his attempt to murder the boy in the Hermit's Cave. Oh, it's a grim game this. I hope it will end here soon."

As I turned away I fell against Hard Rope, chief of the Osage scouts. I had seen little of him before, but from this time on he shadowed my pathway with a persistence I had occasion to remember when the soldier life was forgotten.

The beginning of the end was nearer than I had wished for. All about Fort Sill the bluffy heights looked down on pleasant little valleys. White oak timber and green grass made these little parks a delight to the eye. The soldiers penetrated all the shelving cliffs about them in search of game and time-killing leisure.

The great lack of the soldier's day is seclusion. The mess life and tent life and field life may develop comradeship, but it cannot develop individuality. The loneliness of the soldier is in the barracks, not in the brief time he may be by himself.

Beyond a little brook Bud and I had by merest chance found a small cove in the low cliff looking out on one of these valleys, a secluded nook entered by a steep, short climb. We kept the place a secret and called it our sanctuary. Here on the winter afternoons we sat in the warm sunshine sheltered from the winds by the rocky shelf, and talked of home and the past; and sometimes, but not often, of the future. On the day after I saw Jean at the door of Satanta's tent, Bud stole my cap and made off to our sanctuary. I had adorned it with turkey quills, and made a fantastic head-gear out of it. Soldiers do anything to kill time; and jokes and pranks and child's play, stale and silly enough in civil life, pass for fun in lieu of better things in camp.

It was a warm afternoon in February, and the soldiers were scattered about the valley hunting, killing rattlesnakes that the sunshine had tempted out on the rocks before their cave hiding-places, or tramping up and down about the river banks. Hearing my name called, I looked out, only to see Bud disappearing and John Mac, who had mistaken him for me, calling after him. John Mac, leading the other three, Hadley and Reed and Pete, each with his hands on the shoulders of the one before him, were marching in locked step across the open space.

"The rascal's heading for the sanctuary," I said to myself. "I'll follow and surprise him."

I had nearly reached the foot of the low bluff when a pistol shot, clear and sharp, sounded out; and I thought I heard a smothered cry in the direction Bud had taken. "Somebody hunting turkey or killing snakes," was my mental comment. Rifles and revolvers were popping here and there, telling that the boys were out on a hunting bout or at target practice. As I rounded a huge bowlder, beyond which the little climb to our cove began, I saw Bud staggering toward me. At the same time half a dozen of the boys, Pete and Reed and John Mac among them, came hurrying around the angle of another projecting rock shelf.

Bud's face was pallid, and his blue eyes were full of pathos. I leaped toward him, and he fell into my arms. A hole in his coat above his heart told the story,--a bullet and internal bleeding. I stretched him out on the grassy bank and the soldiers gathered around him.

"Somebody's made an awful mistake," John Mac said bitterly. "The boys are hunting over on the other side of the bluff. We heard them shooting turkey, and then we heard one shot and a scream. The boys don't know what they've done."

"I'm glad they don't," I murmured.

"We were back there; you can't get down in front," Reed said. They did not know of our little nest on the front side of the bluff.

"I'm all right, Phil," Bud said, and smiled up at me and reached for my hand. "I'm glad you didn't come. I told O'mie latht night where to find it." And then his mind wandered, and he began to talk of home.

"Run for the surgeon, somebody," one of the boys urged; and John Mac was off at the word.

"It ain't no use," Pete declared, kneeling beside the wounded boy. "He's got no need for a surgeon."

And I knew he was right. I had seen the same thing before on reeking sands under a blazing September sky.

I took the boy's head in my lap and held his hand and stroked that shock of yellow hair. He thought he was at Springvale and we were in the Deep Hole below the Hermit's Cave. He gripped my hand tightly and begged me not to let him go down. It did not last long. He soon looked up and smiled.

"I'm thafe," he lisped. "Your turn, now, Phil."

The soldiers had fallen back and left us two together. John Mac and Reed had hastened to the cantonment for help, but Pete knew best. It was useless. Even now, after the lapse of nearly forty years, the sorrow of that day lies heavy on me. "Accidental death" the official record was made, and there was no need to change it, when we knew better.

That evening O'mie and I sat together in the shadowy twilight. There was just a hint of spring in the balmy air, and we breathed deeply, realizing, as never before, how easy a thing it is to cut off the breath of life. We talked of Bud in gentle tones, and then O'mie said: "Lem me tell you somethin', Phil. I was over among the Arapahoes this afternoon, an' I saw a man, just a glimpse was all; but you never see a face so like Father Le Claire's in your life. It couldn't be nobody else but that praist; and yet, it couldn't be him, nather."

"Why, O'mie?" I asked.

"It was an evil-soaked face. And yet it was fine-lookin'. It was just like Father Le Claire turned bad."

"Maybe it was Father Le Claire himself turned bad," I said. "I saw the same man up on the Arickaree, voice and all. Men sometimes lead double lives. I never thought that of him. But who is this shadow of Jean Pahusca's--a priest in civilization, a renegade on the Plains? Not only the face and voice of the man I saw, but his gait, the set of his shoulders, all were Le Claire to a wrinkle."

"Phil, it couldn't have been him in September. The praist was at Springvale then, and he went out on Dever's stage white and sick, hurrying to Kansas City. Oh, begorra, there's a few extry folks more 'n I can use in this world, annyhow."

We sat in silence a few minutes, the shadow of the bowlder concealing us. I was just about to rise when two men came soft-footed out of the darkness from beyond the cliff. Passing near us they made their way along the little stream toward the river. They were talking in low tones and we caught only a sentence or two.

"When are you going to leave?" It was Jean Pahusca's voice.

"Not till I get ready."

The tone had that rich softness I heard so often when Father Le Claire chatted with our gang of boys in Springvale, but there was an insolence in it impossible to the priest. O'mie squeezed my hand in the dark and rising quickly he followed them down the stream. The boy never did know what fear meant. They were soon lost in the darkness and I waited for O'mie's return. He came presently, running swiftly and careless of the noise he made. Beyond, I heard the feet of a horse in a gallop, a sound the bluff soon shut off.

"Come, Phil, let's get into camp double quick for the love av all the saints."

Inside the cantonment we stopped for breath, and as soon as we could be alone, O'mie explained.

"Whoiver that man with Jean was, he's a 'was' now for good. Jean fixed him."

"Tell me, O'mie, what's he done?" I asked eagerly.

"They seemed to be quarrellin'. I heard Jean say, 'You can't get off too quick; Satanta has got men hired to scalp you; now take my word.' An' the Le Claire one laughed, oh, hateful as anything could be, and says, 'I'm not afraid of Satanta. He's a prisoner.' Bedad! but his voice is like the praist's. They're too much alike to be two and too different somehow to be one. But Phil, d'ye know that in the rumpus av Custer's wid Black Kittle, Jean stole old Satanta's youngest wife and made off wid her, and wid his customary cussedness let her freeze to death in them awful storms. Now he's layin' the crime on this praist-renegade and trying to git the Kiowas to scalp the holy villain. That's the row as I made it out between 'em. They quarrelled wid each other quite fierce, and the Imitation says, 'You are Satanta's tool yourself'; and Jean said somethin' I couldn't hear. Then the Imitation struck at him. It was dark, but I heard a groan and something like the big man went plunk into the river. Then Jean made a dash by me, and he's on a horse now, and a mile beyont the South Pole by this time. 'Tain't no pony, I bet you, but a big cavalry horse he's stole. He put a knife into what went into the river, so it won't come out. That Imitation isn't Le Claire, but nather is he anybody else now. Phil, d'ye reckon this will iver be a dacent civilized country? D'ye reckon these valleys will iver have orchards and cornfields and church steeples and schoolhouses in 'em, and little homes, wid children playin' round 'em not afraid av their lives?"

"I don't know," I answered, "but orchards and cornfields and church steeples and schoolhouses and little homes with children unafraid, have been creeping across America for a hundred years and more."

"So they have; but oh, the cost av it all! The Government puts the land at a dollar and a quarter an acre, wid your courage and fightin' strength and quickest wits, and by and by your heart's blood and a grave wid no top cover, like a fruit tart, sometimes, let alone a tomb-stone, as the total cost av the prairie sod. It's a great story now, aven if nobody should care to read it in a gineration or so."

So O'mie philosophized and I sat listening, whittling the while a piece of soft pine, the broken end of a cracker box.

"Now, Phil, where did you get that knife?" O'mie asked suddenly.

"That's the knife I found in the Hermit's Cave one May day nearly six years ago, when I went down there after a lazy red-headed Irishman. I found it to-day down in my Saratoga trunk. See the name?" I pointed to the script lettering, spelling out slowly--"Jean Le Claire."

"Well, give it to me. I got it away from the 'good Injun' first." O'mie deftly wrenched it out of my hand. "Let me kape it, Phil. I've a sort of fore-warnin' I may nade it soon."

"Keep it if you want to, you grasping son of Erin," I replied carelessly.

We were talking idly now, to hide the heaviness of our sorrow as we thought of Bud down under the clods, whose going had left us two so lonely and homesick.

Two days later when I found time to slip away to our sanctuary and be alone for a little while, my eye fell upon my feather-decked hat, crushed and shapeless as if it had been trampled on, lying just at the corner where I came into the nook. I turned it listlessly in my hands and stood wrapped in sorrowful thought. A low chuckle broke the spell, and at the same moment a lariat whizzed through the air and encircled my body. A jerk and I was thrown to the ground, my arms held to my sides. Almost before I could begin to struggle the coils of the rope were deftly bound about me and I was helpless as a mummy. Then Jean Pahusca, deliberate, cruel, mocking, sat down beside me. The gray afternoon was growing late, and the sun was showing through the thin clouds in the west. Down below us was a beautiful little park with its grove of white-oak trees, and beyond was the river. I could see it all as I lay on the sloping shelf of stone--the sky, and the grove and the bit of river with the Arapahoe and Kiowa tepees under the shadow of the fort, and the flag floating lazily above the garrison's tents. It was a peaceful scene, but near me was an enemy cutting me off from all this serenity and safety. In his own time he spoke deliberately. He had sat long preparing his thought.

"Phil Baronet, you may know now you are at the end of your game. I have waited long. An Indian learns to wait. I have waited ever since the night you put the pink flowers on her head--Star-face's. You are strong, you are not afraid, you are quick and cunning, you are lucky. But you are in my land now. You have no more strength, and your cunning and courage and luck are useless. They don't know where you are. They don't know about this place." He pointed toward the tents as he spoke. "When they do find you, you won't do them any good." He laughed mockingly but not unmusically. "They'll say, 'accidental death by hunters,' as they said of Bud. Bah! I was fooled by his hat. I thought he was you. But he deserved it, anyhow."

So that was what had cut him off. Innocent Bud! wantonly slain, by one the law might never reach. The thought hurt worse than the thongs that bound me.

"Before I finish with you I'll let you have more time to think, and here is something to think about. It was given to me by a girl who loved you, or thought she did. She found it in a hole in the rock where Star-face had put it. Do you know the writing?"

He held a letter before my eyes. In Marjie's well known hand I read the inscription, "Philip Baronet, Rockport, Cliff Street."

"It's a letter Star-face put in the place you two had for a long time. I never could find it, but Lettie did. She gave it to me. There was another letter deeper in, but this was the only one she could get out. Her arm was too short. Star-face and Amos Judson were married Christmas Day. You didn't know that."

How cruelly slow he was, but it was useless to say a word. He had no heart. No plea for mercy would move him to anything but fiendish joy that he could call it forth. At last he opened the letter and read aloud. He was a good reader. All his schooling had developed his power over the English language, but it gave him nothing else.

Slowly he read, giving me time to think between the sentences. It was the long loving letter Marjie wrote to me on the afternoon that Rachel and I went to the old stone cabin together. It told me all the stories she had heard, and it assured me that in spite of them all her faith in me was unshaken.

"I know you, Phil," she had written at the end, "and I know that you are all my own."

I understood everything now. Oh, if I must die, it was sweet to hear those words. She had not gotten my letter. She had heard all the misrepresentation, and she knew all the circumstances entangling everything. What had become of my letter made no difference; it was lost. But she loved me still. And I who should have read this letter out on "Rockport" in the August sunset, I was listening to it now out on this gray rock in a lonely land as I lay bound for the death awaiting me. But the reading brought joy. Jean watching my face saw his mistake and he cursed me in his anger.

"You care so much for another man's wife? So! I can drive away your happiness as easily as I brought it to you," he argued. "I go back to Springvale. Nobody knows when I go. Bud's out of the way; O'mie won't be there. Suddenly, silently, I steal upon Star-face when she least thinks of me. I would have been good to her five years ago. I can get her away long and long before anybody will know it. Tell Mapleson will help me sure. Now I sell her, on time, to one buck. When I get ready I redeem her, and sell her to another. You know that woman you and Bud found in Satanta's tepee on the Washita? I killed her myself. The soldiers went by five minutes afterwards,--she was that near getting away. That's what Star-face will come to by and by. Satanta is my mother's brother. I can surpass him. I know your English ways also. When you die a little later, remember what Star-face is coming to. When I get ready I will torture her to death. You couldn't escape me. No more can she. Remember it!"

The sun was low in the west now, and the pain of my bonds was hard to bear, but this slow torture of mind made them welcome. They helped me not to think. After a long silence Jean turned his face full toward me. I had not spoken a word since his first quick binding of my limbs.

"When the last pink is in the sky your time will come," he laughed. "And nobody will know. I'll leave you where the hunter accidentally shot you. Watch that sunset and think of home."

He shoved me rudely about that I might see the western sky and the level rays of the sun, as it sank lower and lower. I had faced death before. I must do it sometime, once for all. But life was very dear to me. Home and Marjie's love. Oh, the burden of the days had been more grievous than I had dreamed, now that I understood. And all the time the sun was sinking. Keeping well in the shadow that no eye from below might see him, Jean walked toward the edge of the shelf.

"It will be down in a minute more; look and see," he said, in that soft tone that veiled a fiend's purpose. Then he turned away, and glancing out over the valley he made a gesture of defiance at the cantonment. His back was toward me. The red sun was on the horizon bar, half out of sight.

"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." The arm of the All Father was round about me then, and I put my trust in Him.

As Jean turned to face the west the glow of the sinking ball of fire dazzled his eyes a moment. But that was long enough, for in that instant a step fell on the rock beside me. A leap of lightning swiftness put a form between my eyes and the dying day; the flash of a knife--Jean Le Claire's short sharp knife--glittered here; my bonds were cut in a twinkling; O'mie, red-headed Irish O'mie, lifted me to my feet, and I was free.

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