John William De Forest
Part 4 out of 7
After some further riding, shaking his sandy head, staring about him and
whistling, he broke out again.
"Tell ye, Capm, this beats my imagination. Used to think I c'd yarn it
pooty consid'able. But never can tell this. Never can do no manner 'f
jestice to it. Look a there now. There's a nateral bridge, or 'n unnateral
one. There's a hole blowed through a forty foot rock 's clean 's though
'twas done with Satan's own field-piece, sech 's Milton tells about. An'
there's a steeple higher 'n our big one in Fair Haven. An' there's a
church, 'n' a haystack. If the devil hain't done his biggest celebratin'
'n' carpenterin' 'n' farmin' round here, d'no 's I know where he has done
it. Beats _me_, Capm; cleans me out. Can't do no jestice to it. Can't talk
about it. Seems to me 's though I was a fool."
Yes, even Phineas Glover's small and sinewy soul (a psyche of the size,
muscular force, and agility of a flea) had been seized, oppressed, and in
a manner smashed by the hideous sublimity of this wilderness of sandstone,
basalt, and granite.
Two hours passed, during which, from the nature of the ground, the
travellers could neither see nor be seen by their pursuers. Then came a
breathless ascent up another of the monstrous sandstone terraces.
Thurstane ordered every man to dismount, so as to spare the beasts as much
as possible. He walked by the side of Clara, patting, coaxing, and
cheering her suffering horse, and occasionally giving a heave of his solid
shoulder against the trembling haunches.
"Let me walk," the girl presently said. "I can't bear to see the poor
beast so worried."
"It would be better, if you can do it," he replied, remembering that she
might soon have to call upon the animal for speed.
She dismounted, clasped her hands over his arm, and clambered thus. From
time to time, when some rocky step was to be surmounted, he lifted her
bodily up it.
"How can you be so strong?" she said, looking at him wonderingly and
"Miss Van Diemen, you give me strength," he could not help responding.
At last they were at the summit of the rugged slope. The animals were
trembling and covered with sweat; some of them uttered piteous whinnyings,
or rather bleatings, like distressed sheep; five or six lay down with
hollow moans and rumblings. It was absolutely necessary to take a short
Looking ahead, Thurstane saw that they had reached the top of the
tableland which lies south of the San Juan, and that nothing was before
them for the rest of the day but a rolling plateau seamed with meandering
fissures of undiscoverable depth. Traversable as the country was, however,
there was one reason for extreme anxiety. If they should lose the trail,
if they should get on the wrong side of one of those profound and endless
chasms, they might reach the river at a point where descent to it would be
impossible, and might die of thirst within sight of water. For undoubtedly
the San Juan flowed at the bottom of one of those amazing canons which
gully this Mer de Glace in stone.
An error of direction once committed, the enemy would not give them time
to retrieve it, and they would be slaughtered like mad dogs with the foam
on their mouths.
Thurstane remembered that it would be his terrible duty in the last
extremity to send a bullet through the heart of the woman he worshipped,
rather than let her fall into the hands of brutes who would only grant her
a death of torture and dishonor. Even his steady soul failed for a moment,
and tears of desperation gathered in his eyes. For the first time in years
he looked up to heaven and prayed fervently.
From the unknown destiny ahead he turned to look for the fate which
pursued. Walking with Coronado to the brink of the colossal terrace, and
sheltering himself from the view of the rest of the party, he scanned the
trail with his glass. The dark line had now become a series of dark
specks, more than a hundred and fifty in number, creeping along the arid
floor of the lower plateau, and reminding him of venomous insects.
"They are not five miles from us," shuddered the Mexican. "Cursed beasts!
Devils of hell!"
"They have this hill to climb," said Thurstane, "and, if I am not
mistaken, they will have to halt here, as we have done. Their ponies must
be pretty well fagged by this time."
"They will get a last canter out of them," murmured Coronado. His soul was
giving way under his hardships, and it would have been a solace to him to
weep aloud. As it was, he relieved himself with a storm of blasphemies.
Oaths often serve to a man as tears do to a woman.
"We must trot now," he said presently.
"Not yet. Not till they are within half a mile of us. We must spare our
wind up to the last minute."
They were interrupted by a cry of surprise and alarm. Several of the
muleteers had strayed to the edge of the declivity, and had discovered
with their unaided eyesight the little cloud of death in the distance.
Texas Smith approached, looked from under his shading hand, muttered a
single curse, walked back to his horse, inspected his girths, and recapped
his rifle. In a minute it was known throughout the train that Apaches were
in the rear. Without a word of direction, and in a gloomy silence which
showed the general despair, the march was resumed. There was a disposition
to force a trot, which was promptly and sternly checked by Thurstane. His
voice was loud and firm; he had instinctively assumed responsibility and
command; no one disputed him or thought of it.
Three mules which could not rise were left where they lay, feebly
struggling to regain their feet and follow their comrades, but falling
back with hollow groanings and a kind of human despair in their faces.
Mile after mile the retreat continued, always at a walk, but without
halting. It was long before the Apaches were seen again, for the ascent of
the plateau lost them a considerable space, and after that they were
hidden for a time by its undulations. But about four in the afternoon,
while the emigrants were still at least five miles from the river, a group
of savage horsemen rose on a knoll not more than three miles behind, and
uttered a yell of triumph. There was a brief panic, and another attempt to
push the animals, which Thurstane checked with levelled pistol.
The train had already entered a gully. As this gully advanced it rapidly
broadened and deepened into a canon. It was the track of an extinct river
which had once flowed into the San Juan on its way to the distant Pacific.
Its windings hid the desired goal; the fugitives must plunge into it
blindfold; whatever fate it brought them, they must accept it. They were
like men who should enter the cavern of unknown goblins to escape from
demons who were following visibly on their footsteps.
From time to time they heard ferocious yells in their rear, and beheld
their fiendish pursuers, now also in the canon. It was like Christian
tracking the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and listening to the screams
and curses of devils. At every reappearance of the Apaches they had
diminished the distance between themselves and their expected prey, and at
last they were evidently not more than a mile behind. But there in sight
was the river; there, enclosed in one of its bends, was an alluvial plain;
rising from the extreme verge of the plain, and overhanging the stream,
was a bluff; and on this bluff was what seemed to be a fortress.
Thurstane sent all the horsemen to the rear of the train, took post
himself as the rearmost man, measured once more with his eye the space
between his charge and the enemy, cast an anxious glance at the reeling
beast which bore Clara, and in a firm ringing voice commanded a trot.
The order and the movement which followed it were answered by the Indians
with a yell. The monstrous and precipitous walls of the canon clamored
back a fiendish mockery of echoes which seemed to call for the prowlers of
the air to arrive quickly and devour their carrion.
The scene was like one of Dore's most extravagant designs of abysses and
shadows. The gorge through which swept this silent flight and screaming
chase was not more than two hundred feet wide, while it was at least
fifteen hundred feet deep, with walls that were mainly sheer precipices.
As the fugitives broke into a trot, the pursuers quickened their pace to a
slow canter. No faster; they were too wise to rush within range of
riflemen who could neither be headed off nor flanked; and their hardy
mustangs were nearly at the last gasp with thirst and with the fatigue of
this tremendous journey. Four hundred yards apart the two parties emerged
from the sublime portal of the canon and entered upon the little alluvial
To the left glittered the river; but the trail did not turn in that
direction; it led straight at the bluff in the elbow of the current. The
mules and horses followed it in a pack, guided by their acute scent toward
the nearest water, a still invisible brooklet which ran at the base of the
butte. Presently, while yet a mile from the stream, they were seized by a
mania. With a loud beastly cry they broke simultaneously into a run,
nostrils distended and quivering, eyes bloodshot and protruding, heads
thrust forward with fierce eagerness, ungovernably mad after water. There
was no checking the frantic stampede which from this moment thundered with
constantly increasing speed across the plain. No order; the stronger
jostled the weaker; loads were flung to the ground and scattered; the
riders could scarcely keep their seats. Spun out over a line of twenty
rods, the cavalcade was the image of senseless rout.
Of course Thurstane was furious at this seemingly fatal dispersion; and he
trumpeted forth angry shouts of "Steady there in front! Close up in the
But before long he guessed the truth--water! "They will rally at the
drinking place," he thought. "Forward the mules!" he yelled. "Steady, you
men here! Hold in your horses. Keep in rear of the women. I'll shoot the
man who takes the lead."
But even Spanish bits could do no more than detain the horses a rod or two
behind the beasts of burden, and the whole panting, snorting mob continued
to rush over the loamy level with astonishing swiftness.
Meanwhile the leading Apaches, not now more than fifty in number, were
swept along by the same whirlwind of brute instinct. They diverged a
little from the trail; their object apparently was to overlap the train
and either head it off or divide it; but their beasts were too frantic to
be governed fully. Before long there were two lines of straggling flight,
running parallel with each other at a distance of perhaps one hundred
yards, and both storming toward the still unseen rivulet. A few arrows
were thrown; four or five unavailing shots were fired in return; the hiss
of shaft and _ping_ of ball crossed each other in air; but no serious and
effective fight commenced or could commence. Both parties, guided and
mastered by their lolling beasts, almost without conflict and almost
without looking at each other, converged helplessly toward a verdant,
shallow depression, through the centre of which loitered a clear streamlet
scarcely less calm than the heaven above. Next they were all together,
panting, plunging, splashing, drinking, mules and horses, white men and
red men, all with no other thought than to quench their thirst.
The Apaches, who had probably made their cruel journey without flasks,
seemed for the moment insatiable and utterly reckless. Many of them rolled
off their tottering ponies into the rivulet, and plunging down their heads
drank like beasts. There were a few minutes of the strangest peace that
ever was seen. It was in vain that two or three of the hardier or fiercer
Chiefs and braves shouted and gestured to their comrades, as if urging
them to commence the attack. Manga Colorada, absorbed by a thirst which
was more burning than revenge, did not at first see the slayer of his boy,
and when he did could not move toward him because of fevered mustangs, who
would not budge from their drinking, or who were staggering blind with
hunger. Thurstane, keeping his horse beside Clara's, watched the lean
figure and restless, irritable face of Delgadito, not ten yards distant.
Mrs. Stanley had halted helplessly so near an Apache boy that he might
have thrust her through with his lance had he not been solely intent upon
It was fortunate for the emigrants that they had reached the stream a few
seconds the sooner. Their thirst was first satiated; and then men and
animals began to draw away from their enemies; for even the mules of white
men instinctively dread and detest the red warriors. This movement was
accelerated by Thurstane, Coronado, Texas Smith, and Sergeant Meyer
calling to one and another in English and Spanish, "This way! this way!"
There seemed to be a chance of massing the party and getting it to some
distance before the Indians could turn their thoughts to blood.
But the manoeuvre was only in part accomplished when battle commenced.
Little Sweeny, finding that his mule was being crowded by an Apache's
horse, uttered some indignant yelps. "Och, ye bloody naygur! Get away wid
yerself. Get over there where ye b'long."
This request not being heeded, he made a clumsy punch with his bayonet and
brought the blood. The warrior uttered a grunt of pain, cast a surprised
angry stare at the shaveling of a Paddy, and thrust with his lance. But he
was probably weak and faint; the weapon merely tore the uniform. Sweeny
instantly fired, and brought down another Apache, quite accidentally.
Then, banging his mule with his heels, he splashed up to Thurstane with
the explanation, "Liftinant, they're the same bloody naygurs. Wan av um
made a poke at me, Liftinant."
"Load your beece!" ordered Sergeant Meyer sternly, "und face the enemy."
By this time there was a fierce confusion of plungings and outcries. Then
came a hiss of arrows, followed instantaneously by the scream of a wounded
man, the report of several muskets, a pinging of balls, more yells of
wounded, and the splash of an Apache in the water. The little streamlet,
lately all crystal and sunshine, was now turbid and bloody. The giant
portals of the canon, although more than a mile distant, sent back echoes
of the musketry. Another battle rendered more horrible the stark, eternal
horror of the desert.
"This way!" Thurstane continued to shout. "Forward, you women; up the hill
with you. Steady, men. Face the enemy. Don't throw away a shot. Steady
with the firing. Steady!"
The hostile parties were already thirty or forty yards apart; and the
emigrants, drawing loosely up the slope, were increasing the distance.
Manga Colorada spurred to the front of his people, shaking his lance and
yelling for a charge. Only half a dozen followed him; his horse fell
almost immediately under a rifle ball; one of the braves picked up the
chief and bore him away; the rest dispersed, prancing and curveting. The
opportunity for mingling with the emigrants and destroying them in a
series of single combats was lost.
Evidently the Apaches, and their mustangs still more, were unfit for
fight. The forty-eight hours of hunger and thirst, and the prodigious
burst of one hundred and twenty miles up and down rugged terraces, had
nearly exhausted their spirits as well as their strength, and left them
incapable of the furious activity necessary in a cavalry battle. The most
remarkable proof of their physical and moral debilitation was that in all
this melee not more than a dozen of them had discharged an arrow.
If they would not attack they must retreat, and that speedily. At fifty
yards' range, armed only with bows and spears, they were at the mercy of
riflemen and could stand only to be slaughtered. There was a hasty flight,
scurrying zigzag, right and left, rearing and plunging, spurring the last
caper out of their mustangs, the whole troop spreading widely, a hundred
marks and no good one. Nevertheless Texas Smith's miraculous aim brought
down first a warrior and then a horse.
By the time the Apaches were out of range the emigrants were well up the
slope of the hill which occupied the extreme elbow of the bend in the
river. It was a bluff or butte of limestone which innumerable years had
converted into marl, and for the most part into earth. A thin turf covered
it; here and there were thickets; more rarely trees. Presently some one
remarked that the sides were terraced. It was true; there were the narrow
flats of soil which had once been gardens; there too were the supporting
walls, more or less ruinous. Curious eyes now turned toward the seeming
mound on the summit, querying whether it might not be the remains of an
At this instant Clara uttered a cry of anxiety, "Where is Pepita?"
The girl was gone; a hasty looking about showed that; but whither? Alas!
the only solution to this enigma must be the horrible word, "Apaches." It
seemed the strangest thing conceivable; one moment with the party, and the
next vanished; one moment safe, and the next dead or doomed. Of course the
kidnapping must have been accomplished during the frenzied riot in the
stream, when the two bands were disentangling amid an uproar of plungings,
yells, and musket shots. The girl had probably been stunned by a blow, and
then either left to float down the brook or dragged off by some muscular
There was a halt, an eager and prolonged lookout over the plain, a
scanning of the now distant Indians through field glasses. Then slowly and
sadly the train resumed its march and mounted to the summit of the butte.
Here, in this land of marvels, there was a new marvel. Incredible as the
thing seemed, so incredible that they had not at first believed their
eyes, they were at the base of the walls of a fortress. A confused,
general murmur broke forth of "Ruins! Pueblos! Casas Grandes! Casas de
The architecture, unlike that of Tegua, but similar to that of the ruins
of the Gila, was of adobes. Large cakes of mud, four or five feet long and
two feet thick, had been moulded in cases, dried in the sun, and laid in
regular courses to the height of twenty feet. Centuries (perhaps) of
exposure to weather had so cracked, guttered, and gnawed this destructible
material, that at a distance the pile looked not unlike the natural
monuments which fire and water have builded in this enchanted land, and
had therefore not been recognized by the travellers as human handiwork.
What they now saw was a rampart which ran along the brow of the bluff for
several hundred yards. Originally twenty feet high, it had been so
fissured by the rains and crumbled by the winds, that it resembled a
series of peaks united here and there in a plane surface. Some of the gaps
reached nearly to the ground, and through these it could be seen that the
wall was five feet across, a single adobe forming the entire thickness.
All along the base the dampness of the earth had eaten away the clay, so
that in many places the structure was tottering to its fall.
Filing to the left a few yards, the emigrants found a deep fissure through
which the animals stumbled one by one over mounds of crumbled adobes.
Thurstane, entering last, looked around him in wonder. He was inside a
quadrilateral enclosure, apparently four hundred yards in length by two
hundred and fifty in breadth, the walls throughout being the same mass of
adobe work, fissured, jagged, gray, solemn, and in their utter
But this was not the whole ruin; the fortress had a citadel. In one corner
of the enclosure stood a tower-like structure, forty-five or fifty feet
square and thirty in altitude, surmounted on its outer angle by a smaller
tower, also four-sided, which rose some twelve or fourteen feet higher. It
was not isolated, but built into an angle of the outer rampart, so as to
form with it one solid mass of fortification. The material was adobe; but,
unlike the other ruins, it was in good condition; some species of roofing
had preserved the walls from guttering; not a crevice deformed their gray,
blank, dreary faces.
Instinctively and without need of command the emigrants had pushed on
toward this edifice. It was to be their fortress; in it and around it they
must fight for life against the Apaches; here, where a nameless people had
perished, they must conquer or perish also. Thurstane posted Kelly and one
of the Mexicans on the exterior wall to watch the movements of the savage
horde in the plain below. Then he followed the others to the deserted
Two doorways, one on each of the faces which looked into the enclosure,
offered ingress. They were similar in size and shape, seven feet and a
half in height by four in breadth, and tapering toward the summit like the
portals of the temple-builders of Central America. Inside were solid mud
floors, strewn with gray dust and showing here and there a gleam of broken
pottery, the whole brooded over by obscurity. It was discoverable,
however, that the room within was of considerable height and size.
There was a hesitation about entering. It seemed as if the ghosts of the
nameless people forbade it. This had been the abode of men who perhaps
inhabited America before the coming of Columbus. Here possibly the
ancestors of Montezuma had stayed their migrations from the mounds of the
Ohio to the pyramids of Cholula and Tenochtitlan. Or here had lived the
Moquis, or the Zunians, or the Lagunas, before they sought refuge from the
red tribes of the north upon the buttes south of the Sierra del Carrizo.
Here at all events had once palpitated a civilization which was now a
"This is to be our home for a little while," said Thurstane to Clara.
"Will you dismount? I will run in and turn out the snakes, if there are
any. Sergeant, keep your men and a few others ready to repel an attack.
Now, fellows, off with the packs."
Producing a couple of wax tapers, he lighted them, handed one to Coronado,
and led the way into the silent Casa de Montezuma. They were in a hall
about ten feet high, fifteen feet broad, and forty feet long, which
evidently ran across the whole front of the building. The walls were
hard-finished and adorned with etchings in vermilion of animals,
geometrical figures, and nondescript grotesques, all of the rudest design
and disposed without regard to order. A doorway led into a small central
room, and from that doorways opened into three more rooms, one on each
The ceilings of all the rooms were supported by unhewn beams, five or six
inches thick, deeply inserted into the adobe walls. In the ceiling of the
rearmost hall (the one which had no direct outlet upon the enclosure) was
a trapdoor which offered the only access to the stories above. A rude but
solid ladder, consisting of two beams with steps chopped into them, was
still standing here. With a vague sense of intrusion, half expecting that
the old inhabitants would appear and order them away, Thurstane and
Coronado ascended. The second story resembled the first, and above was
another of the same pattern. Then came a nearly flat roof; and here they
found something remarkable. It was a solid sheathing or tiling, made of
slates of baked and glazed pottery, laid with great exactness, admirably
cemented and projecting well over the eaves. This it was which had enabled
the adobes beneath to endure for years, and perhaps for centuries, in
spite of the lapping of rains and the gnawing of winds.
On the outermost corner of the structure, overlooking the eddying, foaming
bend of the San Juan, rose the isolated tower. It contained a single room,
walled with hard-finish and profusely etched with figures in vermilion. No
furniture anywhere, nor utensils, nor relics, excepting bits of pottery,
precisely such as is made now by the Moquis, various in color, red, white,
grayish, and black, much of it painted inside as well as out, and all
adorned with diamond patterns and other geometrical outlines.
"I have seen Casas Grandes in other places," said Coronado, "but nothing
like this. This is the only one that I ever found entire. The others are
in ruins, the roofs fallen in, the beams charred, etc."
"This was not taken," decided the Lieutenant, after a tactical meditation.
"This must have been abandoned by its inhabitants. Pestilence, or
starvation, or migration."
"We can beat off all the Apaches in New Mexico," observed Coronado, with
something like cheerfulness.
"We can whip everything but our own stomachs," replied Thurstane.
"We have as much food as those devils."
"But water?" suggested the forethoughted West Pointer.
It was a horrible doubt, for if there was no water in the enclosure, they
were doomed to speedy and cruel death, unless they could beat the Indians
in the field and drive them away from the rivulet.
When Thurstane came out of the Casa Grande he would have given some years
of his life to know that there was water in the enclosure.
Yet so well disciplined was the soul of this veteran of twenty-three, and
so thoroughly had he acquired the wise soldierly habit of wearing a mask
of cheer over trouble, that he met Clara and Mrs. Stanley with a smile and
a bit of small talk.
"Ladies, can you keep house?" he said. "There are sixteen rooms ready for
you. The people who moved out haven't left any trumpery. Nothing wanted
but a little sweeping and dusting and a stair carpet."
"We will keep house," replied Clara with a laugh, the girlish gayety of
which delighted him.
Assuming a woman's rightful empire over household matters, she began to
direct concerning storage, lodgment, cooking, etc. Sharp as the climbing
was, she went through all the stories and inspected every room, selecting
the chamber in the tower for herself and Mrs. Stanley.
"I never can get up in this world," declared Aunt Maria, staring in dismay
at the rude ladder. "So this is what Mr. Thurstane meant by talking about
a stair carpet! It was just like him to joke on such a matter. I tell you
I never can go up."
"Av coorse ye can get up," broke in little Sweeny impatiently. "All ye've
got to do is to put wan fut above another an' howld on wid yer ten
"I should like to see _you_ do it," returned Aunt Maria, looking
indignantly at the interfering Paddy.
Sweeny immediately shinned up the stepped beam, uttered a neigh of
triumphant laughter from the top, and then skylarked down again.
"Well, _you_ are a man," observed the strong-minded lady, somewhat
discomfited. "Av coorse I'm a man," yelped Sweeny. "Who said I wasn't?
He's a lying informer. Ha ha, hoo hoo, ho ho!"
Thus incited, pulled at moreover from above and boosted from below, Aunt
Maria mounted ladder after ladder until she stood on the roof of the Casa
"If I ever go down again, I shall have to drop," she gasped. "I never
expected when I came on this journey to be a sailor and climb maintops."
"Lieutenant Thurstane is waving his hand to us," said Clara, with a smile
"Let him wave," returned Mrs. Stanley, weary, disconsolate, and out of
patience with everything. "I must say it's a poor place to be waving
Meantime Thurstane had beckoned a couple of muleteers to follow him, and
set off to beat the enclosure for a spring, or for a spot where it would
be possible to sink a well with good result. Although the search seemed
absurd on such an isolated hill, he had some hopes; for in the first
place, the old inhabitants must have had a large supply of water, and they
could not have brought it up a steep slope of two hundred feet without
great difficulty; in the second place, the butte was of limestone, and in
a limestone region water makes for itself strange reservoirs and outlets.
His trust was well-grounded. In a sharply indented hollow, twenty feet
below the general surface of the enclosure, and not more than thirty yards
from the Casa Grande, he found a copious spring. About it were traces of
stone work, forming a sort of ruinous semicircle, as though a well had
been dug, the neighboring earth scooped out, and the sides of the opening
fenced up with masonry. By the way, he was not the first to discover the
treasure, for the acute senses of the mules had been beforehand with him,
and a number of them were already there drinking.
Calling Meyer, he said, "Sergeant, get a fatigue party to work here. I
want a transverse trench cut below the spring for the animals, and a guard
at the spring itself to keep it clear for the people."
Next he hurried away to the spot where he had posted Kelly to watch the
Climbing the wall, he looked about for the Apaches, and discovered them
about half a mile distant, bivouacked on the bank of the rivulet.
"They have been reinforced, sir," said Kelly. "Stragglers are coming up
every few minutes."
"So I perceive. Have you seen anything of the girl Pepita?"
"There's a figure there, sir, against that sapling, that hasn't moved for
half an hour. I've an idea it's the girl, sir, tied to the sapling."
Thurstane adjusted his glass, took a long steady look, and said sombrely,
"It's the girl. Keep an eye on her. If they start to do anything with her,
let me know. Signal with your cap."
As he hurried back to the Casa Grande he tried to devise some method of
saving this unfortunate. A rescue was impossible, for the savages were
numerous, watchful, and merciless, and in case they were likely to lose
her they would brain her. But she might be ransomed: blankets, clothing,
and perhaps a beast or two could be spared for that purpose; the gold
pieces that he had in his waist-belt should all go of course. The great
fear was lest the brutes should find all bribes poor compared with the
joys of a torture dance. Querying how he could hide this horrible affair
from Clara, and shuddering at the thought that but for favoring chances
she might have shared the fate of Pepita he ran on toward the Casa, waving
his hand cheerfully to the two women on the roof Meantime Clara had been
attending to her housekeeping and Mrs. Stanley had been attending to her
feelings. The elder lady (we dare not yet call her an old lady) was in the
lowest spirits. She tried to brace herself; she crossed her hands behind
her back, man-fashion; she marched up and down the roof man-fashion. All
useless; the transformation didn't work; or, if she was a man, she was a
She could not help feeling like one of the spirits in prison as she
glanced at the awful solitude around her. Notwithstanding the river, there
still was the desert. The little plain was but an oasis. Two miles to the
east the San Juan burst out of a defile of sandstone, and a mile to the
west it disappeared in a similar chasm. The walls of these gorges rose
abruptly two thousand feet above the hurrying waters. All around were the
monstrous, arid, herbless, savage, cruel ramparts of the plateau. No
outlook anywhere; the longest reach of the eye was not five miles; then
came towering precipices. The travellers were like ants gathered on an
inch of earth at the bottom of a fissure in a quarry. The horizon was
elevated and limited, resting everywhere on harsh lines of rock which were
at once near the spectator and far above him. The overhanging plateaux
strove to shut him out from the sight of heaven.
What variety there was in the grim monotony appeared in shapes that were
horrible to the weary and sorrowful. On the other side of the San Juan
towered an assemblage of pinnacles which looked like statues; but these
statues were a thousand feet above the stream, and the smallest of them
was at least four hundred feet high. To a lost wanderer, and especially to
a dispirited woman, such magnitude was not sublime, but terrifying. It
seemed as if these shapes were gods who had no mercy, or demons who were
full of malevolence. Still higher, on a jutting crag which overhung the
black river, was a castle a hundred fold huger than man ever built, with
ramparts that were dizzy precipices and towers such as no daring could
scale. It faced the horrible group of stony deities as if it were their
The whole landscape was a hideous Walhalla, a fit abode for the savage
giant gods of the old Scandinavians. Thor and Woden would have been at
home in it. The Cyclops and Titans would have been too little for it. The
Olympian deities could not be conceived of as able or willing to exist in
such a hideous chaos. No creature of the Greek imagination would have been
a suitable inhabitant for it except Prometheus alone. Here his eternal
agony and boundless despair might not have been out of place.
There was no comfort in the river. It came out of unknown and inhospitable
mystery, and went into a mystery equally unknown and inhospitable. To what
fate it might lead was as uncertain as whence it arrived. A sombre flood,
reddish brown in certain lights, studded with rocks which raised ghosts of
unmoving foam, flowing with a speed which perpetually boiled and eddied,
promising nothing to the voyager but thousand-fold shipwreck, a breathless
messenger from the mountains to the ocean, it wheeled incessantly from
stony portal to stony portal, a brief gleam of power and cruelty. The
impression which it produced was in unison with the sublime malignity and
horror of the landscape.
Depressed by fatigue, the desperate situation of the party, and the menace
of the frightful scene around her, Mrs. Stanley could not and would not
speak to Thurstane when he mounted the roof, and turned away to hide the
tears in her eyes.
"You see I am housekeeping," said Clara with a smile. "Look how clean the
room in the tower has been swept. I had some brooms made of tufted grass.
There are our beds in the corners. These hard-finished walls are really
She stopped, hesitated a moment, looked at him anxiously, and then added,
"Have you seen Pepita?"
"Yes," he replied, deciding to be frank. "I think I have discovered her
tied to a tree."
"Oh! to be tortured!" exclaimed Clara, wringing her hands and beginning to
"We will ransom her," he hurried on. "I am going down to hold a parley
with the Apaches."
"_You_!" exclaimed the girl, catching his arm. "Oh no! Oh, why did we come
Fearing lest he should be persuaded to evade what he considered his duty,
he pressed her hand fervently and hurried away. Yes, he repeated, it was
_his_ duty; to parley with the Apaches was a most dangerous enterprise; he
did not feel at liberty to order any other to undertake it.
Finding Coronado, he said to him, "I am going down to ransom Pepita. You
know the Indians better than I do. How many people shall I take?"
A gleam of satisfaction shot across the dark face of the Mexican as he
replied, "Go alone."
"Certainly," he insisted, in response to the officer's stare of surprise.
"If you take a party, they'll doubt you. If you go alone, they'll parley.
But, my dear Lieutenant, you are magnificent. This is the finest moment of
your life. Ah! only you Americans are capable of such impulses. We
Spaniards haven't the nerve."
"I don't know their scoundrelly language."
"Manga Colorada speaks Spanish. I dare say you'll easily come to an
understanding with him. As for ransom, anything that we have, of course,
excepting food, arms, and ammunition. I can furnish a hundred dollars or
so. Go, my dear Lieutenant; go on your noble mission. God be with you."
"You will see that I am covered, if I have to run for it."
"I'll see to everything. I'll line the wall with sharpshooters."
"Post your men. Good-by."
"Good-by, my dear Lieutenant."
Coronado did post his men, and among them was Texas Smith. Into the ear of
this brute, whom he placed quite apart from the other watchers, he
whispered a few significant words.
"I told ye, to begin with, I didn't want to shute at brass buttons,"
growled Texas. "The army's a big thing. I never wanted to draw a bead on
that man, and I don't want to now more 'n ever. Them army fellers hunt
together. You hit one, an' you've got the rest after ye; an' four to one's
a mighty slim chance."
"Five hundred dollars down," was Coronado's only reply.
After a moment of sullen reflection the desperado said, "Five hundred
dollars! Wal, stranger, I'll take yer bet."
Coronado turned away trembling and walked to another part of the wall. His
emotions were disordered and disagreeable; his heart throbbed, his head
was a little light, and he felt that he was pale; he could not well bear
any more excitement, and he did not want to see the deed done. Rifle in
hand, he was pretending to keep watch through a fissure, when he observed
Clara following the line of the wall with the obvious purpose of finding a
spot whence she could see the plain. It seemed to him that he ought to
stop her, and then it seemed to him that he had better not. With such a
horrible drumming in his ears how could he think clearly and decide
Clara disappeared; he did not notice where she went; did not think of
looking. Once he thrust his head through his crevice to watch the course
of Thurstane, but drew it back again on discovering that the brave lad had
not yet reached the Apaches, and after that looked no more. His whole
strength seemed to be absorbed in merely listening and waiting. We must
remember that, although Coronado had almost no conscience, he had nerves.
Let us see what happened on the plain through the anxious eyes of Clara.
In the time-eaten wall Clara had found a fissure through which she could
watch the parley between Thurstane and the Apaches. She climbed into it
from a mound of disintegrated adobes, and stood there, pale, tremulous,
and breathless, her whole soul in her eyes.
Thurstane, walking his horse and making signs of amity with his cap, had
by this time reached the low bank of the rivulet, and halted within four
hundred yards of the savages. There had been a stir immediately on his
appearance: first one warrior and then another had mounted his pony; a
score of them were now prancing hither and thither. They had left their
lances stuck in the earth, but they still carried their bows and quivers.
When Clara first caught sight of Thurstane he was beckoning for one of the
Indians to approach. They responded by pointing to the summit of the hill,
as if signifying that they feared to expose themselves to rifle shot from
the ruins. He resumed his march, forded the shallow stream, and pushed on
two hundred yards.
"O Madre de Dios!" groaned Clara, falling into the language of her
childhood. "He is going clear up to them."
She was on the point of shrieking to him, but she saw that he was too far
off to hear her, and she remained silent, just staring and trembling.
Thurstane was now about two hundred yards from the Apaches. Except the
twenty who had first mounted, they were sitting on the ground or standing
by their ponies, every face set towards the solitary white man and every
figure as motionless as a statue. Those on horseback, moving slowly in
circles, were spreading out gradually on either side of the main body, but
not advancing. Presently a warrior in full Mexican costume, easily
recognizable as Manga Colorada himself, rode straight towards Thurstane
for a hundred yards, threw his bow and quiver ten feet from him,
dismounted and lifted both hands. The officer likewise lifted his hands,
to show that he too was without arms, moved forward to within thirty feet
of the Indian, and thence advanced on foot, leading his horse by the
Clara perceived that the two men were conversing, and she began to hope
that all might go well, although her heart still beat suffocatingly. The
next moment she was almost paralyzed with horror. She saw Manga Colorada
spring at Thurstane; she saw his dark arms around him, the two interlaced
and reeling; she heard the triumphant yell of the Indian, and the response
of his fellows; she saw the officer's startled horse break loose and
prance away. In the same instant the mounted Apaches, sending forth their
war-whoop and unslinging their bows, charged at full speed toward the
Thurstane had but five seconds in which to save his life. Had he been a
man of slight or even moderate physical and moral force, there would not
have been the slightest chance for him. But he was six feet high, broad in
the shoulders, limbed like a gladiator, solidified by hardships and
marches, accustomed to danger, never losing his head in it, and blessed
with lots of pugnacity. He was pinioned; but with one gigantic effort he
loosened the Indian's lean sinewy arms, and in the next breath he laid him
out with a blow worthy of Heenan.
Thurstane was free; now for his horse. The animal was frightened and
capering wildly; but he caught him and flung himself into the saddle
without minding stirrups; then he was riding for life. Before he had got
fairly under headway the foremost Apaches were within fifty paces of him,
yelling like demons and letting fly their arrows. But every weapon is
uncertain on horseback, and especially every missile weapon, the bow as
well as the rifle. Thus, although a score of shafts hissed by the
fugitive, he still kept his seat; and as his powerful beast soon began to
draw ahead of the Indian ponies, escape seemed probable.
He had, however, to run the gauntlet of another and even a greater peril.
In a crevice of the ruined wall which crested the hill crouched a pitiless
assassin and an almost unerring shot, waiting the right moment to send a
bullet through his head. Texas Smith did not like the job; but he had said
"You bet," and had thus pledged his honor to do the murder; and moreover,
he sadly wanted the five hundred dollars. If he could have managed it, he
would have preferred to get the officer and some "Injun" in a line, so as
to bring them down together. But that was hopeless; the fugitive was
increasing his lead; now was the time to fire--now or never.
When Clara beheld Manga Colorada seize Thurstane, she had turned
instinctively and leaped into the enclosure, with a feeling that, if she
did not see the tragedy, it would not be. In the next breath she was wild
to know what was passing, and to be as near to the officer and his perils
as possible. A little further along the wall was a fissure which was lower
and broader than the one she had just quitted. She had noticed it a minute
before, but had not gone to it because a man was there. Towards this man
she now rushed, calling out, "Oh, do save him!"
Her voice and the sound of her footsteps were alike drowned by a rattle of
musketry from other parts of the ruin. She reached the man and stood
behind him; it was Texas Smith, a being from whom she had hitherto shrunk
with instinctive aversion; but now he seemed to her a friend in extremity.
He was aiming; she glanced over his shoulder along the levelled rifle; in
one breath she saw Thurstane and saw that the weapon was pointed at _him_.
With a shriek she sprang forward against the kneeling assassin, and flung
him clean through the crevice upon the earth outside the wall, the rifle
exploding as he fell and sending its ball at random.
Texas Smith was stupefied and even profoundly disturbed. After rolling
over twice, he picked himself up, picked up his gun also, and while
hastily reloading it clambered back into his lair, more than ever
confounded at seeing no one. Clara, her exploit accomplished, had
instantly turned and fled along the course of the wall, not at all with
the idea of escaping from the bushwhacker, but merely to meet Thurstane.
She passed a dozen men, but not one of them saw her, they were all so busy
in popping away at the Apaches. Just as she reached the large gap in the
rampart, her hero cantered through it, erect, unhurt, rosy, handsome,
magnificent. The impassioned gesture of joy with which she welcomed him
was a something, a revelation perhaps, which the youngster saw and
understood afterwards better than he did then. For the present he merely
waved her towards the Casa, and then turned to take a hand in the
But the fighting was over. Indeed the Apaches had stopped their pursuit as
soon as they found that the fugitive was beyond arrow shot, and were now
prancing slowly back to their bivouac. After one angry look at them from
the wall, Thurstane leaped down and ran after Clara.
"Oh!" she gasped, out of breath and almost faint. "Oh, how it has
"And it was all of no use," he answered, passing her arm into his and
"No. Poor Pepita! Poor little Pepita! But oh, what an escape you had!"
"We can only hope that they will adopt her into the tribe," he said in
answer to the first phrase, while he timidly pressed her arm to thank her
for the second.
Coronado now came up, ignorant of Texas Smith's misadventure, and puzzled
at the escape of Thurstane, but as fluent and complimentary as usual.
"My dear Lieutenant! Language is below my feelings. I want to kneel down
and worship you. You ought to have a statue--yes, and an altar. If your
humanity has not been successful, it has been all the same glorious."
"Nonsense," answered Thurstane. "Every one of us has done well in his
turn! It was my tour of duty to-day. Don't praise me. I haven't
"Ah, the scoundrels!" declaimed Coronado. "How could they violate a truce!
It is unknown, unheard of. The miserable traitors! I wish you could have
killed Manga Colorada."
From this dialogue he hurried away to find and catechise Texas Smith. The
desperado told his story: "Jest got a bead on him--had him sure pop--never
see a squarer mark--when somebody mounted me--pitched me clean out of my
"Who?" demanded Coronado, a rim of white showing clear around his black
"Dunno. Didn't see nobody. 'Fore I could reload and git in it was gone."
"What the devil did you stop to reload for?"
"Stranger, I _allays_ reload."
Coronado flinched under the word _stranger_ and the stare which
"It was a woman's yell," continued Texas.
Coronado felt suddenly so weak that he sat down on a mouldering heap of
adobes. He thought of Clara; was it Clara? Jealous and terrified, he for
an instant, only for an instant, wished she were dead.
"See here," he said, when he had restrung his nerves a little. "We must
separate. If there is any trouble, call on me. I'll stand by you."
"I reckon you'd better," muttered Smith, looking at Coronado as if he were
already drawing a bead on him.
Without further talk they parted. The Texan went off to rub down his
horse, mend his accoutrements, squat around the cooking fires, and gamble
with the drivers. Perhaps he was just a bit more fastidious than usual
about having his weapons in perfect order and constantly handy; and
perhaps too he looked over his shoulder a little oftener than common while
at his work or his games; but on the whole he was a masterpiece of strong,
serene, ferocious self-possession. Coronado also, as unquiet at heart as
the devil, was outwardly as calm as Greek art. They were certainly a
couple of almost sublime scoundrels.
It was now nightfall; the day closed with extraordinary abruptness; the
sun went down as though he had been struck dead; it was like the fall of
an ox under the axe of the butcher. One minute he was shining with an
intolerable, feverish fervor, and the next he had vanished behind the
lofty ramparts of the plateau.
It was Sergeant Meyer's tour as officer of the day, and he had prepared
for the night with the thoroughness of an old soldier. The animals were
picketed in the innermost rooms of the Casa Grande, while the spare
baggage was neatly piled along the walls of the central apartment.
Thurstane's squad was quartered in one of the two outer rooms, and
Coronado's squad in the other, each man having his musket loaded and lying
beside him, with the butt at his feet and the muzzle pointing toward the
wall. One sentry was posted on the roof of the building, and one on the
ground twenty yards or so from its salient angle, while further away were
two fires which partially lighted up the great enclosure. The sergeant and
such of his men as were not on post slept or watched in the open air at
the corner of the Casa.
The night passed without attack or alarm. Apache scouts undoubtedly
prowled around the enclosure, and through its more distant shadows, noting
avenues and chances for forlorn hopes. But they were not ready as yet to
do any nocturnal spearing, and if ever Indians wanted a night's rest they
wanted it. The garrison was equally quiet. Texas Smith, too familiar with
ugly situations to lie awake when no good was to be got by it, chose his
corner, curled up in his blanket and slept the sleep of the just.
Overwhelming fatigue soon sent Coronado off in like manner. Clara, too;
she was querying how much she should tell Thurstane; all of a sudden she
When broad daylight opened her eyes she was still lethargic and did not
know where she was. A stretch; a long wondering stare about her; then she
sprang up, ran to the edge of the roof, and looked over. There was
Thurstane, alive, taking off his hat to her and waving her back from the
brink. It was a second and more splendid sun-rising; and for a moment she
was full of happiness.
At dawn Meyer had turned out his squad, patrolled the enclosure, made sure
that no Indians were in or around it, and posted a single sentry on the
southeastern angle of the ruins, which commanded the whole of the little
plain. He discovered that the Apaches, fearful like all cavalry of a night
attack, had withdrawn to a spot more than a mile distant, and had taken
the precaution of securing their retreat by garrisoning the mouth of the
canon. Having made his dispositions and his reconnoissance, the sergeant
reported to Thurstane.
"Turn out the animals and let them pasture," said the officer, waking up
promptly to the situation, as a soldier learns to do. "How long will the
grass in the enclosure last them?"
"Not three days, Leftenant."
"To-morrow we will begin to pasture them on the slope. How about fishing?"
"I cannot zay, Leftenant."
"Take a look at the Buchanan boat and see if it can be put together. We
may find a chance to use it."
The Buchanan boat, invented by a United States officer whose name it
bears, is a sack of canvas with a frame of light sticks; when put together
it is about twelve feet long by five broad and three deep, and is capable
of sustaining a weight of two tons. Thurstane, thinking that he might have
rivers to cross in his explorations, had brought one of these coracles. At
present it was a bundle, weighing one hundred and fifty pounds, and
forming the load of a single mule. Meyer got it out, bent it on to its
frame, and found it in good condition.
"Very good," said Thurstane. "Roll it up again and store it safely. We may
want it to-morrow."
Meantime Clara had thought out her problem. In her indignation at Texas
Smith she had contemplated denouncing him before the whole party, and had
found that she had not the courage. She had wanted to make a confidant of
her relative, and had decided that nothing could be more unwise. Aunt
Maria was good, but she lacked practical sense; even Clara, girl as she
was, could see the one fact as well as the other. Her final and sagacious
resolve was to tell the tale to Thurstane alone.
Mrs. Stanley, still jaded through with her forced march, fell asleep
immediately after breakfast. Clara went to the brink of the roof, caught
the officer's eye, and beckoned him to come to her.
"We must not be seen," she whispered when he was by her side. "Come inside
the tower. There has been something dreadful. I must tell you."
Then she narrated how she had surprised and interrupted Texas Smith in his
attempt at murder; for the time she was all Spanish in feeling, and told
the story with fervor, with passion; and the moment she had ended it she
began to cry. Thurstane was so overwhelmed by her emotion that he no more
thought of the danger which he had escaped than if it had been the buzzing
of a mosquito. He longed to comfort her; he dared to put his hand upon her
waist; rather, we should say, he could not help it. If she noticed it she
had no objection to it, for she did not move; but the strong and innocent
probability is that she really did not notice it.
"Oh, what can it mean?" she sobbed. "Why did he do it? What will you do?"
"Never mind," he said, his voice tender, his blue-black eyes full of love,
his whole face angelic with affection. "Don't be troubled. Don't be
anxious. I will do what is right. I will put him under arrest and try him,
if it seems best. But I don't want you to be troubled. It shall all come
out right. I mean to live till you are safe."
After a time he succeeded in soothing her, and then there came a moment in
which she seemed to perceive that his arm was around her waist, for she
drew a little away from him, coloring splendidly. But he had held her too
long to be able to let her go thus; he took her hands and looked in her
face with the solemnity of a love which pleads for life.
"Will you forgive me?" he murmured. "I must say it. I cannot help it. I
love you with all my soul. I dare not ask you to be my wife. I am not fit
for you. But have pity on me. I couldn't help telling you."
He just saw that she was not angry; yes, he was so shy and humble that he
could not see more; but that little glimpse of kindliness was enough to
lure him forward. On he went, hastily and stammeringly, like a man who has
but a moment in which to speak, only a moment before some everlasting
"Oh, Miss Van Diemen! Is there--can there ever be--any hope for me?"
It was one of the questions which arise out of great abysses from men who
in their hopelessness still long for heaven. No prisoner at the bar,
faintly trusting that in the eyes of his judge he might find mercy, could
be more anxious than was Thurstane at that moment. The lover who does not
yet know that he will be loved is a figure of tragedy.
Although Thurstane did not perceive it, his question was answered the
instant it was asked. The answer started like lightning from Clara's
heart, trembled through all her veins, flamed in her cheeks, and sparkled
in her eyes.
Such a moment of agitation and happiness she had never before known, and
had never supposed that she could know. It was altogether beyond her
control. She could have stopped her breathing ten times easier than she
could have quelled her terror and her joy. She was no more master of the
power and direction of her feelings, than the river below was master of
its speed and course. One of the mightiest of the instincts which rule the
human race had made her entirely its own. She was not herself; she was
Thurstane; she was love. The love incarnate is itself, and not the person
in whom it is embodied.
There was but one answer possible to Clara. Somehow, either by look or
word, she must say to Thurstane, "Yes." Prudential considerations might
come afterward--might come too late to be of use; no matter. The only
thing now to be done, the only thing which first or last must be done, the
only thing which fate insisted should be done, was to say "Yes."
It was said. Never mind how. Thurstane heard it and understood it. Clara
also heard it, as if it were not she who uttered it, but some overruling
power, or some inward possession, which spoke for her. She heard it and
she acquiesced in it. The matter was settled. Her destiny had been
pronounced. The man to whom her heart belonged had his due.
Clara passed through a minute which was in some respects like a lifetime,
and in some respects like a single second. It was crowded and encumbered
with emotions sufficient for years; it was the scholastic needle-point on
which stood a multitude of angels. It lasted, she could not say how long;
and then of a sudden she could hardly remember it. Hours afterwards she
had not fully disentangled from this minute and yet monstrous labyrinth a
clear recollection of what he had said and what she had answered. Only the
splendid exit of it was clear to her, and that was that she was his
"But oh, my friend--one thing!" she whispered, when she had a little
regained her self-possession. "I must ask Munoz."
"Your grandfather? Yes."
"But what if he refuses?" she added, looking anxiously in his eyes. She
was beginning to lay her troubles on his shoulders, as if he were already
"I will try to please him," replied the young fellow, gazing with almost
equal anxiety at her. It was the beautiful union of the man-soul and
woman-soul, asking courage and consolation the one of the other, and not
only asking but receiving.
"Oh! I think you must please him," said Clara, forgetting how Munoz had
driven out his daughter for marrying an American. "He can't help but like
"God bless you, my darling!" whispered Thurstane, worshipping her for
After a while Clara thought of Texas Smith, and shuddered out, "But oh,
how many dangers! Oh, my friend, how will you be safe?"
"Leave that to me," he replied, comprehending her at once. "I will take
care of that man."
"Do be prudent."
"I will. For _your_ sake, my dear child, I promise it. Well, now we must
part. I must rouse no suspicions."
"Yes. We must be prudent."
He was about to leave her when a new and terrible thought struck him, and
made him look at her as though they were about to part forever.
"If Munoz leaves you his fortune," he said firmly, "you shall be free."
She stared; after a moment she burst into a little laugh; then she shook
her finger in his face and said, blushing, "Yes, free to be--your wife."
He caught the finger, bent his head over it and kissed it, ready to cry
upon it. It was the only kiss that he had given her; and what a world-wide
event it was to both! Ah, these lovers! They find a universe where others
see only trifles; they are gifted with the second-sight and live amid
"Do be careful, oh my dear friend!" was the last whisper of Clara as
Thurstane quitted the tower. Then she passed the day in ascending and
descending between heights of happiness and abysses of anxiety. Her
existence henceforward was a Jacob's ladder, which had its foot on a world
of crime and sorrow, and its top in heavens passing description.
As for Thurstane, he had to think and act, for something must be done with
Texas Smith. He queried whether the fellow might not have seen Clara when
she pushed him out of the crevice, and would not seize the first
opportunity to kill her. Angered by this supposition, he at first resolved
to seize him, charge him with his crime, and turn him loose in the desert
to take his chance among the Apaches. Then it occurred to him that it
might be possible to change this enemy into a partisan. While he was
pondering these matters his eye fell upon the man. His army habit of
authority and of butting straight at the face of danger immediately got
the better of his wish to manage the matter delicately, and made him
forget his promises to be prudent. Beckoning Texas to follow him, he
marched out of the plaza through the nearest gap, faced about upon his foe
with an imperious stare, and said abruptly, "My man, do you want to be
Texas Smith had his revolver and long hunting-knife in his waist-belt. He
thought of drawing both at once and going at Thurstane, who was certainly
in no better state for battle, having only revolver and sabre. But the
chance of combat was even; the certainty of being slaughtered after it by
the soldiers was depressing; and, what was more immediately to the point,
he was cowed by that stare of habitual authority.
"Capm--I don't," he said, watching the officer with the eye of a lynx,
for, however unwilling to fight as things were, he meant to defend
"Because I could have you set up by my sergeant and executed by my
privates," continued Thurstane.
"Capm, I reckon you're sound there," admitted Texas, with a slight flinch
in his manner.
"Now, then, do you want to fight a duel?" broke out the angry youngster,
his pugnacity thoroughly getting the better of his wisdom. "We both have
"Capm," said the bravo, and then came to a pause--"Capm, I ain't a
gentleman," he resumed, with the sulky humility of a bulldog who is beaten
by his master. "I own up to it, Capm. I ain't a gentleman."
He was a "poor white" by birth; he remembered still the "high-toned
gentlemen" who used to overawe his childhood; he recognized in Thurstane
that unforgotten air of domination, and he was thoroughly daunted by it.
Moreover, there was his acquired and very rational fear of the army--a
fear which had considerably increased upon him since he had joined this
expedition, for he had noted carefully the disciplined obedience of the
little squad of regulars, and had been much struck with its obvious
potency for offence and defence.
"You won't fight?" said the officer. "Well, then, will you stop hunting
"Capm, I'll go that much."
"Will you pledge yourself not to harm any one in this party, man or
"I'll go that much, too."
"I don't want to get any tales out of you. You can keep your secrets. Damn
"Capm, you're jest the whitest man I ever see."
"Will you pledge yourself to keep dark about this talk that we've had?"
"You bet!" replied Texas Smith, with an indescribable air of humiliation.
"I'm outbragged. I shan't tell of it."
"I shall give orders to my men. If anything queer happens, you won't live
the day out."
"The keerds is stocked agin me, Capm. I pass. You kin play it alone."
"Now, then, walk back to the Casa, and keep quiet during the rest of this
The most humbled bushwhacker and cutthroat between the two oceans, Texas
Smith stepped out in front of Thurstane and returned to the cooking-fire,
not quite certain as he marched that he would not get a pistol-ball in the
back of his head, but showing no emotion in his swarthy, sallow, haggard
Although Thurstane trusted that danger from that quarter was over, he
nevertheless called Meyer aside and muttered to him, "Sergeant, I have
some confidential orders for you. If murder happens to me, or to any other
person in this party, have that Texan shot immediately."
"I will addend to it, Leftenant," replied Meyer with perfect calmness and
with his mechanical salute.
"You may give Kelly the same instructions, confidentially."
Texas Smith, fifteen or twenty yards away, watched this dialogue with an
interest which even his Indian-like stoicism could hardly conceal. When
the sergeant returned to the cooking-fire, he gave him a glance which was
at once watchful and deprecatory, made place for him to sit down on a junk
of adobe, and offered him a corn-shuck cigarito. Meyer took it, saying,
"Thank you, Schmidt," and the two smoked in apparently amicable silence.
Nevertheless, Texas knew that his doom was sealed if murder should occur
in the expedition; for, as to the protection of Coronado, he did not
believe that that could avail against the uniform; and as to finding
safety in flight, the cards there were evidently "stocked agin him."
Indeed, what had quelled him more than anything else was the fear lest he
should be driven out to take his luck among the Apaches. Suppose that
Thurstane had taken a fancy to swap him for that girl Pepita? What a
bright and cheerful fire there would have been for him before sundown! How
thoroughly the skin would have been peeled off his muscles! What neat
carving at his finger joints and toe joints! Coarse, unimaginative,
hardened, and beastly as Texas Smith was, his flesh crawled a little at
the thought of it. Presently it struck him that he had better do something
to propitiate a man who could send him to encounter such a fate.
"Sergeant," he said in his harsh, hollow croak of a voice.
"Them creeturs oughter browse outside."
"So. You are right, Schmidt."
"If the Capm'll let me have three good men, I'll take 'em out."
Meyer's light-blue eyes, twinkling from under his sandy eyelashes, studied
the face of the outlaw.
"I should zay it was a goot blan, Schmidt," he decided. "I'll mention it
to the leftenant."
Thurstane, on being consulted, gave his consent. Meyer detailed Shubert
and two of the Mexican cattle-drivers to report to Smith for duty. The
Texan mounted his men on horses, separated one-third of the mules from the
others, drove them out of the enclosure, and left them on the green
hillside, while he pushed on a quarter of a mile into the plain and formed
his line of four skirmishers. When a few of the Apaches approached to see
what was going on, he levelled his rifle, knocked over one of the horses,
and sent the rest off capering. After four or five hours he drove in his
mules and took out another set. The Indians could only interrupt his
pastoral labors by making a general charge; and that would expose them to
a fire from the ruin, against which they could not retaliate. They thought
it wise to make no trouble, and all day the foraging went on in peace.
Peace everywhere. Inside the fortress sleeping, cooking, mending of
equipments, and cleaning of arms. Over the plain mustangs filling
themselves with grass and warriors searching for roots. Not a movement
worth heeding was made by the Apaches until the herders drove in their
first relay of mules, when a dozen hungry braves lassoed the horse which
Smith had shot, dragged him away to a safe distance, and proceeded to cut
him up into steaks. On seeing this, the Texan cursed himself to all the
hells that were known to him.
"It's the last time they'll catch me butcherin' for 'em," he growled. "If
I can't hit a man, I won't shute."
One more night in the Casa de Montezuma, with Thurstane for officer of the
guard. His arrangements were like Meyer's: the animals in the rear rooms
of the Casa; Coronado's squad in one of the outer rooms, and Meyer's in
the other; a sentry on the roof, and another in the plaza. The only change
was that, owing to scarcity of fuel, no watch-fires were built. As
Thurstane expected an attack, and as Indian assaults usually take place
just before daybreak, he chose the first half of the night for his tour of
sleep. At one he was awakened by Sweeny, who was sergeant of his squad,
Kelly being with Meyer and Shubert with Coronado.
"Well, Sweeny, anything stirring?" he asked.
"Divil a stir, Liftinant."
"Did nothing happen during your guard?"
"Liftinant," replied Sweeny, searching his memory for an incident which
should prove his watchfulness--"the moon went down."
"I hope you didn't interfere."
"Liftinant, I thought it was none o' my bizniss."
"Send a man to relieve the sentry on the roof, and let him come down
"I done it, Liftinant, before I throubled ye. Where shall we slape? Jist
by the corner here?"
"No. I'll change that. Two just inside of one doorway and two inside the
other. I'll stay at the angle myself."
Three hours passed as quietly as the wool-clad footsteps of the Grecian
Fate. Then, stealing through the profound darkness, came the faintest
rustle imaginable. It was not the noise of feet, but rather that of bodies
slowly dragging through herbage, as if men were crawling or rolling toward
the Casa. Thurstane, not quite sure of his hearing, and unwilling to
disturb the garrison without cause, cocked his revolver and listened
Suddenly the sentry in the plaza fired, and, rushing in upon him, fell
motionless at his feet, while the air was filled in an instant with the
whistling of arrows, the trampling of running men, and the horrible
quavering of the war-whoop.
At the noise of the Apache charge Thurstane sprang in two bounds to
Coronado's entrance, and threw himself inside of it with a shout of
It must be remembered that, while a doorway of the Casa was five feet in
depth, it was only four feet wide at the base and less than thirty inches
at the top, so that it was something in the way of a defile and easily
defensible. The moment Thurstane was inside, he placed himself behind one
of the solid jambs of the opening, and presented both sabre and revolver.
Immediately after him a dozen running Indians reached the portal, some of
them plunging into it and the others pushing and howling close around it.
Three successive shots and as many quick thrusts, all delivered in the
darkness, but telling at close quarters on naked chests and faces, cleared
the passage in half a minute. By this time Texas Smith, Coronado, and
Shubert had leaped up, got their senses about them, and commenced a fire
of rifle shot, pistol shot, and buck-and-ball. In another half minute
nothing remained in the doorway but two or three corpses, while outside
there were howls as of wounded. The attack here was repulsed, at least for
But at the other door matters had gone differently, and, as it seemed,
fatally ill. There had been no one fully awakened to keep the assailants
at bay until the other defenders could rouse themselves and use their
weapons. Half a dozen Apaches, holding their lances before them like
pikes, rushed over the sleeping Sweeny and burst clean into the room
before Meyer and his men were fairly on their feet. In the profound
darkness not a figure could be distinguished; and there was a brief
trampling and yelling, during which no one was hurt. Lances and bows were
useless in a room fifteen feet by ten, without a ray of light. The Indians
threw down their long weapons, drew their knives, groped hither and
thither, struck out at random, and cut each other. Nevertheless, they were
masters of the ground. Meyer and his people, crouching in corners, could
not see and dared not fire. Sweeny, awakened by a kneading of Apache
boots, was so scared that he lay perfectly still, and either was not
noticed or was neglected as dead. His Mexican comrade had rushed along
with the assailants, got ahead of them, gained the inner rooms, and
hastened up to the roof. In short, it was a completely paralyzed defence.
Had the mass of the Apaches promptly followed their daring leaders, the
garrison would have been destroyed. But, as so often happens in night
attacks, there was a pause of caution and investigation. Fifty warriors
halted around the doorway, some whooping or calling, and others listening,
while the five or six within, probably fearful of being hit if they spoke,
made no answer. The sentinel on the roof fired down without seeing any
one, and had arrows sent back at him by men who were as blinded as
himself. The darkness and mystery crippled the attack almost as completely
as the defence.
Sweeny was the first to break the charm. A warrior who attempted to enter
the doorway struck his boot against a pair of legs, and stooped down to
feel if they were alive. By a lucky intuition of scared self-defence, the
little Paddy made a furious kick into the air with both his solid army
shoes, and sent the invader reeling into the outer darkness. Then he fired
his gun just as it lay, and brought down one of the braves inside with a
broken ankle. The blaze of the discharge faintly lighted up the room, and
Meyer let fly instantly, killing another of the intruders. But the Indians
also had been able to see. Those who survived uttered their yell and
plunged into the corners, stabbing with their knives. There was a wild,
blind, eager scuffling, mixed with another shot or two, oaths, whooping,
screams, tramplings, and aimless blows with musket-butts.
Reinforcements arrived for both parties, four or five more Apaches
stealing into the room, while Thurstane and Shubert came through from
Coronado's side. Hitherto, it did not seem that the garrison had lost any
killed except the sentry who had fallen outside; but presently the
lieutenant heard Shubert cry out in that tone of surprise, pain, and
anger, which announces a severe wound.
The scream was followed by a fall, a short scuffle, repeated stabbings,
and violent breathing mixed with low groans. Thurstane groped to the scene
of combat, put out his left hand, felt a naked back, and drove his sabre
strongly and cleanly into it. There was a hideous yell, another fall, and
After that he stood still, not knowing whither to move. The trampling of
feet, the hasty breathing of struggling men, the dull sound of blows upon
living bodies, the yells and exclamations and calls, had all ceased at
once. It seemed to him as if everybody in the room had been killed except
himself. He could not hear a sound in the darkness besides the beating of
his own heart, and an occasional feeble moan rising from the floor. In all
his soldierly life he had never known a moment that was anything like so
At last, after what seemed minutes, remembering that it was his duty as an
officer to be a rallying point, he staked his life on his very next breath
and called out firmly, "Meyer!"
"Here!" answered the sergeant, as if he were at roll-call.
"Where are you?"
"I am near the toorway, Leftenant. Sweeny is with me."
"'Yis I be," interjected Sweeny.
Thurstane, feeling his way cautiously, advanced to the entrance and found
the two men standing on one side of it.
"Where are the Indians?" he whispered.
"I think they are all out, except the tead ones, Leftenant."
Thurstane gave an order: "All forward to the door."
Steps of men stealing from the inner room responded to this command.
"Call the roll, Sergeant," said Thurstane.
In a low voice Meyer recited the names of the six men who belonged to his
squad, and of Shubert. All responded except the last.
"I am avraid Shupert is gone, Leftenant," muttered the sergeant; and the
officer replied, "I am afraid so."
All this time there had been perfect silence outside, as if the Indians
also were in a state of suspense and anxiety. But immediately after the
roll-call had ceased, a few arrows whistled through the entrance and
struck with short sharp spats into the hard-finished partition within.
"Yes, they are all out," said Thurstane. "But we must keep quiet till
There followed a half hour which seemed like a month. Once Thurstane stole
softly through the Casa to Coronado's room, found all safe there, and
returned, stumbling over bodies both going and coming. At last the slow
dawn came and sent a faint, faint radiance through the door, enabling the
benighted eyes within to discover one dolorous object after another. In
the centre of the room lay the boy Shubert, perfectly motionless and no
doubt dead. Here and there, slowly revealing themselves through the
diminishing darkness, like horrible waifs left uncovered by a falling
river, appeared the bodies of four Apaches, naked to the breechcloth and
painted black, all quiet except one which twitched convulsively. The clay
floor was marked by black pools and stains which were undoubtedly blood.
Other fearful blotches were scattered along the entrance, as if grievously
wounded men had tottered through it, or slain warriors had been dragged
out by their comrades.
While the battle is still in suspense a soldier looks with but faint
emotion, and almost without pity, upon the dead and wounded. They are
natural; they belong to the scene; what else should he see? Moreover, the
essential sentiments of the time and place are, first, a hard egoism which
thinks mainly of self-preservation, and second, a stern sense of duty
which regulates it. In the fiercer moments of the conflict even these
feelings are drowned in a wild excitement which may lie either exultation
or terror. Thus it is that the ordinary sympathies of humanity for the
suffering and for the dead are suspended.
Looking at Shubert, our lieutenant simply said to himself, "I have lost a
man. My command is weakened by so much." Then his mind turned with
promptness to the still living and urgent incidents of the situation.
Could he peep out of the doorway without getting an arrow through the
head? Was the roof of the Casa safe from escalade? Were any of his people
This last question he at once put in English and Spanish. Kelly replied,
"Slightly, sir," and pointed to his left shoulder, pretty smartly laid
open by the thrust of a knife. One of the Indian muleteers, who was
sitting propped up in a corner, faintly raised his head and showed a
horrible gash in his thigh. At a sign from Thurstane another muleteer
bound up the wound with the sleeve of Shubert's shirt, which he slashed
off for the purpose. Kelly said, "Never mind me, sir; it's no great
"Two killed and two wounded," thought the lieutenant. "We are losing more
than our proportion."
As soon as it was light enough to distinguish objects clearly, a lively
fire opened from the roof of the Casa. Judging that the attention of the
assailants would be distracted by this, Thurstane cautiously edged his
head forward and peeped through the doorway. The Apaches were still in the
plaza; he discovered something like fifty of them; they were jumping about
and firing arrows at the roof. He inferred that this could not last long;
that they would soon be driven away by the musketry from above; that, in
short, things were going well.
After a time, becoming anxious lest Clara should expose herself to the
missiles, he went to Coronado's room, sent one of the Mexicans to
reinforce Meyer, and then climbed rapidly to the tower, taking along
sabre, rifle, and revolver. He was ascending the last of the stepped
sticks, and had the trap-door of the isolated room just above him, when he
heard a shout, "Come up here, somebody!"
It was the snuffling utterance of Phineas Glover, who slept on the roof as
permanent guard of the ladies. Tumbling into the room, Thurstane found the
skipper and two muleteers defending the doorway against five Apaches, who
had reached the roof, three of them already on their feet and plying their
arrows, while the two others were clambering over the ledge. Clara and
Mrs. Stanley were crouched on their beds behind the shelter of the wall.
The young man's first desperate impulse was to rush out and fight hand to
hand. But remembering the dexterity of Indians in single combat, he halted
just in time to escape a flight of missiles, placed himself behind the
jamb of the doorway, and fired his rifle. At that short distance Sweeny
would hardly have missed; and the nearest Apache, leaning forward with
outspread arms, fell dead. Then the revolver came into play, and another
warrior dropped his bow, his shoulder shattered. Glover and the muleteers,
steadied by this opportune reinforcement, reloaded and resumed their
file-firing. Guns were too much for archery; three Indians were soon
stretched on the roof; the others slung themselves over the eaves and
"Darned if they didn't reeve a tackle to git up," exclaimed Glover in
It appeared that the savages had twisted lariats into long cords, fastened
rude grapples to the end of them, flung them from the wall below the Casa,
and so made their daring escalade.
"Look out!" called Thurstane to the investigating Yankee. But the warning
came too late; Glover uttered a yell of surprise, pain, and rage; this
time it was not his nose, but his left ear.
"Reckon they'll jest chip off all my feeturs 'fore they git done with me,"
he grinned, feeling of the wounded part. "Git my figgerhead smooth all
To favor the escalade, the Apaches in the plaza had renewed their
war-whoop, sent flights of arrows at the Casa, and made a spirited but
useless charge on the doorways. Its repulse was the signal for a general
and hasty flight. Just as the rising sun spread his haze of ruddy gold
over the east, there was a despairing yell which marked the termination of
the conflict, and then a rush for the gaps in the wall of the enclosure.
In one minute from the signal for retreat the top of the hill did not
contain a single painted combatant. No vigorous pursuit; the garrison had
had enough of fighting; besides, ammunition was becoming precious. Texas
Smith alone, insatiably bloodthirsty and an independent fighter, skulked
hastily across the plaza, ambushed himself in a crevice of the ruin, and
took a couple of shots at the savages as they mounted their ponies at the
foot of the hill and skedaddled loosely across the plain.
When he returned he croaked out, with an unusual air of excitement, "Big
"What is a pig ding?" inquired Sergeant Meyer.
"Never see Injuns make such a fight afore."
"Nor I," assented Meyer.
"Stranger, they fowt first-rate," affirmed Smith, half admiring the
Apaches. "How many did we save?"
"Here are vour in our room, und the leftenant says there are three on the
roof, und berhabs we killed vour or vive outside."
"A dozen!" chuckled Texas, "besides the wounded. Let's hev a look at the
Going into Meyer's room, he found one of the Apaches still twitching, and
immediately cut his throat. Then he climbed to the roof, gloated over the
three bodies there, dragged them one by one to the ledge, and pitched them
into the plaza.
"That'll settle 'em," he remarked with a sigh of intense satisfaction,
like that of a baby when it has broken its rattle. Coming down again, he
looked all the corpses over again, and said with an air of disappointment
which was almost sentimental, "On'y a dozen!"
"I kin keer for the Injuns," he volunteered when the question came up of
burying the dead. "I'd rather keer for 'em than not."
Before Thurstane knew what was going on, Texas had finished his labor of
love. A crevice in the northern wall of the enclosure looked out upon a
steep slope of marl, almost a precipice, which slanted sheer into the
boiling flood of the San Juan. To this crevice Texas dragged one naked
carcass after another, bundled it through, launched it with a vigorous
shove, and then watched it with a pantherish grin, licking his chops as it
were, as it rolled down the steep, splashed into the river, and set out on
its swift voyage toward the Pacific.
"I s'pose you'll want to dig a hole for _him_" he said, coming into the
Casa and looking wistfully at the body of poor young Shubert.
Sergeant Meyer motioned him to go away. Thurstane was entering in his
journal an inventory of the deceased soldier's effects having already made
a minute of the date and cause of his death. These with other facts, such
as name, age, physical description, birthplace, time of service, amount of
pay due, balance of clothing-account and stoppages, must be more or less
repeated on various records, such as the descriptive book of the company,
the daily return, the monthly return, the quarterly return, the
muster-roll from which the name would be dropped, and the final statements
which were to go to the Adjutant-General and the Paymaster-General. Even
in the desert the monstrous accountability system of the army lived and
Nothing of importance happened until about noon, when the sentinel on the
outer wall announced that the Apaches were approaching in force, and
Thurstane gave orders to barricade one of the doors of the Casa with some
large blocks of adobe, saying to himself, "I ought to have done it
This work well under way, he hastened to the brow of the hill and
reconnoitred the enemy.
"They are not going to attack," said Coronado. "They are going to torture
the girl Pepita."
Thurstane turned away sick at heart, observing, "I must keep the women in
When Thurstane, turning his back on the torture scene, had ascended to the
roof of the Casa, he found the ladies excited and anxious.
"What is the matter?" asked Clara at once, taking hold of his sleeve with
the tips of her fingers, in a caressing, appealing way, which was common
with her when talking to those she liked.
Ordinarily our officer was a truth-teller; indeed, there was nothing which
came more awkwardly to him than deception; he hated and despised it as if
it were a personage, a criminal, an Indian. But here was a case where he
must stoop to falsification, or at least to concealment.
"The Apaches are just below," he mumbled. "Not one of you women must
venture out. I will see to everything. Be good now."
She gave his sleeve a little twitch, smiled confidingly in his face, and
sat down to do some much-needed mending.
Having posted Sweeny at the foot of the ladders, with instructions to let
none of the women descend, Thurstane hastened back to the exterior wall,
drawn by a horrible fascination. With his field-glass he could distinguish
every action of the tragedy which was being enacted on the plain. Pepita,
entirely stripped of her clothing, was already bound to the sapling which
stood by the side of the rivulet, and twenty or thirty of the Apaches were
dancing around her in a circle, each one approaching her in turn, howling
in her ears and spitting in her face. The young man had read and heard
much of the horrors of that torture-dance, which stamps the American
Indian as the most ferocious of savages; but be had not understood at all
how large a part insult plays in this ceremony of deliberate cruelty; and,
insulting a woman! he had not once dream'ed it. Now, when he saw it done,
his blood rushed into his head and he burst forth in choked incoherent
"I can't stand this," he shouted, advancing upon Coronado with clenched
fists. "We must charge."
The Mexican shook his head in a sickly, scared way, and pointed to the
left. There was a covering party of fifty or sixty warriors; it was not
more than a quarter of a mile from the eastern end of the enclosure; it
was in position to charge either upon that, or upon the flank of any
"We can do it," insisted the lieutenant, who felt as if he could fight
"We can't," replied Coronado. "I won't go, and my men shan't go."
Thurstane thought of Clara, covered his face with his hands, and sobbed
aloud. Texas Smith stared at him with a kind of contemptuous pity, and
offered such consolation as it was in his nature to give.
"Capm, when they've got through this job they'll travel."
The hideous prelude continued for half an hour. The Apaches in the dance
were relieved by their comrades in the covering party, who came one by one
to take their turns in the round of prancing, hooting, and spitting. Then
came a few minutes of rest; then insult was followed by outrage.
The girl was loosed from the sapling and lifted until her head was even
with the lower branches, three warriors holding her while two others
extended her arms and fixed them to two stout limbs. What the fastenings
were Thurstane could guess from the fact that he saw blows given, and
heard the long shrill scream of a woman in uttermost agony. Then there was
more hammering around the sufferer's feet, and more shrill wailing. She
was spiked through the palms and the ankles to the tree. It was a
"By ----!" groaned Thurstane, "I never will spare an Indian as long as I
"Capm, I'm with you," said Texas Smith. "I seen my mother fixed like that.
I seen it from the bush whar I was a hidin'. I was a boy then. I've killed
every Injun I could sence."
Now the dance was resumed. The Apaches pranced about their victim to the
music of her screams. The movement quickened; at last they ran around the
tree in a maddened crowd; at every shriek they stamped, gestured, and
yelled demoniacally. Now and then one of them climbed the girl's body and
appeared to stuff something into her mouth. Then the lamentable outcries
sank to a gasping and sobbing which could only be imagined by the
spectators on the hill.
"Can't you hit some of them?" Thurstane asked Texas Smith.
"Better let 'em finish," muttered the borderer. "The gal can't be helped.
She's as good as dead, Capm."
After another rest came a fresh scene of horror. Several of the Apaches,
no doubt chiefs or leading braves, caught up their bows and renewed the
dance. Running in a circle at full speed about the tree, each one in turn
let fly an arrow at the victim, the object being to send the missile clear
"That's the wind-up," muttered Texas Smith. "It's my turn now."
He leaped from the wall to the ground, ran sixty or eighty yards down the
hill, halted, aimed, and fired. One of the warriors, a fellow in a red
shirt who had been conspicuous in the torture scene, rolled over and lay
quiet. The Apaches, who had been completely absorbed by their frantic
ceremony, and who had not looked for an attack at the moment, nor expected
death at such a distance, uttered a cry of surprise and dismay. There was
a scramble of ten or fifteen screaming horsemen after the audacious
borderer. But immediately on firing he had commenced a rapid retreat, at
the same time reloading. He turned and presented his rifle; just then,
too, a protecting volley burst from the rampart; another Apache fell, and
the rest retreated.
"Capm, it's all right," said Texas, as he reascended the ruin. "We're
squar with 'em."
"We might have broken it up," returned Thurstane sullenly.
"No, Capm. You don't know 'em. They'd got thar noses p'inted to torture
that gal. If they didn't do it thar, they'd a done it a little furder off.
They was bound to do it. Now it's done, they'll travel."
Warned by their last misadventure, the Indians presently retired to their
usual camping ground, leaving their victim attached to the sapling.
"I'll fotch her up," volunteered Texas, who had a hyena's hankering after
dead bodies. "Reckon you'd like to bury her."
He mounted, rode slowly, and with prudent glances to right and left, down
the hill, halted under the tree, stood up in his saddle and worked there
for some minutes. The Apaches looked on from a distance, uttering yells of
exultation and making opprobrious gestures. Presently Texas resumed his
seat and cantered gently back to the ruins, bearing across his saddle-bow
a fearful burden, the naked body of a girl of eighteen, pierced with more
than fifty arrows, stained and streaked all over with blood, the limbs
shockingly mangled, and the mouth stuffed with rags.
While nearly every other spectator turned away in horror, he glared
steadily and calmly at the corpse, repeating, "That's Injin fun, that is.
That's what they brag on, that is."
"Bury her outside the wall," ordered Thurstane with averted face. "And
listen, all you people, not a word of this to the women."
"We shall be catechised," said Coronado.
"You must do the lying," replied the officer. He was so shaken by what he
had witnessed that he did not dare to face Clara for an hour afterward,
lest his discomposure should arouse her suspicions. When he did at last
visit the tower, she was quiet and smiling, for Coronado had done his
lying, and done it well.
"So there was no attack," she said. "I am so glad!"
"Only a little skirmish. You heard the firing, of course."
"Yes. Coronado told us about it. What a horrible howling the Indians made!
There were some screams that were really frightful."
"It was their last demonstration. They will probably be gone in the
"Poor Pepita! She will be carried off," said Clara, a tear or two stealing
down her cheek.
"Yes, poor Pepita!" sighed Thurstane.
The muleteer who had been killed in the assault was already buried. At
sundown came the funeral of the soldier Shubert. The body, wrapped in a
blanket, was borne by four Mexicans to the grave which had been prepared
for it, followed by his three comrades with loaded muskets, and then
by all the other members of the party, except Mrs. Stanley, who looked
down from her roof upon the spectacle. Thurstane acted as chaplain, and
read the funeral service from Clara's prayer-book, amidst the weeping
of women and the silence of men. The dead young hero was lowered into
his last resting-place. Sergeant Meyer gave the order: "Shoulder
arms--ready--present--aim--fire!" The ceremony was ended; the muleteers
filled the grave; a stone was placed to mark it; so slept a good soldier.
Now came another night of anxiety, but also of quiet. In the morning, when
eager eyes looked through the yellow haze of dawn over the plain, not an
Apache was to be seen.
"They are gone," said Coronado to Thurstane, after the two had made the
tour of the ruins and scrutinized every feature of the landscape. "What
Thurstane swept his field-glass around once more, searching for some
outlet besides the horrible canon, and searching in vain.
"We must wait a day or so for our wounded," he said. "Then we must start
back on our old trail. I don't see anything else before us."
"It is a gloomy prospect," muttered Coronado, thinking of the hundred
miles of rocky desert, and of the possibility that Apaches might be
ambushed at the end of it.
He had been so anxious about himself for a few days that he had cared for
little else. He had been humble, submissive to Thurstane, and almost
entirely indifferent about Clara.
"We ought at least to try something in the way of explorations," continued
the lieutenant. "To begin with, I shall sound the river. I shall be
thought a devil of a failure if I don't carry back some information about
the topography of this region."
"Can you paddle your boat against the current?" asked Coronado.
"I doubt it. But we can make a towing cord of lariats and let it out from
the shore; perhaps swing it clear across the river in that way--with some
paddling, you know."
"It is an excellent plan," said Coronado.
The day passed without movement, excepting that Texas Smith and two
Mexicans explored the canon for several miles, returning with a couple of
lame ponies and a report that the Apaches had undoubtedly gone southward.
At night, however, the animals were housed and sentries posted as usual,
for Thurstane feared lest the enemy might yet return and attempt a
The next morning, all being quiet, the Buchanan boat was launched. A
couple of fairish paddles were chipped out of bits of driftwood, and a
towline a hundred feet long was made of lariats. Thurstane further
provisioned the cockle-shell with fishing tackle, a sounding line, his own
rifle, Shubert's musket and accoutrements, a bag of hard bread, and a few
pounds of jerked beef.
"You are not going to make a voyage!" stared Coronado.
"I am preparing for accidents. We may get carried down the river."
"I thought you proposed to keep fast to the shore."
"I do. But the lariats may break."
Coronado said no more. He lighted a cigarito and looked on with an air of
dreamy indifference. He had hit upon a plan for getting rid of Thurstane.
The next question was, who could handle a boat? The lieutenant wanted two
men to keep it out in the current while he used the sounding line and
"Guess I'll do 's well 's the nex' hand," volunteered Captain Glover. "Got
a sore ear, 'n' a hole in my nose, but reckon I'm 'n able-bodied seaman
for all that. _Hev_ rowed some in my time. Rowed forty mile after a whale
onct, 'n' caught the critter--fairly rowed him down. Current's putty
lively. Sh'd say 't was tearin' off 'bout five knots an hour. But guess
I'll try it. Sh'd kinder like to feel water under me agin."
"Captain, you shall handle the ship," smiled Thurstane. "I'll mention you
by name in my report. Who next?"
"Me," yelped Sweeny.
"Can you row, Sweeny?"
"I can, Liftinant."
"You may try it."
"Can I take me gun, Liftinant?" demanded Sweeny, who was extravagantly
fond and proud of his piece, all the more perhaps because he held it in
"Yes, you can take it, and Glover can have Shubert's. Though, 'pon my
honor, I don't know why we should carry firearms. It's old habit, I
suppose. It's a way we have in the army."
The lieutenant had no sort of anxiety on the score of his enterprise. His
plan was to swing out into the current, and, if the boat proved perfectly
manageable, to cut loose from the towline and paddle across, sounding the
whole breadth of the channel. It seemed easy enough and safe enough. When
he left the Casa Grande after breakfast he contrived to kiss Clara's hand,
but it did not once occur to him that it would be proper to bid her
farewell. He was very far indeed from guessing that in the knot of the
lariat which was fast to the bow of his coracle there was a fatal gash. It
was not suspicion of evil, but merely a habit of precaution, a prudential
tone of mind which he had acquired in service, that led him at the last
moment to say (making Coronado tremble in his boots), "Mr. Glover, have
you thoroughly overhauled the cord?"
"Give her a look jest before we went up to breakfast," replied the
skipper. "She'll hold."
Coronado, who stood three feet distant, blew a quiet little whiff of smoke
through his thin purple lips, meanwhile dreamily contemplating the
"Git in, you paddywhack," said Glover to Sweeny. "Grab yer paddle. T'other
end; that's the talk. Now then. All aboard that's goin'. Shove off."
In a few seconds, impelled from the shore by the paddles, the boat was at
the full length of the towline and in the middle of the boiling current.
"Will it never break?" thought Coronado, smoking a little faster than
usual, but not moving a muscle.
Yes. It had already broken. At the first pause in the paddling the mangled
lariat had given way.
In spite of the renewed efforts of the oarsmen, the boat was flying down
the San Juan.
When Thurstane perceived that the towline had parted and that the boat was
gliding down the San Juan, he called sharply, "Paddle!"
He was in no alarm as yet. The line, although of rawhide, was switching on
the surface of the rapid current; it seemed easy enough to recover it and
make a new fastening. Passing from the stern to the bow, he knelt down and
dipped one hand in the water, ready to clutch the end of the lariat.
But a boat five feet long and twelve feet broad, especially when made of
canvas on a frame of light sticks, is not handily paddled against swift
water; and the Buchanan (as the voyagers afterward named it) not only
sagged awkwardly, but showed a strong tendency to whirl around like an
egg-shell as it was. Moreover, the loose line almost instantly took the
direction of the stream, and swept so rapidly shoreward that by the time
Thurstane was in position to seize it, it was rods away.
"Row for the bank," he ordered. But just as he spoke there came a little
noise which was to these three men the crack of doom. The paddle of that
most unskilful navigator, Sweeny, snapped in two, and the broad blade of
it was instantly out of reach. Next the cockle-shell of a boat was
spinning on its keel-less bottom, and whirling broadside on, bow foremost,
stern foremost, any way, down the San Juan.
"Paddle away!" shouted Thurstane to Glover. "Drive her in shore! Pitch her
The old coaster sent a quick, anxious look down the river, and saw at once
that there was no chance of reaching the bank. Below them, not three
hundred yards distant, was an archipelago of rocks, the _debris_ of fallen
precipices and pinnacles, through which, for half a mile or more, the
water flew in whirlpools and foam. They were drifting at great speed
toward this frightful rapid, and, if they entered it, destruction was sure
and instant. Only the middle of the stream showed a smooth current; and
there was less than half a minute in which to reach it. Without a word
Glover commenced paddling as well as he could away from the bank.
"What are you about?" yelled Thurstane, who saw Clara on the roof of the
Casa Grande, and was crazed at the thought of leaving her there. She would
suspect that he had abandoned her; she would be massacred by the Apaches;
she would starve in the desert, etc.
Glover made no reply. His whole being was engaged in the struggle of
evading immediate death.
One more glance, one moment of manly, soldierly reflection, enabled
Thurstane to comprehend the fate which was upon him, and to bow to it with
resignation. Turning his back upon the foaming reefs which might the next
instant be his executioners, he stood up in the boat, took off his cap,
and waved a farewell to Clara. He was so unconscious of anything but her
and his parting from her that for some time he did not notice that the
slight craft had narrowly shaved the rocks, that it had barely crawled
into the middle current, and that he was temporarily safe. He kept his
eyes fixed upon the Casa and upon the girl's motionless figure until a
monstrous, sullen precipice slid in between. He was like one who breathes
his last with straining gaze settled on some loved face, parting from
which is worse than death. When he could see her no longer, nor the ruin
which sheltered her, and which suddenly seemed to him a paradise, he
dropped his head between his hands, utterly unmanned.
"'Twon't dew to give it up while we float, Major," said Glover, breveting
the lieutenant by way of cheering him.
"I don't give it up," replied Thurstane; "but I had a duty to do there,
and now I can't do it."
"There's dooties to be 'tended to here, I reckon," suggested Glover.
"They will be done," said the officer, raising his head and settling his
face. "How can we help you?"
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