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After an hour, the blinking heliograph flashed back: "Advance! Trail growing hot."
Down for an hour the sweating troop slid, cursed and sprawled; then up again and up.
Half-way up, night overtook them, and they made camp upon a shelf of rock. Before dawn they were again in saddle, plunging blindly ahead, amid muttered curses of the men and groans of the horses.
One more summit and they looked down upon the bad-lands; a level and a desolate waste. Still there was no sight of their prey.
That day they toiled on, and again night overtook them. And still there was another night of lying upon a bed of rock with cold rations, and a cheerless sky for covering.
"E" troop was in a dangerous mood.
When the morning glimmered faint, and the East stars paled and went out, the Corporal and scouts stole out of camp and away under command of Lieutenant Gray.
With the sunrise, a scout returned and told them that their prey was near.
"E" troop brightened perceptibly. Below lay serrated levels, barren, glowing faintly red in the early light, like sunbaked terra-cotta.
The web-like lines they knew to be coulees and canyons; some, mere surface scratches, others, gaping wounds which reached the earth's deep heart.
"E" troop clambered willingly into saddle.
Two hours of scrambling brought them to a rugged trail leading off amid the foothills to the lower levels they sought.
Here a scout met them with word that Lieutenant Gray and his men had gone ahead to a blind canyon giving off the one they were in. There Running Lizard expected the band to rest and to graze the herd.
Cautiously the troop crawled along at the bottom of the canyon until they met Corporal O'Dowd coming back to hurry them.
He said that the entire band was encamped in a bowl-like canyon, a half mile or so across; that, in this snug harbor they felt so secure that they had posted but one picket; and, thanks to Running
Lizard, he was now upon his way to the Happy Hunting Ground.
""Twas the natest bit av a job iver I see," whispered the Corporal. "We crept 'round an abrupt turn an' before us was a little amphitheatre a hundred ya-ards or so acrohst, which opens out into th' hole they're in like the neck av a bottle. Where neck and bottle jine there sthood Mister Picket, his back to us, a lanin' against th' wa'all aw-watchin' av his little red brothers instid av attindin' to bizness, as a picket shud. Th' Lizard motioned to cover him while he shlipped upon him. Whilst I did that sa-ame, th' Lizard s-h-l-i-p-p-e-d up behind him sohft as a cougar, an' before he hea-ard a thing, Whish' wint th' Lizard's rope. Before he cud let out a yelp, down on his back owes he wid his neck broke like a reed be th' gar-rote twihst th' Lizard give him. In tin sickonds th' Lizard had him an' his fate agin, propped up agin his rock natural as life, an' a bla-ame sight safer. He's out av the way; can't we go right in, Captain?" asked he.
"Softly, son, softly!" warned the captain. "The canyon may have another opening. We want no flukes after a jaunt like this."
A word aside with the second lieutenant, and the captain beckoned the troop about him.
"Men," said he, "you are about to get what you have been sighing for a brush with Little Gray Wolf. Lieutenant Orr will take a detachment up and out of the main canyon around to the head of the ones they are in, and drive them down to us. We will post the Gatling at this end and deploy around it in a half circle. When Lieutenant Orr charges, they will run down to us like rabbits. Keep sheltered until he has them running."
"He will bear off to the left. Not a man of you is to fire until we get a flag from him saying his men are under shelter at the left wall.
"If the cattle go amuck and start this way we will have the devils own time holding them; but we've got to hold them. Never will we get another chance like this.
"If a few hatsful of lead thrown into their faces by the Gatling don't stop them
it will cease firing. Await the order to charge and go in. Cross-fire to the right. Lieutenant Orr's men may be exposed. When we do break, break clean, and forget that you ever heard of tactics or maneuvers. Depend on horse sense. Imagine you are loose in a nest of hornets and under orders to lick them. Pick your man and get him.
"They outnumber us three to one, but they are half women and children. Remember that-half women and children. Don't disgrace the uniform.
"When you mix with them, watch the squaws. They fight like wild-cats and are twice as treacherous. That's all. Into line!"
The troopers awaited the volley-signal announcing the completion of the second lieutenant's detour.
The minutes dragged like hours. "Here, Corporal!" said the captain, "take my glass, go forward, see what they are doing. Then come back and report. Tell Lieutenant Gray to stay where he is in order to report if they become alarmed. Tell him, too, to have his squad ready to fall in as we charge!"
Corporal O'Dowd rode to where the scouts were hidden by a curve in the rocks. He delivered the message, dismounted, and crept until he was near the limp picket, who stood gazing out across the canyon with glassy eyes.
Cautiously he dropped to his belly and wormed forward.
"Don't ta-ake all th' pa-ath, ye grizzly divil, ye," he remarked familiarly to the dead sentry, as he slid past the limp legs.
The cattle were scattered over the canyon's bottom, pulling hungrily at the scant herbiage.
Near the farther end, the entire band was huddled about a fire.
"Now, what th' divil?" muttered the corporal. "Can't be cookin' this late, an' they sure don't nade hate. A man, a white man, sure as Sa-aint Patrick druv th' sna-akes out av Ireland. As I live, uts Heck Jarboe. So ho! bein' prissed f'r time, they had to bring ye clear here to have their fun, hey? Shudn't be surphrised av we didn't break into their innocent divarsions," he added, with chuckle.
Like a land-crab he backed, hidden, un
til he reached his horse, where he mounted and rode back to the troop and reported:
"They've Heck Jarboe in there, sorr, tied hand and foot waitin' f'r th' fire to get down to coals that they may grill him slow an' proper. He's about th' center near th' further end. Av ye will ohder th' byes to ramimber ut in firin' an' sind a man wid a knife to cut him loose whin we go in we'll save him.
"Ould Heck's settin' there calm as a mummy. Th' thongs are cuttin' av him to th' bone an' him not makin' a holler. Wan av th' squaws has pulled off the boots av him so th' coals can ate into his soles th' asier. Ut's muhrder be slow inches they're plannin', sorr."
The news struck fury into the troop. Tensely they waited until their ears were assailed by a smashing Springfield volley, which the canyon walls caught up and hurled back, magnified to regimental proportions.
The whoops of the charging detachment and the bellowing of cattle drove the troop mad with excitement.
"Hist!" cautioned the captain; "not a move until the gatling speaks. Then cut loose and show you are not raw ones!"
Within the canyon fear reigned. The Apaches, stupefied by the suddenness of the attack, recovered and scurried for the ponies.
The wild mountain cattle scattered like a covey of quail, then instinctively drew together and stampeded toward the opening.
Behind, mounted and afoot, came fleeing Indians, shrieking Spanish-Apache curses, each intent upon his safety.
As the roar of the hoofs drew nearer, the captain arose in his stirrups and shouted: "Now, men! Remember the circle formation! Get them milling with the herd, and we'll bag them all! C-h-a-r-g-e!"
"E" troop sank feet deep into stirrups, bent low upon the necks of its horses, kicked spurs into quivering flanks that little needed them, and dashed past the rigid picket.
When the gatling spat lead in their faces the cattle paused, wheeled, then charged upon their pursuers. For safety, the Apaches whirled and scudded before the herd, unmindful in their panic of the Lieutenant's waiting detachment.
"Hi! Corporal O'Dowd!" shouted the captain, "cut off ten men, save your fire, ride back and hold the opening! Bear to the left, men. Avoid the cross-fire. Come
With a clatter of hoofs the captain let them into the thick of it. Casting discipline to the winds, Corporal O'Dowd rode after him, whining: "Oh, captain dear, plaze let me take me buckos in? "Tis th' fi-irst bit av a shindy f'r a year, an' don't ye mind what they did to me an' me squad upon Salt Fork lahst summer? Come on, now, 'tis a dear y'are?"
The captain roared: "Back, I say, and hold the opening, or by heaven, I'll have you broke upon the field. Go! you will get your chance."
The Corporal reigned in with a jawbreaking jerk, headed off a handful of troopers, swung them after him, and, with tears running down his cheeks, galloped back, wailing: "Oh, th' ingra-ate, th' poltro-on, an' me wid him all these years. "Tis a rigular Donnybrook fa-air they're havin' an' me ohdered back to do polis dooty. "Tis ohderly in a soldiers' home th' Old Man'll be makin' av me next. Oshone! oshone! Dennis O'Dowd, little did ye think 'twould iver come to this wid ye."
The herd tore across the canyon, sweeping the Apaches like chaff before it.
There is was met by a fusillade from Lieutenant Orr's detachment, which turned it back again pell-mell. The fearmaddened cattle started milling.
Firing at random, the Indians swept into the vortex and compelled to ride for their lives.
"Be th' Gods, they have thim now. Ut's millin' they are, an' 'tis pot-huntin' 'twill be f'r th' byes, an' us sittin' here like dummies a-missin' all th' good av ut," wailed the O'Dowd. "Oh, 'tis a long day I'll be ramimberin' this, Cappy dear, an' me always sayin' ye was th' behst cappy in th' hull dom ahrmy.
"There goes Lieutenant Orr an' his men a-ridin' in an' pickin' av thim off like poachers. Wud yez look at th' raw Wist Pint la-ad a-ladin' av his min like a vitrin! He's down! be th' sha-ade av Sa-aint Pater he's down!-th' leftenant-an' uts to pieces he'll be cut be th' hooves. O! the Lord love the boy wid the fair hair. No, he's oop, hivin be praised! an' after thim.
There's th' son av his da-ad, that la-ad. O, 'tis beaucheous!"
Above the Babel rose a shrill "O-heyah!" the rallying cry of Little Gray Wolf. His followers heard it as they rode within the flying circle. Foot by foot, his warriors fought their way until some fifteen had gathered about him. Thunderously the swirling mass swung aline with the opening.
Gray Wolf uttered a cry. The warriors lashed their ponies to a mighty plunge. Like a wedge they parted the herd.
Grey Wolf took the lead fearlessly, dark, ominous and silent. The band fell into a "V" and followed as wild ducks fly. Cunningly he led them between the troop and the squad that the troop dare not fire.
Behind lay destruction. Four-hundred yards ahead, safety. Once through, they would scatter to numberless hiding places in the rocks, where white men could not find them.
The ponies needed no urging. Bellies aline with the ground, they skimmed along. The slim, sinewy bodies of the riders, bare save for loin cloth and cartridge belt, were a part of them.
Low on the ponies' necks they crouched, gripping with vice-like knees the straining withers; by perfect horsemanship lifting the ponies from the ground, pushing them
Now and then the painted body of a redskin would rise from the shelter of a pony's neck, remain poised for an instant like a resplendent serpent, fire, and drop back.
As they drew near, ponies and riders nerved themselves for the shock.
"Th' sa-aints be praised!" howled the O'Dowd ecstatically; "they're comin right into our embra-ace. "Tis Providence, min, turnin' th' Wolf over to us that we may wipe out th' stain av lahst summer. Howld till yez git th' wur-rud, volley, thin go as ye plaze an' divil take th' laggards!"
As the Indians rose to meet the shock, the squad volleyed. Four fell from their ponies and lay limp. A number of the ponies, hard-hit, reared, screaming, then staggered and dropped.
"Come on, byes! get next to thim!" shrieked the corporal.
Discarding rifle and bringing revolver
into play, they sprang forward. The corporal led, spurring his horse until blood spurted red from its flanks, singing as he rode:
"Oh, Brian Boru, look down, look down
Upon y'er boys this day. Fr'm Donegal to Dublin town They're always in th' fray."
Straight at each other flew the corporal and Little Gray Wolf.
At five yards they fired. The corporal felt a blow as from a hammer. The weapon flew from his hand. He recovered and braced himself, hoping to ride down and unhorse the Wolf.
They met with a crash which sent the light pony back upon his haunches. The nimble-footed beast was up in an instant, his master urging him on.
Gray Wolf raised his weapon to fire point-blank in the corporal's face. A smash upon the arm, from a trooper's revolver-butt, sent the bullet wild, and the weapon dropped.
Again their horses flew at each other, the corporal striking out with his fist, the Wolf tugging at a knife in his belt. The O'Dowd saw the motion, flung himself upon the Wolf and pinioned him.
Back and forth, round and round, they struggled, guiding their horses with their knees.
Bullets sang. Dust billowed like clouds. Horses kicked and fought. Their screams mingled with the curses of troopers and the gutturals of the Indians.
The conflict about them changed to hand-to-hand combat, and the circle widened. Their horses, free of rein, pulled apart. The two struggling bodies slid between them.
They writhed upon the ground. The supple body of Gray Wolf, naked, sinuous, wriggled out of the best barrack-room holds the Corporal knew.
Over and over they rolled. Gray Wolf's muscles rose in ridges beneath skin like tawny satin.
The corporal struggled to pin him to earth by tricks of the wrestler's art. The cords upon his neck stood out like ropes of steel. His arms closed like hairy tentacles until it seemed that Gray Wolf's bones must crack beneath the pressure which was slowly, slowly gaining mastery. Gray Wolf's breath rasped dryly. The corporal knew more of weaponless warfare. He breathed with lips close shut, conserving strength.
An unexpected twist of the Indian half broke the corporal's hold.
Instantly Gray Wolf freed an arm, rolled on top, snatched his knife and made ready to strike.
Lightning-swift the corporal relaxed his hold and seized the uplifted wrist. Red mist floated between them. Afar, as in a dream, the corporal heard the conflict. The weight upon his chest smothered him. He still held, however, his bull-dog grip upon the swaying wrist. Then like a wave reason and the love of life came surging back.
He gathered himself for the supreme Slowly, wickedly, he twisted; one hand toward the other from him.
In agonized surprise, Gray Wolf's face looked down upon him. Beads were upon it. Sweat trickled like a rivulet. The nauseating Indian body-smell struck him.
A deep breath and the corporal put his strength into a terrific twist. The bones crunched like tinder. The knife fell. The corporal seized it.
Bending his body bow-like upon neck and heels, he flung off his foe, and, like a panther, fell upon him.
The blue blade, choosing its deadly aim, shone in the sun, and then sped hissing through the Indian's heart. A grasp, a quiver, and the sinewy form collapsed.
The chase of Little Gray Wolf was over.
(A Captive in Golden Gate Park)
BY D. S. RICHARDSON
Lone survivor of thy race,
Thou hast reached the stopping place;
Passes to his final rest,
From the headlands he should sing,
Fronting bravely to the West.
Grim and silent, standing there
In thy sullen eyes may read
Yet, grim warrior, e'er thy day
Feel no more their myriad tread;
All are gone; but have you thought,
Grave avenger, in your plight,
How much joy the slaughter brought
What a paean of delight
Rose to heaven with every groan
Kindled quick by stab and sting
How the music of their moan
Made the wilderness to sing?