He might have judged better than that, had he reflected an instant. He never yet had thought of his daughter except as a mere child, and he did not mean for an instant to intimate that her growing interest in the young lieutenant was anything more than a "school-girl" fancy. She was old enough, however, to take his thoughtless speech au sérieux, and it hurt her.
"Papa!" was her one, indignant word of remonstrance. She would not even defend herself against such accusation.
"I know!--I understand--I didn't mean it except as the merest joke, my child," he hurriedly interposed. "I thought you'd laugh at the idea."
But she would not speak of it, and he quickly sought to change the subject, never even asking other reason for her apparent aversion to Miss Forrest. It was true that the speedy coming of Dr. and Mrs. Gra
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Author: Charles King
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THE QUEEN OF BEDLAM.
STORY OF THE SIOUX WAR OF 1876.
CAPTAIN CHARLES KING, U.S.A.,
AUTHOR OF "THE COLONEL'S DAUGHTER," "MARION'S FAITH," "THE DESERTER," "FROM THE RANKS," ETC.
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
Copyright, 1889, by J. B. Lippincott Company.
THE QUEEN OF BEDLAM.
A STORY OF FRONTIER ARMY LIFE.
The snow had gone from all the foot-hills and had long since disappeared in the broad river bottom. It was fast going from the neighboring mountains, too—both the streams told plainly of that, for while the Platte rolled along in great, swift surges under the Engineer Bridge, its smaller tributary—the "Larmie," as the soldiers called it—came brawling and foaming down its stony bed and sweeping around the back of the fort with a wild vehemence that made some of the denizens of the south end decidedly nervous. The rear windows of the commanding officer's house looked out upon a rushing torrent, and where the surgeon lived, at the south-west angle, the waters lashed against the shabby old board fence that had been built in by-gone days, partly to keep the children and chickens from tumbling into the stream when the water was high, partly to keep out marauding coyotes when the water was low. South and west the bare, gray-brown slopes shut out the horizon and limited the view. Eastward lay the broad, open valley beyond the confluence of the streams,—bare and level along the crumbling banks, bare and rolling along the line of the foot-hills. Northward the same brown ridges, were tumbled up like a mammoth wave a mile or so beyond the river, while between the northern limits of the garrison proper and the banks of the larger stream there lay a level "flat," patched here and there with underbrush, and streaked by a winding tangle of hoof- and wheel-tracks that crossed and re-crossed each other, yet led, one and all, to the distant bridge that spanned the stream, and thence bore away northward like the tines of a pitchfork, the one to the right going over the hills a three days' march to the Indian agencies up along the "Wakpa Schicha," the other leading more to the west around a rugged shoulder of bluff, and then stretching away due north for the head-waters of the Niobrara and the shelter of the jagged flanks of Rawhide Butte. Only in shadowy clusters up and down the stream was there anywhere sign of timber. Foliage, of course, there was none. Cottonwood and willow in favored nooks along the Platte were just beginning to shoot forth their tiny pea-green tendrils in answer to the caressing touch of the May-day sunshine. April had been a month of storm and bluster and huge, wanton wastes of snow, whirling and drifting down from the bleak range that veiled the valley of the Laramie from the rays of the westering sun; and any one who chose to stroll out from the fort and climb the gentle slope to the bluffs on that side, and to stand by the rude scaffolding whereon were bleaching the bones of some Dakota brave, could easily see the gleaming, glistening sides of the grand old peak, fully forty miles away,—all one sheen of frosty white that still defied the melting rays. Somebody was up there this very afternoon,—two somebodies. Their figures were blacked in silhouette against the sky close by the Indian scaffolding; but even at the distance one could see they were not Indian mourners. That was not a blanket which the tall, slender shape had just thrown about the slighter form. Mrs. Miller, the major's wife, who happened to be crossing the parade at the moment, knew very well that it was an officer's cape, and that Randall McLean had carefully wrapped it about Nellie Bayard lest the keen wind from the west, blowing freely over the ridges, should chill the young girl after her long spin across the prairie and up the heights.
A good-hearted woman was Mrs. Miller, and very much did she like the doctor's sweet and pretty daughter, very much better than she fancied the doctor himself, although, had she been pressed for a reason for her distrust of the senior medical attendant of the garrison, Mrs. Miller might have found it hard to give satisfactory answer. He was a widower, and "that made him interesting to some people," was her analysis of the situation. She really knew nothing more detrimental to his character, and yet she wished he had not lost his wife, and her wishes on this point were not entirely because of Elinor's motherless state. It was the first year the girl had spent in garrison since the death of that loving mother nearly a decade before. There were not lacking hearts full of sympathy and affection for the weeping little maiden when that sore affliction befell her. She had been taken to her mother's old home, reared and educated, and possibly over-indulged there, and sometimes gladdened by visits from her handsome and distinguished father. A marked man in his profession was Dr. Bayard, one of the "swells" of the medical corps of the army, and rapturously had he been loved by the beautiful and delicate woman whose heart he had won, somewhat to the sorrow of her people. They did not like the army, and liked it still less in the long years of separation that followed. Bayard was a man who in his earlier service had secured many a pleasant detail, and had been a society leader at Old Point Comfort, and Newport, and Boston Harbor, and now, in his advancing years and under an administration with which he had lost influence, he was taking his turn at frontier service, and heartily damning the fates that had landed him at Laramie. His dead wife's father was a man whose dictum was law in the political party in power. The doctor appealed to him to urge the Secretary of War to revoke the orders which consigned him to the isolation of a Wyoming post, but the old gentleman had heard more than one account of his widowed son-in-law's propensities and peccadilloes. It was his conviction that Newport was not the place for handsome Dr. Bayard; he rather delighted in the news that the doctor promptly sent him; but, though a power in politics, he was in some things no politician, for, when his son-in-law begged him to use his influence in his behalf, the old gentleman said no,—and told him why.
That gloomy November when Dr. Bayard left for the West he took his revenge on the old people, for he took his daughter with him.
It was a cruel, an almost savage blow, and one that was utterly unlooked for. Fond as he had been of Elinor's mother, and proud as he was of his pretty child, the doctor had been content to spend only occasional holidays with her. Every few months he came to visit them, or had her run down to New York for a brief tour among the shops, the theatres, and the picture-galleries. She was enthusiastically devoted to him, and thought no man on earth so grand, so handsome, so accomplished. She believed herself the most enviable of daughters as the child of so fond and indulgent a father. She gloried in the pride which he manifested in her success at school, in her budding beauty and graceful ways. She welcomed his coming with infinite delight, and was ever ready to drop any other project when papa's brief letters and telegrams summoned her to the city. Whatever their feeling toward the doctor, her grand-parents had never betrayed them to her or sought to undermine—or rather undeceive—her loyal devotion; but never had it occurred to them as a possibility that he would assert his paternal claim and bear away with him the idol of their hearts, the image of the cherished daughter he had won from them so many years before. Proud old judge and senator as he was, the grandfather had never been so sore stricken. He could not plead, could not humble himself to unbend and ask for mercy. For good and sufficient cause he had denied his son-in-law the boon that had been so confidently demanded, and in his chagrin and exasperation Dr. Bayard had taken his revenge. It was too late now to prepare their little Elinor for characteristics of which she had never dreamed, too late to warn her that her superb father was not the hero her fancy painted. In utter consternation, in wretchedness of spirit, the old couple saw her borne away, tearful at leaving them, yet blissful at being with papa, and going once more to the army, and they could only pray heaven to guard her and to comfort them.
But, if Dr. Bayard was incensed at being ordered to so distant a station as Laramie, in the first place, his discontent was greatly augmented with the coming of the new year. It was a crowded post when he and Elinor arrived in the early winter, but long before the snows had begun to disappear all the cavalry, and all but two companies of infantry there on duty, were ordered northward into the Sioux country, and his assistant was taken with the field column, leaving to the older man the unwelcome task of caring for the families of all the absentees as well as for the few men in the hospital. The sight of Dr. Bayard, dignified, handsome, elegant in dress and manner, tramping about in the deep snow around the laundresses' quarters was one that afforded rather too much malicious delight to a few of the denizens of the club-room at the store; but the contemplation of his own misfortunes was beginning to bring the doctor himself to a state of mind still less justifiable. All his life he had shunned the contemplation of poverty and distress. He was now for the first time seeing sickness and suffering in surroundings that had nothing of refinement, and he shrank, like the sensitive and selfish creature that he was, from such contamination.
It was hard news for Laramie when the telegraph flashed the tidings of the savage fight up among the snows in the Powder River country, but it was comfort to Dr. Bayard. He had begged for an assistant to replace the young surgeon who had been taken to the front, and his request was declined on the ground that the size of the present garrison did not warrant the detail of an additional medical officer. Bayard ground his teeth, and swore, when the paper came back to him, "Respectfully transmitted with attention invited to the endorsement of the medical director,—which is approved." He could have testified under oath now, so strong was his conviction, that his father-in-law, the surgeon-general of the army, and the medical director of the department were all in league to annoy and humiliate him to the verge of distraction—or resignation from the service. But the fight with Crazy Horse's band of Sioux brought unexpected aid and comfort to the doctor in greatly adding to his responsibilities; a large number of wounded and frozen soldiers were being brought in as fast as ambulance and travois could haul them, and now he was shrewd enough to know that an assistant would have to be sent, and he did not even ask. The young doctor who came back with the