SCOUT

Tom returned from Fort Larned that evening. He hoped that his
intercession for Flaherty would procure a mitigation of the usual
penalty; but desertion, even under extenuating circumstances, was too
serious an offence to pass without at least a form of punishment. The
culprit was put in the guard-house, with a fair prospect, however, of
being released and restored to duty before long.

The long-expected three companies of volunteer cavalry had arrived to
relieve the old garrison, and as soon as the government property could
be transferred from the old officials to the new, the old garrison–two
companies of Second Infantry and one of Second Dragoons–would march
away to Fort Leavenworth. A week later our old comrades, the regulars,
were gone.

On his return from his next visit to Fort Larned, two weeks later, Tom
had much to say about the lack of discipline shown by the volunteers
at the fort, and as we gathered around the mess box, after putting the
mules away, he continued his complaints.

“The volunteers don’t know anything about soldiering,” said Tom,
“an’ the officers are no better. It nearly broke my heart to see the
miserable imitation of military service they’re gettin’ off.

“Now, to give you an idea of their style, compared with regulars,
what would you think to see a buck private in his dirty fatigues come
a-saunterin’ up to the adjutant’s office, flop himself down in a chair,
hoist his muddy boots up onto a table, push his hat back, an’ say to
the commanding officer, who was occupying a similar position on the
opposite side of the table: ‘Well, Joe, what do you think of this
layout, as far as you’ve got?'”

“Oh, come now, Tom,” said Jack with an incredulous smile, “you don’t
expect us to believe such a yarn as that?”

“It’s gospel truth,” exclaimed the old man. “Here’s another sample
of how they do it: A captain was standin’ in front of the adjutant’s
office smokin’ a cigar, an’ a corporal strolled up to him an’ asked: ‘I
say, Cap, have you got the mate to that about your clothes?'”

“Peck, do you believe him?” said Jack, appealing to me; and without
waiting for my answer, he continued: “I do be afeared Tom’s been mixin’
his drinks.”

“Here’s another one,” said Tom. “A lieutenant an’ about a dozen men
come out of their quarters an’ started straggling off toward the
stables, an’ I followed ’em to see what they were up to. They went
into the stable an’ went to saddling their horses to go somewheres.
By and by the lieutenant got his horse saddled an’ called back into
the stable: ‘Are you all ready there, boys?’ Some were ready, an’ come
leadin’ their horses out; but one fellow called back to him: ‘Don’t
you get in such a rush there now, for I’ve got to put my spurs on
yet.’ Another fellow said: ‘I’ve got a notion not to go, for I told
the sergeant not to put my name on this detail.’ ‘Oh, yes, John, you’d
better come along. We’ll have a good time,’ said the lieutenant, kind
of coaxing him.

“Well, after callin’ back again to the man who hadn’t got his spurs
on, an’ getting the answer that he was about ready, instead of giving
his commands in military style, to ‘Lead into line!’ ‘Count fours!’
‘Prepare to mount!’ ‘Mount!’ ‘Form ranks!’ an’ then move out ‘by
fours,’ how do you suppose he did it? Well, sir, he just says: ‘Well,
get on your horses, boys,’ an’ climbed onto his horse, an’ started off,
saying as he looked back over his shoulder: ‘Come ahead, fellows.’ An’
they straggled off after him.

“Well, they’re good enough men, on an average, I guess,” continued
Tom, “an’ will make good soldiers if they just had the right sort of
officers over ’em; for good officers make good soldiers, an’ _vice
versa_. But how can the blind lead the blind? Their officers can’t
instruct the men, for the officers don’t know anything about military
matters themselves. An’ it’s one of the truest sayings that ever was
said that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’; an’ if an officer, or even a
non-com, expects to command the respect and obedience of them that’s
subject to his orders, he’s got to hold himself aloof from ’em, to a
reasonable degree; an’ he’s got to prove himself competent to command
’em.”

Naturally, Jack and I became very anxious to go over to the fort and
see things for ourselves, and when the time came for going after our
next mail and taking in another load of wolfskins Tom agreed to let us
both make the trip, on a strict promise from Jack that he would not
taste liquor.

At the post we found the state of affairs about as Tom had represented.
Officers and men seemed equally ignorant of military affairs and
especially of frontier service.

While loafing about the sutler’s store next day, Weisselbaum came out
of his back room and, calling me to one side, said confidentially:

“I’ve got a job for you, Peck, and there’s good pay in it, too. It’s
this way: There’s a young man here, Lieutenant Lang, in command of one
of these companies; he’s got plenty of money; his father’s rich an’
furnishes him plenty. He’s a first-rate fellow. But he’s considerably
embarrassed just now,” he continued; “the captain of the company
has been away from it for several months, leaving the lieutenant in
command, and during that time he has received a lot of government
property, for which he’s got to account, of course, and he’s kept no
accounts and has nothing to show what’s become of this stuff. You see,
he’s in a bad fix, and unless he can find some one who understands
these affairs to help him out, he’s going to have to pay the government
several hundred dollars–maybe as much as a thousand or two–out of his
own pocket, or his daddy’s rather. He stated his case to me and asked
if I knew of any one that he could get to straighten up his company
papers; and when I saw you I remembered that you used to be company
clerk in your old company at Fort Riley, and I thought you would know
how to help him out of the scrape, if anybody would. He’ll be willing
to pay you big for it. What do you say to the job?”

“I hardly know what to say,” I replied. “I’ll have to consult my
partners over at the camp before I can give an answer. It may be that I
can arrange with them to get away from the wolf hunting business long
enough to do this work for the lieutenant, but I can’t promise it till
I consult Tom and Jack.”

“Well, come back into my office,” said Weisselbaum, “and let me make
you acquainted with Mr. Lang, and you can talk it over with him.”

On following him into his back room I was introduced to a
pleasant-looking young officer of about twenty-five, who wore the
uniform and shoulder-straps of first lieutenant of cavalry, but whose
appearance showed evidences of dissipation. He seemed pleased to find
a man who understood Uncle Sam’s ways of transacting business, and
still more gratified when I told him that I thought possibly I could
find means to relieve him of a part, if not all, of his accountability;
which he knew meant not only the saving of so many dollars, but would
prevent an official investigation that might result in his dismissal
from the service. I told him I could not promise to take charge of his
papers and begin on the work until I had consulted my partners. He
would pay me a hundred dollars, he said, to make the effort and do what
I could for him, and two hundred if I succeeded in clearing him of all
his accountability and put his company papers in good shape, so that
his company clerk could thereafter keep them straight.

I promised him that I would return in a day or two probably prepared
to go to work on his accounts. This so pleased him that he called for
a bottle of champagne, in which, however, I declined joining him and
retired, leaving him and Weisselbaum drinking the wine.

Jack and I had seen enough of the rawness of these volunteers to fully
corroborate Tom’s reports, and as we drove back to camp I informed my
comrade of the proposition I had received for straightening out the
tangles in which the lieutenant had involved himself.

“How long’s it going to take you?” he asked.

“About two or three weeks, I think,” I replied.

“Well, of course we’ll let you off for that long, in consideration of
the big pay you’ll be getting.”

When we got to camp and I had stated the proposition to Tom, he replied
promptly:

“Jump onto it, by all means. You won’t often find such chances as that
for making money layin’ around loose on the plains or anywhere else.
That’s big money for a little work. Jack an’ me’ll give you a leave of
absence long enough to make yourself a nice little wad on the side.”

“No, Tom,” I answered. “I won’t have it that way. We have agreed, all
along, that this is a full partnership of the firm of Vance, Flannigan
& Peck and that whatever we make or lose we are to share equally. Jack
insisted on this rule when he captured Black Prince, and I shall insist
that whatever I make on this work shall be turned into the general
fund.”

“Well, suit yourself about it,” said Tom indifferently; “any way to
keep peace in the family. We’ll call it detached service you’re on,
then, instead of a leave of absence.”

The matter being settled, next day I rode Prince over to the fort
and began looking up material to begin the work in hand. By searching
the adjutant’s office and quartermaster’s store I found the requisite
blanks and books for opening up a full set of company accounts,
including muster and pay rolls, for I found the lieutenant had little
or nothing in the way of papers except the invoices of property he had
received. Having duly established an office in one of Lang’s rooms and
got everything ready for business, I said to the lieutenant:

“Now, Mr. Lang, in order that you may get the full benefit of my
services in this work, it is best that you have your first sergeant and
company clerk in attendance here whenever they can be spared from their
other duties, and let me be instructing them, so that they can continue
the work after I get things straightened out for them.”

“A good idea,” he admitted. “I’ll go over to his office and have a chat
with the sergeant about it, and if he thinks he’d like to learn your
style of keeping accounts I’ll invite him to come over and see how you
do it and bring his clerk along.”

“Why, lieutenant,” I said in some surprise at this evidence of slack
discipline, “I thought you were in command of the company.”

“So I am; so I am. Why?”

“Well, in that case, it’s your place to order the attendance of your
sergeant and clerk and their place to obey promptly.”

“Yes, yes. That’s the way you do in the regulars, I suppose; but, you
know, we ain’t so particular in the volunteers, and I find it’s best to
keep on good terms with my first sergeant ’cause he’ll make trouble for
me if I cross him.”

“Well, excuse me; I forgot myself,” I replied with ill-concealed
disgust. “I wasn’t employed by you to teach you discipline. But if you
can persuade your sergeant to come over, I’ll see if I can interest him
in these papers.”

But the sergeant refused to take instructions from “one of them
swell-headed regulars who think they know it all.” The company clerk,
however, cheerfully placed himself under my tutelage and picked up the
work rapidly.

By taking invoices of the property Lieutenant Lang had on hand and
comparing them with the invoices of what he had received, I soon
found what was deficient. I then set his men to work looking about
the post and gathering up, from among the rubbish and castaway
property abandoned by the outgoing garrison, every old article of
quartermaster’s and ordnance stores and camp and garrison equipage that
could be found. I then asked the lieutenant to call on the commanding
officer for a board of survey, who inspected and condemned the stuff
and ordered it burned, thereby relieving Lang of his accountability for
it.

There was still a considerable shortage of arms and things that I could
not pick up about the post and get condemned, but, on learning that
this company had been engaged in a skirmish with the rebels in Missouri
recently, I covered a considerable deficit on the returns as “lost in
action,” on the affidavits of soldiers, and accounted for some other
stuff as legitimately “worn out or expended in the public service.”

By these and other methods usually resorted to in the regular service
to cover deficiencies I soon had Lieutenant Lang’s accountability
reduced to the property he actually had on hand; and, while doing so,
instructed his company clerk so that thereafter he could easily keep
the accounts in safe shape.

My work for Lang attracted considerable attention from the other
company commanders and they soon got to dropping in to consult me in
regard to making out papers and all sorts of military matters.

At the expiration of my contract, Lieutenant Lang cheerfully paid me
the two hundred dollars–which I deposited with Weisselbaum to the
credit of the firm–and expressed himself as glad to get out of his
recent dilemma so cheaply.

While at this work I was often one of the busiest men about the post.
These officers, though inexperienced, were gentlemanly fellows, and
not having had that regular army legend ground into them about the
impassable gulf between the enlisted man and the commissioned officer,
though knowing that I had but recently been a private soldier,
treated me as an equal. Even the major commanding often consulted me
on technical affairs, and offered to use his influence to procure me
a commission in the regiment if I would join his command, which kind
offer I declined with thanks. I had made up my mind not to bind myself
to Uncle Sam again, though–after this wolf hunting campaign–I planned
to enter the service as a scout or wagon-master or in some civilian
capacity that would give me more freedom than as a soldier or officer.

During the time I had been at work on Lieutenant Lang’s papers there
had been another heavy snow, but it had soon passed off. Tom had
come over to the fort once or twice, reporting all serene at Camp
Coyotelope; and about the time I had finished my job and was preparing
to return to wolf skinning, Wild Bill and John Adkins came into the
post, returning from the main Kiowa camp by way of old To hausen’s
village on Walnut Creek.

“When are you going over to Camp Coyotelope?” asked Bill after first
greetings.

“To-morrow morning,” I replied.

“Well, I’ve got to make my report to the commanding officer an’ turn in
my pack-mule,” said the scout, “an’ if there’s nothing special for me
to do here right away I reckon I’ll ride over with you an’ take a few
square meals with the boys.”

“All right,” I replied. “I’ll be glad to have you go along with me.
Will Adkins come, too?”

“No. He says he’s got to go back to Rath’s ranch in the morning, soon
as he can get his voucher from the quartermaster for this trip an’ get
it cashed at Weisselbaum’s.”

“So this new quartermaster is short of greenbacks and has to pay off in
vouchers, hey?”

“Yes, an’ Weisselbaum only discounts ’em twenty-five cents on the
dollar. But I won’t sell my voucher at any such robbery figures. I
don’t need the money very bad here, an’ so I’ll just let it stand till
the quartermaster gets the funds, or if he don’t get the truck by
spring I’ll take my vouchers to Fort Leavenworth where I can get all
they call for.”

Finding nothing requiring his immediate attendance at the post, Bill
easily obtained permission to go over to our camp, notifying the
quartermaster where he could be found in case he was needed.

As we rode along he told me about his trip to Satank’s village.

“As I expected, we picked up the Kiowas’ trail over on the Smoky Hill,
followed it up, an’ found ’em in a snug-timbered camp over on the
Solomon. They’d moved to this camp from another one a few miles up the
river since the blizzard, because while that big snow was on the ground
they’d had to chop down all the cottonwood-trees about that camp to
furnish feed for their ponies and in case of another big snow catching
’em in the same camp, the feed there would have been pretty scarce.
An’ they’d just about got settled down in the new camp when this last
snow come on. Me and Adkins were in luck, too, for this last snow come
next day after we reached the Injun camp; an’ during all the time it
lay on the ground me and John were making ourselves as agreeable an’
comfortable as possible in ol’ Satank’s lodge. I knew what a sour ol’
cuss he is, an’ the best way to get on the good side of him an’ find
out what he is up to was to go right to his tepee, an’ let on that we’d
come to pay him a special visit.

“We found that the Injuns didn’t have much of anything to eat but meat,
so we brought out our sugar an’ coffee an’ hardtack an’ bacon an’
treated the ol’ man an’ his family to some extra good grub–for them;
an’ I’d took along some beads an’ colored handkerchiefs an’ trinkets
for the women an’ youngsters. But, sir, that durned old rascal would
eat my chuck an’ take presents, all right, but when I’d try to pump him
he was the most ignorant Injun you ever saw–I couldn’t get a thing out
of him. But then I didn’t expect to find out much from Satank himself,
for I know him of old.

“I made friends with Satanta and Big Tree, too, an’ gave them some
presents, an’ now an’ then invited ’em over to headquarters to smoke
an’ eat an’ drink coffee with us, but they were pretty foxy, too, and
didn’t seem to know anything when I tried the pump on them. So when I
found the head men were so close-mouthed I dropped them an’ let on as
though I wasn’t seeking for information; but I made myself solid with
the women by making them presents of a lot of little trinkets, an’ I
knew if I went about it in an offhand way they’d tell me all they knew,
for, you know, I can talk their language just like a Kiowa.

“It pleases them women for a white man to take notice of ’em an’ talk
to ’em an’ be sociable like, for their own men don’t pay ’em much
attention.

“I soon found out about all the women knew, which wasn’t much, however;
but from what I picked up amongst ’em, an’ from the general signs, the
head men ain’t a-feeling very friendly toward the whites, an’ as soon
as grass comes in the spring I suspect we’ll have trouble with ’em.”

“Do you think they’ll go on the war-path, Bill?” I asked.

“No, I don’t think they’ll go to war openly or in a body, but they’ll
probably scout around in little bands, watchin’ their chances an’ doing
a little mischief here an’ there on the sly, whenever they see a good
chance to dodge in, hit a lick, an’ dodge out again without making an
open rupture. But they promised to come down to Fort Larned, as soon
as the grass begins to come in the spring, to have a powwow with the
officers an’ Injun agent, ’cause there’s a chance of some presents in
that, an’ they’re always ready to take all they can get an’ more, too.”

“What seems to be their principal grievance against the white men?” I
asked.

“Well, it’s the old song about the white men killing off their game.
But, then, we all know that’s just an excuse, for the game on the
plains is plenty enough for all an’ what little the whites get away
with ain’t missed. Of course, if they were to come around here an’ see
how many buffalo bones you fellows are leaving on the prairie they
might think you were getting more than your share. But you’ve got just
as much right to kill buffalo an’ wolves, or any other game, as the
Injuns have. Anyway, it ain’t likely they’ll get down this way before
grass comes, an’ you fellows’ll be done skinning wolves an’ gone before
that time.”

“I hope so,” I replied. “I have no desire to renew my acquaintance with
Satank. How about old To hausen, Bill; is he still camped at the same
place?”

“Yes, his band was still camped about twenty or twenty-five miles down
Walnut Creek from your camp; but To hausen was getting ready to move up
your way, too, an’ I reckon by this time he’s moved. I told him about
you fellows a-poisoning wolves and that you were particular friends
of mine, an’ asked him not to move up close enough to you to bother
your work, an’ he promised me he would keep far enough away so’s not
to trouble you. He’s a pretty good ol’ Injun, To hausen is, an’ he’s
always been a good friend of mine, an’ I’m sure he’ll not let any of
his people interfere with you. Some of his outfit’ll be apt to look you
up in a few days, an’ if they come to see you you must treat ’em well.”

“Of course we will,” I replied, “for we want to keep on good terms with
them.”

At Camp Coyotelope, which we reached in time for dinner, Bill had to
repeat to Tom and Jack all he had told me about his trip to the Kiowa
village. During the afternoon we lounged about camp and at the approach
of evening Jack and I saddled up and made the round of the wolf baits,
putting out fresh strychnine for the night, and returned to camp in
time to help demolish an excellent supper.

That evening Tom suggested to the scout:

“Bill, while you’re here, suppose you an’ me ride down to ol’ To
hausen’s camp to-morrow to see where he is an’ make sure that he ain’t
a-crowding on our huntin’-ground–what do you say?”

“It’s a whack, Tom; I’ll go you!” replied Bill, “an’ we’ll have a fair
understanding with the ol’ man about how far he’s to allow his people
to range up this way.”

In the morning they saddled up and started to go to the Indian camp,
but to our surprise Bill and Tom were back at camp by noon, just as
Jack and I were getting ready for dinner.

“Why, what brought you back so soon?” I asked as they rode up and
dismounted.

“Well,” replied Tom, as they began unsaddling, “we found their camp
only about eight miles down the creek–a little closer than I like to
have ’em, but the Injuns promised that they wouldn’t hunt up this way
any farther or do anything to drive off the game in our range; but
what brought us back so soon was that when we got there we found ol’
To hausen sick in bed, an’ I think he’s threatened with a severe spell
of pneumonia; an’ after having a friendly talk with his people and
watching the ol’ man’s symptoms, I made up my mind what was the matter
with him, and I concluded that I’d hurry right back to camp and get
some medicine for him and then go back and try to fetch the old man out
of it. I’m sure he’s got a serious case of lung fever, and if something
ain’t done to head it off pretty _pronto_ he’ll go up the spout. I
learned a good deal about doctoring when I was hospital steward, an’ I
think I’ve got everything except one that I need for the treatment of
this case in my little medicine-chest. Bill’s going back to Fort Larned
after dinner, and I want you to go with him and bring out the medicine
that I’m lacking. You can go over to the fort this afternoon and get
the stuff an’ come back to-morrow forenoon and then bring it down to
the Injun camp to me in the afternoon; for I’ll go right back after
dinner and go to work on the old man and try to head off that fever
before it gets too strong a hold on him.”

As we entered the dugout and sat down to dinner I thought to ask:

“What medicine is it that you want me to get, Tom? You forgot to tell
me the name of it.”

With a mysterious wink at me when Jack was not looking, he answered:

“I’ll write the name of it down on a piece of paper after dinner. You’d
forget it if I told you.”

When we went out to saddle up after dinner, leaving Jack to clean up
the dishes, Tom said:

“The medicine I want you to get at the fort is nothing but a pint of
commissary whiskey, but I didn’t want to mention it before Jack. The
doctors use it in pneumonia as a stimulant, diluted, an’ given in
tablespoonful doses. I’ve got everything else I need, and I’ll take
my little medicine-chest along with me down to the Injun camp in case
there should be other sick ones that I’d want something for.” Then he
added: “You’d better take Prince to ride over to the fort and back. I
rode him down to the camp, but he’ll be good for your trip. I’ll ride
ol’ Vinegar down to the camp this time; an’ when you get back here
to-morrow you can leave Prince here an’ ride the gray mare or one of
the mules down to the camp. By the way, while I think of it, I must
take along a couple of candles an’ a few more matches; for I’ll have to
be getting up in the night ‘tendin’ to the old man, an’ there’s no such
thing as a light to be had in an Injun lodge without a body goes to
the trouble of starting up a blaze in the fire.

“I’ve got to keep on the right side of that old medicine-man that’s
doctoring the old chief now,” said Tom; “and I’d like to teach him
something if I could.”

Soon we were ready and started, Bill and I cantering off on the trail
while Tom struck out down the creek.

On arriving at Fort Larned, knowing that Lieutenant Lang always kept a
demijohn of whiskey in his quarters, I procured a pint bottle of the
“medicine” Tom desired and spent the night at his quarters.

Just before going to the officers’ mess for supper with Lieutenant Lang
that evening, thinking that it would be an interesting trip for him, I
had suggested to him that he go out to our camp and see something of
the Kiowas with whom later he might have some dealings. He declined to
go on the ground that the weather was wintry and the ride a long one.

Captain Saunders, who was present, expressed surprise that Lieutenant
Lang did not jump at the chance and said to me:

“Mr. Peck, if I can get leave of absence from the major, may I
accompany you on this trip to the Indian camp?”

“Certainly, captain,” I replied. “I’ll be delighted to have you go
along.”

The captain joined us later and told me that he had easily obtained
the desired permission, but asked me to say nothing about it to other
company officers, lest more of them should wish to go, for the major
didn’t think it best to spare more than one on such an errand.

The next morning we set out and, after a long, cold ride, reached Camp
Coyotelope. During the whole ride the captain kept plying me with
questions about our past frontier service, evidently wishing to gain
all the information he could about his new line of duty. He was a very
pleasant and gentlemanly, young man, and although ignorant of military
usage, he evinced a commendable eagerness to inform and qualify himself
for his position.

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