By the time I was ready to approach these new arrivals, they had their plans for encampment under way with the celerity of old campaigners. Their horses were hobbled, their cook-fires of buffalo “chips” were lit, their wagons backed into a rude stockade. Guards were moving out with the horses to the grazing ground. They were a seasoned lot of Harney’s frontier fighters, grimed and grizzled, their hats, boots and clothing gray with dust, but their weapons bright. Their leader was a young lieutenant, who approached me when I rode up. It seemed to me I remembered his blue eyes and his light mustaches, curled upward at the points.
“Lieutenant Belknap!” I exclaimed. “Do you remember meeting me down at Jefferson?”
“Why, Mr. Cowles!” he exclaimed. “How on earth did you get here? Of course I remember you.”
“Yes, but how did you get here yourself—you were not on my boat?”
“I was ordered up the day after you left Jefferson Barracks,” he said, “and took the Asia. We got into St. Joe the same day with the River Belle, and heard about your accident down river. I suppose you came out on the old Cut-off trail.”
“Yes; and of course you took the main trail west from Leavenworth.”
He nodded. “Orders to take this detachment out to Laramie,” he said, “and meet Colonel Meriwether there.”
“He’ll not be back?” I exclaimed in consternation. “I was hoping to meet him coming east.”
“No,” said Belknap, “you’ll have to go on with us if you wish to see him. I’m afraid the Sioux are bad on beyond. Horrible thing your man tells me about up there,” he motioned toward the ruined station. “I’m taking his advice and going into camp here, for I imagine it isn’t a nice thing for a woman to see.”
He turned toward the ambulance, and I glanced that way. There stood near it a tall, angular figure, head enshrouded in an enormous sunbonnet; a personality which it seemed to me I recognized.
“Why, that’s my friend, Mandy McGovern,” said I. “I met her on the boat. Came out from Leavenworth with you, I suppose?”
“That isn’t the one,” said Belknap. “No, I don’t fancy that sister McGovern would cut up much worse than the rest of us over that matter up there; but the other one—”
At that moment, descending at the rear of the ambulance, I saw the other one.
HER INFINITE VARIETY
It was a young woman who left the step of the ambulance and stood for a moment shading her eyes with her hand and looking out over the shimmering expanse of the broad river. All at once the entire landscape was changed. It was not the desert, but civilization which swept about us. A transfiguration had been wrought by one figure, fair to look upon.