The sudden flashing of that name into his brain was like an electric shock. He cursed his inactivity. Great God! had he become a child again, to tremble before imagined evil, a mere hobgoblin of the mind? He had already wasted time enough; now he must wring from the lips of that misshapen savage the last vestige of his secret.
The animal within him sprang to fierce life. God! he would prove as wary, as cunning, as relentless as ever was Indian on the trail. Murphy would never suspect at this late day that he was being tracked. That was well. Tireless, fearless, half savage as the scout undoubtedly was, one fully his equal was now at his heels, actuated by grim, relentless purpose. Hampton moved rapidly in preparation. He dressed for the road, for hard, exacting service, buckling his loaded cartridge-belt outside his rough coat, and testing his revolvers with unusual care. He spoke a few parting words of instruction to Mrs. Guffy, and went quietly out. Ten minutes later he was in the saddle, galloping down the dusty stage road toward Cheyenne.
THE TRAIL OF SILENT MURPHY
The young infantryman who had been detailed for the important service of telegraph operator, sat in the Cheyenne office, his feet on the rude table his face buried behind a newspaper. He had passed through two eventful weeks of unremitting service, being on duty both night and day, and now, the final despatches forwarded, he felt entitled to enjoy a period of well-earned repose.
“Could you inform me where I might find Silent Murphy, a government scout?”
The voice had the unmistakable ring of military authority, and the soldier operator instinctively dropped his feet to the floor.
“Well, my lad, you are not dumb, are you?”
The telegrapher’s momentary hesitation vanished; his ambition to become a martyr to the strict laws of service secrecy was not sufficiently strong to cause him to take the doubtful chances of a lie. “He was here, but has gone.”
“The devil knows. He rode north, carrying despatches for Custer.”
“Oh, three or four hours ago.”
Hampton swore softly but fervently, behind his clinched teeth.
“Where is Custer?”
“Don’t know exactly. Supposed to be with Terry and Gibbons, somewhere near the mouth of the Powder, although he may have left there by this time, moving down the Yellowstone. That was the plan mapped out. Murphy’s orders were to intercept his column somewhere between the Rosebud and the Big Horn, and I figure there is about one chance out of a hundred that the Indians let him get that far alive. No other scout along this border would take such a detail. I know, for there were two here who failed to make good when the job was thrown at them—just naturally faded away,” and the soldier’s eyes sparkled. “But that old devil of a Murphy just enjoys such a trip. He started off as happy as ever I see him.”