From point to point the grim struggle raged, till nightfall wrought partial cessation. The wearied troopers stretched out their lines so as to protect the packs and the field hospital, threw themselves on the ground, digging rifle-pits with knives and tin pans. Not until nine o’clock did the Indian fire slacken, and then the village became a scene of savage revel, the wild yelling plainly audible to the soldiers above. Through the black night Brant stepped carefully across the recumbent forms of his men, and made his way to the field hospital. In the glare of the single fire the red sear of a bullet showed clearly across his forehead, but he wiped away the slowly trickling blood, and bent over a form extended on a blanket.
“Has he roused up?” he questioned of the trooper on guard.
“Not to know nuthin’, sir. He’s bin swearin’ an’ gurglin’ most o’ ther time, but he’s asleep now, I reckon.”
The young officer stood silent, his face pale, his gaze upon the distant Indian fires. Out yonder were defeat, torture, death, and to-morrow meant a renewal of the struggle. His heart was heavy with foreboding, his memory far away with one to whom all this misfortune might come almost as a death-blow. It was Naida’s questioning face that haunted him; she was waiting for she knew not what.
THE OLD REGIMENT
By the time Hampton swung up the coulee, he had dismissed from his attention everything but the business that had brought him there. No lingering thought of Naida, or of the miserable Murphy, was permitted to interfere with the serious work before him. To be once again with the old Seventh was itself inspiration; to ride with them into battle was the chief desire of his heart. It was a dream of years, which he had never supposed possible of fulfilment, and he rode rapidly forward, his lips smiling, the sunshine of noonday lighting up his face.