Augustus Albumblatt, young and new and sleek with the latest book-
knowledge of war, reported to his first troop commander at Fort Brown.
The ladies had watched for him, because he would increase the number
of men, the officers because he would lessen the number of duties; and
he joined at a crisis favorable to becoming speedily known by them
all. Upon that same day had household servants become an extinct race.
The last one, the commanding officer's cook, had told the commanding
officer's wife that she was used to living where she could see the
cars. She added that there was no society here "fit for man or baste
at all." This opinion was formed on the preceding afternoon when
Casey, a sergeant of roguish attractions in G troop, had told her that
he was not a marrying man. Three hours later she wedded a gambler, and
this morning at six they had taken the stage for Green River, two
hundred miles south, the nearest point where the bride could see the
"Frank," said the commanding officer's wife, "send over to H troop
"Catherine," he answered, "my dear, our statesmen at Washington say
it's wicked to hire the free American soldier to cook for you. It's
too menial for his manhood."
"Hush, my love. Therefore York must be spared the insult of twenty
more dollars a month, our statesmen must be re-elected, and you and I,
Catherine, being cookless, must join the general mess."
Thus did all separate housekeeping end, and the garrison began
unitedly to eat three times a day what a Chinaman set before them,
when the long-expected Albumblatt stepped into their midst, just in
time for supper.
This youth was spic-and-span from the Military Academy, with a
top-dressing of three months' thoughtful travel in Germany. "I was
deeply impressed with the modernity of their scientific attitude," he
pleasantly remarked to the commanding officer. For Captain Duane,
silent usually, talked at this first meal to make the boy welcome in
this forlorn two-company post.
"We're cut off from all that sort of thing here," said he. "I've
not been east of the Missouri since '69. But we've got the railroad
across, and we've killed some Indians, and we've had some fun, and
we're glad we're alive--eh, Mrs. Starr?"
"I should think so," said the lady.
"Especially now we've got a bachelor at the post!" said Mrs.
Bainbridge. "That has been the one drawback, Mr. Albumblatt."
"I thank you for the compliment," said Augustus, bending solemnly
from his hips; and Mrs. Starr looked at him and then at Mrs.
"We're not over-gay, I fear," the Captain continued; "but the
flat's full of antelope, and there's good shooting up both canyons."
"Have you followed the recent target experiments at Metz?" inquired
the traveller. "I refer to the flattened trajectory and the obus
"We have not heard the reports," answered the commandant, with
becoming gravity. "But we own a mountain howitzer."
"The modernity of German ordnance--" began Augustus.
"Do you dance, Mr. Albumblatt?" asked Mrs. Starr.
"For we'll have a hop and all be your partners," Mrs. Bainbridge
"I will be pleased to accommodate you, ladies."
"It's anything for variety's sake with us, you see," said Mrs.
Starr, smoothly smiling; and once again Augustus bent blandly from his
But the commanding officer wished leniency. "You see us all," he
hastened to say. "Commissioned officers and dancing-men. Pretty
"Oh, Captain!" said a lady.
"And pretty old."
"Captain!" said another lady.
"But alive and kicking. Captain Starr, Mr. Bainbridge, the Doctor
and me. We are seven."
Augustus looked accurately about him. "Do I understand seven,
"We are seven," the senior officer repeated.
Again Mr. Albumblatt counted heads. "I imagine you include the
ladies, Captain? Ha! ha!"
"Seven commissioned males, sir. Our Major is on sick-leave, and two
of our Lieutenants are related to the President's wife. She can't bear
them to be exposed. None of us in the church-yard lie--but we are
"Ha! ha, Captain! That's an elegant double entendre on Wordsworth's
poem and the War Department. Only, if I may correct your addition--ha!
ha!--our total, including myself, is eight." And Augustus grew as
hilarious as a wooden nutmeg.
The commanding officer rolled an intimate eye at his wife.
The lady was sitting big with rage, but her words were cordial
still: "Indeed, Mr. Albumblatt, the way officers who have influence in
Washington shirk duty here and get details East is something I can't
laugh about. At one time the Captain was his own adjutant and
quartermaster. There are more officers at this table to-night than
I've seen in three years. So we are doubly glad to welcome you at Fort
"I am fortunate to be on duty where my services are so required,
though I could object to calling it Fort Brown." And Augustus exhaled
a new smile.
"Prefer Smith?" said Captain Starr.
"You misunderstand me. When we say Fort Brown. Fort Russell, Fort
Et Cetera, we are inexact. They are not fortified."
"Cantonment Et Cetera would be a trifle lengthy, wouldn't it?" put
in the Doctor, his endurance on the wane.
"Perhaps; but technically descriptive of our Western posts. The
Germans criticise these military laxities."
Captain Duane now ceased talking, but urbanely listened; and from
time to time his eye would scan Augustus, and then a certain
sublimated laugh, to his wife well known; would seize him for a single
voiceless spasm, and pass. The experienced Albumblatt meanwhile
continued, "By-the-way, Doctor, you know the Charite, of course?"
Doctor Guild had visited that great hospital, but being now a
goaded man he stuck his nose in his plate, and said, unwisely:
"Sharrity? What's that?" For then Augustus told him what and where it
was, and that Krankenhaus is German for hospital, and that he had been
deeply impressed with the modernity of the ventilation. "Thirty-five
cubic metres to a bed in new wards," he stated. "How many do you
"None," answered the surgeon.
"Do I understand none, Doctor?"
"You do, sir. My patients breathe in cubic feet, and swallow their
doses in grains, and have their inflation measured in inches."
"Now there again!" exclaimed Augustus, cheerily. "More antiquity to
be swept away! And people say we young officers have no work cut out
"Patients don't die then under the metric system?" said the Doctor.
"No wonder Europe's overcrowded," said Starr.
But the student's mind inhabited heights above such trifling.
"Death," he said, "occurs in ratios not differentiated from our
statistics." And he told them much more while they booked at him over
their plates. He managed to say 'modernity' and 'differentiate' again,
for he came from our middle West, where they encounter education too
suddenly, and it would take three generations of him to speak clean
English. But with all his polysyllabic wallowing, he showed himself
keen-minded, pat with authorities, a spruce young graduate among these
dingy Rocky Mountain campaigners. They had fought and thirsted and
frozen; the books that he knew were not written when they went to
school; and so far as war is to be mastered on paper, his equipment
was full and polished while theirs was meagre and rusty.
And yet, if you know things that other and older men do not, it is
as well not to mention them too hastily. These soldiers wished that
they could have been taught what he knew; but they watched young
Augustus unfolding himself with a gaze that might have seemed chill to
a less highly abstract thinker. He, however, rose from the table
pleasantly edified by himself, and hopeful for them. And as he left
them, "Good-night, ladies and gentlemen," he said; "we shall meet
"Oh yes," said the Doctor. "Again and again."
"He's given me indigestion," said Bainbridge.
"Take some metric system," said Starr.
"And lie flat on your trajectory," said the Doctor.
"I hate hair parted in the middle for a man," said Mrs. Guild.
"And his superior eye-glasses," said Mrs. Bainbridge.
"His staring conceited teeth," hissed Mrs. Starr.
"I don't like children slopping their knowledge all over me," said
the Doctor's wife.
"He's well brushed, though," said Mrs. Duane, seeking the bright
side. "He'll wipe his feet on the mat when he comes to call."
"I'd rather have mud on my carpet than that bandbox in any of my
chairs," said Mrs. Starr.
"He's no fool," mused the Doctor. "But, kingdom come, what an ass!"
"Well, gentlemen," said the commanding officer (and they perceived
a flavor of the official in his tone), "Mr. Albumblatt is just
twenty-one. I don't know about you; but I'll never have that excuse
"Very well, Captain, we'll be good," said Mrs. Bainbridge.
"And gr-r-ateful," said Mrs. Starr, rolling her eyes piously. "I
prophecy he'll entertain us."
The Captain's demeanor remained slightly official; but walking
home, his Catherine by his side in the dark was twice aware of that
laugh of his, twinkling in the recesses of his opinions. And later,
going to bed, a little joke took him so unready that it got out before
he could suppress it." My love," said he, "my Second Lieutenant is
grievously mislaid in the cavalry. Providence designed him for the
It was wifely but not right in Catherine to repeat this strict
confidence in strictest confidence to her neighbor, Mrs. Bainbridge,
over the fence next morning before breakfast. At breakfast Mrs.
Bainbridge spoke of artillery reinforcing the post, and her husband
giggled girlishly and looked at the puzzled Duane; and at dinner Mrs.
Starr asked Albumblatt, would not artillery strengthen the garrison?
"Even a light battery," pronounced Augustus, promptly, "would be
absurd and useless."
Whereupon the mess rattled knives, sneezed, and became variously
disturbed. So they called him Albumbattery, and then Blattery, which
is more condensed; and Captain Duane's official tone availed him
nothing in this matter. But he made no more little military jokes; he
disliked garrison personalities. Civilized by birth and ripe from
weather-beaten years of men and observing, he looked his Second
Lieutenant over, and remembered to have seen worse than this. He had
no quarrel with the metric system (truly the most sensible), and
thinking to leaven it with a little rule of thumb, he made Augustus
his acting quartermaster. But he presently indulged his wife with the
soldier-cook she wanted at home, so they no longer had to eat their
meals in Albumblatt's society; and Mrs. Starr said that this showed
her husband dreaded his quartermaster worse than the Secretary of War.
Alas for the Quartermaster's sergeant, Johannes Schmoll, that
routined and clock-work German! He found Augustus so much more German
than he had ever been himself, that he went speechless for three days.
Upon his lists, his red ink, and his ciphering, Augustus swooped like
a bird of prey, and all his fond red-tape devices were shredded to the
winds. Augustus set going new quadratic ones of his own, with an index
and cross-references. It was then that Schmoll recovered his speech
and walked alone, saying, "Mein Gott!" And often thereafter, wandering
among the piled stores and apparel, he would fling both arms
heavenward and repeat the exclamation. He had rated himself the unique
human soul at Fort Brown able to count and arrange underclothing.
Augustus rejected his laborious tally, and together they vigiled after
hours, verifying socks and drawers. Next, Augustus found more
horseshoes than his papers called for.
"That man gif me der stomach pain efry day," wailed Schmoll to
Sergeant Casey. "I tell him, 'Lieutenant, dose horseshoes is
expendable. We don't acgount for efry shoe like they was men's shoes,
und oder dings dot is issued.' 'I prefer to cake them cop!' says Baby
Bismarck. Und he smile mit his two beaver teeth."
"Baby Bismarck!" cried, joyfully, the rosy-faced Casey." Yo-hanny,
take a drink."
"Und so," continued the outraged Schmoll, "he haf a Board of
Soorvey on dree-pound horseshoes, und I haf der stomach pain."
"It was buckles the next month. The allowance exceeded the
expenditure, Augustus's arithmetic came out wrong, and another board
sat on buckles.
"Yo-hanny, you're lookin' jaded under Colonel Safetypin." said
Casey. "Have something?"
"Safetypin is my treat," said Schmoll; "und very apt."
But Augustus found leisure to pervade the post with his modernity.
He set himself military problems, and solved them; he wrote an essay
on "The Contact Squadron"; he corrected Bainbridge for saying "throw
back the left flank" instead of "refuse the left flank"; he had
reading-room ideas, canteen' ideas, ideas for the Indians and the
Agency, and recruit- drill ideas, which he presented to Sergeant
Casey. Casey gave him, in exchange, the name of Napoleon Shave-Tail,
and had his whiskey again paid for by the sympathetic Schmoll.
"But bless his educated heart," said Casey, "he don't learn me
nothing that'll soil my innercence!"
Thus did the sunny-humored Sergeant take it, but not thus the mess.
Had Augustus seen himself as they saw him, could he have heard Mrs.
Starr-- But he did not; the youth was impervious, and to remove his
complacency would require (so Mrs. Starr said) an operation, probably
fatal. The commanding officer held always aloof from gibing, yet often
when Augustus passed him his gray eye would dwell upon the
Lieutenant's back, and his voiceless laugh would possess him. That is
the picture I retain of these days--the unending golden sun, the wide,
gentle-colored plain, the splendid mountains, the Indians ambling
through the flat, clear distance; and here, close along the
parade-ground, eye-glassed Augustus, neatly hastening, with the
Captain on his porch, asleep you might suppose.
One early morning the agent, with two Indian chiefs, waited on the
commanding officer, and after their departure his wife found him
breakfasting in solitary mirth.
"Without me," she chided, sitting down. "And I know you've had some
"The best, my love. Providence has been tempted at last. The
wholesome irony of life is about to function."
"Frank, don't tease so! And where are you rushing now before the
"To set our Augustus a little military problem, dearest. Plain
living for to-day, and high thinking be jolly well--"
"Frank, you're going to swear, and I must know!"
But Frank had sworn and hurried out to the right to the Adjutant's
office, while his Catherine flew to the left to the fence.
"Ella!" she cried." Oh, Ella!"
Mrs. Bainbridge, instantly on the other side of the fence, brought
scanty light. A telegram had come, she knew, from the Crow Agency in
Montana. Her husband had admitted this three nights ago; and Captain
Duane (she knew) had given him some orders about something; and could
it be the Crows? "Ella, I don't know," said Catherine. "Frank talked
all about Providence in his incurable way, and it may be anything." So
the two ladies wondered together over the fence, until Mrs. Duane,
seeing the Captain return, ran to him and asked, were the Crows on the
war-path? Then her Frank told her yes, and that he had detailed
Albumblatt to vanquish them and escort them to Carlisle School to
learn German and Beethoven's sonatas.
"Stuff, stuff, stuff! Why, there he does go!" cried the unsettled
Catherine. "It's something at the Agency!" But Captain Duane was gone
into the house for a cigar.
Albumblatt, with Sergeant Casey and a detail of six men, was in
truth hastening over that broad mile which opens between Fort Brown
and the Agency. On either side of them the level plain stretched, gray
with its sage, buff with intervening grass, hay-cocked with the smoky,
mellow-stained, meerschaum-like canvas tepees of the Indians, quiet as
a painting; far eastward lay long, low, rose-red hills, half dissolved
in the trembling mystery of sun and distance; and westward, close at
hand and high, shone the great pale-blue serene mountains through the
vaster serenity of the air. The sounding hoofs of the troops brought
the Indians out of their tepees to see. When Albumblatt reached the
Agency, there waited the agent and his two chiefs, who pointed to one
lodge standing apart some three hundred yards, and said, "He is
there." So then Augustus beheld his problem, the military duty fallen
to him from Providence and Captain Duane.
It seems elementary for him who has written of "The Contact
Squadron." It was to arrest one Indian. This man, Ute Jack, had done a
murder among the Crows, and fled south for shelter. The telegram
heralded him, but with boundless miles for hiding he had stolen in
under the cover of night. No welcome met him. These Fort Brown Indians
were not his friends at any time, and less so now, when he arrived
wild drunk among their families. Hounded out, he sought this empty
lodge, and here he was, at bay, his hand against every man's, counting
his own life worthless except for destroying others before he must
"Is he armed?" Albumblatt inquired, and was told yes.
Augustus considered the peaked cone tent. The opening was on this
side, but a canvas drop closed it. Not much of a problem--one man
inside a sack with eight outside to catch him! But the books gave no
rule for this combination, and Augustus had met with nothing of the
sort in Germany. He considered at some length. Smoke began to rise
through the meeting poles of the tepee, leisurely and natural, and one
of the chiefs said:
"Maybe Ute Jack cooking. He hungry."
"This is not a laughing matter," said Augustus to the by-standers,
who were swiftly gathering. "Tell him that I command him to
surrender," he added to the agent, who shouted this forthwith; and
"Tell him I say he must come out at once," said Augustus then; and
received further silence.
"He eat now," observed the chief. "Can't talk much."
"Sergeant Casey," bellowed Albumblatt, "go over there and take him
"The Lootenant understands," said Casey, slowly, "that Ute Jack has
got the drop on us, and there ain't no getting any drop on him."
"Sergeant, you will execute your orders without further comment."
At this amazing step the silence fell cold indeed; but Augustus was
"Shall I take any men along, sir?" said Casey in his soldier's
"Er--yes. Er--no. Er--do as you please."
The six troopers stepped forward to go, for they loved Casey; but
he ordered them sharply to fall back. Then, looking in their eyes, he
whispered, "Good-bye, boys, if it's to be that way," and walked to the
lodge, lifted the flap, and fell, shot instantly dead through the
heart. "Two bullets into him," muttered a trooper, heavily breathing
as the sounds rang. "He's down," another spoke to himself with fixed
eyes; and a sigh they did not know of passed among them. The two
chiefs looked at Augustus and grunted short talk together; and one,
with a sweeping lift of his hand out towards the tepee and the dead
man by it, said, "Maybe Ute Jack only got
three--four--cartridges--so!" (his fingers counted it). "After he kill
three--four--men, you get him pretty good." The Indian took the white
man's death thus; but the white men could not yet be even saturnine.
"This will require reinforcement," said Augustus to the audience.
"The place must be attacked by a front and flank movement. It must be
knocked down. I tell you I must have it knocked down. How are you to
see where he is, I'd like to know, if it's not knocked down?"
Augustus's voice was getting high.
"I want the howitzer," he screeched generally.
A soldier saluted, and Augustus chattered at him.
"The howitzer, the mountain howitzer, I tell you. Don't you hear
me? To knock the cursed thing he's in down. Go to Captain Duane and
give him my compliments, and--no, I'll go myself. Where's my horse? My
horse, I tell you! It's got to be knocked down."
"If you please, Lieutenant," said the trooper, "may we have the Red
"Red Cross? What's that for? What's that?"
"Sergeant Casey, sir. He's a-lyin' there."
"Ambulance? Certainly. The howitzer--perhaps they're only flesh
wounds. I hope they are only flesh wounds. I must have more
men--you'll come with me."
From his porch Duane viewed both Augustus approach and the man stop
at the hospital, and having expected a bungle, sat to hear; but at
Albumblatt's mottled face he stood up quickly and said, "What's the
matter?" And hearing, burst out: "Casey! Why, he was worth fifty
of--Go on, Mr. Albumblatt. What next did you achieve, sir?" And as the
tale was told he cooled, bitter, but official.
"Reinforcements is it, Mr. Albumblatt?"
"The howitzer, Captain."
"Good. And G troop?"
"For my double flank movement I--"
"Perhaps you'd like H troop as reserve?"
"Not reserve, Captain. I should establish--"
"This is your duty, Mr. Albumblatt. Perform it as you can, with
what force you need."
"Thank you, sir. It is not exactly a battle, but with a,
"Take your troops and go, sir, and report to me when you have
arrested your man."
Then Duane went to the hospital, and out with the ambulance, hoping
that the soldier might not be dead. But the wholesome irony of life
reckons beyond our calculations; and the unreproachful, sunny face of
his Sergeant evoked in Duane's memory many marches through long heat
and cold, back in the rough, good times.
"Hit twice, I thought they told me," said he; and the steward
surmised that one had missed.
"Perhaps," mused Duane. "And perhaps it went as intended, too.
What's all that fuss?"
He turned sharply, having lost Augustus among his sadder thoughts;
and here were the operations going briskly. Powder-smoke in three
directions at once! Here were pickets far out-lying, and a double line
of skirmish- ers deployed in extended order, and a mounted reserve,
and men standing to horse--a command of near a hundred, a pudding of
pompous, incompetent, callow bosh, with Augustus by his howitzer,
scientifically raising and lowering it to bear on the lone white tepee
that shone in the plain. Four races were assembled to look on--the
mess Chinaman, two black laundresses, all the whites in the place (on
horse and foot, some with their hats left behind), and several hundred
Indians in blankets. Duane had a thought to go away and leave this
galling farce under the eye of Starr for the officers were at hand
also. But his second thought bade him remain; and looking at Augustus
and the howitzer, his laugh would have returned to him; but his heart
was sore for Casey.
It was an hour of strategy and cannonade, a humiliating hour, which
Fort Brown tells of to this day; and the tepee lived through it all.
For it stood upon fifteen slender poles, not speedily to be chopped
down by shooting lead from afar. When low bullets drilled the canvas,
the chief suggested to Augustus that Ute Jack had climbed up; and when
the bullets flew high, then Ute Jack was doubtless in a hole. Nor did
Augustus contrive to drop a shell from the howitzer upon Ute Jack and
explode him--a shrewd and deadly conception; the shells went beyond,
except one, that ripped through the canvas, somewhat near the ground;
and Augustus, dripping, turned at length, and saying, "It won't go
down," stood vacantly wiping his white face. Then the two chiefs got
his leave to stretch a rope between their horses and ride hard against
the tepee. It was military neither in essence nor to see, but it
prevailed. The tepee sank, a huge umbrella wreck along the earth, and
there lay Ute Jack across the fire's slight hollow, his knee-cap gone
with the howitzer shell. But no blood had flown from that; blood will
not run, you know, when a man has been dead some time. One single
other shot had struck him--one through his own heart. It had singed
"You see, Mr. Albumblatt," said Duane, in the whole crowd's
hearing, "he killed himself directly after killing Casey. A very rare
act for an Indian, as you are doubtless aware. But if your manoeuvres
with his corpse have taught you anything you did not know before, we
shall all be gainers."
"Captain," said Mrs. Starr, on a later day, "you and Ute Jack have
ended our fun. Since the Court of Inquiry let Mr. Albumblatt off, he
has not said Germany once--and that's three months to-morrow."