The Quest of the Four

A Story of the Comanches

and Buena Vista




"Putting his blanket beneath him, he lay before one of the fires"

"A black, snakelike loop fell over Bill Breakstone's head"

"The third boy from the rear stopped and listened"



A tall boy, dreaming dreams, was walking across the Place d'Armes in New Orleans. It was a brilliant day in early spring, and a dazzling sunlight fell over the city, gilding the wood or stone of the houses, and turning the muddy current of the Mississippi into shimmering gold. Under such a perfect blue sky, and bathed in such showers of shining beams, New Orleans, a city of great and varied life, looked quaint, picturesque, and beautiful.

But the boy, at that moment, thought little of the houses or people about him. His mind roamed into the vast Southwest, over mountains, plains, and deserts that his feet had never trod, and he sought, almost with the power of evocation, to produce regions that he had never seen, but which he had often heard described. He had forgotten no detail of the stories, but, despite them, the cloud of mystery and romance remained, calling to him all the more strongly because he had come upon a quest the most vital of his life, a quest that must lead him into the great unknown land.

He was not a native of New Orleans or Louisiana. Any one could have told at a glance that the blue eyes, fair hair, and extreme whiteness of skin did not belong to the Gulf coast. His build was that of the Anglo-Saxon. The height, the breadth of shoulder and chest, and the whole figure, muscled very powerfully for one so young, indicated birth in a clime farther North--Kentucky or Virginia, perhaps. His dress, neat and clean, showed that he was one who respected himself.

Phil Bedford passed out of the Place d'Armes, and presently came to the levee which ran far along the great river, and which was seething with life. New Orleans was then approaching the zenith of its glory. Many, not foreseeing the power of the railroad, thought that the city, seated near the mouth of the longest river of the world, into which scores of other navigable streams drained, was destined to become the first city of America. The whole valley of the Mississippi, unequalled in extent and richness, must find its market here, and beyond lay the vast domain, once Spain's, for which New Orleans would be the port of entry.

Romance, too, had seized the place. The Alamo and San Jacinto lay but a few years behind. All the states resounded with the great story of the Texan struggle for liberty. Everybody talked of Houston and Crockett and Bowie and the others, and from this city most of the expeditions had gone. New Orleans was the chief fountain from which flowed fresh streams of men who steadily pushed the great Southwestern frontier farther and farther into the Spanish lands.

It seemed to Phil, looking through his own fresh, young eyes, that it was a happy crowd along the levee. The basis of the city was France and Spain, with an American superstructure, but all the materials had been bound into a solid fabric by their great and united defense against the British in 1815. Now other people came, too, called by the spirit of trade or adventure. Every nation of Europe was there, and the states, also, sent their share. They came fast on the steamers which trailed their black smoke down the yellow river.

The strong youth had been sad, when he came that morning from the dingy little room in which he slept, and he had been sad when he was walking across the Place d'Armes, but the scene was too bright and animated to leave one so young in such a state of mind. He bought a cup of hot coffee from one of the colored women who was selling it from immense cans, drank it, exchanged a cheerful word or two of badinage, and, as he turned away, he ran into a round man, short, rosy, and portly. Phil sprang back, exclaiming:

"Your pardon, sir! It was an accident! All my fault!"

"No harm done where none iss meant," replied the stranger, speaking excellent English, although with a German accent. It was obvious, even without the accent, that he was of German birth. The Fatherland was written all over his rotund figure, but he was dressed in the fashion of the Southwest--light suit, light shoes, and a straw hat.

It was a time when chance meetings led to long friendships. On the border, a stranger spoke to another stranger if he felt like it. One could ask questions if he chose. Partnerships were formed on the spur of the moment in the vast army that was made up of the children of adventure, formality was a commodity little in demand. The German looked rather inquiringly at the boy.

"From farther North, iss it not so?" he asked. "Answer or be silent. Either iss your right."

Bill laughed. He liked the man's quaint manner and friendly tone, and he replied promptly:

"I was born in Kentucky, my name is Philip Bedford, and I am alone in New Orleans."

"Then," said the German, "you must be here for some expedition. This iss where they start. It iss so. I can see it in your face. Come, my young friend, no harm iss done where none iss meant."

Phil had taken no offense. He had merely started a little at the shrewd guess. He replied frankly:

"I'm thinking of the West, Texas and maybe New Mexico, or even beyond that--California."

"It iss a long journey to take alone," said the German, "two thousand, three thousand miles, and not one mile of safe road. Indians, Mexicans, buffaloes, bears, deserts, mountains, all things to keep you from getting across."

"But I mean to go," paid Phil firmly.

The German looked at him searchingly. His interest in Phil seemed to increase.

"Something calls you," he said.

Phil was silent.

"No harm iss done where none iss meant," the German. "You have told me who you are, Mr. Philip Bedford, and where you come from. It iss right that I tell you as much about myself. My name iss Hans Arenberg, and I am a Texan."

Phil looked at him, his eyes full of unbelief, and the German laughed a little.

"It iss so," he said. "You do not think I look like a Texan, but I am one by way of Germany. I--I live at New Braunfels."

Arenberg's voice broke suddenly, and then Phil remembered vaguely--New Braunfels, a settlement of German immigrants in Texas, raided by Comanches, the men killed, and the women carried off! It was one of those terrible incidents of the border, so numerous that the new fast crowded the old out of place.

"You come from New Braunfels! You are one of the survivors of the massacre!" he exclaimed.

"It iss so," said the German, his eyes growing sober, "and I, too, wish to go far into the West. I, too, seek something, young Mr. Philip Bedford, and my road would lie much where yours leads."

The two looked at each other with inquiry that shaded into understanding. Arenberg was the first to speak.

"Yes, we could go together," he said. "I trust you, and you trust me. But two are not strong enough. The chances are a thousand to one that neither of us would find what he iss seeking. The Mexicans wish revenge on the Texans, the Comanches raid to the outskirts of San Antonio. Pouf! Our lives would not be worth that! It must be a strong party of many men!"

"I believe you are right," said Phil, "but I wish to go. I wish to go very much."

"So do I," said Arenberg. "It iss the same with both of us, but suppose we wait. Where do you live?"

Phil no longer hesitated to confide in this chance acquaintance, and he replied that he was staying in a house near the Convent of the Ursuline Nuns, where a little room sheltered him and his few belongings.

"Suppose," said Arenberg, "that I join you there, and we save our expenses. In union there iss strength. If you do not like my suggestion say so. No harm iss done where none iss meant."

"On the contrary, I do like it," said Phil heartily. "It seems to me that we can help each other."

"Then come," said Arenberg. "We will go first to my place, where I will pay my own bill, take away what I have, and then we will join forces at yours, iss it not so?"

Arenberg was staying at one of the inns that abounded in New Orleans, and it took him only a half hour to pack and move, carrying his baggage in his hand. Phil's room was in a large, rambling old house, built of cypress wood, with verandas all about it. There an American widow kept boarders, and she had plenty of them, as New Orleans was overflowing with strangers. The room was small and bare, but it was large enough, as Phil's baggage, too, was limited. A cot was put in for Arenberg, and the two were at home.

The day was now drawing to a close, and the two ate supper with a strange company in the large dining-room of the boarding house. Phil, a close observer, noted that six languages were spoken around that more or less hospitable board. He understood only his own, and a little French and Spanish, but the difference in sound and intonation enabled him to note the others. One of the men who sat opposite him was a big fellow with glistening gold rings in his ears, evidently a West Indian of somewhat doubtful color, but he was quiet, and ate dextrously and skillfully with his knife. A sallow young Mexican with curling black mustaches complained incessantly about his food, and a thin New Englander spoke at times of the great opportunities for capital in the Southwest.

Phil and Arenberg, who sat side by side, said little, but both watched all the other guests with interested eyes. The one who held Phil's gaze the longest was a smoothly shaven young man on the other side of the table. It was the difference between him and the others that aroused Phil's curiosity. He sat very erect, with his square shoulders thrown back, and he never spoke, except to accept or reject the food passed by colored girls. His eyes were blue, and his face, cut clear and strong, betokened perception and resolve. Phil believed that he could like him, but his attention by and by wandered elsewhere.

Philip Bedford had not felt so nearly content for many days. The making of a new friend was a source of strength to the boy, and he felt that he had taken a step forward in his great search. Fresh confidence flowed like good wine into his veins. He had friendly feelings toward all those around the table, and the room itself became picturesque. He ate of strange dishes, French or Spanish, and liked them, careless what they were. A mild breeze came through the open windows, and the outlines of buildings were softened in the dusk. Within the room itself six candles in tall candlesticks, placed at regular intervals on the table, cast a sufficient light. Two young colored women in red calico dresses, and with red turbans on their heads, kept off the flies and mosquitoes with gorgeous fans of peacock feathers, which they waved gently over the heads of the guests. Phil became deeply conscious of the South, of its glow and its romance.

The guests, having a sufficiency of food, left the table one by one. The young man with the smooth face was among the first to go. Phil noticed him again and admired his figure--tall, slender, and beautifully erect. He walked with ease and grace, and his dress of plain brown was uncommonly neat and well fitting. "I should like to know that man," was Phil's thought.

After dinner the boy and Arenberg sat on the veranda in the dusk, and talked in low voices of their plans. They deemed it better to keep their intentions to themselves. Many expeditions were fitting out in New Orleans. Some were within the law, and some were not. Wise men talked little of what was nearest to their hearts.

"If we go into the West--and we are going," said Phil, "we shall need weapons--rifles, pistols."

"Time enough for that," said Arenberg. "If we have the money, we can arm ourselves in a day. Weapons are a chief article of commerce in New Orleans."

An hour later they went up to their room and to bed. Phil carried his money on his person, and most of his other belongings were in a stout leather bag or valise, which was fastened with a brass lock. It was necessary for him to open the bag to obtain some clean linen, and as Arenberg's back was turned he took out, also, a small paper, yellow and worn. He opened it for the thousandth time, choked a sigh, and put it back. As he relocked the bag and turned, he noticed that Arenberg also had been looking at something. It seemed to be a photograph, and the German, after returning it to his own bag, gazed absently out of the window. His face, which at other times was obviously made for smiles and cheeriness, was heavy with grief. A flood of sympathy rushed over Philip Bedford. "I wonder what it is he seeks out there," the boy thought as he looked unconsciously toward the West. But he had too much delicacy of mind to say anything, and presently Arenberg was himself again, speaking hopefully of their plans as they prepared for bed.

Phil slept soundly, except for one interval. Then he dreamed a dream, and it was uncommonly vivid. He saw Hans Arenberg rise from his cot, take from his bag the small object which was undoubtedly a photograph, go to the window, where the moonlight fell, and look at it long and earnestly. Presently his chest heaved, and tears ran down either cheek. Then his head fell forward, and he dropped the photograph to his breast. He stood in that stricken attitude for at least five minutes, then he put the photograph back in the bag, and returned to his cot. In the morning Phil's recollection of the dream was very vivid, but Arenberg was cheery and bright.

The boy and the man ate breakfast together in the dining-room, a breakfast of oranges--Phil had never seen an orange until he came to New Orleans--cakes and butter and coffee. Only a few of the diners of the evening before were present when they went into the room, but among them was the young man with the shaven face and the firm chin. Phil liked him even better in the morning light. His seemed the kindly face of a man with a strong and decided character. Their eyes met, and the stranger smiled and nodded. Phil smiled and nodded back. After breakfast Phil and Arenberg went out upon the veranda. The man was already there, smoking a cigarette.

"Fine morning," he observed easily. "One could not ask anything better than these early spring days in New Orleans. In the North we are still in the grasp of snow and ice."

Phil and Arenberg also sat down, as the way was now opened for conversation.

"Then you are from the North, I suppose," said Phil.

"Yes," replied the stranger, "from the State of New York, but I am traveling now, as you see. My name is Middleton, George Middleton."

He paused, meditatively blew a whiff of smoke from the little Spanish cigarrito, and added:

"I'm not for long in New Orleans. I'm thinking of a journey in the West."

"Nobody goes there unless he has a very good reason for going. Iss it not so? No harm iss done where none iss meant," said Arenberg, in a tone half of apology and half of inquiry.

Middleton laughed and took another puff at his cigarrito.

"Certainly no harm has been done," he replied. "You are right, also, in saying that no one goes into the West unless he has an excellent reason. I have such a reason. I want to look for something there."

Phil and the German exchanged glances. They, too, wished to look for something there. So! Here was a third man seeking to embark upon the great journey. But it was no business of theirs what he sought, however curious they might feel about it. Phil took another look at Middleton. Surely his was a good face, a face to inspire trust and courage.

"We wish to go across Texas and New Mexico, also," he said, "but we've been delaying until we could form a party."

"You've two at least," said Middleton, "and you now have the chance to make it three. Why not do so?"

"We will," said Arenberg. "It iss a case where three are company, and two are not so much. Our firm is now Middleton, Bedford, Arenberg & Co."

"Do not put me first," said Middleton. "We must all be on exactly the same plane. But I hope, friends, that you trust me as much as I trust you. I think I know truth and honesty when I see them."

"We do!" said Phil and Arenberg together and emphatically.

The three shook hands, and that single act bound them into a solemn compact to stand by one another through all things. They did not waste words. Then the three went into the town, walking about among the inns and on the levee to hear the gossip of New Orleans, and to learn what chance there was of a large party going into the West. On the way Middleton told them of some things that he had learned. He was not sure, but a large wagon train might start soon for Santa Fé, in the far Mexican land of New Mexico. It was to be a trading expedition, carrying much cloth, metal goods, and other articles of value to this, the greatest of Mexico's outlying posts.

"It will be a numerous train," said Middleton, "perhaps too numerous, as it may arouse the suspicion of the Mexicans. The relations of the States and Mexico are none too good. There is trouble over Texas, and who can tell what will happen a thousand miles in the depths of the wilderness?"

"Nobody," said Arenberg. "Who should know better than I?"

He spoke with such sudden emphasis that Middleton opened his mouth as if he would ask a question, but changed his mind and was silent.

"Then it is your opinion, Mr. Middleton," said Phil, "that we should join this train?"

"If nothing better offers. All such expeditions are loosely organized. If we should wish to leave it we can do so."

"It iss well to keep it in mind," said Arenberg. "No harm can be done where none iss meant."

They entered a large inn kept by a Frenchman. Many men were sitting about drinking or smoking. Middleton ordered lemonade for the three, and they sat at a small table in the corner, observing the life of the place. Phil's attention was presently attracted to another small table near them, at which a single man sat. His gaze would not have lingered there, had it not been for this man's peculiar appearance. His age might have been thirty-five, more or less, and his figure was powerful. His face was burned almost black by a sun that could not have been anything but ardent, but his features and his blue eyes showed him to be American of a fair race. His clothes were poor, and he looked depressed. Yet the stranger was not without a certain distinction, an air as of one who did not belong there in an inn. Something in the blue eyes told of wild freedom and great spaces. He interested Phil more than anybody else in the room. He felt that here was another man whom he could like.

The talk about them drifted quite naturally upon the subject of the West, what Texas was going to do, what Mexico was going to do, the great trail toward the Pacific, and the prospect of trouble between the United States and Mexico. The shabby man raised his head and showed interest. His eyes began to glow. He was not more than three feet away, and Phil, prompted by a sort of instinct, spoke to him.

"It seems that all eyes turn toward the West now," he said.

"Yes," replied the stranger, "and they're right. It's out there that the great things lie."

He moved his hand with a slight but significant gesture toward the setting sun.

"I've been there once," he said, "and I want to go back."

"A man takes his life in his hands when he travels that way," said Phil.

"I know," replied the stranger, "but I'm willing to risk it. I must go back there. I want to look for something, something very particular."

Phil started. Here was a fourth who sought some darling wish of his heart in that far mysterious West. He felt a strange influence. It seemed to him a sign, or rather a command that must be obeyed. He glanced at Middleton and Arenberg, who had been listening, and, understanding him perfectly, they nodded.

"We three are going into the West, also, on errands of our own," said Phil. "Why not join us? Three are good, but four are better."

"It iss a fair proposition," added Arenberg. "No harm iss done where none iss meant."

"We make the offer," said Middleton, "because on such a journey one needs friends. If you do not think you can trust us, as our acquaintance is so short, say so."

The man examined them keenly, one by one. Phil, looking with equal keenness at him, saw that, despite shabbiness of dress and despondency of manner, he was not a common man. In truth, as he looked, the depression seemed to be passing away. The stranger raised his head, threw back his shoulders, and the blue eyes began to glow.

"You look all right to me," he said. "A man has got to make friends, and if you trust me I don't see why I can't trust you. Besides, I'm terribly anxious to go back out there, and my reason is mighty good."

"Then shall we consider it a bargain?" said Middleton.

"You may count me one of the band as long as you will have me," said the stranger with hearty emphasis, "and I suppose I oughtn't to come in as an unknown. My name is Breakstone, William Breakstone, though I am always called Bill Breakstone by those who know me. Bill Breakstone seems to run off smoother."

He smiled in the most ingratiating manner. The sudden acquisition of friends seemed to have clothed him about with sunlight. All the others felt that they had made no mistake.

"I'm a rover," said Bill Breakstone in round, cheerful tones. "I've been roaming all my life, though I'm bound to say it hasn't been to much purpose. As you see me now, I haven't got nearly enough to buy either a rifle or a horse for this big trip on which you're asking me to go, and on which I'm wanting to go terrible bad."

"Never mind, Mr. Breakstone--" began Middleton, but he was interrupted.

"I'm Breakstone or Bill to those that feed with me," said the new man, "and I'm Mr. Breakstone to those that don't like me or suspect me."

"All right," said Middleton with a laugh, "it's Breakstone for the present. By and by we may call you Bill. I was going to tell you, Breakstone, that we four go in together. We furnish you what you need, and later on you pay us back if you can. It's the usual thing in the West."

"You're right, my lord," said Bill Breakstone, "and I accept. It gives me pleasure to be enrolled in your most gallant company, and, by my troth, I will serve you right well."

Middleton looked at him in amazement, and Bill Breakstone broke into a mellow, infectious laugh.

"I don't talk that way all the time," he said. "It merely bursts out in spots. You may not believe it, when you look at me, but I studied for the stage once, and I've been an actor. Now and then the old scraps come to the end of my tongue. All's well that end's well, and may that be the fate of our expedition."

"Come," said Middleton, after telling his own name and that of his friends to Breakstone, "we'll go to our quarters and make a place for you. Phil and Arenberg are in a room together, and you shall share mine."

"Lead on!" said Bill Breakstone.

The four left the inn. Bill Breakstone was as poor as he described himself to be. He owned only the worn suit of clothes in which he stood, a pistol, and a pair of saddle bags, seeming to contain some linen, of which he took good care.

"Prithee, young sir," he said to Phil, "I would fain guard well the little that I have, because if I lose the little that I have, then what I have shall be nothing. Do I argue well, Sir Ivanhoe?"

"It's conclusive," said Phil. He took greatly to this man who had become in an hour the life of their little band, a constant source of cheerful patter that invigorated them all. Middleton bought him a new suit of clothes, gave him some money, which he promised earnestly to return a hundredfold, and then they went forth to inquire further into the matter of the trading expedition for Santa Fé. But their attention was diverted by the arrival of a large steamboat that had come all the way from Pittsburgh loaded with passengers. A particular group among the arrivals soon became the center of their interest.

The members of the group were Mexicans, and they were evidently people of distinction, or, at least, position. The first among them was middle-aged, fat, and yellow, and dressed in garments much brighter in color than Americans wear. Indeed, as a wind somewhat chill swept over the river, he threw around his shoulders a red serape with a magnificent border of gold fringe. But a young man who walked by his side made no acknowledgment to the wind. It was he whom Phil watched most. Some people inspire us at once with hostility, and Phil had this feeling about the stranger, who bore himself in a manner that had more than a tinge of sneering arrogance.

The young man was obviously of the Spanish race, although his blood might run back to Northern Spain, as he was tall and very strongly built, and his complexion inclined to fairness, but Phil believed him to be of Mexican birth, as he showed the shade of change that the New World always made in the old. He wore the uniform of a captain in the Mexican army. Mexican uniforms were not popular in the States, but he bore himself as if he preferred the hostility of the crowd to its friendship. His insolent gaze met Phil's for an instant, and the boy gave it back with interest. For a few moments these two who had never met before, who did not know the names of each other, and who might never meet again, stared with immediate hostility. Eye plumbed the depths of eye, but it was the Mexican who looked away first, although he let his lips curl slightly into a gesture with which he meant to convey contempt.

Middleton had observed this silent drama of a few moments, and he said quietly:

"You do not know, Philip, who these men are?"

"No," replied the boy, "but I should like to know."

"The stout, elderly man is Don August Xavier Hernando Zucorra y Palite, who is at the head of a special Mexican embassy that has been at Washington to treat with our government about the boundary of Texas--you know there has been trouble between the States and Mexico over the Texan boundary--and the younger is Pedro de Armijo, his nephew, and the nephew, also, of Armijo, the governor of New Mexico, where we are planning to go."

"I fancied from his manner," said Bill Breakstone, "that young Armijo was the President of Old Mexico and New Mexico both. I have called you Sir Knight, and My Lord Phil, but our young Mexican is both His Grace and His Royal Highness. By my halidome, we are indeed proud and far above that vile herd, the populace."

"Well, he will not bother us," said Arenberg. "If you run after trouble you will find it coming to meet you."

Middleton watched the Mexicans with uncommon interest until they passed out of sight. Arenberg, a shrewd and penetrating man himself, said:

"You are interested in them, Mr. Middleton?"

"I am," replied Middleton frankly, "and I know, too, that the errand of Zucorra to Washington has been a failure. The relations of the United States and Mexico are no better."

"But that won't keep us from going across to the Pacific, will it, Cap?" said Bill Breakstone briskly. "You don't mind if I call you Cap, do you, Mr. Middleton? You are, in a way, our leader, because you are most fit, and the title seems to suit you."

"Call me Cap if you wish," replied Middleton, "but we are all on equal terms. Now, as we have seen the Mexicans, and, as there is nothing more here to attract us, we might go on up the levee."

"Prithee, we will suit the deed to the word," said Bill Breakstone, "but do not run into that drunken Indian there, Phil. I would not have thy garments soiled by contact with this degraded specimen of a race once proud and noble."

Phil turned a little to one side to avoid the Indian of whom Breakstone spoke. The levee was littered with freight, and the red man huddled against a hogshead of tobacco from far Kentucky. His dress was partly savage and partly civilized, and he was sodden with dirt and drink. But, as Breakstone spoke, he raised his head and flashed him a look from fiery, glowing eyes. Then his head sank back, but the single glance made Breakstone shiver.

"I felt as if I had received a bullet," he said. "Now what did the noble savage mean by giving me such a look? He must have understood what I said. Ah, well, it mattereth not. He looked like a Comanche. It has been wisely said, let the cobbler stick to his last, and there is no last in New Orleans for Mr. Cobbler Comanche."

"You didn't suppose he understood you," said Arenberg, "and no harm iss done where none iss meant."

Phil looked back at the Comanche, but there was nothing heroic about him. He was huddled lower than ever against the tobacco hogshead. Certainly there was no suggestion of the dauntless warrior, of the wild horseman. Phil felt a curious little thrill of disappointment.

He looked in the same place the next day for the Comanche, but he did not see him, and then, in the excitement of great preparations, he forgot the Indian. The New Mexico expedition was about to become a fact, and the little band of four were promptly received as members. On all such perilous trips strong and well-armed men were welcome.

The outfit would embrace about sixty wagons and two hundred men, and the goods they carried would be of great value. Phil and his comrades paid for the right to put their extra supplies in one of the wagons, and then they equipped themselves with great care. They bought four good horses, four fine rifles, made by the famous Dickson, of Louisville, four double-barreled pistols of long range, knives and hatchets, a large quantity of ammunition, an extra suit apiece of stout deerskin, four small pocket compasses, and many other things which seem trifles in a town, but which are important in the wilderness.

It took them but a few days to make their purchases, but it was at least three weeks before the train started. The Mexicans, meanwhile, had stayed about a week at the chief hotel, and then had left on a steamer for their own country. Phil heard that there had been much talk about the high-handed manner of young Armijo, and that he had been extremely disagreeable to all about him. The older man, Zucorra, who was milder and more diplomatic, had sought to restrain him, but with no success. It was a relief when they were gone.

The boy, still curious about the Comanche, looked for him once more on the levee. More hogsheads of tobacco and sugar were there, but the Indian was not leaning against any of them. At last he found him in one of the inns or taverns frequented by sailors and roustabouts, a rough place at any time, and crowded then with men from the ships and boats. The Indian was sitting in a corner, huddled down in a chair, in much the same attitude of sloth and indifference that he had shown when leaning against the hogshead. Phil saw that when he stood up he would be a tall man, and his figure, if it were not flabby, would be powerful.

Phil was intensely interested. The Indian had always appealed to his romantic imagination, and, now that he saw one of the race close at hand, he wished to learn more. He sat down near the man, and, not knowing what else to say, remarked that it was a fine day. The Comanche raised his head a little, and bent upon Phil a look like that he had given to Breakstone. It was a piercing glance, full of anger and hatred. Then the glowing eyes were veiled, and his head dropped back on his arms. He did not utter a word in reply.

The innkeeper, who had noticed the brief incident, laughed.

"Don't you try to get up a conversation with Black Panther, my boy," he said. "He ain't what you would call a pow'ful talker."

"No, I suppose he wouldn't talk anybody to death," said Phil. "What is he?"

"He's a tame Comanche, an' he's been loafing around New Orleans for two or three months--learnin' the white man's vices, 'specially the drinkin' of fire water, which he keeps first on the list. You can see what it's done for him--taken all the pith right out of him, same as you would take it out of a length of elder to make a pop gun. I reckon New Orleans ain't no place for an Indian. Hello, what's the matter with Black Panther?"

The Indian uttered a short, savage exclamation that startled every one in the place, and sprang to his feet. His long coal black hair was thrown back from his face, and he seemed to be alive in every fiber. The eyes were like two points of fire.

"Black Panther was a great warrior and a chief," he said. "He has been a dog in the white man's town, and he has burned his brain with fire water until it is like that of a little child. But he will be a great warrior and a chief again. Now, I go."

He gathered a tattered old blanket around his shoulders, and, holding himself erect, stalked in savage dignity out of the place.

"Now, what in thunder did he mean?" exclaimed the astonished innkeeper.

"I think he meant just what he said," replied Phil. "He is going away from New Orleans. He certainly looked it."

So far as he knew, the assertion was true, because, as long as he remained in the city, he neither saw nor heard anything further of the Comanche. But the time for his own departure was soon at hand, and in the excitement of it he forgot all about the Comanche.