Part 3 out of 5
the Mexican, and a girl begins at a very early age to make the
tortilla. It is the most graceful thing to see a pretty Mexican
toss the wafer-like disc over her bare arm, and pat it out until
This was their supper; for, like nearly all people in the
tropics, they ate only twice a day. Their fare was varied
sometimes by a little carni seca, pounded up and stewed with
chile verde or chile colorado.
Now if you could hear the soft, exquisite, affectionate drawl
with which the Mexican woman says chile verde you could perhaps
come to realize what an important part the delicious green pepper
plays in the cookery of these countries. They do not use it in
its raw state, but generally roast it whole, stripping off the
thin skin and throwing away the seeds, leaving only the pulp,
which acquires a fine flavor by having been roasted or toasted
over the hot coals.
The women were scrupulously clean and modest, and always wore,
when in their casa, a low-necked and short-sleeved white linen
camisa, fitting neatly, with bands around neck and arms. Over
this they wore a calico skirt; always white stockings and black
slippers. When they ventured out, the younger women put on
muslin gowns, and carried parasols. The older women wore a linen
towel thrown over their heads, or, in cool weather, the black
riboso. I often cried: "Oh! if I could only dress as the Mexicans
do! Their necks and arms do look so cool and clean."
I have always been sorry I did not adopt their fashion of house
apparel. Instead of that, I yielded to the prejudices of my
conservative partner, and sweltered during the day in high-necked
and long-sleeved white dresses, kept up the table in American
fashion, ate American food in so far as we could get it, and all
at the expense of strength; for our soldier cooks, who were
loaned us by Captain Ernest from his company at Fort Yuma, were
constantly being changed, and I was often left with the Indian
and the indolent Patrocina. At those times, how I wished I had no
silver, no table linen, no china, and could revert to the
primitive customs of my neighbors!
There was no market, but occasionally a Mexican killed a steer,
and we bought enough for one meal; but having no ice, and no
place away from the terrific heat, the meat was hung out under
the ramada with a piece of netting over it, until the first heat
had passed out of it, and then it was cooked.
The Mexican, after selling what meat he could, cut the rest into
thin strips and hung it up on ropes to dry in the sun. It dried
hard and brittle, in its natural state, so pure is the air on
that wonderful river bank. They called this carni seca, and the
Americans called it "jerked beef."
Patrocina often prepared me a dish of this, when I was unable to
taste the fresh meat. She would pound it fine with a heavy
pestle, and then put it to simmer, seasoning it with the green or
red pepper. It was most savory. There was no butter at all during
the hot months, but our hens laid a few eggs, and the
Quartermaster was allowed to keep a small lot of commissary
stores, from which we drew our supplies of flour, ham, and canned
things. We were often without milk for weeks at a time, for the
cows crossed the river to graze, and sometimes could not get back
until the river fell again, and they could pick their way back
across the shifting sand bars.
The Indian brought the water every morning in buckets from the
river. It looked like melted chocolate. He filled the barrels,
and when it had settled clear, the ollas were filled, and thus
the drinking water was a trifle cooler than the air. One day it
seemed unusually cool, so I said: "Let us see by the thermometer
how cool the water really is." We found the temperature of the
water to be 86 degrees; but that, with the air at 122 in the
shade, seemed quite refreshing to drink.
I did not see any white people at all except Fisher, Abe Frank
(the mail contractor), and one or two of the younger merchants.
If I wanted anything, I went to Fisher. He always could solve the
difficulty. He procured for me an excellent middle-aged
laundress, who came and brought the linen herself, and, bowing to
the floor, said always, "Buenos dias, Senorita!" dwelling on the
latter word, as a gentle compliment to a younger woman, and then,
"Mucho calor este dia," in her low, drawling voice.
Like the others, she was spotlessly clean, modest and gentle. I
asked her what on earth they did about bathing, for I had found
the tub baths with the muddy water so disagreeable. She told me
the women bathed in the river at daybreak, and asked me if I
would like to go with them.
I was only too glad to avail myself of her invitation, and so,
like Pharoah's daughter of old, I went with my gentle handmaiden
every morning to the river bank, and, wading in about knee-deep
in the thick red waters, we sat down and let the swift current
flow by us. We dared not go deeper; we could feel the round
stones grinding against each other as they were carried down, and
we were all afraid. It was difficult to keep one's foothold, and
Capt. Mellon's words were ever ringing in my ears, "He who
disappears below the surface of the Colorado is never seen
again." But we joined hands and ventured like children and played
like children in these red waters and after all, it was much
nicer than a tub of muddy water indoors.
A clump of low mesquite trees at the top of the bank afforded
sufficient protection at that hour; we rubbed dry, slipped on a
loose gown, and wended our way home. What a contrast to the
limpid, bracing salt waters of my own beloved shores!
When I thought of them, I was seized with a longing which
consumed me and made my heart sick; and I thought of these poor
people, who had never known anything in their lives but those
desert places, and that muddy red water, and wondered what they
would do, how they would act, if transported into some beautiful
forest, or to the cool bright shores where clear blue waters
invite to a plunge.
Whenever the river-boat came up, we were sure to have guests, for
many officers went into the Territory via Ehrenberg. Sometimes
the "transportation" was awaiting them; at other times, they were
obliged to wait at Ehrenberg until it arrived. They usually lived
on the boat, as we had no extra rooms, but I generally asked them
to luncheon or supper (for anything that could be called a dinner
was out of the question) .
This caused me some anxiety, as there was nothing to be had; but
I remembered the hospitality I had received, and thought of what
they had been obliged to eat on the voyage, and I always asked
them to share what we could provide, however simple it might be.
At such times we heard all the news from Washington and the
States, and all about the fashions, and they, in their turn,
asked me all sorts of questions about Ehrenberg and how I managed
to endure the life. They were always astonished when the Cocopah
Indian waited on them at table, for he wore nothing but his
gee-string, and although it was an every-day matter to us, it
rather took their breath away.
But "Charley" appealed to my aesthetic sense in every way. Tall,
and well-made, with clean-cut limbs and features, fine smooth
copper-colored skin, handsome face, heavy black hair done up in
pompadour fashion and plastered with Colorado mud, which was
baked white by the sun, a small feather at the crown of his head,
wide turquoise bead bracelets upon his upper arm, and a knife at
his waist--this was my Charley, my half-tame Cocopah, my man
about the place, my butler in fact, for Charley understood how to
open a bottle of Cocomonga gracefully, and to keep the glasses
Charley also wheeled the baby out along the river banks, for we
had had a fine "perambulator" sent down from San Francisco. It
was an incongruous sight, to be sure, and one must laugh to think
of it. The Ehrenberg babies did not have carriages, and the
village flocked to see it. There sat the fair-haired,
six-months-old boy, with but one linen garment on, no cap, no
stockings--and this wild man of the desert, his knife gleaming at
his waist, and his gee-string floating out behind, wheeling and
pushing the carriage along the sandy roads.
But this came to an end; for one day Fisher rushed in,
breathless, and said: "Well! here is your baby! I was just in
time, for that Injun of yours left the carriage in the middle of
the street, to look in at the store window, and a herd of wild
cattle came tearing down! I grabbed the carriage to the sidewalk,
cussed the Injun out, and here's the child! It's no use," he
added, "you can't trust those Injuns out of sight."
The heat was terrific. Our cots were placed in the open part of
the corral (as our courtyard was always called). It was a
desolate-looking place; on one side, the high adobe wall; on
another, the freight-house; and on the other two, our apartments.
Our kitchen and the two other rooms were now completed. The
kitchen had no windows, only open spaces to admit the air and
light, and we were often startled in the night by the noise of
thieves in the house, rummaging for food.
At such times, our soldier-cook would rush into the corral with
his rifle, the Lieutenant would jump up and seize his shotgun,
which always stood near by, and together they would roam through
the house. But the thieving Indians could jump out of the
windows as easily as they jumped in, and the excitement would
soon be over. The violent sand-storms which prevail in those
deserts, sometimes came up in the night, without warning; then we
rushed half suffocated and blinded into the house, and as soon as
we had closed the windows it had passed on, leaving a deep layer
of sand on everything in the room, and on our perspiring bodies.
Then came the work, next day, for the Indian had to carry
everything out of doors; and one storm was so bad that he had to
use a shovel to remove the sand from the floors. The desert
literally blew into the house.
And now we saw a singular phenomenon. In the late afternoon of
each day, a hot steam would collect over the face of the river,
then slowly rise, and floating over the length and breadth of
this wretched hamlet of Ehrenberg, descend upon and envelop us.
Thus we wilted and perspired, and had one part of the vapor bath
without its bracing concomitant of the cool shower. In a half
hour it was gone, but always left me prostrate; then Jack gave me
milk punch, if milk was at hand, or sherry and egg, or something
to bring me up to normal again. We got to dread the steam so; it
was the climax of the long hot day and was peculiar to that part
of the river. The paraphernalia by the side of our cots at night
consisted of a pitcher of cold tea, a lantern, matches, a
revolver, and a shotgun. Enormous yellow cats, which lived in and
around the freight-house, darted to and fro inside and outside
the house, along the ceiling-beams, emitting loud cries, and that
alone was enough to prevent sleep. In the old part of the house,
some of the partitions did not run up to the roof, but were left
open (for ventilation, I suppose), thus making a fine play-ground
for cats and rats, which darted along, squeaking, meowing and
clattering all the night through. An uncanny feeling of
insecurity was ever with me. What with the accumulated effect of
the day's heat, what with the thieving Indians, the sand-storms
and the cats, our nights by no means gave us the refreshment
needed by our worn-out systems. By the latter part of the summer,
I was so exhausted by the heat and the various difficulties of
living, that I had become a mere shadow of my former self.
Men and children seem to thrive in those climates, but it is
death to women, as I had often heard.
It was in the late summer that the boat arrived one day bringing
a large number of staff officers and their wives, head clerks,
and "general service" men for Fort Whipple. They had all been
stationed in Washington for a number of years, having had what is
known in the army as "gilt-edged" details. I threw a linen towel
over my head, and went to the boat to call on them, and,
remembering my voyage from San Francisco the year before,
prepared to sympathize with them. But they had met their fate
with resignation; knowing they should find a good climate and a
pleasant post up in the mountains, and as they had no young
children with them, they were disposed to make merry over their
We asked them to come to our quarters for supper, and to come
early, as any place was cooler than the boat, lying down there in
the melting sun, and nothing to look upon but those hot
zinc-covered decks or the ragged river banks, with their
uninviting huts scattered along the edge.
The surroundings somehow did not fit these people. Now Mrs.
Montgomery at Camp Apache seemed to have adapted herself to the
rude setting of a log cabin in the mountains, but these were
Staff people and they had enjoyed for years the civilized side of
army life; now they were determined to rough it, but they did not
know how to begin.
The beautiful wife of the Adjutant-General was mourning over some
freckles which had come to adorn her dazzling complexion, and she
had put on a large hat with a veil. Was there ever anything so
incongruous as a hat and veil in Ehrenberg! For a long time I had
not seen a woman in a hat; the Mexicans all wore a linen towel
over their heads.
But her beauty was startling, and, after all, I thought, a woman
so handsome must try to live up to her reputation. Now for some
weeks Jack had been investigating the sulphur well, which was
beneath the old pump in our corral. He had had a long wooden
bath-tub built, and I watched it with a lazy interest, and
observed his glee as he found a longshoreman or roustabout who
could caulk it. The shape was exactly like a coffin (but men have
no imaginations), and when I told him how it made me feel to look
at it, he said: "Oh! you are always thinking of gloomy things.
It's a fine tub, and we are mighty lucky to find that man to
caulk it. I'm going to set it up in the little square room, and
lead the sulphur water into it, and it will be splendid, and just
think," he added, "what it will do for rheumatism!"
Now Jack had served in the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteers
during the Civil War, and the swamps of the Chickahominy had
brought him into close acquaintance with that dread disease.
As for myself, rheumatism was about the only ailment I did not
have at that time, and I suppose I did not really sympathize with
him. But this energetic and indomitable man mended the pump, with
Fisher's help, and led the water into the house, laid a floor,
set up the tub in the little square room, and behold, our sulphur
After much persuasion, I tried the bath. The water flowed thick
and inky black into the tub; of course the odor was beyond
description, and the effect upon me was not such that I was ever
willing to try it again. Jack beamed. "How do you like it,
Martha?" said he. "Isn't it fine? Why people travel hundreds of
miles to get a bath like that!"
I had my own opinion, but I did not wish to dampen his
enthusiasm. Still, in order to protect myself in the future, I
had to tell him I thought I should ordinarily prefer the river.
"Well," he said, "there are those who will be thankful to have a
bath in that water; I am going to use it every day."
I remonstrated: "How do you know what is in that inky water--and
how do you dare to use it ?"
"Oh, Fisher says it's all right; people here used to drink it
years ago, but they have not done so lately, because the pump was
The Washington people seemed glad to pay us the visit. Jack's
eyes danced with true generosity and glee. He marked his victim;
and, selecting the Staff beauty and the Paymaster's wife, he
expatiated on the wonderful properties of his sulphur bath.
"Why, yes, the sooner the better," said Mrs. Martin. "I'd give
everything I have in this world, and all my chances for the next,
to get a tub bath!"
"It will be so refreshing just before supper," said Mrs.
Maynadier, who was more conservative.
So the Indian, who had put on his dark blue waist-band (or sash),
made from flannel, revelled out and twisted into strands of yarn,
and which showed the supple muscles of his clean-cut thighs, and
who had done up an extra high pompadour in white clay, and
burnished his knife, which gleamed at his waist, ushered these
Washington women into a small apartment adjoining the bath-room,
and turned on the inky stream into the sarcophagus.
The Staff beauty looked at the black pool, and shuddered. "Do you
use it?" said she.
"Occasionally," I equivocated.
"Does it hurt the complexion?" she ventured.
"Jack thinks it excellent for that," I replied.
And then I left them, directing Charley to wait, and prepare the
bath for the second victim.
By and by the beauty came out. "Where is your mirror ?" cried she
(for our appointments were primitive, and mirrors did not grow on
bushes at Ehrenberg); "I fancy I look queer," she added, and, in
truth, she did; for our water of the Styx did not seem to
affiliate with the chemical properties of the numerous cosmetics
used by her, more or less, all her life, but especially on the
voyage, and her face had taken on a queer color, with peculiar
spots here and there.
Fortunately my mirrors were neither large nor true, and she never
really saw how she looked, but when she came back into the
living-room, she laughed and said to Jack: "What kind of water
did you say that was? I never saw any just like it."
"Oh! you have probably never been much to the sulphur springs,"
said he, with his most superior and crushing manner.
"Perhaps not," she replied, "but I thought I knew something about
it; why, my entire body turned such a queer color."
"Oh! it always does that," said this optimistic soldier man, "and
that shows it is doing good."
The Paymaster's wife joined us later. I think she had profited by
the beauty's experience, for she said but little.
The Quartermaster was happy; and what if his wife did not believe
in that uncanny stream which flowed somewhere from out the
infernal regions, underlying that wretched hamlet, he had
succeeded in being a benefactor to two travellers at least!
We had a merry supper: cold ham, chicken, and fresh biscuit, a
plenty of good Cocomonga wine, sweet milk, which to be sure
turned to curds as it stood on the table, some sort of preserves
from a tin, and good coffee. I gave them the best to be had in
the desert--and at all events it was a change from the Chinaman's
salt beef and peach pies, and they saw fresh table linen and
shining silver, and accepted our simple hospitality in the spirit
in which we gave it.
Alice Martin was much amused over Charley; and Charley could do
nothing but gaze on her lovely features. "Why on earth don't you
put some clothes on him?" laughed she, in her delightful way.
I explained to her that the Indian's fashion of wearing white
men's clothes was not pleasing to the eye, and told her that she
must cultivate her aesthetic sense, and in a short time she would
be able to admire these copper-colored creatures of Nature as
much as I did.
But I fear that a life spent mostly in a large city had cast
fetters around her imagination, and that the life at Fort Whipple
afterwards savored too much of civilization to loosen the bonds
of her soul. I saw her many times again, but she never recovered
from her amazement at Charley's lack of apparel, and she never
forgot the sulphur bath.
One day, in the early autumn, as the "Gila" touched at Ehrenberg,
on her way down river, Captain Mellon called Jack on to the boat,
and, pointing to a young woman, who was about to go ashore, said:
"Now, there's a girl I think will do for your wife. She imagines
she has bronchial troubles, and some doctor has ordered her to
Tucson. She comes from up North somewhere. Her money has given
out, and she thinks I am going to leave her here. Of course, you
know I would not do that; I can take her on down to Yuma, but I
thought your wife might like to have her, so I've told her she
could not travel on this boat any farther without she could pay
her fare. Speak to her: she looks to me like a nice sort of a
In the meantime, the young woman had gone ashore and was sitting
upon her trunk, gazing hopelessly about. Jack approached,
offered her a home and good wages, and brought her to me.
I could have hugged her for very joy, but I restrained myself and
advised her to stay with us for awhile, saying the Ehrenberg
climate was quite as good as that of Tucson.
She remarked quietly: "You do not look as if it agreed with you
very well, ma'am.''
Then I told her of my young child, and my hard journeys, and she
decided to stay until she could earn enough to reach Tucson.
And so Ellen became a member of our Ehrenberg family. She was a
fine, strong girl, and a very good cook, and seemed to be in
perfect health. She said, however, that she had had an obstinate
cough which nothing would reach, and that was why she came to
Arizona. >From that time, things went more smoothly. Some yeast
was procured from the Mexican bakeshop, and Ellen baked bread and
other things, which seemed like the greatest luxuries to us. We
sent the soldier back to his company at Fort Yuma, and began to
live with a degree of comfort.
I looked at Ellen as my deliverer, and regarded her coming as a
special providence, the kind I had heard about all my life in New
England, but had never much believed in.
After a few weeks, Ellen was one evening seized with a dreadful
toothache, which grew so severe that she declared she could not
endure it another hour: she must have the tooth out. "Was there a
dentist in the place?"
I looked at Jack: he looked at me: Ellen groaned with pain.
"Why, yes! of course there is," said this man for emergencies;
"Fisher takes out teeth, he told me so the other day."
Now I did not believe that Fisher knew any more about extracting
teeth than I did myself, but I breathed a prayer to the Recording
Angel, and said naught.
"I'll go get Fisher," said Jack.
Now Fisher was the steamboat agent. He stood six feet in his
stockings, had a powerful physique and a determined eye. Men in
those countries had to be determined; for if they once lost
their nerve, Heaven save them. Fisher had handsome black eyes.
When they came in, I said: "Can you attend to this business, Mr.
"I think so," he replied, quietly. "The Quartermaster says he has
I gasped. Jack, who had left the room, now appeared, a box of
instruments in his hand, his eyes shining with joy and triumph.
Fisher took the box, and scanned it. "I guess they'll do," said
So we placed Ellen in a chair, a stiff barrack chair, with a
raw-hide seat, and no arms.
It was evening.
"Mattie, you must hold the candle," said Jack. "I'll hold Ellen,
and, Fisher, you pull the tooth."
So I lighted the candle, and held it, while Ellen tried, by its
flickering light, to show Fisher the tooth that ached.
Fisher looked again at the box of instruments. "Why," said he,
"these are lower jaw rollers, the kind used a hundred years ago;
and her tooth is an upper jaw."
"Never mind," answered the Lieutenant, "the instruments are all
right. Fisher, you can get the tooth out, that's all you want,
The Lieutenant was impatient; and besides he did not wish any
slur cast upon his precious instruments.
So Fisher took up the forceps, and clattered around amongst
Ellen's sound white teeth. His hand shook, great beads of
perspiration gathered on his face, and I perceived a very strong
odor of Cocomonga wine. He had evidently braced for the occasion.
It was, however, too late to protest. He fastened onto a molar,
and with the lion's strength which lay in his gigantic frame, he
wrenched it out.
Ellen put up her hand and felt the place. "My God! you've pulled
the wrong tooth!" cried she, and so he had.
I seized a jug of red wine which stood near by, and poured out a
gobletful, which she drank. The blood came freely from her mouth,
and I feared something dreadful had happened.
Fisher declared she had shown him the wrong tooth, and was
perfectly willing to try again. I could not witness the second
attempt, so I put the candle down and fled.
The stout-hearted and confiding girl allowed the second trial,
and between the steamboat agent, the Lieutenant, and the red
wine, the aching molar was finally extracted.
This was a serious and painful occurrence. It did not cause any
of us to laugh, at the time. I am sure that Ellen, at least,
never saw the comical side of it.
When it was all over, I thanked Fisher, and Jack beamed upon me
with: "You see, Mattie, my case of instruments did come in handy,
Encouraged by success, he applied for a pannier of medicines, and
the Ehrenberg citizens soon regarded him as a healer. At a
certain hour in the morning, the sick ones came to his office,
and he dispensed simple drugs to them and was enabled to do much
good. He seemed to have a sort of intuitive knowledge about
medicines and performed some miraculous cures, but acquired
little or no facility in the use of the language.
I was often called in as interpreter, and with the help of the
sign language, and the little I knew of Spanish, we managed to
get an idea of the ailments of these poor people.
And so our life flowed on in that desolate spot, by the banks of
the Great Colorado.
I rarely went outside the enclosure, except for my bath in the
river at daylight, or for some urgent matter. The one street
along the river was hot and sandy and neglected. One had not only
to wade through the sand, but to step over the dried heads or
horns or bones of animals left there to whiten where they died,
or thrown out, possibly, when some one killed a sheep or beef.
Nothing decayed there, but dried and baked hard in that
wonderful air and sun.
Then, the groups of Indians, squaws and halfbreeds loafing around
the village and the store! One never felt sure what one was to
meet, and although by this time I tolerated about everything that
I had been taught to think wicked or immoral, still, in
Ehrenberg, the limit was reached, in the sights I saw on the
village streets, too bold and too rude to be described in these
The few white men there led respectable lives enough for that
country. The standard was not high, and when I thought of the
dreary years they had already spent there without their families,
and the years they must look forward to remaining there, I was
willing to reserve my judgement.
WINTER IN EHRENBERG
We asked my sister, Mrs. Penniman, to come out and spend the
winter with us, and to bring her son, who was in most delicate
health. It was said that the climate of Ehrenberg would have a
magical effect upon all diseases of the lungs or throat. So, to
save her boy, my sister made the long and arduous trip out from
New England, arriving in Ehrenberg in October.
What a joy to see her, and to initiate her into the ways of our
life in Arizona! Everything was new, everything was a wonder to
her and to my nephew. At first, he seemed to gain perceptibly,
and we had great hopes of his recovery.
It was now cool enough to sleep indoors, and we began to know
what it was to have a good night's rest.
But no sooner had we gotten one part of our life comfortably
arranged, before another part seemed to fall out of adjustment.
Accidents and climatic conditions kept my mind in a perpetual
state of unrest.
Our dining-room door opened through two small rooms into the
kitchen, and one day, as I sat at the table, waiting for Jack to
come in to supper, I heard a strange sort of crashing noise.
Looking towards the kitchen, through the vista of open doorways,
I saw Ellen rush to the door which led to the courtyard. She
turned a livid white, threw up her hands, and cried, "Great God!
the Captain!" She was transfixed with horror.
I flew to the door, and saw that the pump had collapsed and gone
down into the deep sulphur well. In a second, Jack's head and
hands appeared at the edge; he seemed to be caught in the debris
of rotten timber. Before I could get to him, he had scrambled
half way out. "Don't come near this place," he cried, "it's all
And so it seemed; for, as he worked himself up and out, the
entire structure feel in, and half the corral with it, as it
looked to me.
Jack escaped what might have been an unlucky bath in his sulphur
well, and we all recovered our composure as best we could.
Surely, if life was dull at Ehrenberg, it could not be called
exactly monotonous. We were not obliged to seek our excitement
outside; we had plenty of it, such as it was, within our walls.
My confidence in Ehrenberg, however, as a salubrious
dwelling-place, was being gradually and literally undermined. I
began to be distrustful of the very ground beneath my feet. Ellen
felt the same way, evidently, although we did not talk much about
it. She probably longed also for some of her own kind; and when,
one morning, we went into the dining-room for breakfast, Ellen
stood, hat on, bag in hand, at the door. Dreading to meet my
chagrin, she said: "Good-bye, Captain; good-bye, missis, you've
been very kind to me. I'm leaving on the stage for Tucson--where
I first started for, you know."
And she tripped out and climbed up into the dusty, rickety
vehicle called "the stage." I had felt so safe about Ellen, as I
did not know that any stage line ran through the place.
And now I was in a fine plight! I took a sunshade, and ran over
to Fisher's house. "Mr. Fisher, what shall I do? Ellen has gone
Fisher bethought himself, and we went out together in the
village. Not a woman to be found who would come to cook for us!
There was only one thing to do. The Quartermaster was allowed a
soldier, to assist in the Government work. I asked him if he
understood cooking; he said he had never done any, but he would
try, if I would show him how.
This proved a hopeless task, and I finally gave it up. Jack
dispatched an Indian runner to Fort Yuma, ninety miles or more
down river, begging Captain Ernest to send us a soldier-cook on
the next boat.
This was a long time to wait; the inconveniences were
intolerable: there were our four selves, Patrocina and Jesusita,
the soldier-clerk and the Indian, to be provided for: Patrocina
prepared carni seca with peppers, a little boy came around with
cuajada, a delicious sweet curd cheese, and I tried my hand at
bread, following out Ellen's instructions.
How often I said to my husband. "If we must live in this wretched
place, let's give up civilization and live as the Mexicans do!
They are the only happy beings around here.
"Look at them, as you pass along the street! At nearly any hour
in the day you can see them, sitting under their ramada, their
backs propped against the wall of their casa, calmly smoking
cigarettes and gazing at nothing, with a look of ineffable
contentment upon their features! They surely have solved the
problem of life!"
But we seemed never to be able to free ourselves from the fetters
of civilization, and so I struggled on.
One evening after dusk, I went into the kitchen, opened the
kitchen closet door to take out some dish, when clatter! bang!
down fell the bread-pan, and a shower of other tin ware, and
before I could fairly get my breath, out jumped two young squaws
and without deigning to glance at me they darted across the
kitchen and leaped out the window like two frightened fawn.
They had on nothing but their birthday clothes and as I was
somewhat startled at the sight of them, I stood transfixed, my
eyes gazing at the open space through which they had flown.
Charley, the Indian, was in the corral, filling the ollas, and,
hearing the commotion, came in and saw just the disappearing
heels of the two squaws.
I said, very sternly: "Charley, how came those squaws in my
closet?" He looked very much ashamed and said: "Oh, me tell you:
bad man go to kill 'em; I hide 'em."
"Well," said I, "do not hide any more girls in this casa! You
He bowed his head in acquiescence.
I afterwards learned that one of the girls was his sister.
The weather was now fairly comfortable, and in the evenings we
sat under the ramada, in front of the house, and watched the
beautiful pink glow which spread over the entire heavens and
illuminated the distant mountains of Lower California. I have
never seen anything like that wonderful color, which spread
itself over sky, river and desert. For an hour, one could have
believed oneself in a magician's realm.
At about this time, the sad-eyed Patrocina found it expedient to
withdraw into the green valleys of Lower California, to
recuperate for a few months. With the impish Jesusita in her
arms, she bade me a mournful good-bye. Worthless as she was from
the standpoint of civilized morals, I was attached to her and
felt sorry to part with her.
Then I took a Mexican woman from Chihuahua. Now the Chihuahuans
hold their heads high, and it was rather with awe that I greeted
the tall middle-aged Chihuahuan lady who came to be our little
son's nurse. Her name was Angela. "Angel of light," I thought,
how fortunate I am to get her!
After a few weeks, Fisher observed that the whole village was
eating Ferris ham, an unusual delicacy in Ehrenberg, and that the
Goldwaters' had sold none. So he suggested that our commissary
storehouse be looked to; and it was found that a dozen hams or so
had been withdrawn from their canvas covers, the covers stuffed
with straw, and hung back in place. Verily the Chihuahuan was
adding to her pin-money in a most unworthy fashion, and she had
to go. After that, I was left without a nurse. My little son was
now about nine months old.
Milk began to be more plentiful at this season, and, with my
sister's advice and help, I decided to make the one great change
in a baby's life i.e., to take him from his mother. Modern
methods were unknown then, and we had neither of us any
experience in these matters and there was no doctor in the
The result was, that both the baby and myself were painfully and
desperately ill and not knowing which way to turn for aid, when,
by a lucky turn of Fortune's wheel, our good, dear Doctor Henry
Lippincott came through Ehrenberg on his way out to the States.
Once more he took care of us, and it is to him that I believe I
owe my life.
Captain Ernest sent us a cook from Yuma, and soon some officers
came for the duck-shooting. There were thousands of ducks around
the various lagoons in the neighborhood, and the sport was rare.
We had all the ducks we could eat.
Then came an earthquake, which tore and rent the baked earth
apart. The ground shivered, the windows rattled, the birds fell
close to the ground and could not fly, the stove-pipes fell to
the floor, the thick walls cracked and finally, the earth rocked
to and fro like some huge thing trying to get its balance.
It was in the afternoon. My sister and I were sitting with our
needle-work in the living-room. Little Harry was on the floor,
occupied with some toys. I was paralyzed with fear; my sister did
not move. We sat gazing at each other, scarce daring to breathe,
expecting every instant the heavy walls to crumble about our
heads. The earth rocked and rocked, and rocked again, then swayed
and swayed and finally was still. My sister caught Harry in her
arms, and then Jack and Willie came breathlessly in. "Did you
feel it?" said Jack.
"Did we feel it!" said I, scornfully.
Sarah was silent, and I looked so reproachfully at Jack, that he
dropped his light tone, and said: "It was pretty awful. We were
in the Goldwaters' store, when suddenly it grew dark and the
lamps above our heads began to rattle and swing, and we all
rushed out into the middle of the street and stood, rather
dazed, for we scarcely knew what had happened; then we hurried
home. But it's all over now."
"I do not believe it," said I; "we shall have more"; and, in
fact, we did have two light shocks in the night, but no more
followed, and the next morning, we recovered, in a measure, from
our fright and went out to see the great fissures in that
treacherous crust of earth upon which Ehrenberg was built.
I grew afraid, after that, and the idea that the earth would
eventually open and engulf us all took possession of my mind.
My health, already weakened by shocks and severe strains, gave
way entirely. I, who had gloried in the most perfect health, and
had a constitution of iron, became an emaciated invalid.
>From my window, one evening at sundown, I saw a weird procession
moving slowly along towards the outskirts of the village. It must
be a funeral, thought I, and it flashed across my mind that I had
never seen the burying-ground.
A man with a rude cross led the procession. Then came some
Mexicans with violins and guitars. After the musicians, came the
body of the deceased, wrapped in a white cloth, borne on a bier
by friends, and followed by the little band of weeping women,
with black ribosos folded about their heads. They did not use
coffins at Ehrenberg, because they had none, I suppose.
The next day I asked Jack to walk to the grave-yard with me. He
postponed it from day to day, but I insisted upon going. At last,
he took me to see it.
There was no enclosure, but the bare, sloping, sandy place was
sprinkled with graves, marked by heaps of stones, and in some
instances by rude crosses of wood, some of which had been
wrenched from their upright position by the fierce sand-storms.
There was not a blade of grass, a tree, or a flower. I walked
about among these graves, and close beside some of them I saw
deep holes and whitnened bones. I was quite ignorant or
unthinking, and asked what the holes were.
"It is where the coyotes and wolves come in the nights," said
My heart sickened as I thought of these horrors, and I wondered
if Ehrenberg held anything in store for me worse than what I had
already seen. We turned away from this unhallowed grave-yard and
walked to our quarters. I had never known much about "nerves,"
but I began to see spectres in the night, and those ghastly
graves with their coyote-holes were ever before me. The place was
but a stone's throw from us, and the uneasy spirits from these
desecrated graves began to haunt me. I could not sit alone on the
porch at night, for they peered through the lattice, and mocked
at me, and beckoned. Some had no heads, some no arms, but they
pointed or nodded towards the grewsome burying-ground: "You'll be
with us soon, you'll be with us soon."
RETURN TO THE STATES
I dream of the east wind's tonic, Of the breakers' stormy roar,
And the peace of the inner harbor With the long low Shimmo
* * * *
I long for the buoy-bell's tolling When the north wind brings
from afar The smooth, green, shining billows, To be churned
into foam on the bar.
Oh! for the sea-gulls' screaming As they swoop so bold and
free! Oh! for the fragrant commons, And the glorious open
For the restful great contentment, For the joy that is never
known Till past the jetty and Brant Point Light The Islander
comes to his own!
--MARY E. STARBUCK.
"I must send you out. I see that you cannot stand it here another
month,'' said Jack one day; and so he bundled us onto the boat in
the early spring, and took us down the river to meet the ocean
There was no question about it this time, and I well knew it.
I left my sister and her son in Ehrenberg, and I never saw my
nephew again. A month later, his state of health became so
alarming that my sister took him to San Francisco. He survived
the long voyage, but died there a few weeks later at the home of
At Fort Yuma we telegraphed all over the country for a nurse, but
no money would tempt those Mexican women to face an ocean voyage.
Jack put me on board the old "Newbern" in charge of the Captain,
waited to see our vessel under way, then waved good-bye from the
deck of the "Gila," and turned his face towards his post and
duty. I met the situation as best I could, and as I have already
described a voyage on this old craft, I shall not again enter
into details. There was no stewardess on board, and all
arrangements were of the crudest description. Both my child and I
were seasick all the way, and the voyage lasted sixteen days. Our
misery was very great.
The passengers were few in number, only a couple of Mexican
miners who had been prospecting, an irritable old Mexican woman,
and a German doctor, who was agreeable but elusive.
The old Mexican woman sat on the deck all day, with her back
against the stateroom door; she was a picturesque and indolent
There was no diversion, no variety; my little boy required
constant care and watching. The days seemed endless. Everbody
bought great bunches of green bananas at the ports in Mexico,
where we stopped for passengers.
The old woman was irritable, and one day when she saw the
agreeable German doctor pulling bananas from the bunch which she
had hung in the sun to ripen, she got up muttering "Carramba,"
and shaking her fist in his face. He appeased her wrath by
offering her, in the most fluent Spanish, some from his own bunch
when they should be ripe.
Such were my surroundings on the old "Newbern." The German
doctor was interesting, and I loved to talk with him, on days
when I was not seasick, and to read the letters which he had
received from his family, who were living on their Rittergut (or
landed estates) in Prussia.
He amused me by tales of his life at a wretched little mining
village somewhere about fifty miles from Ehrenberg, and I was
always wondering how he came to have lived there.
He had the keenest sense of humor, and as I listened to the tales
of his adventures and miraculous escapes from death at the hands
of these desperate folk, I looked in his large laughing blue eyes
and tried to solve the mystery.
For that he was of noble birth and of ancient family there was no
doubt. There were the letters, there was the crest, and here was
the offshoot of the family. I made up my mind that he was a
ne'er-do-weel and a rolling stone. He was elusive, and, beyond
his adventures, told me nothing of himself. It was some time
after my arrival in San Francisco that I learned more about him.
Now, after we rounded Cape St. Lucas, we were caught in the long
heavy swell of the Pacific Ocean, and it was only at intervals
that my little boy and I could leave our stateroom. The doctor
often held him while I ran below to get something to eat, and I
can never forget his kindness; and if, as I afterward heard in
San Francisco, he really had entered the "Gate of a hundred
sorrows," it would perhaps best explain his elusiveness, his
general condition, and his sometimes dazed expression.
A gentle and kindly spirit, met by chance, known through the
propinquity of a sixteen days' voyage, and never forgotten.
Everything comes to an end, however interminable it may seem, and
at last the sharp and jagged outlines of the coast began to grow
softer and we approached the Golden Gate.
The old "Newbern," with nothing in her but ballast, rolled and
lurched along, through the bright green waters of the outer bar.
I stood leaning against the great mast, steadying myself as best
I could, and the tears rolled down my face; for I saw the
friendly green hills, and before me lay the glorious bay of San
Francisco. I had left behind me the deserts, the black rocks, the
burning sun, the snakes, the scorpions, the centipedes, the
Indians and the Ehrenberg graveyard; and so the tears flowed, and
I did not try to stop them; they were tears of joy.
The custom officers wanted to confiscate the great bundles of
Mexican cigarettes they found in my trunk, but "No," I told
them, "they were for my own use. "They raised their eyebrows,
gave me one look, and put them back into the trunk.
My beloved California relatives met us, and took care of us for a
fortnight, and when I entered a Pullman car for a nine days'
journey to my old home, it seemed like the most luxurious
comfort, although I had a fourteen-months-old child in my arms,
and no nurse. So does everything in this life go by comparison.
Arriving in Boston, my sister Harriet met me at the train, and as
she took little Harry from my arms she cried: "Where did you get
that sunbonnet? Now the baby can't wear that in Boston!"
Of course we were both thinking hard of all that had happened to
me since we parted, on the morning after my wedding, two years
before, and we were so overcome with the joy of meeting, that if
it had not been for the baby's white sunbonnet, I do not know
what kind of a scene we might have made. That saved the
situation, and after a few days of rest and necessary shopping,
we started for our old home in Nantucket. Such a welcome as the
baby and I had from my mother and father and all old friends!
But I saw sadness in their faces, and I heard it in their voices,
for no one thought I could possibly live. I felt, however, sure
it was not too late. I knew the East wind's tonic would not fail
me, its own child.
Stories of our experiences and misfortunes were eagerly listened
to, by the family, and betwixt sighs and laughter they declared
they were going to fill some boxes which should contain
everything necessary for comfort in those distant places. So one
room in our old house was set apart for this; great boxes were
brought, and day by day various articles, useful, ornamental, and
comfortable, and precious heirlooms of silver and glass, were
packed away in them. It was the year of 1876, the year of the
great Centennial, at Philadelphia. Everybody went, but it had no
attractions for me. I was happy enough, enjoying the
health-giving air and the comforts of an Eastern home. I wondered
that I had ever complained about anything there, or wished to
leave that blissful spot.
The poorest person in that place by the sea had more to be
thankful for, in my opinion, than the richest people in Arizona.
I felt as if I must cry it out from the house-tops. My heart was
thankful every minute of the day and night, for every breath of
soft air that I breathed, for every bit of fresh fish that I ate,
for fresh vegetables, and for butter--for gardens, for trees, for
flowers, for the good firm earth beneath my feet. I wrote the man
on detached service that I should never return to Ehrenberg.
After eight months, in which my health was wholly restored, I
heard the good news that Captain Corliss had applied for his
first lieutenant, and I decided to join him at once at Camp
Although I had not wholly forgotten that Camp MacDowell had been
called by very bad names during our stay at Fort Whipple, at the
time that Jack decided on the Ehrenberg detail, I determined to
brave it, in all its unattractiveness, isolation and heat, for I
knew there was a garrison and a Doctor there, and a few officers'
families, I knew supplies were to be obtained and the ordinary
comforts of a far-off post. Then too, in my summer in the East I
had discovered that I was really a soldier's wife and I must go
back to it all. To the army with its glitter and its misery, to
the post with its discomforts, to the soldiers, to the drills, to
the bugle-calls, to the monotony, to the heat of Southern
Arizona, to the uniform and the stalwart Captains and gay
Lieutenants who wore it, I felt the call and I must go.
BACK TO ARIZONA
The last nails were driven in the precious boxes, and I started
overland in November with my little son, now nearly two years
"Overland" in those days meant nine days from New York to San
Francisco. Arriving in Chicago, I found it impossible to secure a
section on the Pullman car so was obliged to content myself with
a lower berth. I did not allow myself to be disappointed.
On entering the section, I saw an enormous pair of queer cow hide
shoes, the very queerest shoes I had ever seen, lying on the
floor, with a much used travelling bag. I speculated a good deal
on the shoes, but did not see the owner of them until several
hours later, when a short thick-set German with sandy close-cut
beard entered and saluted me politely. "You are noticing my shoes
"Yes" I said, involuntarily answering him in German.
His face shone with pleasure and he explained to me that they
were made in Russia and he always wore them when travelling.
"What have we," I thought, "an anarchist?"
But with the inexperience and fearlessness of youth, I entered
into a most delightful conversation in German with him. I found
him rather an extraordinarily well educated gentleman and he said
he lived in Nevada, but had been over to Vienna to place his
little boy at a military school, "as," he said, "there is nothing
like a uniform to give a boy self-respect." He said his wife had
died several months before. I congratulated myself that the
occupant of the upper berth was at least a gentleman.
The next day, as we sat opposite each other chatting, always in
German, he paused, and fixing his eyes rather steadily upon me he
remarked: "Do you think I put on mourning when my wife died? no
indeed, I put on white kid gloves and had a fiddler and danced at
the grave. All this mourning that people have is utter nonsense."
I was amazed at the turn his conversation had taken and sat quite
still, not knowing just what to say or to do.
After awhile, he looked at me steadily, and said, very
deferentially, "Madame, the spirit of my dead wife is looking at
me from out your eyes."
By this time I realized that the man was a maniac, and I had
always heard that one must agree with crazy people, so I nodded,
and that seemed to satisfy him, and bye and bye after some
minutes which seemed like hours to me, he went off to the smoking
The tension was broken and I appealed to a very nice looking
woman who happened to be going to some place in Nevada near which
this Doctor lived, and she said, when I told her his name, "Why,
yes, I heard of him before I left home, he lives in Silver City,
and at the death of his wife, he went hopelessly insane, but,"
she added, "he is harmless, I believe."
This was a nice fix, to be sure, and I staid over in her section
all day, and late that night the Doctor arrived at the junction
where he was to take another train. So I slept in peace, after a
There is nothing like experience to teach a young woman how to
In San Francisco I learned that I could now go as far as Los
Angeles by rail, thence by steamer to San Diego, and so on by
stage to Fort Yuma, where my husband was to meet me with an
ambulance and a wagon.
I was enchanted with the idea of avoiding the long sea-trip down
the Pacific coast, but sent my boxes down by the Steamer
"Montana," sister ship of the old "Newbern," and after a few
days' rest in San Francisco, set forth by rail for Los Angeles.
At San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles, we embarked for San Diego.
It was a heavenly night. I sat on deck enjoying the calm sea, and
listening to the romantic story of Lieutenant Philip Reade, then
stationed at San Diego. He was telling the story himself, and I
had never read or heard of anything so mysterious or so tragic.
Then, too, aside from the story, Mr. Reade was a very
good-looking and chivalrous young army officer. He was returning
to his station in San Diego, and we had this pleasant opportunity
to renew what had been a very slight acquaintance.
The calm waters of the Pacific, with their long and gentle swell,
the pale light of the full moon, our steamer gliding so quietly
along, the soft air of the California coast, the absence of noisy
travellers, these made a fit setting for the story of his early
love and marriage, and the tragic mystery which surrounded the
death of his young bride.
All the romance which lived and will ever live in me was awake to
the story, and the hours passed all too quickly.
But a cry from my little boy in the near-by deck stateroom
recalled me to the realities of life and I said good-night,
having spent one of the most delightful evenings I ever remember.
Mr. Reade wears now a star on his shoulder, and well earned it
is, too. I wonder if he has forgotten how he helped to bind up my
little boy's finger which had been broken in an accident on the
train from San Francisco to Los Angeles? or how he procured a
surgeon for me on our arrival there, and got a comfortable room
for us at the hotel? or how he took us to drive (with an older
lady for a chaperon), or how he kindly cared for us until we were
safely on the boat that evening? If I had ever thought chivalry
dead, I learned then that I had been mistaken.
San Diego charmed me, as we steamed, the next morning, into its
shining bay. But as our boat was two hours late and the
stage-coach was waiting, I had to decline Mr. Reade's enchanting
offers to drive us around the beautiful place, to show me the
fine beaches, and his quarters, and all other points of interest
in this old town of Southern California.
Arizona, not San Diego, was my destination, so we took a hasty
breakfast at the hotel and boarded the stage, which, filled with
passengers, was waiting before the door.
The driver waited for no ceremonies, muttered something about
being late, cracked his whip, and away we went. I tried to stow
myself and my little boy and my belongings away comfortably, but
the road was rough and the coach swayed, and I gave it up.There
were passengers on top of the coach, and passengers inside the
coach. One woman who was totally deaf, and some miners and
blacksmiths, and a few other men, the flotsam and jetsam of the
Western countries, who come from no one knoweth whence, and who
go, no one knoweth whither, who have no trade or profession and
are sometimes even without a name.
They seemed to want to be kind to me. Harry got very stage-sick
and gave us much trouble, and they all helped me to hold him.
Night came. I do not remember that we made any stops at all; if
we did, I have forgotten them. The night on that stage-coach can
be better imagined than described. I do not know of any
adjectives that I could apply to it. Just before dawn, we stopped
to change horses and driver, and as the day began to break, we
felt ourselves going down somewhere at a terrific speed.
The great Concord coach slipped and slid and swayed on its huge
springs as we rounded the curves.
The road was narrow and appeared to be cut out of solid rock,
which seemed to be as smooth as soapstone; the four horses were
put to their speed, and down and around and away we went. I drew
in my breath as I looked out and over into the abyss on my left.
Death and destruction seemed to be the end awaiting us all.
Everybody was limp, when we reached the bottom--that is, I was
limp, and I suppose the others were. The stage-driver knew I was
frightened, because I sat still and looked white and he came and
lifted me out. He lived in a small cabin at the bottom of the
mountain; I talked with him some. "The fact is," he said, "we are
an hour late this morning; we always make it a point to 'do it'
before dawn, so the passengers can't see anything; they are
almost sure to get stampeded if we come down by daylight."
I mentioned this road afterwards in San Francisco, and learned
that it was a famous road, cut out of the side of a solid
mountain of rock; long talked of, long desired, and finally
built, at great expense, by the state and the county together;
that they always had the same man to drive over it, and that they
never did it by daylight. I did not inquire if there had ever
been any accidents. I seemed to have learned all I wanted to know
After a little rest and a breakfast at a sort of roadhouse, a
relay of horses was taken, and we travelled one more day over a
flat country, to the end of the stage-route. Jack was to meet me.
Already from the stage I had espied the post ambulance and two
blue uniforms. Out jumped Major Ernest and Jack. I remember
thinking how straight and how well they looked. I had forgotten
really how army men did look, I had been so long away.
And now we were to go to Fort Yuma and stay with the Wells' until
my boxes, which had been sent around by water on the steamer
"Montana," should arrive. I had only the usual thirty pounds
allowance of luggage with me on the stage, and it was made up
entirely of my boy's clothing, and an evening dress I had worn on
the last night of my stay in San Francisco.
Fort Yuma was delightful at this season (December), and after
four or five days spent most enjoyably, we crossed over one
morning on the old rope ferryboat to Yuma City, to inquire at the
big country store there of news from the Gulf. There was no
bridge then over the Colorado.
The merchant called Jack to one side and said something to him in
a low tone. I was sure it concerned the steamer, and I said:
"what it is?"
Then they told me that news had just been received from below,
that the "Montana" had been burned to the water's edge in Guaymas
harbor, and everything on board destroyed; the passengers had
been saved with much difficulty, as the disaster occurred in the
I had lost all the clothes I had in the world--and my precious
boxes were gone. I scarcely knew how to meet the calamity.
Jack said: "Don't mind, Mattie; I'm so thankful you and the boy
were not on board the ship; the things are nothing, no account at
"But," said I, "you do not understand. I have no clothes except
what I have on, and a party dress. Oh! what shall I do?" I
The merchant was very sympathetic and kind, and Major Wells said,
"Let's go home and tell Fanny; maybe she can suggest something."
I turned toward the counter, and bought some sewing materials,
realizing that outside of my toilet articles and my party dress
all my personal belongings were swept away. I was in a country
where there were no dressmakers, and no shops; I was, for the
time being, a pauper, as far as clothing was concerned.
When I got back to Mrs. Wells I broke down entirely; she put her
arms around me and said: "I've heard all about it; I know just
how you must feel; now come in my room, and we'll see what can be
She laid out enough clothing to last me until I could get some
things from the East, and gave me a grey and white percale dress
with a basque, and a border, and although it was all very much
too large for me, it sufficed to relieve my immediate distress.
Letters were dispatched to the East, in various directions, for
every sort and description of clothing, but it was at least two
months before any of it appeared, and I felt like an object of
charity for a long time. Then, too, I had anticipated the fitting
up of our quarters with all the pretty cretonnes and other
things I had brought from home. And now the contents of those
boxes were no more! The memory of the visit was all that was left
to me. It was very hard to bear.
Preparations for our journey to Camp MacDowell were at last
completed. The route to our new post lay along the valley of the
Gila River, following it up from its mouth, where it empties into
the Colorado, eastwards towards the southern middle portion of
UP THE VALLEY OF THE GILA
The December sun was shining brightly down, as only the Arizona
sun can shine at high noon in winter, when we crossed the
Colorado on the primitive ferryboat drawn by ropes, clambered up
into the great thorough-brace wagon (or ambulance) with its dusty
white canvas covers all rolled up at the sides, said good-bye to
our kind hosts of Fort Yuma, and started, rattling along the
sandy main street of Yuma City, for old Camp MacDowell.
Our big blue army wagon, which had been provided for my boxes and
trunks, rumbling along behind us, empty except for the camp
But it all seemed so good to me: I was happy to see the soldiers
again, the drivers and teamsters, and even the sleek Government
mules. The old blue uniforms made my heart glad. Every sound was
familiar, even the rattling of the harness with its ivory rings
and the harsh sound of the heavy brakes reinforced with old
Even the country looked attractive, smiling under the December
sun. I wondered if I had really grown to love the desert. I had
read somewhere that people did. But I was not paying much
attention in those days to the analysis of my feelings. I did not
stop to question the subtle fascination which I felt steal over
me as we rolled along the smooth hard roads that followed the
windings of the Gila River. I was back again in the army; I had
cast my lot with a soldier, and where he was, was home to me.
In Nantucket, no one thought much about the army. The uniform of
the regulars was never seen there. The profession of arms was
scarcely known or heard of. Few people manifested any interest in
the life of the Far West. I had, while there, felt out of touch
with my oldest friends. Only my darling old uncle, a brave old
whaling captain, had said: "Mattie, I am much interested in all
you have written us about Arizona; come right down below and show
me on the dining-room map just where you went."
Gladly I followed him down the stairs, and he took his pencil out
and began to trace. After he had crossed the Mississippi, there
did not seem to be anything but blank country, and I could not
find Arizona, and it was written in large letters across the
entire half of this antique map, "Unexplored."
"True enough," he laughed. "I must buy me a new map."
But he drew his pencil around Cape Horn and up the Pacific coast,
and I described to him the voyages I had made on the old
"Newbern," and his face was aglow with memories.
"Yes," he said, "in 1826, we put into San Francisco harbor and
sent our boats up to San Jose for water and we took goats from
some of those islands,too. Oh! I know the coast well enough. We
were on our way to the Ar'tic Ocean then, after right whales."
But, as a rule, people there seemed to have little interest in
the army and it had made me feel as one apart.
Gila City was our first camp; not exactly a city, to be sure, at
that time, whatever it may be now. We were greeted by the sight
of a few old adobe houses, and the usual saloon. I had ceased,
however, to dwell upon such trifles as names. Even "Filibuster,"
the name of our next camp, elicited no remark from me.
The weather was fine beyond description. Each day, at noon, we
got out of the ambulance, and sat down on the warm white sand,
by a little clump of mesquite, and ate our luncheon. Coveys of
quail flew up and we shot them, thereby insuring a good supper.
The mules trotted along contentedly on the smooth white road,
which followed the south bank of the Gila River. Myriads of
lizards ran out and looked at us. "Hello, here you are again,"
they seemed to say.
The Gila Valley in December was quite a different thing from the
Mojave desert in September; and although there was not much to
see, in that low, flat country, yet we three were joyous and
Good health again was mine, the travelling was ideal, there were
no discomforts, and I experienced no terrors in this part of
Each morning, when the tent was struck, and I sat on the
camp-stool by the little heap of ashes, which was all that
remained of what had been so pleasant a home for an afternoon and
a night, a little lonesome feeling crept over me, at the thought
of leaving the place. So strong is the instinct and love of home
in some people, that the little tendrils shoot out in a day and
weave themselves around a spot which has given them shelter. Such
as those are not born to be nomads.
Camps were made at Stanwix, Oatman's Flat, and Gila Bend. There
we left the river, which makes a mighty loop at this point, and
struck across the plains to Maricopa Wells. The last day's march
took us across the Gila River, over the Maricopa desert, and
brought us to the Salt River. We forded it at sundown, rested our
animals a half hour or so, and drove through the MacDowell canon
in the dark of the evening, nine miles more to the post. A day's
march of forty-five miles. (A relay of mules had been sent to
meet us at the Salt River, but by some oversight, we had missed
Jack had told me of the curious cholla cactus, which is said to
nod at the approach of human beings, and to deposit its barbed
needles at their feet. Also I had heard stories of this deep, dark
canon and things that had happened there.
Fort MacDowell was in Maricopa County, Arizona, on the Verde
River, seventy miles or so south of Camp Verde; the roving bands
of Indians, escaping from Camp Apache and the San Carlos
reservation, which lay far to the east and southeast, often found
secure hiding places in the fastnesses of the Superstition
Mountains and other ranges, which lay between old Camp MacDowell
and these reservations.
Hence, a company of cavalry and one of infantry were stationed at
Camp MacDowell, and the officers and men of this small command
were kept busy, scouting, and driving the renegades from out of
this part of the country back to their reservations. It was by no
means an idle post, as I found after I got there; the life at
Camp MacDowell meant hard work, exposure and fatigue for this
small body of men.
As we wound our way through this deep, dark canon, after
crossing the Salt River, I remembered the things I had heard, of
ambush and murder. Our animals were too tired to go out of a
walk, the night fell in black shadows down between those high
mountain walls, the chollas, which are a pale sage-green color in
the day-time, took on a ghastly hue. They were dotted here and
there along the road, and on the steep mountainsides. They grew
nearly as tall as a man, and on each branch were great
excrescences which looked like people's heads, in the vague light
which fell upon them.
They nodded to us, and it made me shudder; they seemed to be
The soldiers were not partial to MacDowell canon; they knew too
much about the place; and we all breathed a sigh of relief when
we emerged from this dark uncanny road and saw the lights of the
post, lying low, long, flat, around a square.
OLD CAMP MACDOWELL
We were expected, evidently, for as we drove along the road in
front of the officers' quarters they all came out to meet us, and
we received a great welcome.
Captain Corliss of C company welcomed us to the post and to his
company, and said he hoped I should like MacDowell better than I
did Ehrenberg. Now Ehrenberg seemed years agone, and I could
laugh at the mention of it.
Supper was awaiting us at Captain Corliss's, and Mrs. Kendall,
wife of Lieutenant Kendall, Sixth Cavalry, had, in Jack's
absence, put the finishing touches to our quarters. So I went at
once to a comfortable home, and life in the army began again for
How good everything seemed! There was Doctor Clark, whom I had
met first at Ehrenberg, and who wanted to throw Patrocina and
Jesusita into the Colorado. I was so glad to find him there; he
was such a good doctor, and we never had a moment's anxiety, as
long as he staid at Camp MacDowell. Our confidence in him was
It was easy enough to obtain a man from the company. There were
then no hateful laws forbidding soldiers to work in officers'
families; no dreaded inspectors, who put the flat question, "Do
you employ a soldier for menial labor?"
Captain Corliss gave me an old man by the name of Smith, and he
was glad to come and stay with us and do what simple cooking we
required. One of the laundresses let me have her daughter for
nurserymaid, and our small establishment at Camp MacDowell moved
on smoothly, if not with elegance.
The officers' quarters were a long, low line of adobe buildings
with no space between them; the houses were separated only by
thick walls. In front, the windows looked out over the parade
ground. In the rear, they opened out on a road which ran along
the whole length, and on the other side of which lay another row
of long, low buildings which were the kitchens, each set of
quarters having its own.
We occupied the quarters at the end of the row, and a large bay
window looked out over a rather desolate plain, and across to the
large and well-kept hospital. As all my draperies and pretty
cretonnes had been burnt up on the ill-fated ship, I had nothing
but bare white shades at the windows, and the rooms looked
desolate enough. But a long divan was soon built, and some coarse
yellow cotton bought at John Smith's (the cutler's) store, to
cover it. My pretty rugs and mats were also gone, and there was
only the old ingrain carpet from Fort Russell. The floors were
adobe, and some men from the company came and laid down old
canvas, then the carpet, and drove in great spikes around the
edge to hold it down. The floors of the bedroom and dining-room
were covered with canvas in the same manner. Our furnishings were
very scanty and I felt very mournful about the loss of the boxes.
We could not claim restitution as the steamship company had been
courteous enough to take the boxes down free of charge.
John Smith, the post trader (the name "sutler" fell into disuse
about now) kept a large store but, nothing that I could use to
beautify my quarters with--and our losses had been so heavy that
we really could not afford to send back East for more things. My
new white dresses came and were suitable enough for the winter
climate of MacDowell. But I missed the thousand and one
accessories of a woman's wardrobe, the accumulation of years, the
comfortable things which money could not buy especially at that
I had never learned how to make dresses or to fit garments and
although I knew how to sew, my accomplishments ran more in the
line of outdoor sports.
But Mrs. Kendall whose experience in frontier life had made her
self-reliant, lent me some patterns, and I bought some of John
Smith's calico and went to work to make gowns suited to the hot
weather. This was in 1877, and every one will remember that the
ready-made house-gowns were not to be had in those days in the
excellence and profusion in which they can to-day be found, in
all parts of the country.
Now Mrs. Kendall was a tall, fine woman, much larger than I, but
I used her patterns without alterations, and the result was
something like a bag. They were freshly laundried and cool,
however, and I did not place so much importance on the lines of
them, as the young women of the present time do. To-day, the
poorest farmer's wife in the wilds of Arkansas or Alaska can wear
better fitting gowns than I wore then. But my riding habits, of
which I had several kinds, to suit warm and cold countries, had
been left in Jack's care at Ehrenberg, and as long as these
fitted well, it did not so much matter about the gowns.
Captain Chaffee, who commanded the company of the Sixth Cavalry
stationed there, was away on leave, but Mr. Kendall, his first
lieutenant, consented for me to exercise "Cochise," Captain
Chaffee's Indian pony, and I had a royal time.
Cavalry officers usually hate riding: that is, riding for
pleasure; for they are in the saddle so much, for dead earnest
work; but a young officer, a second lieutenant, not long out from
the Academy, liked to ride, and we had many pleasant riding
parties. Mr. Dravo and I rode one day to the Mormon settlement,
seventeen miles away, on some business with the bishop, and a
Mormon woman gave us a lunch of fried salt pork, potatoes, bread,
and milk. How good it tasted, after our long ride! and how we
laughed about it all, and jollied, after the fashion of young
people, all the way back to the post! Mr Dravo had also lost all
his things on the "Montana," and we sympathized greatly with each
other. He, however, had sent an order home to Pennsylvania,
duplicating all the contents of his boxes. I told him I could not
duplicate mine, if I sent a thousand orders East.
When, after some months, his boxes came, he brought me in a
package, done up in tissue paper and tied with ribbon: "Mother
sends you these; she wrote that I was not to open them; I think
she felt sorry for you, when I wrote her you had lost all your
clothing. I suppose," he added, mustering his West Point French
to the front, and handing me the package, "it is what you ladies
call 'lingerie.' "
I hope I blushed, and I think I did, for I was not so very old,
and I was touched by this sweet remembrance from the dear mother
back in Pittsburgh. And so many lovely things happened all the
time; everybody was so kind to me. Mrs. Kendall and her young
sister, Kate Taylor, Mrs. John Smith and I, were the only women
that winter at Camp MacDowell. Afterwards, Captain Corliss
brought a bride to the post, and a new doctor took Doctor Clark's
There were interminable scouts, which took both cavalry and
infantry out of the post. We heard a great deal about "chasing
Injuns" in the Superstition Mountains, and once a lieutenant of
infantry went out to chase an escaping Indian Agent.
Old Smith, my cook, was not very satisfactory; he drank a good
deal, and I got very tired of the trouble he caused me. It was
before the days of the canteen, and soldiers could get all the
whiskey they wanted at the trader's store; and, it being
generally the brand that was known in the army as "Forty rod,"
they got very drunk on it sometimes. I never had it in my heart
to blame them much, poor fellows, for every human beings wants
and needs some sort of recreation and jovial excitement.
Captain Corliss said to Jack one day, in my presence, "I had a
fine batch of recruits come in this morning."
"That's lovely," said I; "what kind of men are they? Any good
cooks amongst them?" (for I was getting very tired of Smith).
Captain Corliss smiled a grim smile. "What do you think the
United States Government enlists men for?" said he; "do you think
I want my company to be made up of dish-washers?"
He was really quite angry with me, and I concluded that I had
been too abrupt, in my eagerness for another man, and that my
ideas on the subject were becoming warped. I decided that I must
be more diplomatic in the future, in my dealings with the Captain
of C company.
The next day, when we went to breakfast, whom did we find in the
dining-room but Bowen! Our old Bowen of the long march across the
Territory! Of Camp Apache and K company! He had his white apron
on, his hair rolled back in his most fetching style, and was
putting the coffee on the table.
"But, Bowen," said I, "where--how on earth--did you--how did you
know we--what does it mean?"
Bowen saluted the First Lieutenant of C company, and said: "Well,
sir, the fact is, my time was out, and I thought I would quit. I
went to San Francisco and worked in a miners' restaurant" (here
he hesitated), "but I didn't like it, and I tried something else,
and lost all my money, and I got tired of the town, so I thought
I'd take on again, and as I knowed ye's were in C company now, I
thought I'd come to MacDowell, and I came over here this morning
and told old Smith he'd better quit; this was my job, and here I
am, and I hope ye're all well--and the little boy?"
Here was loyalty indeed, and here was Bowen the Immortal, back
And now things ran smoothly once more. Roasts of beef and
haunches of venison, ducks and other good things we had through
It was cool enough to wear white cotton dresses, but nothing
heavier. It never rained, and the climate was superb, although it
was always hot in the sun. We had heard that it was very hot
here; in fact, people called MacDowell by very bad names. As the
spring came on, we began to realize that the epithets applied to
it might be quite appropriate.
In front of our quarters was a ramada,* supported by rude poles
of the cottonwood tree. Then came the sidewalk, and the acequia
(ditch), then a row of young cottonwood trees, then the parade
ground. Through the acequia ran the clear water that supplied the
post, and under the shade of the ramadas, hung the large ollas
from which we dipped the drinking water, for as yet, of course,
ice was not even dreamed of in the far plains of MacDowell. The
heat became intense, as the summer approached. To sleep inside
the house was impossible, and we soon followed the example of the
cavalry, who had their beds out on the parade ground.
*A sort of rude awning made of brush and supported by cottonwood
Two iron cots, therefore, were brought from the hospital, and
placed side by side in front of our quarters, beyond the acequia
and the cottonwood trees, in fact, out in the open space of the
parade ground. Upon these were laid some mattresses and sheets,
and after "taps" had sounded, and lights were out, we retired to
rest. Near the cots stood Harry's crib.We had not thought about
the ants, however, and they swarmed over our beds, driving us
into the house. The next morning Bowen placed a tin can of water
under each point of contact; and as each cot had eight legs, and
the crib had four, twenty cans were necessary. He had not taken
the trouble to remove the labels, and the pictures of red
tomatoes glared at us in the hot sun through the day; they did
not look poetic, but our old enemies, the ants, were outwitted.
There was another species of tiny insect, however, which seemed
to drop from the little cotton-wood trees which grew at the edge
of the acequia, and myriads of them descended and crawled all
over us, so we had to have our beds moved still farther out on to
the open space of the parade ground.
And now we were fortified against all the venomous creeping
things and we looked forward to blissful nights of rest.
We did not look along the line, when we retired to our cots, but
if we had, we should have seen shadowy figures, laden with
pillows, flying from the houses to the cots or vice versa. It was
certainly a novel experience.
With but a sheet for a covering, there we lay, looking up at the
starry heavens. I watched the Great Bear go around, and other
constellations and seemed to come into close touch with Nature
and the mysterious night. But the melancholy solemnity of my
communings was much affected by the howling of the coyotes, which
seemed sometimes to be so near that I jumped to the side of the
crib, to see if my little boy was being carried off. The good
sweet slumber which I craved never came to me in those weird
Arizona nights under the stars.
At about midnight, a sort of dewy coolness would come down from
the sky, and we could then sleep a little; but the sun rose
incredibly early in that southern country, and by the crack of
dawn sheeted figures were to be seen darting back into the
quarters, to try for another nap. The nap rarely came to any of
us, for the heat of the houses never passed off, day or night, at
that season. After an early breakfast, the long day began again.
The question of what to eat came to be a serious one. We
experimented with all sorts of tinned foods, and tried to produce
some variety from them, but it was all rather tiresome. We almost
dreaded the visits of the Paymaster and the Inspector at that
season, as we never had anything in the house to give them.
One hot night, at about ten o'clock, we heard the rattle of
wheels, and an ambulance drew up at our door. Out jumped Colonel
Biddle, Inspector General, from Fort Whipple. "What shall I give
him to eat, poor hungry man?" I thought. I looked in the
wire-covered safe, which hung outside the kitchen, and discovered
half a beefsteak-pie. The gallant Colonel declared that if there
was one thing above all others that he liked, it was cold
beefsteak-pie. Lieutenant Thomas of the Fifth Cavalry echoed his
sentiments, and with a bottle of Cocomonga, which was always kept
cooling somewhere, they had a merry supper.
These visits broke the monotony of our life at Camp MacDowell. We
heard of the gay doings up at Fort Whipple, and of the lovely
Mr. Thomas said he could not understand why we wore such bags of
dresses. I told him spitefully that if the women of Fort Whipple
would come down to MacDowell to spend the summer, they would
soon be able to explain it to him. I began to feel embarrassed at
the fit of my house-gowns. After a few days spent with us,
however, the mercury ranging from l04 to l20 degrees in the
shade, he ceased to comment upon our dresses or our customs.
I had a glass jar of butter sent over from the Commissary, and
asked Colonel Biddle if he thought it right that such butter as
that should be bought by the purchasing officer in San Francisco.
It had melted, and separated into layers of dead white, deep
orange and pinkish-purple colors. Thus I, too, as well as General
Miles, had my turn at trying to reform the Commissary Department
of Uncle Sam's army.
Hammocks were swung under the ramadas, and after luncheon
everybody tried a siesta. Then, near sundown, an ambulance came
and took us over to the Verde River, about a mile away, where we
bathed in water almost as thick as that of the Great Colorado. We
taught Mrs. Kendall to swim, but Mr. Kendall, being an inland
man, did not take to the water. Now the Verde River was not a
very good substitute for the sea, and the thick water filled our
ears and mouths, but it gave us a little half hour in the day
when we could experience a feeling of being cool, and we found it
worth while to take the trouble. Thick clumps of mesquite trees
furnished us with dressing-rooms. We were all young, and youth
requires so little with which to make merry.
After the meagre evening dinner, the Kendalls and ourselves sat
together under the ramada until taps, listening generally to the
droll anecdotes told by Mr. Kendall, who had an inexhaustible
fund. Then another night under the stars, and so passed the time
We lived, ate, slept by the bugle calls. Reveille means sunrise,
when a Lieutenant must hasten to put himself into uniform, sword
and belt, and go out to receive the report of the company or
companies of soldiers, who stand drawn up in line on the parade
At about nine o'clock in the morning comes the guard-mount, a
function always which everybody goes out to see. Then the various
drill calls, and recalls, and sick-call and the beautiful
stable-call for the cavalry, when the horses are groomed and
watered, the thrilling fire-call and the startling assembly, or
call-to-arms, when every soldier jumps for his rifle and every
officer buckles on his sword, and a woman's heart stands still.
Then at night, "tattoo," when the company officers go out to
receive the report of "all present and accounted for"--and
shortly after that, the mournful "taps," a signal for the barrack
lights to be put out.
The bugle call of "taps" is mournful also through association, as
it is always blown over the grave of a soldier or an officer,
after the coffin has been lowered into the earth. The
soldier-musicians who blow the calls, seem to love the call of
"taps," (strangely enough) and I remember well that there at Camp
MacDowell, we all used to go out and listen when "taps went," as
the soldier who blew it, seemed to put a whole world of sorrow
into it, turning to the four points of the compass and letting
its clear tones tremble through the air, away off across the
Maricopa desert and then toward the East, our home so faraway. We
never spoke, we just listened, and who can tell the thoughts that
each one had in his mind? Church nor ministers nor priests had we
there in those distant lands, but can we say that our lives were
wholly without religion?
The Sunday inspection of men and barracks, which was performed
with much precision and formality,and often in full dress
uniform, gave us something by which we could mark the weeks, as
they slipped along. There was no religious service of any kind,
as Uncle Sam did not seem to think that the souls of us people in
the outposts needed looking after. It would have afforded much
comfort to the Roman Catholics had there been a priest stationed
The only sermon I ever heard in old Camp MacDowell was delivered
by a Mormon Bishop and was of a rather preposterous nature,
neither instructive nor edifying. But the good Catholics read
their prayer-books at home, and the rest of us almost forgot that
such organizations as churches existed.
Another bright winter found us still gazing at the Four Peaks of
the MacDowell Mountains, the only landmark on the horizon. I was
glad, in those days, that I had not staid back East, for the life
of an officer without his family, in those drear places, is
indeed a blank and empty one.
"Four years I have sat here and looked at the Four Peaks," said
Captain Corliss, one day, "and I'm getting almighty tired of
A SUDDEN ORDER
In June, 1878, Jack was ordered to report to the commanding
officer at Fort Lowell (near the ancient city of Tucson), to act
as Quartermaster and Commissary at that post. This was a sudden
and totally unexpected order. It was indeed hard, and it seemed
to me cruel. For our regiment had been four years in the
Territory, and we were reasonably sure of being ordered out
before long. Tucson lay far to the south of us, and was even
hotter than this place. But there was nothing to be done; we
packed up, I with a heavy heart, Jack with his customary
With the grief which comes only at that time in one's life, and
which sees no end and no limit, I parted from my friends at Camp
MacDowell. Two years together, in the most intimate
companionship, cut off from the outside world, and away from all
early ties, had united us with indissoluble bonds,--and now we
were to part,--forever as I thought.
We all wept; I embraced them all, and Jack lifted me into the
ambulance; Mrs. Kendall gave a last kiss to our little boy;
Donahue, our soldier-driver, loosened up his brakes, cracked his
long whip, and away we went, down over the flat, through the
dark MacDowell canon, with the chollas nodding to us as we
passed, across the Salt River, and on across an open desert to
Florence, forty miles or so to the southeast of us.
At Florence we sent our military transportation back and staid
over a day at a tavern to rest. We met there a very agreeable and
cultivated gentleman, Mr. Charles Poston, who was en route to his
home, somewhere in the mountains nearby. We took the Tucson stage
at sundown, and travelled all night. I heard afterwards more
about Mr. Poston: he had attained some reputation in the literary
world by writing about the Sun-worshippers of Asia. He had been a
great traveller in his early life, but now had built himself some
sort of a house in one of the desolate mountains which rose out
of these vast plains of Arizona, hoisted his sun-flag on the top,
there to pass the rest of his days. People out there said he was
a sun-worshipper. I do not know. "But when I am tired of life and
people," I thought, "this will not be the place I shall choose."
Arriving at Tucson, after a hot and tiresome night in the stage,
we went to an old hostelry. Tucson looked attractive. Ancient
civilization is always interesting to me.
Leaving me at the tavern, my husband drove out to Fort Lowell, to
see about quarters and things in general. In a few hours he
returned with the overwhelming news that he found a dispatch
awaiting him at that post, ordering him to return immediately to
his company at Camp MacDowell, as the Eighth Infantry was ordered
to the Department of California.
Ordered "out" at last! I felt like jumping up onto the table,
climbing onto the roof, dancing and singing and shouting for joy!
Tired as we were (and I thought I had reached the limit), we were
not too tired to take the first stage back for Florence, which
left that evening. Those two nights on the Tucson stage are a
blank in my memory. I got through them somehow.
In the morning, as we approached the town of Florence, the great
blue army wagon containing our household goods, hove in
sight--its white canvas cover stretched over hoops, its six
sturdy mules coming along at a good trot, and Sergeant Stone
cracking his long whip, to keep up a proper pace in the eyes of
the Tucson stage-driver.
Jack called him to halt, and down went the Sergeant's big brakes.
Both teams came to a stand-still, and we told the Sergeant the
news. Bewilderment, surprise, joy, followed each other on the old
Sergeant's countenance. He turned his heavy team about, and
promised to reach Camp MacDowell as soon as the animals could
make it. At Florence, we left the stage, and went to the little
tavern once more; the stage route did not lie in our direction, so
we must hire a private conveyance to bring us to Camp MacDowell.
Jack found a man who had a good pair of ponies and an open
buckboard. Towards night we set forth to cross the plain which
lies between Florence and the Salt River, due northwest by the
When I saw the driver I did not care much for his appearance. He
did not inspire me with confidence, but the ponies looked strong,
and we had forty or fifty miles before us.
After we got fairly into the desert, which was a trackless waste,
I became possessed by a feeling that the man did not know the
way. He talked a good deal about the North Star, and the fork in
the road, and that we must be sure not to miss it.
It was a still, hot, starlit night. Jack and the driver sat on
the front seat. They had taken the back seat out, and my little
boy and I sat in the bottom of the wagon, with the hard cushions
to lean against through the night. I suppose we were drowsy with
sleep; at all events, the talk about the fork of the road and the
North Star faded away into dreams.
I awoke with a chilly feeling, and a sudden jolt over a rock. "I
do not recollect any rocks on this road, Jack, when we came over
it in the ambulance," said I.
"Neither do I," he replied.
I looked for the North Star: I had looked for it often when in
open boats. It was away off on our left, the road seemed to be
ascending and rocky: I had never seen this piece of road before,
that I was sure of.
"We are going to the eastward," said I, "and we should be going
"My dear, lie down and go to sleep; the man knows the road; he is
taking a short cut, I suppose," said the Lieutenant. There was
something not at all reassuring in his tones, however.
The driver did not turn his head nor speak. I looked at the North
Star, which was getting farther and farther on our left, and I
felt the gloomy conviction that we were lost on the desert.
Finally, at daylight, after going higher and higher, we drew up
in an old deserted mining-camp.
The driver jerked his ponies up, and, with a sullen gesture,
said, "We must have missed the fork of the road; this is Picket
"Great Heavens!" I cried; "how far out of the way are we?"
"About fifteen miles," he drawled, "you see we shall have to go
back to the place where the road forks, and make a new start."
I nearly collapsed with discouragement. I looked around at the
ruined walls and crumbling pillars of stone, so weird and so grey
in the dawning light: it might have been a worshipping place of
the Druids. My little son shivered with the light chill which
comes at daybreak in those tropical countries: we were hungry and
tired and miserable: my bones ached, and I felt like crying.
We gave the poor ponies time to breathe, and took a bite of cold
Ah! that blighted and desolate place called Picket Post! Forsaken
by God and man, it might have been the entrance to Hades.
Would the ponies hold out? They looked jaded to be sure, but we
had stopped long enough to breathe them, and away they trotted
again, down the mountain this time, instead of up.
It was broad day when we reached the fork of the road, which we
had not been able to see in the night: there was no mistaking it
We had travelled already about forty miles, thirty more lay
before us; but there were no hills, it was all flat country, and
the owner of these brave little ponies said we could make it.
As we neared the MacDowell canon, we met Captain Corliss marching
out with his company (truly they had lost no time in starting for
California), and he told his First Lieutenant he would make slow
marches, that we might overtake him before he reached Yuma.
We were obliged to wait at Camp MacDowell for Sergeant Stone to
arrive with our wagonful of household goods, and then, after a
mighty weeding out and repacking, we set forth once more, with a
good team of mules and a good driver, to join the command. We
bade the Sixth Cavalry people once more good-bye, but I was so
nearly dead by this time, with the heat, and the fatigue of all
this hard travelling and packing up, that the keener edge of my
emotions was dulled. Eight days and nights spent in travelling
hither and thither over those hot plains in Southern Arizona, and
all for what?
Because somebody in ordering somebody to change his station, had
forgotten that somebody's regiment was about to be ordered out of
the country it had been in for four years. Also because my
husband was a soldier who obeyed orders without questioning them.
If he had been a political wire-puller, many of our misfortunes
might have been averted. But then, while I half envied the wives
of the wire-pullers, I took a sort of pride in the blind
obedience shown by my own particular soldier to the orders he
After that week's experience, I held another colloquy with
myself, and decided that wives should not follow their husbands
in the army, and that if I ever got back East again, I would
stay: I simply could not go on enduring these unmitigated and
The Florence man staid over at the post a day or so to rest his
ponies. I bade him good-bye and told him to take care of those
brave little beasts, which had travelled seventy miles without
rest, to bring us to our destination. He nodded pleasantly and
drove away. "A queer customer," I observed to Jack.
"Yes," answered he, "they told me in Florence that he was a 'road
agent' and desperado, but there did not seem to be anyone else,
and my orders were peremptory, so I took him. I knew the ponies
could pull us through, by the looks of them; and road agents are
all right with army officers, they know they wouldn't get
anything if they held 'em up."
"How much did he charge you for the trip?" I asked.
"Sixteen dollars," was the reply. And so ended the episode.
Except that I looked back to Picket Post with a sort of horror, I
thought no more about it.