Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision. — G. K. Chesterton

With Lieutenant Pike - Edwin Sabin




Good-By to Lieutenant Pike

The lieutenant and men were to be sent clear to the city of Chihuahua, more than six hundred miles southward, where the commanding general of all Mexico had headquarters.

An officer and two soldiers from Governor Alencaster had called for him again in the morning immediately after breakfast. He returned to the Lieutenant Bartholomew house fuming. Stub never before had seen him so angry.

"I protested with all my power" he related, to Lieutenant Bartholomew and Stub's father. "I said that I should not go unless forced to by military strength. The governor agreed to give me a paper certifying to the fact that I march only as compelled to, but our detention as prisoners is a breach of faith. I consented to come to Santa Fe, for the purpose of explaining to him my accidental presence within his frontiers; and I have so explained. He has even read my papers and my commission. Now he orders us still further into the interior."

"You have my sympathy, senor," proffered Lieutenant Bartholomew.

"That's the system here, sir," added Stub's father. "I am an American citizen, and was brought in by the Injuns, from outside territory; and I can't leave without a permit. I'm close watched—but I've still got my old rifle; and give me two hours' start and I'll not ask for any other passport."

"When I reminded His Excellency that my unintentional trespass was not to be compared with his, when he dispatched five hundred troops far into the Pawnee country, well within the territory of the United States, he had no reply," pursued Lieutenant Pike. "However, I am to dine with him this noon, and march soon thereafter, to meet an escort under that Lieutenant Melgares below."

"You will find Don Facundo Melgares to be a very pleasant gentleman, senor," spoke Lieutenant Bartholomew.

"He spent a great deal of time and money looking for me," Lieutenant Pike grimly laughed "He might as well have stayed here, for I should never have yielded to him, north of the Red River; not while I had a man left. I understand that Doctor Robinson, whom the governor mentioned, also has been sent south."

"That is possible, senor."

The lieutenant shrugged his shoulders.

"And I suppose my sergeant and the other men will follow me." He turned to Stub. "Come, boy; we'll look up our party and order them to be ready. Their arms are to be restored to them, at least. We're not to be driven like cattle. His Excellency has promised that, and we'll march as soldiers."

"You take the boy to Chihuahua?" queried Lieutenant Bartholomew.

"What?" Stub's tall father demanded, with a start.

Lieutenant Pike smiled.

"No, sir. He remains here, where he belongs. I am only too happy to have reunited him and his father. His service with me ends—and it has been a greater service than you may imagine."

They hastened for the barracks. Midway, the lieutenant halted in covert of an old wall.

"You have my journal?" he asked, guardedly.

"Yes, sir."

"Good! You may give it to me, now. Quick! There!" He swiftly tucked it away. "It is the only paper unknown to the governor, and I mean to keep it. Last night, when I considered that he was done with me, I heard that the men were drinking wine with the town people. So in case they should drink too much I sought them out and took the other papers from them. They're faithful, but the wine might have made them careless. I stowed the papers in my trunk again (this was a little hand-trunk that the lieutenant had carried, with help, from the Arkansaw, as his only important baggage); then early this morning the governor unexpectedly sent for me and my trunk and I had no chance to open it privately. By trusting in him I was cleverly outwitted, but thanks to you I've saved my journal. Had I found you last night I would have taken it, to place it with the other papers."

So, thanks to a boy, the journal of Lieutenant Pike was saved to the world.

"Can't you get your trunk again?" Stub asked, as they hurried on.

"It will go down to Chihuahua with me, but in charge of the officer of the escort, for the commanding general."

"Do the papers tell anything wrong?"

"No, unless they are wrongly read. There are letters, and scientific notes upon the locations and distances; and maps. If the commanding general thinks we were spying out the country, he may try to keep everything. But the journal would be the greatest loss."

And truth to say, Lieutenant Pike never did get back any of the papers in the trunk.

Freegift and John Brown were at the barracks; the other men were rambling about. John went to find them.

"To Chihuahua is it, sir?" Freegift gasped. "Without our guns?"

"You will get your guns."

"An' don't we wait for the sergeant an' them others, sir?"

"We're not permitted. I'll leave a note for Meek with this boy, here, telling him to keep up courage and follow us."

"But doesn't the lad go, too, sir?"

"No. He stays in Santa Fe."

"I've found my father, Freegift," eagerly explained Stub. "He's here. The Utahs brought him here. I've got to stay with him."

"Found your dad, eh? Well, well! An' good! I want to know! That's all right, then. We've been some worried over you, but sure we felt sartin you wouldn't desert. Expect you'd rather have found your father than the Red River; hey?"

"I don't know," Stub stammered. "I wish we'd found both."

His heart ached for Lieutenant Pike, who seemed to have found nothing—unless he really had intended to come here.

"We soldiers must not complain; we will only rejoice in your good fortune, my lad," answered the lieutenant. "All in all, we did not toil in vain, and we have done what we could. Have the men ready to march at twelve o'clock, Stout." And turning on his heel he strode off.

"A fine little man, an' a smart one," mused Freegift, gazing after. "We'll go with him to Chihuahua—an' to the ends o' the earth, if need be."

The lieutenant left first, shortly after noon. He had dined with the governor; when he came out of the palace, into the public square, prepared to start, the governor's coach was waiting, attached to six gaily harnessed mules. A detachment of dragoons also were waiting; so were Stub and his father, and old Sergeant Colly who had been captured, six years ago, in Spanish territory.

They shook hands with the lieutenant.

"Good-by. Good-by, sir."

"Good-by." He held his head high, like an officer and a free American. He did not mind the stares of the town people. "Remember, you are Americans."

"Don't forget us, sir, when you reach the States," old Solomon Colly implored. "Don't forget Sergeant Colly of the army, who made his only mistake when he was trapped by these Spanish. You'll do what you can for us, sir?"

"I'll not forget; not while I have breath in my body," promised the lieutenant, earnestly. "I will report you to the Government."

The governor had clumped out, in his uniform and jack-boots. Lieutenant Bartholomew, and Captain D'Almansa who was to command the escort southward, were with him. They all entered the splendid coach decorated with gilt.

The door slammed. The servant climbed to the seat beside the driver—the sergeant in charge of the dragoons shouted an order, and away they went, mules and horses at a gallop.

That was the last that Stub or anybody in Santa Fe ever saw of young Lieutenant Pike.

Stub went to the barracks with his father and Solomon Colly, to watch the men off. They were about to go. He shook hands with them, too: with Freegift, and Alex Roy, and John Brown, and Hugh Menaugh, and William Gordon, and Jake Carter—that brave six, still limping from frozen feet.

"Good luck to you, boy."

"Good luck."

"An' never forget you've been a Pike man, on one o' the toughest marches in history," added Freegift. "Stick up for your country. You've Yarned never to say die—an' that's the American of it."

"Yes, sir. I know it."

"Ah, lads, but Sol and I wish we were going with you," sighed his father. "But maybe you'll be back again, by the thousand, and then we'll see the flag floating."

"Maybe. There'll be a time," replied Freegift. "There'll be a time when the flag'll float over this very spot. But we won't need any thousand. Five hundred of us under Cap'n Pike could take the whole country. An' now we know a way in."

"I've half a notion that the lieutenant wasn't so sorry to be made prisoner, after all," Stub's father remarked to him, on the way home. "There's something secret about this that he doesn't tell. As that soldier friend of yours said, in case of war—and war over this borderland dispute is likely to break out any day—the army will know what's ahead of it."

"They'll let Lieutenant Pike go, won't they?"

His father chuckled.

"They'll have to. He's not the kind of man they can keep. They can't prove he's a spy, for he's in uniform (what there is of it), and his orders are plain to read."

This day was March 4. It was two weeks later, or March 18, when at last Lieutenant Saltelo brought in Sergeant Meek and Corporal Jerry Jackson, Terry Miller, John Mountjoy, poor John Sparks and Tom Dougherty, Baroney, Pat Smith and the few miserable horses and the main baggage. There was great rejoicing, again, in Santa Fe.

Sergeant Meek was taken at once to Governor Alencaster, but 'twas safe to say that the governor would find out little from him. Stub sought the other men out, at the barracks. John Sparks and Tom were unable to walk; they had lost their feet, and the most of their fingers; Baroney and Pat, and, they said, the sergeant, too, were in bad shape, from the march through the snows, to the stockade; but they all welcomed Stub.

"Where's the cap'n?"

"He's gone to Chihuahua."

"And what are ye doin' here, then? Did you run off from him? Say!"

"No. He told me to stay. I found my father. We're living here till we can get away.''

"You did? Found your father! Want to know! Hooray! And the cap'n and the rest to Chihuahua. So it's to Chihuahua the same for us, no doubt."

"Faith, that's proper," declared Tom Dougherty. "We'll not desert him. If it be prison for wan of us let it be prison for all of us. What's left o' me'll stick to the cap'n. Sure, John an' me are only poor cripples—whether we'll be paid I don't know; but all we want is to be with him, doin' as we can. He's had the hardest luck an' he complained not wance."

When Sergeant Meek came, Stub gave him the note. The sergeant read it.

"The cap'n says for us to keep our arms, and not lose the baggage. Yes, that's the caper. Bear in mind, lads. We're for Chihuahua in the morning."

They, also, were sent down to Chihuahua. Stub never saw any of them again, either. He heard, much later, that the lieutenant and six had safely reached Natchitoches; but from Chihuahua no word ever came back of Sergeant Meek, Corporal Jerry, Baroney the interpreter, Privates Sparks, Dougherty, Mountjoy, Miller, and Pat Smith, except that General Salcedo, the commander, had found them a hard lot to handle and had got them out of his province as quickly as he might.

So probably they caught up with Lieutenant Pike somewhere in the United States; and as likely as not some of them were with him to support him when he fell, dying on the field of battle, away north in Canada, during the War of 1812.

They all loved him.