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Chapter XLII The Visit and What Came of It

THIS visit was a risky thing to make, but I longed to mingle again with the warriors in whose fortunes I had shared on warpath and in camp. Many years had passed since I had left them, and I trusted to the long time to keep my identity a secret. For, there were certain occurrences of the old wild days I knew some of them would remember.

A strange experience—that visit! Often I was on the point of revealing myself, long believed dead, but caution held me back. My friends, I knew, would welcome me, but—so would my enemies, for an entirely different reason.

One day, at a council of the Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches there were signs that led me to fear a certain few had recognised me, and these few were— not my friends. -

Convinced that it would be well fpr me to leave camp and get away as speedily as possible, I mounted my horse and headed for Fort Sill. But I felt I was followed by several of my foes.

On Medicine Creek, above the post, I found accommodation in an old block house with bullet-pierced logs—a relic of frontier days, turned into a kind of hotel.

When I retired to my room that night, memory of the long-ago days, together with the danger I was in, kept me awake.

About one o’clock in the morning I heard the tramping of horses’ feet. Peering through the little window, I saw a company of horsemen. That they were after me I had no doubt. The Indians had set the officers of the law on my trail! Behind the door was a gun and a belt of cartridges. At sight of them the old spirit took possession of me. I felt a wild joy at the prospect as I took up the Winchester, threw in a cartridge, and sat down on the bed to await developments.

Presently there was a knock on the front door. I was sure it was made with the butt of a sixshooter. The door of the front room opened to bring to my straining ears a whispered conversation and approaching footsteps.

I took one brief glimpse of myself as a civilised man and a minister of the gospel. Then I dropped back into the old life of a savage at bay, ready to die like a man.

Came a knock at my door. I cocked the gun, my finger on the trigger to keep it from clicking, as I stepped to an advantageous position so as to get the first shot.

“What do you want ?” I demanded.

The answer came in a woman’s voice—the landlady’s. She explained that several cowboys had just arrived with one of their fellows who was very sick, and asked that he might occupy the other bed in my room.

I mentally debated the matter. It might be a ruse to gain admittance. I peeped at the visitors through a crack in the door. Even in the dim lamplight I could see that my suspicions were unfounded. Setting my gun in its corner, I invited them to enter.

The next day I lost no time in getting away from the place. On my way I stopped at Fort Reno, and as I stood at a distance and watched the sentry at the guardhouse pacing his beat, I was filled with fear. I didn’t stay long, for I knew again the feeling I had experienced when escaping from the place many years before.

Again in Buffalo, I went to the Reverend Doctor Henry Ward and unburdened myself of my tormenting secret. He introduced me to a law firm, one of whose members was a Senator, one a schoolmate of the President, Grover Cleveland, and another the man in whose house President McKinley afterwards died. They at once took the matter in hand, and one day, about two weeks later, while attending a missionary meeting in Calvary Presbyterian Church, Doctor Ward handed me my pardon from the highest authority of the United States.

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