13. A NEW RECRUIT
IN JANUARY our little boy arrived, to share our fate and to gladden our hearts. As he was the first child born to an officer's family in Camp Apache, there was the greatest excitement. All the sheep-ranchers and cattlemen for miles around came into the post. The beneficent canteen, with its soldiers' and officers' club-rooms, did not exist then. So they all gathered at the sutler's store, to celebrate events with a round of drinks. They wanted to shake hands with and congratulate the new father, after their fashion, upon the advent of the blond-haired baby. Their great hearts went out to him, and they vied with each other in doing the handsome thing by him, in a manner according to their lights, and their ideas of wishing well to a man; a manner, sometimes, alas! disastrous in its results to the man! However, by this time, I was getting used to all sides of frontier life.
I had no time to be lonely now, for I had no nurse, and the only person who was able to render me service was a laundress of the cavalry, who came for about two hours each day, until I was able to be up and take care of the child myself. Mounted men scoured the country around, to find me a nurse, but there was not a woman of girl to be heard of. Finally, the
But to go back a little. The seventh day after the birth of the baby, a delegation of several squaws, wives of chiefs, came to pay me a formal visit. They brought me some finely woven baskets, and a beautiful pappoose-basket or cradle, such as they carry their own babies in. This was made of the lightest wood, and covered with the finest skin of fawn, tanned with birch bark by their own hands, and embroidered in blue beads; it was their best work. I admired it, and tried to express to them my thanks. These squaws took my baby (he was lying beside me on the bed), then, cooing and chuckling, they looked about the room, until they found a small pillow, which they laid into the basket-cradle, then put my baby in, drew the flaps together, and laced him into it; then stood it up, and laid it down, and laughed again in their gentle manner, and finally soothed him to sleep. I was quite touched by the friendliness of it all. They laid the cradle on the table and departed. Jack went out to bring Major Worth in, to see the pretty sight, and as the two entered the room, Jack pointed to the pappoose-basket.
Major Worth tip-toed forward, and gazed into the cradle; he did not speak for some time; then, in his inimitable way, and hall under his breath, he said, slowly, ‘‘“Well, I'll be d—d!”’’ This was all, but when he turned towards the bedside, and came and shook my hand, his eyes shone with a gentle and tender look.
And now there must be a bath-tub for the baby. The sutler rummaged his entire place, to find something that might do. At last, he sent me a freshly scoured tub, that looked as if it might, at no very remote date, have contained salt mackerel marked “A One.” So then, every morning at nine o'clock, our little half-window was black with the heads of the curious squaws and bucks, trying to get a glimpse of the fair baby's bath. A wonderful performance, it appeared to them.
Once a week this room, which was now a nursery combined with bedroom and living-room, was overhauled by the stalwart Bowen. The baby was put to sleep and laced securely into the pappoose-basket. He was then carried into the kitchen, laid on the dresser, and I sat by with a book or needle-work watching him, until Bowen had finished the room. On one of these occasions, I noticed a ledger lying upon one of the shelves. I looked into it, and imagine my astonishment, when I read: “Aunt Hepsey's
The long-expected promotion to a first lieutenancy came at about this time. Jack was assigned to a company which was stationed at Camp MacDowell, but his departure for the new post was delayed until the spring should be more advanced and I should be able to undertake the long, rough trip with our young child.
The second week in April, my baby just nine weeks old, we began to pack up. I had gained a little in experience, to be sure, but I had lost my health and strength. I knew nothing of the care of a young infant, and depended entirely upon the advice of the Post Surgeon, who happened at that time to be a young man, much better versed in the sawing off of soldiers' legs than in the treatment of young mothers and babies.
I was genuinely sorry to part with Major Worth, but in the excitement and fatigue of breaking up our home, I had little time to think of my feelings. My young child absorbed all my time. Alas! for the ignorance of young women, thrust by circumstances into such a situation! I had miscalculated my strength, for I had never known illness in my life, and there was no one to tell me any better. I reckoned upon my superbly healthy nature to bring me through. In fact, I did not think much about it; I simply got ready and went, as soldiers do.
I heard them say that we were not to cross the Mogollon range, but were to go to the north of it, ford the Colorado Chiquito at Sunset Crossing, and so on to Camp Verde and Whipple Barracks by, the Stoneman's Lake road. It sounded poetic and pretty. Colorado Chiquito, Sunset Crossing, and Stoneman's Lake road! I thought to myself, they were prettier than any of the names I had heard in Arizona.