Molly McDonald (Chapter 2, page 1 of 5)

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Chapter 2

The two officers looked up with some eagerness, McDonald straightening in his chair, and returning the cavalryman's salute instinctively, his eyes expressing surprise. He was a straight-limbed fellow, slenderly built, and appearing taller than he really was by reason of his erect, soldierly carriage; thin of waist, broad of chest, dressed in rough service uniform, without jacket, just as he had rolled out of the saddle, rough shirt open at the throat, patched, discolored trousers, with broad yellow stripe down the seam, stuck into service riding boots, a revolver dangling at his left hip, and a soft hat, faded sadly, crushed in one hand.

The Major saw all this, yet it was at the man's uncovered face he gazed most intently. He looked upon a countenance browned by sun and alkali, intelligent, sober, heavily browed, with eyes of dark gray rather deeply set; firm lips, a chin somewhat prominent, and a broad forehead, the light colored hair above closely trimmed; the cheeks were darkened by two days' growth of beard. McDonald unclosed, then clenched his hand.

"You are from Fort Union, Captain Travers tells me?"

"Yes, sir," the reply slow, deliberate, as though the speaker had no desire to waste words. "I brought despatches; they were delivered to Captain Travers."

"Yes, I know; but I may require you for other service. What were your orders?"

"To return at convenience."

"Good. I know Hawley, and do not think he would object. What is your regiment?"

"Seventh Cavalry."

"Oh, yes, just organized; before that?"

"The Third."

"I see you are a non-com--corporal?"

"Sergeant, sir, since my transfer."

"Second enlistment?"

"No, first in the regulars--the Seventh was picked from other commands."

"I understand. You say first in the regulars. Does that mean you saw volunteer service?"

"Three years, sir."

"Ah!" his eyes brightening instantly. "Then how does it happen you failed to try for a commission after the war? You appear to be intelligent, educated?"

The Sergeant smiled.

"Unfortunately my previous service had been performed in the wrong uniform, sir," he said quietly. "I was in a Texas regiment."

There was a moment's silence, during which Travers smoked, and the Major seemed to hesitate. Finally the latter asked: "What is your name, Sergeant?"

"Hamlin, sir."

The pipe came out of Travers' mouth, and he half arose to his feet.

"By all the gods!" he exclaimed. "That's it! Now I 've got you placed--you 're--you 're 'Brick' Hamlin!"

The man unconsciously put one hand to his hair, his eyes laughing.

"Some of the boys call me that--yes," he confessed apologetically.

Travers was on his feet now, gesticulating with his pipe.

"Damn! I knew I'd seen your face somewhere. It was two years ago at Washita. Say, Dan, this is the right man for you; better than any fledgling West Pointer. Why, he is the same lad who brought in Dugan--you heard about that!"

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