Part 1 out of 3
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THE HERITAGE OF THE SIOUX by B.M. Bower
I WHEN GREEN GRASS COMES
II THE DAUGHTER OF A CHIEF
III TO THE VICTORS THE SPOILS
IV LOVE WORDS FOR ANNIE
V FOR THE GOOD OF THE COMPANY
VI "I GO WHERE WAGALEXA CONKA SAY"
VII ADVENTURE COMES SMILING
VIII THE SONG OF THE OMAHA
IX RIDERS IN THE BACKGROUND
X DEPUTIES ALL
XI ALL THIS WAR-TALK ABOUT INJUNS
XII THE WILD-GOOSE CHASE
XIII SET AFOOT
XIV ONE PUT OVER ON THE BUNCH
XV "NOW, DANG IT, RIDE!"
XVI ANNIE-MANY-PONIES WAITS
XVII APPLEHEAD SHOWS THE STUFF HE IS MADE OF
XVIII IN THE DEVIL'S FRYING-PAN
XIX PEACE TALK
XX LUIS ROJAS TALKS
XXI "WAGALEXA CONKA--COLA!"
THE HERITAGE OF THE SIOUX by B. M. Bower
CHAPTER I. WHEN GREEN GRASS COMES
Old Applehead Furrman, jogging home across the mesa from Albuquerque, sniffed
the soft breeze that came from opal-tinted distances and felt poignantly that
spring was indeed here. The grass, thick and green in the sheltered places,
was fast painting all the higher ridges and foot-hill slopes, and with the
green grass came the lank-bodied, big-kneed calves; which meant that. roundup
time was at hand. Applehead did not own more than a thousand head of cattle,
counting every hoof that walked under his brand. And with the incipient
lethargy of old age creeping into his habits of life, roundup time was not
with him the important season it once had been; for several years he had been
content to hire a couple of men to represent him in the roundups of the larger
outfits--men whom he could trust to watch fairly well his interests. By that
method he avoided much trouble and hurry and hard work--and escaped also the
cares which come with wealth.
But this spring was not as other springs had been. Something--whether an
awakened ambition or an access of sentiment regarding range matters, he did
not know--was stirring the blood in Applehead's veins. Never, since the days
when he had been a cowpuncher, had the wide spaces called to him so
alluringly; never had his mind dwelt so insistently upon the approach of
spring roundup. Perhaps it was because he heard so much range talk at the
ranch, where the boys of the Flying U were foregathered in uneasy idleness,
their fingers itching for the feel of lariat ropes and branding irons while
they gazed out over the wide spaces of the mesa.
So much good rangeland unharnessed by wire fencing the Flying U boys had not
seen for many a day. During the winter they had been content to ride over it
merely for the purpose of helping to make a motion picture of the range, but
with the coming of green grass, and with the reaction that followed the
completion of the picture that in the making had filled all their thoughts,
they were not so content. To the inevitable reaction had been added a nerve
racking period of idleness and uncertainty while Luck Lindsay, their director,
strove with the Great Western Film Company in Los Angeles for terms and prices
that would make for the prosperity of himself and his company.
In his heart Applehead knew, just as the Happy Family knew, that Luck had good
and sufficient reasons for over-staying the time-limit he had given himself
for the trip. But knowing that Luck was not to be blamed for his long absence
did not lessen their impatience, nor did it stifle the call of the wide spaces
nor the subtle influence of the winds that blew softly over the uplands.
By the time he reached the ranch Applehead had persuaded himself that the
immediate gathering of his cattle was an imperative duty and that he himself
must perform it. He could not, he told himself, afford to wait around any
longer for luck. Maybe when he came Luck would have nothing but disappointment
for them, Maybe--Luck was so consarned stubborn when he got an idea in his
head--maybe be wouldn't come to any agreement with the Great Western. Maybe
they wouldn't offer him enough money, or leave him enough freedom in his work;
maybe he would "fly back on the rope" at the last minute, and come back with
nothing accomplished. Applehead, with the experience gleaned from the stress
of seeing luck produce one feature picture without any financial backing
whatever and without half enough capital, was not looking forward with any
enthusiasm to another such ordeal. He did not believe, when all was said and
done, that the Flying U boys would be so terribly eager to repeat the
performance. He did believe--or he made himself think he believed--that the
only sensible thing to do right then was to take the boys and go out and start
a roundup of his own. It wouldn't take long--his cattle weren't so badly
scattered this year.
"Where's Andy at?" he asked Pink, who happened to be leaning boredly over the
gate when he rode up to the corral. Andy Green, having been left in nominal
charge of the outfit when Luck left, must be consulted, Applehead supposed.
"Andy? I dunno. He saddled up and rode off somewhere, a while ago," Pink
answered glumly. "That's more than he'll let any of us fellows do; the way
he's close-herding us makes me tired! Any news?"
"Ain't ary word from Luck--no word of NO kind. I've about made up my mind to
take the chuck-wagon to town and stock it with grub, and hit out on roundup
t'morrer or next day. I don't see as there's any sense in setting around here
waitin' on Luck and lettin' my own work slide. Chavez boys, they started out
yest'day, I heard in town. And if I don't git right out close onto their
heels, I'll likely find myself with a purty light crop uh calves, now I'm
tellin' yuh I" Applehead, so completely had he come under the spell of the
soft spring air and the lure of the mesa, actually forgot that he had long
been in the habit of attending to his calf crop by proxy.
Pink's face brightened briefly. Then he remembered why they were being kept so
close to the ranch, and he grew bored again.
"What if Luck pulled in before we got back, and wanted us to start work on
another picture?" he asked, discouraging the idea reluctantly. Pink had
himself been listening to the call of the wide spaces, and the mere mention of
roundup had a thrill for him.
"Well, now, I calc'late my prope'ty is might' nigh as important as Luck's
pitcher-making," Applehead contended with a selfishness born of his newly
awakened hunger for the far distances. "And he ain't sent ary word that he's
coming, or will need you boys immediate. The chances is we could go and git
back agin before Luck shows up. And if we don't," he argued speciously, "he
can't blame nobody for not wantin' to set around on their haunches all spring
waiting for 'im. I'd do a lot fer luck; I've DONE a lot fer 'im. But it ain't
to be expected I'd set around waitin' on him and let them danged Mexicans
rustle my calves. They'll do it if they git half a show--now I'm tellin' yuh!"
Pink did not say anything at all, either in assent or argument; but old
Applehead, now that he had established a plausible reason for his sudden
impulse, went on arguing the case while he unsaddled his horse. By the time he
turned the animal loose he had thought of two or three other reasons why he
should take the boys and start out as soon as possible to round up his cattle.
He was still dilating upon these reasons when Andy Green rode slowly down the
slope to the corral.
"Annie-Many-Ponies come back yet?" he asked of Pink, as he swung down off his
horse. "Annie? No; ain't seen anything of her. Shunky's been sitting out there
on the hill for the last hour, looking for her."
"Fer half a cent," threatened old Applehead, in a bad humor because his
arguments had not quite convinced him that he was not meditating a disloyalty,
"I'd kill that danged dawg. And if I was runnin' this bunch, I'd send that
squaw back where she come from, and I'd send her quick. Take the two of 'em
together and they don't set good with me, now I'm tellin' yuh! If I was to say
what I think, I'd say yuh can't never trust an Injun--and shiny hair and eyes
and slim build don't make 'em no trustier. They's something scaley goin' on
around here, and I'd gamble on it. And that there squaw's at the bottom of it.
What fur's she ridin' off every day, 'n' nobody knowin' where she goes to? If
Luck's got the sense he used to have, he'll git some white girl to act in his
pitchers, and send that there squaw home 'fore she double-crosses him some way
"Oh, hold on, Applehead!" Pink felt constrained to defend the girl. "You've
got it in for her 'cause her dog don't like your cat. Annie's all right; I
never saw anything outa the way with her yet."
"Well, now, time you're old as I be, you'll have some sense, mebby," Applehead
quelled. "Course you think Annie's all right. She's purty,'n' purtyness in a
woman shore does cover up a pile uh cussedness--to a feller under forty.
You're boss here, Andy. When she comes back, you ask 'er where she's been, and
see if you kin git a straight answer. She'll lie to yuh--I'll bet all I got,
she'll lie to yuh. And when a woman lies about where she's been to and what
she's been doin', you can bet there's something scaley goin' on. Yuh can't
He turned and went up to the small adobe house where he had lived in solitary
contentment with his cat Compadre until Luck Lindsay, seeking a cheap
headquarters for his free-lance company while he produced the big Western
picture which filled all his mind, had taken calm and unheralded possession of
the ranch. Applehead did not resent the invasion; on the contrary, he welcomed
it as a pleasant change in his monotonous existence. What he did resent was
the coming, first, of the little black dog that was no more than a tramp and
had no right on the ranch, and that broke all the laws of decency and
gratitude by making the life of the big blue cat miserable. Also he resented
the uninvited arrival of Annie-Many-Ponies from the Sioux reservation in North
Annie-Many-Ponies had not only come uninvited--she had remained in defiance of
Luck's perturbed insistence that she should go back home. The Flying U boys
might overlook that fact because of her beauty, but Applehead was not so
easily beguiled--especially when she proceeded to form a violent attachment to
the little black dog, which she called Shunka Chistala in what Applehead
considered a brazen flaunting of her Indian blood and language, Between the
mistress of Shunka Chistala and the master of the cat there could never be
anything more cordial than an armed truce. She had championed that ornery cur
in a way to make Applehead's blood boil. She had kept the dog in the house at
night, which forced the cat to seek cold comfort elsewhere. She had pilfered
the choicest table scraps for the dog--and Compadre was a cat of fastidious
palate and grew thin on what coarse bits were condescendingly left for him.
Applehead had not approved of Luck's final consent that Annie-Many-Ponies
should stay and play the Indian girl in his big picture. In the mind of
Applehead there lurked a grudge that found all the more room to grow because
of the natural bigness and generosity of his nature. It irked him to see her
going her calm way with that proud uptilt to her shapely head and that little,
inscruable smile when she caught the meaning of his grumbling hints.
Applehead was easy-going to a fault in most things, but his dislike had grown
in Luck's absence to the point where he considered himself aggrieved whenever
Annie-Many-Ponies saddled the horse which had been tacitly set aside for her
use, and rode off into the mesa without a word of explanation or excuse.
Applehead reminded the boys that she had not acted like that when luck was
home. She had stayed on the ranch where she belonged, except once or twice, on
particularly fine days, when she had meekly asked "Wagalexa Conka," as she
persisted in calling Luck, for permission to go for a ride.
Applehead itched to tell her a few things about the social, moral,
intellectual and economic status of an "Injun squaw"--but there was something
in her eye, something in the quiver of her finely shaped nostrils, in the
straight black brows, that held his tongue quiet when he met her face to face.
You couldn't tell about these squaws. Even luck, who knew Indians better than
most--and was, in a heathenish tribal way, the adopted son of Old Chief Big
Turkey, and therefore Annie's brother by adoption--even Luck maintained that
Annie-Many-Ponies undoubtedly carried a knife concealed in her clothes and
would use it if ever the need arose. Applehead was not afraid of Annie's
knife. It was something else, something he could not put into words, that held
him back from open upbraidings.
He gave Andy's wife, Rosemary, the mail and stopped to sympathize with her
because Annie-Many-Ponies had gone away and left the hardest part of the
ironing undone. Luck had told Annie to help Rosemary with the work; but
Annie's help, when Luck was not around the place, was, Rosemary asserted,
"And from all you read about Indians," Rosemary complained with a pretty
wrinkling of her brows, "you'd think the women just LIVE for the sake of
working. I've lost all faith in history, Mr. Furrman. I don't believe squaws
ever do anything if they can help it. Before she went off riding today, for
instance, that girl spent a whole HOUR brushing her hair and braiding it. And
I do believe she GREASES it to make it shine the way it does! And the powder
she piles on her face--just to ride out on the mesa!" Rosemary Green was
naturally sweet-tempered and exceedingly charitable in her judgements; but
here, too, the cat-and-dog feud had its influence. Rosemary Green was a loyal
champion of the cat Compadre; besides, there was a succession of little
irritations, in the way of dishes left unwashed and inconspicuous corners left
unswept, to warp her opinion of Annie-Many-Ponies.
When he left Rosemary he went straight down to where the chuck-wagon stood,
and began to tap the tires with a small rock to see if they would need
resetting before he started out. He decided that the brake-blocks would have
to be replaced with new ones--or at least reshod with old boot-soles. The
tongue was cracked, too; that had been done last winter when Luck was
producing The Phantom Herd and had sent old Dave Wiswell down a rocky hillside
with half-broken bronks harnessed to the wagon, in a particularly dramatic
scene. Applehead went grumblingly in search of some baling wire to wrap the
tongue. He had been terribly excited and full of enthusiasm for the picture at
the time the tongue was cracked, but now he looked upon it merely as a vital
weakness in his roundup outfit. A new tongue would mean delay; and delay, in
his present mood, was tragedy.
He couldn't find any old baling wire, though he had long been accustomed to
tangling his feet in snarled bunches of it when he went forth in the dark
after a high wind. Until now he had not observed its unwonted absence from the
yard. For a long while he had not needed any wire to mend things, because Luck
had attended to everything about the ranch, and if anything needed mending he
had set one of the Happy Family at the task.
His search led him out beyond the corrals in the little dry wash that
sometimes caught and held what the high winds brought rolling that way. The
wash was half filled with tumble-weed, so that Applehead was forced to get
down into it and kick the weeds aside to see if there was any wire lodged
beneath. His temper did not sweeten over the task, especially since he found
nothing that he wanted.
Annie-Many-Ponies, riding surreptitiously up the dry wash--meaning to come out
in a farther gully and so approach the corral from the west instead of from
the east--came upon Applehead quite unexpectedly. She stopped and eyed him
aslant from under her level, finely marked brows, and her eyes lightened with
relief when she saw that Applehead looked more startled than she had felt.
Indeed, Applehead had been calling Luck uncomplimentary names for cleaning the
place of everything a man might need in a hurry, and he was ashamed of
"Can't find a foot of danged wire on the danged place!" Applehead kicked a
large, tangled bunch of weeds under the very nose of the horse which jumped
sidewise. "Never seen such a maniac for puttin' things where a feller can't
find 'em, as what Luck is." He was not actually speak ing to
Annie-Many-Ponies--or if he was he did not choose to point his remarks by
glancing at her.
"Wagalexa Conka, he heap careful for things belong when they stay,"
Annie-Many-Ponies observed in her musical contralto voice which always
irritated Applehead with its very melody. "I think plenty wire all fold up
neat in prop-room. Wagalexa Conka, he all time clean this studio from trash
lie around everywhere."
"He does, hey?" Applehead's sunburnt mustache bristled like the whiskers of
Compadre when he was snarling defiance at the little black dog. The feud was
asserting itself. " Well, this here danged place ain't no studio! It's a
ranch, and it b'longs to ME, Nip Furrman. And any balin' wire on this ranch is
my balin' wire, and it's got a right to lay around wherever I want it t' lay.
And I don't need no danged squaw givin' me hints about 'how my place oughta be
kept--now I'm tellin' yuh!"
Annie-Many-Ponies did not reply in words. She sat on her horse, straight as
any young warchief that ever led her kinsmen to battle, and looked down at
Applehead with that maddening half smile of hers, inscrutable as the Sphinx
her features sometimes resembled. Shunka Chistala (which is Sioux for Little
Dog) came bounding over the low ridge that hid the ranch buildings from sight,
and wagged himself dislocatingly up to her. Annie-Many-Ponies frowned at his
approach until she saw that Applehead was aiming a clod at the dog, whereupon
she touched her heels to the horse and sent him between Applehead and her pet,
and gave Shunka Chistala a sharp command in Sioux that sent him back to the
house with his tail dropped.
For a full half minute she and old Applehead looked at each other in open
antagonism. For a squaw, Annie-Many-Ponies was remarkably unsubmissive in her
bearing. Her big eyes were frankly hostile; her half smile was, in the opinion
of Applehead, almost as frankly scornful. He could not match her in the
subtleties of feminine warfare. He took refuge behind the masculine bulwark of
"Where yuh bin with that horse uh mine?" he demanded harshly. "Purty note when
I don't git no say about my own stock. Got him all het up and heavin' like
he'd been runnin' cattle; I ain't goin' to stand for havin' my horses ran to
death, now I'm tellin' yuh! Fer a squaw, I must say you're gittin' too danged
uppish in your ways around here. Next time you want to go traipsin' around the
mesa, you kin go afoot. I'm goin' to need my horses fer roundup."
A white girl would have made some angry retort; but Annie-Many-Ponies, without
looking in the least abashed, held her peace and kept that little inscrutable
smile upon her lips. Her eyes, however, narrowed in their gaze.
"Yuh hear me?" Poor old Applehead had never before attempted to browbeat a
woman, and her unsubmissive silence seemed to his bachelor mind uncanny.
"I hear what Wagalexa Conka tell me." She turned her horse and rode composedly
away from him over the ridge.
"You'll hear a danged sight more'n that, now I'm tellin' yuh!" raved Applehead
impotently. "I ain't sayin' nothin' agin Luck, but they's goin' to be some
danged plain speakin' done on some subjects when he comes back, and given'
squaws a free rein and lettin' 'em ride rough-shod over everybody and
everything is one of 'era. Things is gittin' mighty funny when a danged squaw
kin straddle my horses and ride 'em to death, and sass me when I say a word
agin it--now I'm tellin' yuh!"
He went mumbling rebellion that was merely the effervescing of a mood which
would pass with the words it bred, to the store-room which Annie-Many-Ponies
had called the prop-room. He found there, piled upon a crude shelf, many
little bundles of wire folded neatly and with the outer end wound twice around
to keep each bundle separate from the others. Applehead snorted at what he
chose to consider a finicky streak in his secret idol, Luck Lindsay; but he
took two of the little bundles and went and wired the wagon tongue. And in the
work he found a salve of anticipatory pleasure, so that he ended the task to
the humming of the tune he had heard a movie theatre playing in town as he
rode by on his way home.
CHAPTER II. THE DAUGHTER OF A CHIEF
In spite of Andy Green's plea for delay until they knew what Luck meant to do,
Applehead went on with his energetic preparations for a spring roundup of his
own. Some perverse spirit seemed to possess him and drive him out of his
easy-going shiftlessness. He offered to hire the Happy Family by the day,
since none of them would promise any permanent service until they heard from
Luck. He put them to work gathering up the saddle-horses that had been turned
loose when Luck's picture was finished, and repairing harness and attending to
the numberless details of reorganizing a ranch long left to slipshod
The boys of the Flying U argued while they worked, but in spite of themselves
the lure of the mesa quickened their movements. They were supposed to wait for
Luck before they did anything; an they all knew that. But, on the other hand,
Luck was supposed to keep them informed as to his movements; which he had not
done. They did not voice one single doubt of Lucks loyalty to them, but human
nature is more prone to suspicion than to faith, as every one knows. And Luck
had the power and the incentive to "double-cross" them if he was the kind to
do such a thing. He was manager for their little free-lance picture company
which did not even have a name to call itself by. They had produced one big
feature film, and it was supposed to be a cooperative affair from start to
finish. If Luck failed to make good, they would all be broke together. If Luck
cleared up the few thousands that had been their hope, why--they would all
profit by the success, if Luck--
I maintain that they showed themselves of pretty good metal, in that not even
Happy Tack, confirmed pessimist that he was, ever put the least suspicion of
Luck's honesty into words. They were not the kind to decry a comrade when his
back was turned. And they had worked with Luck Lindsay and had worked for him.
They had slept under the same roof with him, had shared his worries,his hopes,
and his fears. They did not believe that Luck had appropriated the proceeds of
The Phantom Herd and had deliberately left them there to cool their heels and
feel the emptiness of their pockets in New Mexico, while he disported himself
in Los Angeles; they did--not believe that--they would have resented the
implication that they harbored any doubt of him. But for all that, as the days
passed and he neither came nor sent them any word, they yielded more and more
to the determination of Applehead to start out upon his own business, and they
said less and less about Luck's probable plans for the future.
And then, just when they were making ready for an early start the next
morning; just when Applehead had the corral full of horses and his chuckwagon
of grub; just when the Happy Family had packed their war-bags with absolute
necessities and were justifying themselves in final arguments with Andy Green,
who refused point-blank to leave the; ranch--then, at the time a dramatist
would have chosen for his entrance for an effective "curtain," here came Luck,
smiling and driving a huge seven-passenger machine crowded to the last folding
seat and with the chauffeur riding on the running board where Luck had calmly
banished him when he skidded on a sharp turn and came near upsetting them.
Applehead, stowing a coil of new rope in the chuck-wagon, took off his hat and
rubbed his shiny, pink pate in dismay. He was, for the moment, a culprit
caught in the act of committing a grave misdemeanor if not an actual felony.
He dropped the rope and went forward with dragging feet--ashamed, for the
first time in his life, to face a friend.
Luck gave the wheel a twist, cut a fine curve around the windmill and stopped
before the house with as near a flourish as a seven-passenger automobile
loaded from tail-lamp to windshield can possibly approach.
"There. That's the way I've been used to seeing cars behave," Luck observed
pointedly to the deposed chauffeur as he slammed the door open and climbed
out. "You don't have to act like you're a catepillar on a rail fence, to play
safe. I believe in keeping all four wheels on the ground--but I like to see
'em turn once in awhile. You get me?" He peeled a five-dollar banknote off a
roll the size of his wrist, handed it to the impressed chauffeur and dismissed
the transaction with a wave of his gloved hand. "You're all right, brother,"
he tempered his criticism, "but I'm some nervous about automobiles."
"I noticed that myself," drawled a soft, humorous voice from the rear. "This
is the nearest I ever came to traveling by telegraph."
Luck grinned, waved his hand in friendly greeting to the Happy Family who were
taking long steps up from the corral, and turned his attention to the
unloading of the machine. "Howdy, folks!--guess yuh thought I'd plumb lost the
trail back," he called to them over his shoulder while he dove after
suitcases, packages of various sizes and shapes, a box or two which the Happy
Family recognized as containing "raw stock," and a camera tripod that looked
From the congested tonneau a tall, slim young woman managed to descend without
stepping on anything that could not bear being stepped upon. She gave her
skirts a little shake, pushed back a flying strand of hair and turned her back
to the machine that she might the better inspect her immediate surroundings.
Old Dave Wiswell, the dried little man who never had much to say, peered at
her sharply, hesitated and then came forward with his bony hand outstretched
and trembling with eagerness. "Why, my gorry! If it ain't Jean Douglas, my
eyes are lyin' to me," he cried.
"It isn't Jean Douglas--but don't blame your eyes for that," said the girl,
taking his hand and shaking it frankly. "Jean Douglas Avery, thanks to the law
that makes a girl trade her name for a husband. You know Lite, of course--
"Well, well--my gorry I I should say I do! Howdy, Aleck?" He shook the hand of
the old man Jean called dad, and his lips trembled uncertainly, seeking speech
that would not hurt a very, very sore spot in the heart of big Aleck Douglas.
"I'm shore glad to meet yuh again," he stuttered finally, and let it go at
that "And how are yuh, Lite? Just as long and lanky as ever--marriage shore
ain't fattened you up none. My gorry! I shore never expected to see you folks
away down here!"
"Thought you heard me say when I left that the Great Western had offered to
get me Jean Douglas for leading lady," Luck put in, looking around
distractedly for a place to deposit his armload of packages. "That's one thing
that kept me--waiting for her to show up. Of course a man naturally expects a
woman to take her own time about starting--"
"I like that!" Jean drawled. "We broke up housekeeping and wound up a ranch
and traveled a couple of thousand miles in just a week's time. We--we ALMOST
hit the same gait you did from town out here today!"
Rosemary Green came out then, and Luck turned to greet her and to present Jean
to her, and was pleased when he saw from their eyes that they liked each other
at first sight. He introduced the Happy Family and Applehead to her and to her
husband, Lite Avery, and her father. He pulled a skinny individual forward and
announced that this was Pete Lowry, one of the Great Western's crack
cameramen; and another chubby, smooth-cheeked young man he presented as Tommy
Johnson, scenic artist and stage carpenter. And he added with a smile for the
whole bunch, "We're going to produce some real stuff from now on believe me,
In the confusion and the mild clamor of the absence-bridging questions and
hasty answers, two persons had no part. Old Applehead, hard-ridden by the
uneasy consciousness of his treason to Luck, leaned against a porch post and
sucked hard at the stem of an empty pipe. And just beyond the corner out of
sight but well within hearing, Annie-Many-Ponies stood flattened against the
wall and listened with fast-beating pulse for the sound of her name, spoken in
the loved voice of Wagalexa Conka. She, the daughter of a chief and Luck's
sister by tribal adoption--would he not miss her: from among those others who
welcomed him? Would he not presently ask: "Where is Annie-Many-Ponies?" She
knew just how he would turn and search for her with his eyes.
She knew just how his voice would sound when he asked for her. Then, after a
minute--when he had missed her and had asked for her--she would come and stand
before him. And he would take her hand and say to that white woman; "This is
my Indian sister, Annie-Many-Ponies, who played the part of the beautiful
Indian girl who died so grandly in The Phantom Herd. This is the girl who
plays my character leads." Then the white girl, who was to be his leading
woman, would not feel that she was the only woman in the company who could do
good work for Luck.
Annie-Many-Ponies had worked in pictures since she was fifteen and did only
"atmosphere stuff" in the Indian camps of Luck's arranging. She was wise in
the ways of picture jealousies. Already she was jealous of this slim woman
with the dark hair and eyes and the slow smile that always caught one's
attention and held it. She waited. She wanted Wagalexa Conka to call her in
that kindly, imperious voice of his--the voice of the master. This leading
woman would see, then, that here was a girl more beautiful for whom Luck
Lindsay felt the affection of family ties.
She waited, flattened against the wall, listening to every word that was
spoken in that buzzing group. She saw the last bundle taken from the machine,
and she saw Luck's head and shoulders disappear within the tonneau, making
sure that it was the last bundle and that nothing had been overlooked. She saw
the driver climb in, slam the fore-door shut after him and bend above the
starter. She saw the machine slide out of the group and away in a wide circle
to regain the trail. She saw the group break and start off in various
directions as duty or a passing interest led. But Wagalexa Conka never once
seemed to remember that she was not there. Never once did he speak her name.
Instead, just as Rosemary was leading the way into the house, this slim young
woman they called Jean glanced around inquiringly. "I thought you had a squaw
working for you," she said in that soft, humorous voice of hers. "The one who
did the Indian girl in The Phantom Herd. Isn't she here any more?"
"Oh, yes!" Luck stopped with one foot on the porch. "Sure! Where is Annie?
"She was around here just before you came," said Rosemary carelessly. "I don't
know where she went."
"Hid out, I reckon," Luck commented. "Injuns are heap shy of meeting
strangers. She'll show up after a little."
Annie-Many-Ponies stooped and slid safely past the window that might betray
her, and then slipped away behind the house. She waited, and she listened; for
though the adobe walls were thick, there were open windows and her hearing was
keen. Within was animated babel and much laughter. But not once again did
Annie-Many-Ponies hear her name spoken. Not once again did Wagalexa Conka
remember her. Save when she, that slim woman who bad come to play his leads,
asked to see her, she had been wholly forgotten. Even then she had been named
a squaw. It was as though they had been speaking of a horse. They did not
count her worthy of a place in their company, they did not miss her voice and
"Hid out," Wagalexa Conka had said. Well, she would hide out, then--she, the
daughter of a chief of the Sioux; she, whom Wagalexa Conka had been glad to
have in his picture when he was poor and had no money to pay white leading
women. But now he had much money; now he could come in a big automobile, with
a slim, white leading woman and a camera man and scenic artist and much money
in his pocket; and she--she was just a squaw who had hid out, and who would
show up after a while and be grateful if he took her by the hand and said,
With so many persons moving eagerly here and there, none but an Indian could
have slipped away from that house and from the ranch without being seen. But
though the place was bald and open to the four winds save for a few detached
outbuildings, Annie-Many-Ponies went away upon the mesa and no one saw her go.
She did not dare go to the corral for her horse. The corral was in plain sight
of the house, and the eyes of Wagalexa Conka were keen as the eye of the
Sioux, his foster brothers. He would see her there. He would call: "Annie,
come here!" and she would go, and would stand submissive before him, and would
be glad that he noticed her; for she was born of the tribe where women obey
their masters, and the heritage of centuries may not be lightly lain aside
like an outgrown garment. She felt that this was so; that although her heart
might burn with resentment because he had forgotten and must be reminded by a
strange white woman that the "squaw" was not present, still, if he called her
she must go, because Wagalexa Conka was master there and the master must be
Down the dry wash where Applehead had hunted for baling wire she went swiftly,
with the straight-backed, free stride of the plainswoman who knows not the
muscle-bondage of boned girdle. In moccasins she walked; for a certain pride
of race, a certain sense of the picture-value of beaded buckskin and bright
cloth, held her fast to the gala dress of her people, modified and touched
here and there with the gay ornaments of civilization. So much had her work in
the silent drama taught her. Bareheaded, her hair in two glossy braids each
tied with a big red bow, she strode on and on in the clear sunlight of spring.
Not until she was more than two miles from the ranch did she show herself upon
one of the numberless small ridges which, blended together in the disance,
give that deceptive look of flatness to the mesa. Even two miles away, in that
clear air that dwarfs distance so amazingly, Wagalexa Conka might recognize
her if he looked at her with sufficient attention. But Wagalexa Conka, she
told herself with a flash of her black eyes, would not look. Wagalexa Conka
was too busy looking at that slim woman he had brought with him.
That ridge she crossed, and two others. On the last one she stopped and stood,
straight and still, and stared away towards the mountains, shading her eyes
with one spread palm. On a distant slope a small herd of cattle fed, scattered
and at peace. Nearer, a great hawk circled slowly on widespread wings, his
neck craned downward as if he were watching his own shadow move ghostlike over
the grass. Annie-Many-Ponies, turning her eyes disappointedly from the empty
mesa, envied the hawk his swift-winged freedom.
When she looked again toward the far slopes next the mountains, a black speck
rolled into view, the nucleus of a little dust cloud. Her face brightened a
little; she turned abruptly and sought easy footing down that ridge, and
climbed hurriedly the longer rise beyond. Once or twice, when she was on high
ground, she glanced behind her uneasily, as does one whose mind holds a
certain consciousness of wrongdoing. She did not pause, even then, but hurried
on toward the dust cloud.
On the rim of a shallow, saucer-like basin that lay cunningly concealed until
one stood upon the very edge of it, Annie-Many-Ponies stopped again and stood
looking out from under her spread palm. Presently the dust cloud moved over
the crest of a ridge, and now that it was so much closer she saw clearly the
horseman loping abreast of the dust. Annie-Many-Ponies stood for another
moment watching, with that inscrutable half smile on her lips. She untied the
cerise silk kerchief which she wore knotted loosely around her slim neck,
waited until the horseman showed plainly in the distance and then, raising her
right hand high above her head, waved the scarf three times in slow, sweeping
half circles from right to left. She waited, her eyes fixed expectantly upon
the horseman. Like a startled rabbit he darted to the left, pulled in his
horse, turned and rode for three or four jumps sharply to the right; stopped
short for ten seconds and then came straight on, spurring his horse to a
Annie-Many-Ponies smiled and went down into the shallow basin and seated
herself upon the wide, adobe curbing of an old well that marked, with the
nearby ruins of an adobe house, the site, of an old habitation of tragic
history. She waited with the absolute patience of her race for the horseman
had yet a good two miles to cover. While she waited she smiled dreamily to
herself and with dainty little pats and pulls she widened the flaring red bows
on her hair and retied the cerise scarf in its picturesque, loose knot about
her throat. As a final tribute to that feminine instinct which knows no race
she drew from some cunningly devised hiding place a small, cheap "vanity box,"
and proceeded very gravely to powder her nose.
CHAPTER III. TO THE VICTORS THE SPOILS
"Hey, boys!" Luck Lindsay shouted to Applehead and one or two of the Happy
Family who were down at the chuck--wagon engaged in uneasy discussion as to
what Luck would say when he found out about their intention to leave. "Come on
up here--this is going to be a wiping out of old scores and I want to get it
"Well, now, I calc'late the fur's about to fly," Applehead made dismal
prophecy, as they started to obey the summons. "All 't su'prises me is 't he's
held off this long. Two hours is a dang long time fer Luck to git in action,
now I'm tellin' yuh!" He took off his hat and polished his shiny pate, as was
his habit when perturbed. "I'm shore glad we had t' wait and set them wagon-
tires," he added. "We'd bin started this mornin' only fer that."
"Aw, we ain't done nothing," Happy Jack protested in premature self defense.
"We ain't left the ranch yet. I guess a feller's got a right to THINK!"
"He has, if he's got anything to do it with," Pink could not forbear to remark
"Well, if a feller didn't have, he'd have a fat chance borrying from YOU,"
Happy Jack retorted.
"Well, by cripes, I ain't perpared to bet very high that there's a teacupful
uh brains in this hull outfit," Big Medicine asserted. "We might a knowed
Luck'd come back loaded fer bear; we WOULD a knowed it if we had any brains in
our heads. I'm plumb sore at myself. By cripes, I need kickin'!"
"You'll get it, chances are," Pink assured him grimly.
Luck was in the living room, sitting at a table on which were scattered many
papers Scribbled with figures. He had a cigarette in his lips, his hat on the
back of his head and a twinkle in his eyes. He looked up and grinned as they
came reluctantly into the room.
"Time's money from now on, so this is going to be cut short as possible," he
began with his usual dynamic energy showing in his tone and in the movements
of his hands as he gathered up the papers and evened their edges on the table
top. "You fellows know how much you put into the game when we started out to
come here and produce The Phantom Herd, don't you? If you don't, I've got the
figures here. I guess the returns are all in on that picture--and so far She's
brought us twenty-three thousand and four hundred dollars. She went big,
believe me! I sold thirty states. Well, cost of production is-what we put in
the pool, plus the cost of making the prints I got in Los. We pull out the
profits according to what we put in--sabe? I guess that suits everybody,
"Sure," one astonished voice gulped faintly. The others were dumb.
"Well, I've figured it out that way--and to make sure I had it right I got
Billy Wilders, a pal of mine that works in a bank there, to figure it himself
and check up after me. We all put in our services--one man's work against
every other man's work, mine same as any of you. Bill Holmes, here, didn't
have any money up, and he was an apprentice--but I'm giving him twenty a week
besides his board. That suit you, Bill?"
"I guess it's all right," Bill answered in his colorless tone.
Luck, being extremely sensitive to tones, cocked an eye up at Bill before he
deliberately peeled, from the roll he drew from his pocket, enough twenty
dollar notes to equal the number of weeks Bill had worked for him. "And that's
paying you darned good money for apprentice work," he informed him drily, a
little hurt by Bill's lack of appreciation. For when you take a man from the
streets because he is broke and hungry and homeless, and feed him and give him
work and clothes and three meals a day and a warm bed to sleep in, if yon are
a normal human being you are going to expect a little gratitude from that man;
Luck had a flash of disappointment when he saw how indifferently Bill Holmes
took those twenties and counted them before shoving them into his pocket. His
own voice was more crisply businesslike when he spoke again.
"Annie-Many-Ponies back yet? She's not in on the split either. I'm paying her
ten a week besides her board. That's good money for a squaw." He counted out
the amount in ten dollar bills and snapped a rubber band around them.
"Now here is the profit, boys, on your winter's work. Applehead comes in with
the use of his ranch and stock and wagons and so on. Here, pard--how does this
look to you?" His own pleasure in what he was doing warmed from Luck's voice
all the chill that Bill Holmes had sent into it. He smiled his contagious
smile and peeled off fifty dollar banknotes until Applehead's eyes popped.
"Oh, don't give me so dang much!" he gulped nervously when Luck had counted
out for him the amount he had jotted down opposite his name. "That there's
moren the hul dang ranch is worth if I was t' deed it over to yuh, Luck! I
ain't goin' to take--"
"You shut up," Luck commanded him affectionately. "That's yours--now, close
your face and let me get this thing wound up. Now--WILL you quit your arguing,
or shall I throw you out the window?"
"Well, now, I calc'late you'd have a right busy time throwin' ME out the
window," Applehead boasted, and backed into a corner to digest this
astonishing turn of events.
One by one, as their names stood upon his list, Luck called the boys forward
and with exaggerated deliberation peeled off fifty-dollar notes and
one-hundred-dollar notes to take their breath and speech from them.
With Billy Wilders, his friend in the bank, to help him, he had boyishly built
that roll for just this heart-warming little ceremony. He might have written
checks to square the account of each, but he wanted to make their eyes stand
out, just as he was doing. He had looked forward to this half hour more
eagerly than any of them guessed; he had, with his eyes closed, visualized
this scene over more than one cigarette, his memory picturing vividly another
scene wherein these same young men had cheerfully emptied their pockets and
planned many small personal sacrifices that he, Luck Lindsay, might have money
enough to come here to New Mexico and make his one Big Picture. Luck felt that
nothing less than a display of the profits in real money could ever quite
balance that other scene when all the Happy Familyhad in the world went in the
pot and they mourned because it was so little.
"Aw, I betche Luck robbed a bank er something!" Happy Jack stuttered with an
awkward attempt to conceal his delight when his name was called, his
investment was read and the little sheaf of currency that represented his
profit was laid in his outstretched palm.
"It's me for the movies if this is the way they pan out," Weary declared
gleefully. "Mamma! I didn't know there was so much money in the world!"
"I'll bet he milked Los Angeles dry of paper money," Andy Green asserted
facetiously, thumbing his small fortune gloatingly. "Holding out anything for
yourself, Luck? We don't want to be hogs."
"I'm taking care of my interests--don't you worry about that a minute," Luck
stated complacently. "I held mine out first. That wipes the slate--and cleans
up the bank-roll. I maintain The Phantom Herd was so-o-ome picture, boys.
They'll be getting it here in 'Querque soon--we'll all go in and see it."
"Now we're all set for a fresh start. And while you're all here I'll just put
you up to date. on what kind of a deal I made with Dewitt. We come in under
the wing of Excelsior, and our brand name will be Flying U Feature Film--how
does that hit you? You boys are all on a straight board-and-salary
basis--thirty dollars a week, and it's up to me to make you earn it!" He
grinned and beckoned to Jean Douglas Avery and her companions in the next
"Mrs. Avery, here, is our leading woman--keeping the name of Jean Douglas,
since she made it valuable in that Lazy A serial she did a year or so ago.
Lite is on the same footing as the rest of you boys. Her father will be my
assistant in choosing locations and so on. Tommy Johnson, as I said, is
another assistant in another capacity, that of scenic artist and stage
carpenter. Pete Lowry, here, is camera man and Bill Holmes will be his
assistant. The rest of you work wherever I need you--a good deal the way we
did last winter. Annie-Many-Ponies stays with us as character lead and is in
general stock. Rosemary--" he stopped and smiled at her understandingly--
"Rosemary draws fifteen a week--oh, don't get scared! I won't give you any
foreground stuff! just atmosphere when I need it, and general comforter and
mascot of the company!"
Luck may have stretched a point there, but if he did it was merely a technical
one. Rosemary Green was hopelessly camera-shy, but he could use her in
background atmosphere, and when it came to looking after the physical and
mental welfare of the bunch she was worth her weight in any precious metal you
may choose to name.
"You better put me down as camp cook and dishwasher, Luck Lindsay," Rosemary
"No--thank the Lord you won't have to cook for this hungry bunch any longer.
I've got a Mexican hired and headed this way. There'll be no more of that kind
of thing for you, lady--not while you're with us.
"Now, boys, let's get organized for action. Weather's perfect--Lowry's been
raving over the light, all the way out from town. I've got a range picture
all blocked out--did it while I was waiting in Los for Jean to show up. Done
anything about roundup yet, Applehead?"--
Poor old Applehead, with his guilty conscience and his soft-hearted affection
for Luck so deeply stirred by the money laid in his big-knuckled hand,
shuffled his feet and cleared his throat and did not get one intelligible word
past his dry tongue.
"If you haven't," Luck hurried on, spurred by his inpatient energy, "I want to
organize and get out right away with a regular roundup outfitchuck-wagon,
remuda and all--see what I mean I While I'm getting the picture of the stuff I
want, we can gather and brand your calves. That way, all my range scenes will
be of the real thing. I may want to throw the Chavez outfit in with ours, too,
so as to get bigger stuff. I'll try and locate Ramon Chavez and see what I can
do. But anyway, I want the roundup outfit ready to start just as soon as
possible--tomorrow, if we could get it together in time. How about that
cracked tongue on the chuck-wagon? Anybody fixed that?"
"We-ell, I wired it up so'st it's as solid as the rest uh the runnin' gear,"
Applehead confessed shamefacedly, rolling his eyes apprehensively at the
flushed faces of his fellow traitors.
"Yuh did? Good! Tires need setting, if I recollect--"
"Er--I had the boys set the tires, 'n'--"
"Fine! I might have known you fellows would put things in shape while I was
gone! How about the horses? I thought I saw a bunch in the big corral--"
"I rustled enough saddle horses to give us all two apiece," Applehead
admitted, perspiring coldly. "'Tain't much of a string, but--"
"You did? Sounds like you've been reading my mind, Applehead. Now we'll
grubstake the outfit--"
"Er--well, I took the chuck-wagon in yest'day and loaded 'er up with grub fer
two weeks," blurted Applehead heroically. "I was figurin'--"
"Good! Couldn't ask better. Applehead, you sure are there when it comes to
backing a man's play. If I haven't said much about how I stand toward you
fellows it isn't because I don't appreciate every durned one of you."
The Happy Family squirmed guiltily and made way for Applehead, who was sidling
toward the open door, his face showing alarming symptoms of apoplexy. Their
confusion Luck set down to a becoming modesty. He went on planning and
perfecting details. Standing as he did on the threshold of a career to which
his one big success had opened the door, he was wholly absorbed in making
There was nothing now to balk his progress, he told himself. He had his
company, he had the location for his big range stuff, he bad all the financial
backing any reasonable man could want. He had a salary that in itself gauged
the prestige he had gained among producers, and as an added incentive to do
the biggest work of his life he had a contract giving him a royalty on all
prints of his pictures in excess of a fixed number. Better than all this, he
had big ideals and an enthusiasm for the work that knew no limitations.
Perhaps he was inclined to dream too big; per-haps he assumed too great an
enthusiasm on the part of those who worked with him--I don't know just where
he did place the boundary line. I do know that he never once suspected the
Happy Family of any meditated truancy from the ranch and his parting
instructions to "sit tight." I also know that the Happy Family was not at all
likely to volunteer information of their lapse. And as for Applehead, the
money burned his soul deep with remorse; so deep that he went around with an
abject eagerness to serve Luck that touched that young man as a rare example
of a bone-deep loyalty that knows no deceit. Which proves once more how
fortunate it is that we cannot always see too deeply into the thoughts and
motives of our friends.
CHAPTER IV. LOVE WORDS FOR ANNIE
In Tijeras Arroyo the moon made black shadows where stood the tiny knolls here
and there, marking frequently the windings of dry washes where bushes grew in
ragged patches and where tall weeds of mid-May tangled in the wind. The
roundup tents of the Flying U Feature Film Company stood white as new snow in
the moonlight, though daylight showed them an odd, light-blue tint for
photographic purposes. On a farther slope cunningly placed by the scenic
artist to catch the full sunlight of midday, the camp of the Chavez brothers
gleamed softly in the magic light.
So far had spring roundup progressed that Luck was holding the camp in Tijeras
Arroyo for picture-making only. Applehead's calves were branded, to the
youngest pair of knock-kneed twins which Happy Jack found curled up together
cunningly hidden in a thicket. They had been honored with a "close-up" scene,
those two spotted calves, and were destined to further honors which they did
not suspect and could not appreciate.
They slept now, as slept the two camps upon the two slopes that lay
moon-bathed at midnight. Back where the moon was making the barren mountains a
wonderland of deep purple and black and silvery gray and brown, a coyote
yapped a falsetto message and was answered by one nearer at hand--his mate, it
might be. In a bush under the bank that made of it a black blot in the
unearthly whiteness of the sand, a little bird fluttered un,easily and sent a
small, inquiring chirp into the stillness. From somewhere farther up the
arroyo drifted a faint, aromatic odor of cigarette smoke.
Had you been there by the bush you could not have told when Annie-Many-Ponies
passed by; you would not have seen her--certainly you could not have heard the
soft tread of her slim, moccasined feet. Yet she passed the bush and the bank
and went away up the arroyo, silent as the shadows themselves, swift as the
coyote that trotted over a nearby ridge to meet her mate nearer the mountains.
Sol following much the same instinct in much the same way, Annie-Many-Ponies
stole out to meet the man her heart timidly yearned for a possible mate.
She reached the rock-ledge where the smoke odor was strongest, and she
stopped. She saw Ramon Chavez, younger of the Chavez brothers who were
ten-mile-off neighbors of Applehead, and who owned many cattle and much land
by right of an old Spanish grant. He was standing in the shadow of the ledge,
leaning against it as they of sun-saturated New Mexico always lean against
anything perpendicular and solid near which they happen to stand. He was
watching the white-lighted arroyo while he smoked, waiting for her,
unconscious of her near presence.
Annie-Many-Ponies stood almost within reach of him, but she did not make her
presence known. With the infinite wariness of her race she waited to see what
he would do; to read, if she might, what were his thoughts--his attitude
toward her in his unguarded moments. That little, inscrutable smile which so
exasperated Applehead was on her lips while she watched him.
Ramon finished that cigarette, threw away the stab and rolled and lighted
another. Still Annie-Many-Ponies gave no little sign of her presence. He
watched the arroyo, and once he leaned to one side and stared back at his own
quiet camp on the slope that had the biggest and the wildest mountain of that
locality for its background. He settled himself anew with his other shoulder
against the rock, and muttered something in Spanish--that strange, musical
talk which Annie-Many-Ponies could not understand. And still she watched him,
and exulted in his impatience for her coming, and wondered if it would always
be lovelight which she would see in his eyes.
He was not of her race, though in her pride she thought him favored when she
named him akin to the Sioux. He was not of her race, but he was tall and he
was straight, he was dark as she, he was strong and brave and he bad many
cattle and much broad acreage. Annie-Many-Ponies smiled upon him in the dark
and was glad that she, the daughter of a chief of the Sioux, had been found
good in his sight.
Five minutes, ten minutes. The coyote, yap-yap-yapping in the broken land
beyond them, found his mate and was silent. Ramon Chavez, waiting in the
shadow of the ledge, muttered a Mexican oath and stepped out into the
moonlight and stood there, tempted to return to his camp--for he, also, had
pride that would not bear much bruising.
Annie-Many-Ponies waited. When he muttered again and threw his cigarette from
him as though it had been something venomous; when he turned his face toward
his own tents and took a step forward, she laughed softly, a mere whisper of
amusement that might have been a sleepy breeze stirring the bushes somewhere
near. Ramon started and turned his face her way; in the moonlight his eyes
shone with a certain love-hunger which Annie-Many-Ponies exulted to
see--because she did not understand.
"You not let moon look on you," she chided in an undertone, her sentences
clipped of superfluous words as is the Indian way, her voice that pure,
throaty melody that is a gift which nature gives lavishly to the women of
savage people. "Moon see, men see."
Ramon swung back into the shadow, reached out his two arms to fold her close
and got nothing more substantial than another whispery laugh.
"Where are yoh,sweetheart?" He peered into the shadow where she had been, and
saw the place empty. He laughed, chagrined by her elusiveness, yet hungering
for her the more.
"You not touch," she warned. "Till priest say marriage prayers, no man touch."
He called her a devil in Spanish, and she thought it a love-word and laughed
and came nearer. He did not attempt to touch her, and so, reassured, she stood
close so that he could see the pure, Indian profile of her face when she
raised it to the sky in a mute invocation, it might be, of her gods.
"When yoh come?" he asked swiftly, his race betrayed in tone and accent. "I
look and look--I no see yoh."
"I come," she stated with a quiet meaning. "I not like cow, for make plenty
noise. I stand here, you smoke two times, I look."
"You mus' be moonbeam," he told her, reaching out again, only to lay hold upon
nothing. "Come back, sweetheart. I be good."
"I not like you touch," she repeated. "I good girl. I mind priest, I read
prayers, I mind Wagalexa Conka--" There she faltered, for the last boast was
no longer the truth.
Ramon was quick to seize upon the one weak point of her armor. "So? He send
yoh then to talk with Ramon at midnight? Yoh come to please yoh boss?"
Annie-Many-Ponies turned her troubled face his way. "Wagalexa Conka sleep
plenty. I not ask," she confessed. "You tell me come here you tell me must
talk when no one hear. I come. I no ask Wagalexa Conka--him say good girl stay
by camp. Him say not walk in night-time, say me not talk you. I no ask; I just
"Yoh lov' him, perhaps? More as yoh lov' me? Always I see yoh look at
him--always watch, watch. Always I see yoh jomp when he snap the finger;
always yoh run like train dog. Yoh lov' him, perhaps? Bah! Yoh dirt onder his
feet." Ramon did not seriously consider that any woman whom he favored could
sanely love another man more than himself, but to his nature jealousy was a
necessary adjunct of lovemaking; not to have displayed jealousy would have
been to betray indifference, as he interpreted the tender passion.
Annie-Many-Ponies, woman-wily though she was by nature, had little learning in
the devious ways of lovemaking. Eyes might speak, smiles might half reveal,
half hide her thoughts; but the tongue, as her tribe had taught her sternly,
must speak the truth or keep silent. Now she bent her head, puzzling how best
to put her feelings toward Luck Lindsay into honest words which Ramon would
"Yoh lov' him, perhaps--since yoh all time afraid he be mad." Ramon persisted,
beating against the wall of her Indian taciturnity which always acted as a
spur upon his impetuosity. Besides, it was important to him that he should
know just what was the tie between these two. He had heard Luck Lindsay speak
to the girl in the Sioux tongue. He had seen her eyes lighten as she made
swift answer. He had seen her always eager to do Luck's bidding--had seen her
anticipate his wants and minister to them as though it was her duty and her
pleasure to do so. It was vital that he should know, and it was certain that
he could not question Luck upon the subject--for Ramon Chavez was no fool.
"Long time ago--when I was papoose with no shoes," she began with seeming
irrelevance, her eyes turning instinctively toward the white tents of the
Flying U camp gleaming in the distance, "my people go for work in Buffalo Bill
show. My father go, my mother go, I go. All time we dance for show, make
Indian fight with cowboys--all them act for Buffalo Bill-Pawnee Bill show.
That time Wagalexa Conka boss of Indians. He Indian Agent. He take care whole
bunch. He make peace when fights, he give med'cine when somebody sick. He
awful good to them Indians. He give me candy, always stop to talk me. I like
him. My father like him. All them Indians like him plenty much. My father
awful sick one time, he no let doctor come. Leg broke all in pieces. He say
die plenty if Wagalexa Conka no make well. I go ticket wagon, tell Wagalexa
Conka, he come quick, fix up leg all right.
"All them Indians like to make him--" She stopped, searching her mind for the
elusive, little-used word which she had learned in the mission school. Make
him adop'," she finished triumphantly. "Indians make much dance, plenty music,
lots speeches make him Indian man. My father big chief, he make Wagalexa Conka
him son. Make him my brother. Give him Indian name Wagalexa Conka. All Indians
call that name for him.
"Pretty soon show stop, all them Indians go home by reservation. long time we
don't see Wagalexa Conka no more. I get big girl, go school little bit. Pretty
soon Wagalexa Conka come back, for wants them Indians for work in pictures. My
father go, my mother go, all us go. We work long time. I," she added with
naive pride in her comeliness, "awful good looking. I do lots of foreground
stuff. Pretty soon hard times come. Indians go home by reservation. I go--I
don't like them reservations no more. Too lonesome. I like for work all time
in pictures. I come, tell Wagalexa Conka I be Indian girl for pictures. He
write letter for agent, write letter for my father. They writes letter for say
yes, I stay. I stay and do plenty more foreground stuff."
"I don't see you do moch foreground work since that white girl come," Ramon
observed, hitting what he instinctively knew was a tender point.
Had he seen her face, he must have been satisfied that the chance shot struck
home. But in the shadow hate blazed unseen from her eyes. She did not speak,
and so he went back to his first charge.
"All this don't tell me moch," he complained. "Yoh lov' him, maybe? That's
what I ask."
"Wagalexa Conka my brother, my father, my friend," she replied calmly, and let
him interpret it as he would.
"He treats yoh like a dog. He crazee 'bout that Jean. He gives her all smiles,
all what yoh call foreground stuff. I know--I got eyes. Me, it makes me mad
for see how he treat yoh--and yoh so trying hard always to Please. He got no
heart for yoh--me, I see that." He moved a step closer, hesitating, wanting
yet not quite daring to touch her. "Me, I lov' yoh, little Annie," he
murmured. "Yoh lov' me little bit, eh? Jus' little bit! Jus' for say, 'Ramon,
I go weeth yoh, I be yoh woman--'"
Annie-Many-Ponies widened the distance between them. "Why you not say wife?"
she queried suspiciously.
"Woman, wife, sweetheart--all same," he assured her with his voice like a
caress. "All words mean I lov' yoh jus' same. Now yoh say yoh lov' me, say yoh
go weeth me, I be one happy man. I go back on camp and my heart she's singing
lov' song. My girl weeth eyes that shine so bright, she lov' me moch as I lov'
her. That what my heart she sing. Yoh not be so cruel like stone--yoh say,
'Ramon, I lov' yoh.' Jus' like that! So easy to say!"
"Not easy," she denied, moved to save her freedom yet a while longer. "I say
them words, then I--then I not be same girl like now. Maybe much troubles
come. Maybe much happy--I dunno. Lots time I see plenty trouble come for girl
that say them words for man. Some time plenty happy--I think trouble comes
most many times. I think Wagalexa Conka he be awful mad. I not like for hims
"Now you make ME mad--Ramon what loves yoh! Yoh like for Ramon be mad,
perhaps? Always yoh 'fraid Luck Lindsay this, 'fraid Luck that other. Me, I
gets damn' sick hear that talk all time. Bimeby he marree som' girl, then
what for you? He don' maree yoh, eh? He don' lov' yoh; he think too good for
maree Indian girl. Me, I not think like that. I, Ramon Chavez, I think proud
to lov, yoh. Ramon--"
"I not think Wagalexa Conka marry me." The girl was turning stubborn under his
importunities. "Wagalexa Conka my brother--my friend. I tell you plenty time.
Now I tell no more."
"Ramon loves yoh so moch," he pleaded, and smiled to himself when he saw her
turn toward toward him again. The love-talk--that was what a woman likes best
to hear! "Yoh say yoh lov' Ramon jus' little bit!"
"I not say now. When I say I be sure I say truth."
"All right, then I be sad till yoh lov' me. Yoh maybe be happy, yoh know
Ramon's got heavy heart for yoh."
"I plenty sorry, you be sad for me," she confessed demurely. "I lov' yoh so
moch! I think nothing but how beautiful my sweetheart is. I not tease yoh no
more. Tell me, how long Luck says he stay out here? Maybe yoh hear sometimes
he's going for taking pictures in town?"
"I not hear."
"Going home, maybe? You mus' hear little bit. Yoh tell me, sweetheart; what's
he gone do when roundup's all finish? Me, I know she's finish las' week. Looks
like he's taking pictures out here all summer! You hear him say something,
"I not hear."
"Them vaqueros--bah! They don't bear nothings either. What's matter over
there, nobody hear nothing? Luck, he got no tongue when camera's shut up,
Ramon looked at her for a minute in mute rage. It was not the first time he
had found himself hard against the immutable reticence of the Indian in her
"Why you snapping teeth like a wolf?" she asked him slyly.
"Me? I don' snap my teeth, sweetheart." It cost Ramon some effort to keep his
voice softened to the love key.
"Why you not ask Wagalexa Conka what he do?"
"I don' care, that's why I don' ask. Me, it's' no matter."
He hesitated a moment, evidently weighing a matter of more importance to him
than he would have Annie-Many-Ponies suspect. "Sweetheart, yoh do one thing
for Ramon?" His voice might almost be called wheedling. "Me, I'm awful busy
tomorrow. I got long ride away off -to my rancho. I got to see my brother
Tomas. I be back here not before night. Yoh tell Bill Holmes he come here by
this rock--yoh say midnight that's good time--I sure be here that time. Yoh
say I got something I wan' tell him. Yoh do that for Ramon, sweetheart?"
He waited, trying to hide the fact that he was anxious.
"I not like Bill Holmes." Annie-Many-Ponies spoke with an air of finality.
"Bill Holmes comes close, I feel snakes. Him not friend to Wagalexa Conka--say
nothing--always go around still, like fox watching for rabbit. You not friend
to Bill Holmes?"
"Me? No--I not friend, querida mia. I got business. I sell Bill Holmes one
silver bridle, perhaps. I don' know--mus' talk about it. Yoh tell him come
here by big rock, sweetheart?"
Annie-Many-Ponies took a minute for deliberation--which is the Indian way.
Ramon, having learned patience, said no more but watched her slant-eyed.
"I tell," she promised at last, and added, "I go now." Then she slipped away.
And Ramon, though he stood for several minutes by the rock smiling queerly and
staring down the arroyo, caught not the slightest glimpse of her after she
left him. He knew that she would deliver faithfully his message to Bill
Holmes, she had given her word. That was one great advantage, considered
Ramon, in dealing with those direct, uncompromising natures. She might torment
him with her aloofness and her reticence, but once he had won her to a full
confidence and submission he need not trouble himself further about her
loyalty. She would tell Bill Holmes--and, what was vastly more important, she
would do it secretly; he had not dared to speak of that, but he thought he
might safely trust to her natural wariness. So Ramon, after a little, stole
away to his own camp quite satisfied.
The next night, when he stood in the shadow of the rock ledge and waited, he
was not startled by the unexpected presence of the person he wanted to see.
For although Bill Holmes came as cautiously as he knew how, and avoided the
wide, bright-lighted stretches of arroyo where he would have been plainly
visible, Ramon both saw and heard him before he reached the ledge. What Ramon
did not see or hear was Annie-Many-Ponies, who did not quite believe that
those two wished merely to talk about a silver bridle, and who meant to listen
and find out why it was that they could not talk openly before all the boys.
Annie-Many-Ponies had ways of her own. She did not tell Ramon that she doubted
his word, nor did she refuse to deliver the message. She waited calmly until
Bill Holmes left camp stealthily that night, and she followed him. It was
perfectly simple and sensible and the right thing to do; if you wanted to know
for sure whether a person lied to you, you had but to watch and listen and let
your own eyes and ears prove guilt or innocence.
So Annie-Many-Ponies stood by the rock and listened and watched. She did not
see any silver bridle. She heard many words, but the two were speaking in that
strange Spanish talk which she did not know at all, save "Querida mia," which
Ramon had told her meant sweetheart.
The two talked, low-voiced and earnest, Bill was telling all that he knew of
Luck Lindsay's plans--and that was not much.
"He don't talk," Bill complained. "He just tells the bunch a day ahead--just
far enough to get their makeup and costumes on, generally. But he won't stay
around here much longer; he's taken enough spring roundup stuff now for half a
dozen pictures. He'll be moving in to the ranch again pretty quick. And I know
this picture calls for a lot of town business that he'll have to take. I saw
the script the other day." This, of course,, being a free translation of the
meaningless jumble of strange words which Annie heard.
"What town business is that? Where will he work?" Ramon was plainly impatient
of so much vagueness.
"Well, there's a bank robbery--I paid particular attention, Ramon, so I know
for certain. But when he'll do it, or what bank he'll use, I don't know any
more than you do. And there's a running fight down the street and through the
Mexican quarter. The rest is just street stuff--that and a fiesta that I think
he'll probably me the old plaza for location. He'll need a lot of Mexicans for
that stuff. He'll want you, of course."
"That bank--who will do that?" Ramon's fingers trembled so that he could
scarcely roll a cigarette. "Andy, perhaps?"
"No--that's the Mexican bunch. I--why, I guess that will maybe be you, Ramon.
I wasn't paying much attention to the parts--I was after locations, and I only
had about two minutes at the script. But he's been giving you some good bits
right along where he needed a Mexican type; and those scenes in the rocks the
other day was bandit stuff with you for lead. It'll be you or Miguel--the
Native Son, as they call him--and so far he's cast for another part. That's
the worst of Luck. He won't talk about what he's going to do till he's all
ready to do it."
There was a little further discussion. Ramon muttered a few sentences--rapid
instructions, Annie-Many-Ponies believed from the tone he used.
"All right, I'll keep you posted," Bill Holmes replied in English. And he
added as he started off, "You can send word by the squaw."
He went carefully back down the arroyo, keeping as much as possible in the
shade. Behind him stole Annie-Many-Ponies, noiseless as the shadow of a cloud.
Bill Holmes, she reflected angrily, had seen the day, not so far in the past,
when he was happy if the "squaw" but smiled upon him. It was because she had
repelled his sly lovemaking that he had come to speak of her slightingly like
that; she knew it. She could have named the very day when his manner toward
her had changed. Mingled with her hate and dread of him was a new contempt and
a new little anxiety over this clandestine intimacy between Ramon and him. Why
should Bill Holmes keep Ramon posted? Surely not about a silver bridle!
Shunka Chistala was whining in her little tent when she came into the camp.
She heard Bill Holmes stumble over the end of the chuck-wagon tongue and
mutter the customary profanity with which the average man meets an incident of
that kind. She whispered a fierce command to the little black dog and stood
very still for a minute, listening. She did not hear anything further, either
from Bill Holmes or the dog, and finally reassured by the silence, she crept
into her tent and tied the flaps together on the inside, and lay down in her
blankets with the little black dog contentedly curled at her feet with his
nose between his front paws.
CHAPTER V. FOR THE GOOD OF THE COMPANY
All through breakfast Applehead seemed to have something weighty on his mind.
He kept pulling at his streaked, reddish-gray mustache when his fingers should
have been wholly occupied with his food, and he stared abstractedly at the
ground after he had finished his first cup of coffee and before he took his
second. Once Bill Holmes caught him glaring with an intensity which
circumstances in no wise justified--and it was Bill Holmes who first shifted
his gaze in vague uneasiness when he tried to stare Applehead down.
Annie-Many-Ponies did not glance at him at all, so far as one could discover;
yet she was the first to sense trouble in the air, and withdrew herself from
the company and sat apart, wrapped closely in her crimson shawl that matched
well the crimson bows on her two shiny braids.
Luck, keenly alive to the moods of his people, looked at her inquiringly.
"Come on up by the fire, Annie," he commanded gently. "What you sitting away
off there for? Come and eat--I want you to work today."
Annie-Many-Ponies did not reply, but she rose obediently and came forward in
the silent way she had, stepping lightly, straight and slim and darkly
beautiful. Applehead glanced at her sourly, and her lashes drooped to hide the
venom in her eyes as she passed him to stand before Luck
"I not hungry," she told Luck tranquilly, yet with a hardness in her voice
which did not escape him, who knew her so well. "I go put on makeup."
"Wear that striped blanket you used last Saturday when we worked up there in
Tijeras Canon. Same young squaw makeup you wore then, Annie." He eyed her
sharply as she turned away to her own tent, and he observed that when she
passed Applehead she took two steps to one side, widening the distance between
them. He watched her until she lifted her tent flap, stooped and disappeared
within. Then he looked at Applehead.
"What's wrong between you two?" he asked the old man quizzically. "Her dog
been licking your cat again, or what?"
"You're danged right he ain't!" Applehead testified boastfully. "Compadre's
got that there dawg's goat, now I'm tellin' yuh! He don't take nothin' off him
ner her neither."
"What you been doing to her, then?" Luck set his empty plate on the ground
beside him and began feeling for the makings of a cigarette. "Way she
side-stepped you, I know there must be SOMETHING."
"Well, now, I ain't done a danged thing to that there squaw! She ain't got any
call to go around givin' me the bad eye." He looked at the breakfasting
company and then again at Luck, and gave an almost imperceptible backward jerk
of his head as he got awkwardly to his feet and strolled away toward the
milling horses in the remuda.
So when Luck had lighted his fresh-rolled cigarette he followed Applehead
unobtrusively. "Well, what's on your mind?" he wanted to know when he came up
"Well, now, I don't want you to think I'm buttin' in on your affairs, Luck,"
Applehead began after a minute, "but seein' as you ast me what's wrong, I'm
goin' to tell yuh straight out. We got a couple of danged fine women in this
here bunch, and I shore do hate to see things goin' on around here that'd
shame 'em if they was to find it out. And fur's I can see they will find it
out, sooner or later. Murder ain't the only kinda wickedness that's hard to
cover up. I know you feel about as I do on some subjects; you never did like
dirt around you, no better'n--"
"Get to the point, man. What's wrong?"
So Applehead, turning a darker shade of red than was his usual hue, cleared
his throat and blurted out what he had to say. He had heard Shunka Chistala
whinnying at midnight in the tent of Annie-Many-Ponies, and had gone outside
to see what was the matter. He didn't know, he explained, but what his cat
Compadre was somehow involved. He had stood in the shadow of his tent for a
few minutes, and had seen Bill Holmes sneak into camp, coming from up the
For some reason he waited a little longer, and he had seen a woman's shadow
move stealthily up to the front of Annie's tent, and had seen Annie slip
inside and had heard her whisper a command of some sort to the dog, which had
immediately hushed its whining. He hated to be telling tales on anybody, but
he knew how keenly Luck felt his responsibility toward the Indian girl, and he
thought he ought to know. This night-prowling, he declared, had shore got to
be stopped, or he'd be danged if he didn't run 'em both outa camp himself.
"Bill Holmes might have been out of camp," Luck said calmly, "but you sure
must be mistaken about Annie. She's straight."
"You think she is," Applehead corrected him. "But you don't know a danged
thing about it. A girl that's behavin' herself don't go chasin' all over the
mesa alone, the way she's been doin' all spring. I never said nothin' 'cause
it wa'n't none of my put-in. But that Injun had a heap of business off away
from the ranch whilst you was in Los Angeles, Luck. Sneaked off every day,
just about--and 'd be gone fer hours at a time. You kin ast any of the boys,
if yuh don't want to take my word. Or you kin ast Mis' Green; she kin tell ye,
if she's a mind to."
"Did Bill Holmes go with her?" Luck's eyes were growing hard and gray.
"As to that I won't say, fer I don't know and I'm tellin' yuh what I seen
myself. Bill Holmes done a lot uh walkin' in to town, fur as that goes; and he
didn't always git back the same day neither. He never went off with Annie, and
he never came back with her, fur as I ever seen. But," he added grimly, "they
didn't come back together las' night, neither. They come about three or four
Luck thought a minute, scowling off across the arroyo. Not even to Applehead,
bound to him by closer ties than anyone there, did he ever reveal his thoughts
"All right--I'll attend to them," he said finally. "Don't say anything to the
bunch; these things aren't helped by talk. Get into your old cowman costume
and use that big gray you rode in that drive we made the other day. I'm going
to pick up the action where we left off when it turned cloudy. Tomorrow or
next day I want to move the outfit back to the ranch. There's quite a lot of
town stuff I want to get for this picture."
Applehead looked at him uncertainly, tempted to impress further upon him the
importance of safeguarding the morals of his company. But he knew Luck pretty
well--having lived with him for months at a time when Luck was younger and
even more peppery than now. So he wisely condensed his reply to a nod, and
went back to the breakfast fire polishing his bald bead with the flat of his
palm. He met Annie-Many-Ponies coming to ask Luck which of the two pairs of
beaded moccasins she carried in her hands he would like to have her wear. She
did not look at Applehead at all as she passed, but he nevertheless became
keenly aware of her animosity and turned half around to glare after her
resentfully. You'd think, he told himself aggrievedly, that he was the one
that had been acting up! Let her go to Luck--she'd danged soon be made to know
her place in camp.
Annie-Many-Ponies went confidently on her way, carrying the two pairs of
beaded moccasins in her hands. Her face was more inscrutable than ever. She
was pondering deeply the problem of Bill Holmes' business with Ramon, and she
was half tempted to tell Wagalexa Conka of that secret intimacy which must
carry on its converse under cover of night. She did not trust Bill Holmes. Why
must he keep Ramon posted? She glanced ahead to where Luck stood thinking
deeply about something, and her eyes softened in a shy sympathy with his
trouble. Wagalexa Conka worked hard and thought much and worried more than was
good for him. Bill Holmes, she decided fiercely, should not add to those
worries. She would warn Ramon when next she talked with him. She would tell
Ramon that he must not be friends with Bill Holmes; in the meantime, she would
Ten feet from Luck she stopped short, sensing trouble in the hardness that was
in his eyes. She stood there and waited in meek subjection.
"Annie, come here!" Luck's voice was no less stern because it was lowered so
that a couple of the boys fussing with the horses inside the rope corral could
not overhear what he had to say.
Annie-Many-Ponies, pulling one of the shiny black braids into the correct
position over her shoulder and breast, stepped soft-footedly up to him and
stopped. She did not ask him what he wanted. She waited until it was his
pleasure to speak.
"Annie, I want you to keep away from Bill Holmes." Luck was not one to mince
his words when he had occasion to speak of disagreeable things. "It isn't
right for you to let him make love to you on the sly. You know that. You know
you must not leave camp with him after dark. You make me ashamed of you when
you do those things. You keep away from Bill Holmes and stay in camp nights.
If you're a bad girl, I'll have to send you back to the reservation--and I'll
have to tell the agent and Chief Big Turkey why I send you back. I can't have
anybody in my company who doesn't act right. Now remember--don't make me speak
to you again about it."
Annie-Many-Ponies stood there, and the veiled, look was in her eyes. Her face
was a smooth, brown mask--beautiful to look upon but as expressionless as the
dead. She did not protest her innocence, she did not explain that she hated
and distrusted Bill Holmes and that she had, months ago, repelled his
surreptitious advances. Luck would have believed, for he had known
Annie-Many-Ponies since she was a barefooted papoose, and he had never known
her to tell him an untruth.
"You go now and get ready for work. Wear the moccasins with the birds on the
toes." He pointed to them and turned away.
Annie-Many-Ponies also turned and went her way and said nothing. What, indeed,
could she say? She did not doubt that Luck had seen her the night before, and
had seen also Bill Holmes when he left camp or returned--perhaps both. She
could not tell him that Bill Holmes had gone out to meet Ramon, for that, she
felt instinctively, was a secret which Ramon trusted her not to betray. She
could not tell Wagalexa Conka, either, that she met Ramon often when the camp
was asleep. He would think that as bad as meeting Bill Holmes. She knew that
he did not like Ramon, but merely used him and his men and horses and cattle
for a price, to better his pictures. Save in a purely business way she had
never seen him talking with Ramon. Never as he talked with the boys of the
Flying U--his Happy Family, he called them.
She said nothing. She dressed for the part she was to play. She twined flowers
in her hair and smoothed out the red bows and laid them carefully away--since
Wagalexa Conka did not wish her to wear ribbon bows in this picture. She
murmured caresses to Shunka Chistala, the little black dog that was always at
her heels. She rode with the company to the rocky gorge which was "location"
for today. When Wagalexa Conka called to her she went and climbed upon a high
rock and stood just where he told her to stand, and looked just as he told her
to look, and stole away through the rocks and out of the scene exactly as he
wished her to do.
But when Wagalexa Conka--sorry for the, harshness he had felt it his duty to
show that morning--smiled and told her she had done fine, and that he was
pleased with her, Annie-Many-Ponies did not smile back with that slow, sweet,
heart-twisting smile which was at once her sharpest weapon and her most
Bill Holmes who had also had his sharp word of warning, and had been told very
plainly to cut out this flirting with Annie if he wanted to remain on Luck's
payroll, eyed her strangely. Once he tried to have a secret word with her, but
she moved away and would not look at him. For Annie-Many-Ponies, hurt and
bitter as she felt toward her beloved Wagalexa Conka, hated Bill Holmes
fourfold for being the cause of her humiliation. That she did not also hate
Ramon Chavez as being equally guilty with Bill Holmes, went far toward proving
how strong a hold he had gained upon her heart.
CHAPTER VI. "I GO WHERE WAGALEXA CONKA SAY"
That afternoon Ramon joined them, suave as ever and seeming very much at peace
with the world and his fellow-beings. He watched the new leading woman make a
perilous ride down a steep, rocky point and dash up to camera and on past it
where she set her horse back upon, its haunches with a fine disregard for her
bones and a still finer instinct for putting just the right dash of the
spectacular into her work without overdoing it.
"That senora, she's all right, you bet!" he praised the feat to those who
stood near him; "me, I not be stuck on ron my caballo down that place. You bet
she's fine rider. My sombrero, he's come off to that lady!"
Jean, hearing, glanced at him with that little quirk of the lips which was the
beginning of a smile, and rode off to join her father and Lite Avery. "He made
that sound terribly sincere, didn't he?" she commented. "It takes a Mexican to
lift flattery up among the fine arts." Then she thought no more about it.
Annie-Many-Ponies was sitting apart, on a rock where her gay blanket made a
picturesque splotch of color against the gray barrenness of the hill behind
her. She, too, heard what Ramon said, and she, too, thought that he had made
the praise sound terribly sincere. He had not spoken to her at all after the
first careless nod of recognition when he rode up. And although her reason had
approved of his caution, her sore heart ached for a little kindness from him.
She turned her eyes toward him now with a certain wistfulness; but though
Ramon chanced to be looking toward her she got no answering light in his eyes,
no careful little signal that his heart was yearning for her. He seemed
remote, as indifferent to her as were any of the others dulled by
accustomedness to her constant presence among them. A premonitory chill, as
from some great sorrow yet before her in the future, shook the heart of Annie-
"Me, I fine out how moch more yoh want me campa here for pictures," Ramon was
saying now to Luck who was standing by Pete Lowry, scribbling something on his
script. "My brother Tomas, he liking for us at ranch now, s'pose yoh finish
Luck wrote another line before he gave any sign that he heard.
Annie-Many-Ponies, watching from under her drooping lids, saw that Bill Holmes
had edged closer to Ramon, while he made pretense of being much occupied with
his own affairs.
"I don't need your camp at all after today." Luck shoved the script into his
coat pocket and looked at his watch.
"This afternoon when the sun is just right I want to get one or two cut-back
scenes and a dissolve out. After that you can break camp any time. But I want
you, Ramon- -you and Estancio Lopez and Luis Rojas. I'll need you for two or
three days in town--want you to play the heavy in a bank-robbery and street
fight. The makeup is the same as when you worked up there in the rocks the
other day. You three fellows come over and go in to the ranch tomorrow if you
like. Then I'll have you when I want you. You'll get five dollars a day while
you work." Having made himself sufficiently clear, he turned away to set and
rehearse the next scene, and did not see the careful glance which passed
between Ramon and Bill Holmes.
"Annie," Luck said abruptly, swinging toward her, "can you come down off that
point where Jean Douglas came? You'll have to ride horseback, remember, and I
don't want you to do it unless you're sure of yourself. How about it?"
For the first time since breakfast her somber eyes lightened with a gleam of
interest. She did not look at Ramon--Ramon who had told her many times how
much he loved her, and yet could praise Jean Douglas for her riding. Ramon had
declared that he would not care to come riding down that point as Jean had
come; very well, then she would show Ramon something.
"It isn't necessary, exactly," Luck explained further. "I can show you at the
top, looking down at the way Jean came; and then I can pick you up on an
easier trail. But if you want to do it, it will save some cut-backs and put
another little punch in here. Either way it's up to you."
The voice of Annie-Many-Ponies did not rise to a higher key when she spoke,
but it had in it a clear incisiveness that carried her answer to Ramon and
made him understand that she was speaking for his ears.
"I come down with big punch," she said.
"Where Jean came? You're riding bareback, remember."
"No matter. I come down jus' same." And she added with a haughty tilt of her
chin, "That's easy place for me."
Luck eyed her steadfastly, a smile of approval on his face. "All right. I know
you've got plenty of nerve, Annie. You mount and ride up that draw till you
get to the ridge. Come up to where you can see camp over the brow of the
hill--sabe?--and then wait till I whistle. One whistle, get ready to come
down. Two whistles, you, come. Ride past camera, just the way Jean did. You
know you're following the white girl and trying to catch up with her. You're a
friend and you have a message for her, but she's scared and is running away--
sabe? You want to come down slow first and pick your trail?"
"No." Annie-Many-Ponies started toward the pinto pony which was her mount in
this picture. "I come down hill. I make big punch for you. Pete turn camera."
"You've got more nerve than I have, Annie," Jean told her good-naturedly as
she went by. "I'd hate to run a horse down there bareback."
"I go where Wagalexa Conka say." From the corner of her eye she saw the quick
frown of jealousy upon the face of Ramon, and her pulse gave an extra beat of
With an easy spring she mounted the pinto pony, took the reins of her squaw
bridle that was her only riding gear, folded her gay blanket snugly around her
uncorseted body and touched the pinto with her moccasined heels. She was
ready--ready to the least little tensed nerve that tingled with eagerness
under the calm surface.
She rode slowly past luck, got her few final instructions and a warning to be
careful and to take no chances of an accident--which brought that inscrutable
smile to her face; for Wagalexa Conka knew, and she knew also, that in the
mere act of riding down that slope faster than a walk she was taking a chance
of an accident. It was that risk that lightened her heart which had been so
heavy all day. The greater the risk, the more eager was she to take it. She
would show Ramon that she, too, could ride.
"Oh, do be careful, Annie!" Jean called anxiously when she was riding into the
mouth of the draw. "Turn to the right, when you come to that big flat rock,
and don't come down where I did. It's too steep. Really," she drawled to
Rosemary and Lite, "my heart was in my mouth when I came straight down by that
rock. It's a lot steeper than it looks from here."
"She won't go round it," Rosemary predicted pessimistically. "She's in one of
her contrary moods today. She'll come down the worst way she can find just to
scare the life out of us."
Up the steep draw that led to the top, Annie-Many-Ponies rode exultantly. She
would show Ramon that she could ride wherever the white girl dared ride. She
would shame Wagalexa Conka, too, for his injustice to her. She would put the
too, for big punch in that scene or--she would ride no more, unless it were
upon a white cloud, drifting across the moon at night and looking, down at
this world and upon Ramon.
At the top of the ridge she rode out to the edge and made the peace-sign to
Luck as a signal that she was ready to do his bidding. Incidentally, while she
held her hand high over her head, her eyes swept keenly the bowlder-strewn
bluff beneath her. A little to one side was a narrow backbone of smoother soil
than the rest, and here were printed deep the marks of Jean's horse. Even
there it was steep, and there was a bank, down there by the big flat rock
which Jean had mentioned. Annie-Many-Ponies looked daringly to the left, where
one would say the bluff was impassable. There she would come down, and no
other place. She would show Ramon what she could do--he who had praised boldly
another when she was by!
"All right, Annie!" Luck called to her through his megaphone. "Go back now and
wait for whistle. Ride along the edge when you come, from bushes to where you
stand. I want silhouette, you coming. You sabe?"
Annie-Many-Ponies raised her hand even with her breast, and swept it out and
upward in the Indian sign-talk which meant "yes." Luck's eyes flashed
appreciation of the gesture; he loved the sign-talk of the old plains tribes.
"Be careful, Annie," he cried impulsively. "I don't want you to be hurt." He
dropped the megaphone as she swung her horse back from the edge and
disappeared. "I'd cut the whole scene out if I didn't know what a rider she
is," he added to the others, more uneasy than he cared to own. "But it would
hurt her a heap more if I wouldn't let her ride where Jean rode. She's proud;
awfully proud and sensitive."
"I'm glad you're letting her do it," Jean said sympathetically. "She'd hate me
if you hadn't. But I'm going to watch her with my eyes shut, just the same.
It's an awfully mean place in spots."
"She'll make it, all right," Luck declared. But his tone was not so confident
as his words, and he was manifestly reluctant to place the whistle to his
lips. He fussed with his script, and he squinted into the viewfinder, and he
made certain for the second time just where the side-lines came, and thrust
half an inch deeper in the sandy soil the slender stakes which would tell
Annie-Many-Ponies where she must guide the pinto when she came tearing down to
foreground. But he could delay the signal only so long, unless he cut out the
"Get back, over on that side, Bill," he commanded harshly. "Leave her plenty
of room to pass that side of the camera. All ready, Pete?" Then, as if he
wanted to have it over with as soon as possible, he whistled once, waited
while he might have counted twenty, perhaps, and sent shrilling through the
sunshine the signal that would bring her.
They watched, holding their breaths in fearful expectancy. Then they saw her
flash into view and come galloping down along the edge of the ridge where the
hill fell away so steeply that it might be called a cliff. Indian fashion, she
was whipping the pinto down both sides with the end of her reins. Her slim
legs hung straight, her moccasined toes pointing downward. One corner of her
red-and-green striped blanket flapped out behind her. Haste--the haste of the
pursuer--showed in every movement, every line of her figure.
She came to the descent, and the pinto, having no desire for applause but a
very great hankering for whole bones in his body, planted his forefeet and
slid to a stop upon the brink. His snort came clearly down to those below who
"He won't tackle it," Pete Lowry predicted philosophically while he turned the
camera crank steadily round and round and held himself ready to "panoram" the
scene if the pinto bolted.
But the pinto, having Annie-Many-Ponies to reckon with, did not bolt. The
braided rein-end of her squaw bridle lashed him stingingly; the moccasined
heels dug without mercy into the tender part of his flanks. He came lunging
down over the first rim of the bluff; then since he must, he gathered himself
for the ordeal and came leaping down and down and down, gaining momentum with
every jump. He could not have stopped then if he had tried--and
Annie-Many-Ponies, still the incarnation of eager pursuit, would not let him
At the big flat rock of which Jean had warned her, the pinto would have
swerved. But she yanked him into the straighter descent, down over the bank.
He leaped, and he fell and slid twice his own length, his nose rooting the
soil. Annie-Many-Ponies lurched, came hard against a boulder and somehow flung
herself into place again on the horse. She lifted his head and called to him
in short, harsh, Indian words. The pinto scrambled to his knees, got to his
feet and felt again the sting of the rein-end in his flanks. Like a rabbit he
came bounding down, down where the way was steepest and most treacherous. And
at every jump the rein-end fell, first on one side and then along the other,
as a skilled canoeman shifts the paddle to force his slight craft forward in a
Down the last slope he came thundering. On his back Annie-Many-Ponies lashed
him steadily, straining her eyes in the direction which Jean had taken past
the camera. She knew that they were watching her--she knew also that the
camera crank in Pete Lowry's hands was turning, turning, recording every move
of hers, every little changing expression. She swept down upon them so close
that Pete grabbed the tripod with one hand, ready to lift it and dodge away
from the coming collision. Still leaning, still lashing and straining every
nerve in pursuit, she dashed past, pivoted the pinto upon his hind feet,
darted back toward the staring group and jumped off while he was yet running.
Now that she had done it; now that she had proven that she also had nerve and
much skill in riding, black loneliness settled upon her again. She came slowly
back, and as she came she heard them praise the ride she had made. She heard
them saying how frightened they had been when the pinto fell, and she heard
Wagalexa Conka call to her that she had made a strong scene for him. She did
not answer. She sat down upon a rock, a little apart from them, and looking as
remote as the Sandias Mountains, miles away to the north, folded her blanket
around her and spoke no word to anyone.
Soon Ramon mounted his horse to return to his camp. He came riding down to her
--for his trail lay that way--and as he rode he called to the others a good
natured "Hasta luego!" which is the Mexican equivalent of "See you later." He
did not seem to notice Annie-Many-Ponies at all as he rode past her. He was
gazing off down the arroyo and riding with all his weight on one stirrup and
the other foot swinging free, as is the nonchalant way of accustomed riders
who would ease their muscles now and then. But as he passed the rock where she
was sitting he murmured, "Tonight by the rock I wait for you, querida mia."
Though she gave no sign that she had heard, the heart of Annie-Many-Ponies
gave a throb of gladness that was almost pain.
CHAPTER VII. ADVENTURE COMES SMILING
Luck, in the course of his enthusiastic picture making, reached the point
where he must find a bank that was willing to be robbed--in broad daylight and
for screen purposes only. If you know anything at all about our financial
storehouses, you know that they are sensitive about being robbed, or even
having it appear that they are being subjected to so humiliating a procedure.
What Luck needed was a bank that was not only willing, but one that faced the
sun as well. He was lucky, as usual. The Bernalillo County Bank stands on a
corner facing east and south. It is an unpretentious little bank of the older
style of architecture, and might well be located in the centre of any small
range town and hold the shipping receipts of a cattleman who was growing rich
as he grew old.
Luck stopped across the street and looked the bank over, and saw how the sun
would shine in at the door and through the wide windows during the greater
part of the afternoon, and hoped that the cashier was a human being and would
not object to a fake robbery. Not liking suspense, he stepped off the pavement
and dodged a jitney, and hurried over to interview the cashier.
You never know what secret ambitions hide behind the impassive courtesy of the
average business man. This cashier, for instance, wore a green eyeshade
whenever his hat was not on his, head. His hair was thin and his complexion
pasty and his shoulders were too stooped for a man of his age. You never would
have suspected, just to look at him through the fancy grating of his window,
how he thirsted for that kind of adventure which fiction writers call
red-blooded. He had never had an adventure in his life; but at night, after he
had gone to bed and adjusted the electric light at his head, and his green
eyeshade, and had put two pillows under the back of his neck, he read--you
will scarcely believe it, but it is true--he read about the James boys and
Kit. Carson and Pawnee Bill, and he could tell you--only he wouldn't mention
it, of course--just how many Texans were killed in the Alamo. He loved gun
catalogues, and he frequently went out of his way to pass a store that
displayed real, business- looking stock-saddles and quirts and spurs and
things. He longed to be down in Mexico in the thick of the scrap there, and he
knew every prominent Federal leader and every revolutionist that got into the
papers; knew them by spelling at least, even if he couldn't pronounce the
He had come to Albuquerque for his lungs' sake a few years ago, and he still
thrilled at the sight of bright-shawled Pueblo Indians padding along the
pavements in their moccasins and queer leggings that looked like joints of
whitewashed stove-pipe; while to ride in an automobile out to Isleta, which is
a terribly realistic Indian village of adobe huts, made the blood beat in his
temples and his fingers tremble upon his knees. Even Martinez Town with its
squatty houses and narrow streets held for him a peculiar fascination.
You can imagine, maybe, how his weak eyes snapped with excitement under that
misleading green shade when Luck Lindsay walked in and smiled at him through
the wicket, and explained who he was and what was the favor he had come to ask
of the bank. You can, perhaps, imagine how he stood and made little marks on a
blotter with his pencil while Luck explained just what he would want; and how
he clung to the noncommittal manner which is a cashier's professional shield,
while Luck smiled his smile to cover his own feeling of doubt and stated that
he merely wanted two Mexicans to enter, presumably overpower the cashier, and
depart with a bag or two of gold.
The cashier made a few more pencil marks and said that it might be arranged,
if Luck could find it convenient to make the picture just after the bank's
closing time. Obviously the cashier could not permit the bank's patrons to be
disturbed in any way--but what he really wanted was to have the thrill of the
adventure all to himself.
With the two of them anxious to have the pictured robbery take place, of
course they arranged it after a polite sparring on the part of the cashier,
whose craving for adventure was carefully guarded as a guilty secret.
At three o'clock the next day, then--although Luck would have greatly
preferred an earlier hour--the cashier had the bank cleared of patrons and
superfluous clerks, and was watching, with his nerves all atingle and the sun
shining in upon him through a side window, while Pete Lowry and Bill Holmes
fussed outside with the camera, getting ready for the arrival of those
realistic bandits, Ramon Chavez and Luis Rojas. On the street corner opposite,
the Happy Family foregathered clannishly, waiting until they were called into
the street-fight scene which Luck meant to make later.
The cashier's cheeks were quite pink with excitement when finally Ramon and
the Rojas villain walked past the window and looked in at him before going on
to the door. He was disappointed because they were not masked, and because
they did not wear bright sashes with fringe and striped serapes draped across
their shoulders, and the hilts of wicked knives showing somewhere. They did
not look like bandits at all--thanks to Luck's sure knowledge and fine sense
of realism. Still, they answered the purpose, and when they opened the door
and came in the cashier got quite a start from the greedy look in their eyes
when they saw the gold he had stacked in profusion on the counter before him.
They made the scene twice--the walking past the window and coming in at the
door; and the second time Luck swore at them because they stopped too abruptly
at the window and lingered too long there, looking in at the cashier and his
gold, and exchanging meaning glances before they went to the door.
Later, there was an interior scene with reflectors almost blinding the cashier
while he struggled self-consciously and ineffectually with Ramon Chavez. The
gold that Ramon scraped from the cashier's keeping into his own was not, of
course, the real gold which the bandits had seen through the window. Luck,
careful of his responsibilities, had waited while the cashier locked the
bank's money in the vault, and had replaced it with brass coins that looked
real--to the camera.
The cashier lived then the biggest moments of his life. He was forced upon his
back across a desk that had been carefully cleared of the bank's papers and as
carefully strewn with worthless ones which Luck had brought. A realistically
uncomfortable gag had been forced into the mouth of the cashier--where it
brought twinges from some fresh dental work, by the way--and the bandits had
taken everything in sight that they fancied.
Ramon and Luis Rojas had proven themselves artists in this particular line of
work, and the cashier, when it was all over and the camera and company were
busily at work elsewhere, lived it in his imagination and felt that he was at
least tasting the full flavor of red-blooded adventure without having to pay
the usual price of bitterness and bodily suffering. He was mistaken, of
course--as I am going to explain. What the cashier had taken part in was not
the adventure itself but merely a rehearsal and general preparation for the
This had been on Wednesday, just after three o'clock in the afternoon. On
Saturday forenoon the cashier was called upon the phone and asked if a part of
that robbery stuff could be retaken that day. The cashier thrilled instantly
at the thought of it. Certainly, they could retake as much as they pleased.
Lucks voice--or a voice very like Luck's--thanked him and said that they would
not need to retake the interior stuff. What he wanted was to get the approach
to the bank the entrance and going back to the cashier. That part of the
negative was under-timed, said the voice. And would the cashier make a display
of gold behind the wicket, so that the camera could register it through the
window? The cashier thought that he could. "Just stack it up good and high,"
directed the voice. "The more the better. And clear the bank--have the clerks
out, and every thing as near as possible to what it was the other day. And you
take up the same position. The scene ends where Ramon comes back and grabs
"And listen! You did so well the other day that I'm going to leave this to
you, to see that they get it the same. I can't be there myself--I've got to
catch some atmosphere stuff down here in Old Town. I'm just sending my
assistant camera man and the two heavies and my scenic artist for this retake.
it won't be much--but be sure you have the bank cleared, old man--because it
would ruin the following scenes to have extra people registered in this; see?
You did such dandy work in that struggle that I want it to stand. Boy, your
work's sure going to stand out on the screen!"
Can you blame the cashier for drinking in every word of that, and for emptying
the vault of gold and stacking it up in beautiful, high piles where the sun
shone on it through the window--and where it would be within easy reach, by
the way!--so that the camera could "register" it?
At ten minutes past twelve he had gotten rid of patrons and clerks, and he had
the gold out and his green eyeshade adjusted as becomingly as a green eyeshade
may be adjusted. He looked out and saw that the street was practically empty,
because of the hour and the heat that was almost intolerable where the sun
shone full. He saw a big red machine drive up to the corner and stop, and he.
saw a man climb out with camera already screwed, to the tripod. He saw the
bandits throw away their cigarettes and follow the camera man, and then he
hurried back and took up his station beside the stacks of gold, and waited in
a twitter of excitement for this unhoped-for encore of last Wednesday's
glorious performance. Through the window he watched the camera being set up,
and he watched also, from under his eyeshade, the approach of the two bandits.
From there on a gap occurs in the cashier's memory of that day.
Ramon and Luis went into the bank, and in a few minutes they came out again
burdened with bags of specie and pulled the door shut with the spring lock set
and the blinds down that proclaimed the bank was closed. They climbed into the
red automobile, the camera and its operator followed, and the machine went
away down the street to the post-office, turned and went purring into the
Mexican quarter which spreads itself out toward the lower bridge that spans
the Rio Grande. This much a dozen persons could tell you. Beyond that no man
seemed to know what became of the outfit.
In the bank, the cashier lay back across a desk with a gag in his mouth and
his hands and feet tied, and with a welt on the side of his head that swelled
and bled sluggishly for a while and then stopped and became an angry purple.
Where the gold had been stacked high in the sunshine the marble glistened
whitely, with not so much as a five-dollar piece to give it a touch of color.
The window blinds were drawn down--the bank was closed. And people passed the
windows and never guessed that within there lay a sickly young man who had
craved adventure and found it, and would presently awake to taste its bitter
Away off across the mesa, sweltering among the rocks in Bear Canon, Luck
Lindsay panted and sweated and cussed the heat and painstakingly directed his
scenes, and never dreamed that a likeness of his voice had beguiled the
cashier of the Bernalillo County Bank into consenting to be robbed and beaten
into oblivion of his betrayal.
And--although some heartless teller of tales might keep you in the dark about
this--the red automobile, having dodged hurriedly into a high-boarded
enclosure behind a Mexican saloon, emerged presently and went boldly off
across the bridge and up through Atrisco to the sand hills which is the
beginning of the desert off that way. But another automobile, bigger and more
powerful and black, slipped out of this same enclosure upon another street,
and turned eastward instead of west. This machine made for the mesa by a
somewhat roundabout course, and emerged, by way of a rough trail up a certain
draw in the edge of the tableland, to the main road where it turns the corner
of the cemetery. From there the driver drove as fast as he dared until he
reached the hill that borders Tijeras Arroyo. There being no sign of pursuit
to this point, he crossed the Arroyo at a more leisurely pace. Then he went
speeding away into the edge of the mountains until they reached one of those
deep, deserted dry washes that cut the foothills here and there near Coyote
Springs. There his passengers left him and disappeared up the dry wash.
Before the wound on the cashier's head had stopped bleeding, the black
automobile was returning innocently to town and no man guessed what business
had called it out upon the mesa.
CHAPTER VIII. THE SONG OF THE OMAHA
"Me, I theenk yoh not lov' me so moch as a pin," Ramon complained in soft
reproach, down in the dry wash where Applehead had looked in vain for baling
wire. "Sometimes I show yoh what is like the Spanish lov'. Like stars, like
fire--sometimes I seeng the jota for you that tell how moch I lov' yoh. 'Te
quiero, Baturra, te quiero,'" he began humming softly while he looked at her
with eyes that shone soft in the starlight. "Sometimes me, I learn yoh dat
song--and moch more I learn yoh--"
Annie-Many-Ponies stood before him, straight and slim and with that air of
aloofness which so fired Ramon's desire for her. She lifted a hand to check
him, and Ramon stopped instantly and waited. So far had her power over him
"All time you tell me you heap love," she said in her crooning soft voice.
"Why you not talk of priest to make us marry? You say words for love--you say
no word for wife. Why you no say--"
"Esposa!" Ramon's teeth gleamed white as a wolf's in the dusk. "When the padre
marry us I maybe teach you many ways to say wife!" He laughed under his
breath. "How I calls yoh wife when I not gets one kees, me? Now I calls yoh la
sweetheart--good enough when I no gets so moch as touches hand weeth yoh."
"I go way with you, you gets priest for make us marry?" Annie-Many-Ponies
edged closer so that she might read what was in his face.
"Why yoh no trus' Ramon? Sure, I gets padre! W'at yoh theenk for speak lies,
me? Sure, I gets padre, foolish one! Me, I not like for yoh no trus' Ramon.
Looks like not moch yoh lov' Ramon."
"I good girl," Annie-Many-Ponies stated simply. "I love my husband when priest
says that's right thing to do. You no gets priest, I no go with you. I think
mens not much cares for marry all time. Womens not care, they go to hell.
That's what priest tells. Girls got to care. That's truth." Simple as
two-plus-two was the rule of life as Annie-Many-Ponies laid it down in words
before him. No fine distinctions between virtue and superwomanhood there, if
you please! No slurring of wrong so that it may look like an exalted right.
"Womens got to care," said Annie-Many-Ponies with a calm certainty that would
brook no argument.
"Sure theeng," Ramon agreed easily. "Yoh theenk I lov' yoh so moch if yoh not
"You gets priest?" Annie-Many-Ponies persisted.
"Sure, I gets padre. You theenk Ramon lies for soch theeng?"
"You swear, then, all same white mans in picture makes oath." There was a new
quality of inflexibility under the soft music of her voice. "You lift up hand
and says, 'Help me by God I makes you for-sure my wife!'" She had pondered
long upon this oath, and she spoke it now with an easy certainty that it was
absolutely binding, and that no man would dare break it. "You makes that swear
now," she urged gently.
"Foolish one! Yoh theenk I mus' swear I do what my hearts she's want? I tell
yoh many times we go on one ranch my brother Tomas says she's be mine. We
lives there in fine house weeth mooch flowers, yoh not so moch as lif' one
finger for work, querida mia. Yoh theenk I not be trus', me, Ramon what loves
"No hurt for swears what I tells," Annie-Many-Ponies stepped back from him a
pace, distrust creeping into her voice.
"All right." Ramon moved nearer. "So I make oath, perhaps you make oath also!
Me, I theenk yoh perhaps not like for leave Luck Leensay--I theenk perhaps yoh
loves heem, yoh so all time watch for ways to please! So I swear, then yoh
mus' swear also that yoh come for-sure. That square deal for both--si?"
Annie-Many-Ponies hesitated, a dull ache in her breast when Ramon spoke of
Luck. But if her heart was sore at thought of him, it was because he no longer
looked upon her with the smile in his eyes. It was because he was not so kind;
because he believed that she had secret meetings with Bill Holmes whom she
hated. And in spite of the fact that Bill Holmes had left the company the
other day and was going away, Wagalexa Conka still looked upon her with cold
eyes and listened to the things that Applehead said against her. The heart of