A Bit Of Paper
From: Good Indian
Good Indian came out upon the rim-rock, looked down upon the ranch
beneath him, and knew, by various little movements about the place, that
breakfast was not yet ready. Gene was carrying two pails of milk to the
house, and Wally and Jack were watering the horses that had been stabled
overnight. He was on the point of shouting down to them when his arm
was caught tightly from behind. He wheeled about and confronted Rachel.
Clothed all in dull gray she was, like a savage young Quakeress. Even
the red ribbons were gone from her hair, which was covered by the gray
blanket wrapped tightly around her slim body. She drew him back from the
rim of the bluff.
"You no shout," she murmured gravely. "No lettum see you here. You
go quick. Ketchum you cayuse, go to ranch. You no tellum you be this
Good Indian stood still, and looked at her. She stood with her
arms folded in her blanket, regarding him with a certain yearning
"You all time think why," she said, shrewdly reading his thoughts, "I no
take shame. I glad." She flushed, and looked away to the far side of the
Snake. "Bad mans no more try for shoot you, mebbyso. I heap--"
Good Indian reached out, and caught her by both shoulders.
"Rachel--if you did that, don't tell me about it. Don't tell me
anything. I don't ask you--I don't want to know." He spoke rapidly, in
the grip of his first impulse to shield her from what she had done.
But he felt her begin to tremble under his fingers, and he stopped as
suddenly as he had begun.
"You no glad? You think shame for me? You think I--all time--very--bad!"
Tragedy was in her voice, and in her great, dark eyes. Good Indian
"No, Rachel. I don't think that. I want to help you out of this, if I
can, and I meant that if you didn't tell me anything about it, why--I
wouldn't know anything about it. You sabe."
"I sabe." Her lips curved into a pathetic little smile. "I sabe you know
all what I do. You know for why, me thinkum. You think shame. I no take
shame. I do for you no get kill-dead. All time Man-that-coughs try for
shootum you. All time I try for--" She broke off to stare questioningly
up into his face. "I no tell, you no like for tell," she said quietly.
"All same, you go. You ketchum you hoss, you go ranch. I think sheriff
mans mebbyso come pretty quick. No find out you be here. I no like you
be here this time."
Good Indian turned, yielding to the pleading of her eyes. The heart of
him ached dully with the weight of what she had done, and with an uneasy
comprehension of her reason for doing it. He walked as quickly as the
rough ground would permit, along the bluff toward the grade; and she,
with the instinctive deference to the male which is the heritage of
primitive woman, followed soft-footedly two paces behind him. Once where
the way was clear he stopped, and waited for her to come alongside, but
Rachel stopped and waited also, her eyes hungrily searching his face
with the look a dog has for his master. Good Indian read the meaning of
that look, and went on, and turned no more toward her until he reached
"You'd better go on to camp, and stay there, Rachel," he said, as
casually as he could. "No trouble will come to you." He hesitated,
biting his lip and plucking absently the tangles from the forelock of
his horse. "You sabe grateful?" he asked finally. And when she gave a
quick little nod, he went on: "Well, I'm grateful to you. You did what
a man would do for his friend. I sabe. I'm heap grateful, and I'll not
forget it. All time I'll be your friend. Good--by." He mounted, and rode
away. He felt, just then, that it was the kindest thing he could do.
He looked back once, just as he was turning into the grade road. She was
standing, her arms folded in her gray blanket, where he had left her.
His fingers tightened involuntarily the reins, so that Keno stopped and
eyed his master inquiringly. But there was nothing that he might say to
her. It was not words that she wanted. He swung his heels against Keno's
flanks, and rode home.
Evadna rallied him upon his moodiness at breakfast, pouted a little
because he remained preoccupied under her teasing, and later was deeply
offended because he would not tell her where he had been, or what was
"I guess you better send word to the doctor he needn't come," the pump
man put his head in at the office door to say, just as the freight was
pulling away from the water-tank. "Saunders died a few minutes ago.
Pete says you better notify the coroner--and I reckon the sheriff, too.
Pretty tough to be shot down like that in broad daylight."
"I think I'd rather be shot in daylight than in the dark," Miss Georgie
snapped unreasonably because her nerves were all a-jangle, and sent the
messages as requested.
Saunders was neither a popular nor a prominent citizen, and there was
none to mourn beside him. Peter Hamilton, as his employer and a man
whose emotions were easily stirred, was shocked a shade lighter as to
his complexion and a tone lower as to his voice perhaps, and was heard
to remark frequently that it was "a turrible thing," but the chief
emotion which the tragedy roused was curiosity, and that fluttering
excitement which attends death in any form.
A dozen Indians hung about the store, the squaws peering inquisitively
in at the uncurtained window of the lean-to--where the bed held a long
immovable burden with a rumpled sheet over it--and the bucks listening
stolidly to the futile gossip on the store porch.
Pete Hamilton, anxious that the passing of his unprofitable servant
should be marked by decorum if not by grief, mentally classed the event
with election day, in that he refused to sell any liquor until the
sheriff and coroner arrived. He also, after his first bewilderment had
passed, conceived the idea that Saunders had committed suicide, and
explained to everyone who would listen just why he believed it. Saunders
was sickly, for one thing. For another, Saunders never seemed to get
any good out of living. He had read everything he could get his hands
on--and though Pete did not say that Saunders chose to die when the
stock of paper novels was exhausted, he left that impression upon his
The sheriff and the coroner came at nine. All the Hart boys, including
Donny, were there before noon, and the group of Indians remained all day
wherever the store cast its shadow. Squaws and bucks passed and repassed
upon the footpath between Hartley and their camp, chattering together
of the big event until they came under the eye of strange white men,
whereupon they were stricken deaf and dumb, as is the way of our
When the sheriff inspected the stable and its vicinity, looking for
clews, not a blanket was in sight, though a dozen eyes watched every
movement suspiciously. When at the inquest that afternoon, he laid upon
the table a battered old revolver of cheap workmanship and long past its
prime, and testified that he had found it ten feet from the stable-door,
in a due line southeast from the hay-corral, and that one shot had been
fired from it, there were Indians in plenty to glance furtively at the
weapon and give no sign.
The coroner showed the bullet which he had extracted from the body of
Saunders, and fitted it into the empty cartridge which had been under
the hammer in the revolver, and thereby proved to the satisfaction of
everyone that the gun was intimately connected with the death of the
man. So the jury arrived speedily, and without further fussing over
evidence, at the verdict of suicide.
Good Indian drew a long breath, put on his hat, and went over to tell
Miss Georgie. The Hart boys lingered for a few minutes at the store, and
then rode on to the ranch without him, and the Indians stole away over
the hill to their camp. The coroner and the sheriff accepted Pete's
invitation into the back part of the store, refreshed themselves after
the ordeal, and caught the next train for Shoshone. So closed the
incident of Saunders' passing, so far as the law was concerned.
"Well," Miss Georgie summed up the situation, "Baumberger hasn't made
any sign of taking up the matter. I don't believe, now, that he will.
I wired the news to the papers in Shoshone, so he must know. I think
perhaps he's glad to get Saunders out of the way--for he certainly must
have known enough to put Baumberger behind the bars.
"But I don't see," she said, in a puzzled way, "how that gun came onto
the scene. I looked all around the stable this morning, and I could
swear there wasn't any gun."
"Well, he did pick it up--fortunately," Good Indian returned grimly.
"I'm glad the thing was settled so easily."
She looked up at him sharply for a moment, opened her lips to ask a
question, and then thought better of it.
"Oh, here's your handkerchief," she said quietly, taking it from the
bottom of her wastebasket. "As you say, the thing is settled. I'm going
to turn you out now. The four-thirty-five is due pretty soon--and I have
oodles of work."
He looked at her strangely, and went away, wondering why Miss Georgie
hated so to have him in the office lately.
On the next day, at ten o'clock, they buried Saunders on a certain
little knoll among the sagebrush; buried him without much ceremony, it
is true, but with more respect than he had received when he was alive
and shambling sneakily among them. Good Indian was there, saying little
and listening attentively to the comments made upon the subject, and
when the last bit of yellow gravel had been spatted into place he rode
down through the Indian camp on his way home, thankful that everyone
seemed to accept the verdict of suicide as being final, and anxious that
Rachel should know it. He felt rather queer about Rachel; sorry for her,
in an impersonal way; curious over her attitude toward life in general
and toward himself in particular, and ready to do her a good turn
because of her interest.
But Rachel, when he reached the camp, was not visible. Peppajee Jim was
sitting peacefully in the shade of his wikiup when Grant rode up, and he
merely grunted in reply to a question or two. Good Indian resolved to
be patient. He dismounted, and squatted upon his heels beside Peppajee,
offered him tobacco, and dipped a shiny, new nickel toward a bright-eyed
papoose in scanty raiment, who stopped to regard him inquisitively.
"I just saw them bury Saunders," Good Indian remarked, by way of opening
a conversation. "You believe he shot himself?"
Peppajee took his little stone pipe from his lips, blew a thin wreath of
smoke, and replaced the stem between his teeth, stared stolidly straight
ahead of him, and said nothing.
"All the white men say that," Good Indian persisted, after he had waited
a minute. Peppajee did not seem to hear.
"Sheriff say that, too. Sheriff found the gun."
"Mebbyso sheriff mans heap damfool. Mebbyso heap smart. No sabe."
Good Indian studied him silently. Reticence was not a general
characteristic of Peppajee; it seemed to indicate a thorough
understanding of the whole affair. He wondered if Rachel had told her
uncle the truth.
"Where's Rachel?" he asked suddenly, the words following involuntarily
Peppajee sucked hard upon his pipe, took it away from his mouth, and
knocked out the ashes upon a pole of the wikiup frame.
"Yo' no speakum Rachel no more," he said gravely. "Yo' ketchum 'Vadnah;
no ketchum otha squaw. Bad medicine come. Heap much troubles come. Me no
likeum. My heart heap bad."
"I'm Rachel's friend, Peppajee." Good Indian spoke softly so that others
might not hear. "I sabe what Rachel do. Rachel good girl. I don't want
to bring trouble. I want to help."
"Yo' make heap bad heart for Rachel," he said sourly. "Yo' like for be
friend, yo' no come no more, mebbyso. No speakum. Bimeby mebbyso no have
bad heart no more. Kay bueno. Yo' white mans. Rachel mebbyso thinkum all
time yo' Indian. Mebbyso thinkum be yo' squaw. Kay bueno. Yo' all time
white mans. No speakum Rachel no more, yo' be friend.
"Yo' speakum, me like to kill yo', mebbyso." He spoke calmly, but none
the less his words carried conviction of his sincerity.
Within the wikiup Good Indian heard a smothered sob. He listened, heard
it again, and looked challengingly at Peppajee. But Peppajee gave
no sign that he either heard the sound or saw the challenge in Good
"I Rachel's friend," he said, speaking distinctly with his face half
turned toward the wall of deerskin. "I want to tell Rachel what the
sheriff said. I want to thank Rachel, and tell her I'm her friend. I
don't want to bring trouble." He stopped and listened, but there was no
Peppajee eyed him comprehendingly, but there was no yielding in his
brown, wrinkled face.
"Yo' Rachel's frien', yo' pikeway," he insisted doggedly.
From under the wall of the wikiup close to Good Indian on the side
farthest from Peppajee, a small, leafless branch of sage was thrust out,
and waggled cautiously, scraping gently his hand. Good Indian's fingers
closed upon it instinctively, and felt it slowly withdrawn until his
hand was pressed against the hide wall. Then soft fingers touched his
own, fluttered there timidly, and left in his palm a bit of paper,
tightly folded. Good Indian closed his hand upon it, and stood up.
"All right, I go," he said calmly to Peppajee, and mounted.
Peppajee looked at him stolidly, and said nothing.
"One thing I would like to know." Good Indian spoke again. "You don't
care any more about the men taking Peaceful's ranch. Before they came,
you watch all the time, you heap care. Why you no care any more? Why you
Peppajee's mouth straightened in a grin of pure irony.
"All time Baumberga try for ketchum ranch, me try for stoppum," he
retorted. "Yo' no b'lievum, Peacefu' no b'lievum. Me tellum yo' cloud
sign, tellum yo' smoke sign, tellum yo' hear much bad talk for ketchum
ranch. Yo' all time think for ketchum 'Vadnah squaw. No think for
stoppum mens. Yo' all time let mens come, ketchum ranch. Yo' say fightum
in co't. Cloud sign say me do notting. Yo' lettum come. Yo' mebbyso
makum go. Me no care."
"I see. Well, maybe you're right." He tightened the reins, and rode
away, the tight little wad of paper still hidden in his palm. When he
was quite out of sight from the camp and jogging leisurely down the hot
trail, he unfolded it carefully and looked at it long.
His face was grave and thoughtful when at last he tore it into tiny bits
and gave it to the hot, desert wind. It was a pitiful little message,
printed laboriously upon a scrap of brown wrapping--paper. It said
"God by i lov yo."
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