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Adventure Comes Smiling








From: The Heritage Of The Sioux

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 names correctly.

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 real performance.

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 you."

"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 flavor.

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.





Next: The Song Of The Omaha

Previous: I Go Where Wagalexa Conka Say



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