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Annie-many-ponies Waits








From: The Heritage Of The Sioux

In the magic light of many unnamable soft shades which the sun leaves
in New Mexico as a love token for his dark mistress night,
Annie-Many-Ponies sat with her back against a high, flat rock at the
place where Ramon had said she must wait for him, and stared somber-eyed
at what she could see of the new land that bad held her future behind
the Sandias; waiting for Ramon; and she wondered if Wagalexa Conka had
come home from his picture-making in Bear Canon and was angry because
she had gone; and shrank from the thought, and tried to picture what
life with Ramon would be like, and whether his love would last beyond
the wide ring of shiny gold that was to make her a wife.

At her feet the little black dog lay licking his sore paws that had
padded patiently after her all day. Beside the rock the black horse
stood nibbling at some weeds awkwardly, because of the Spanish bit in
his mouth. The horse was hungry, and the little black dog was hungry;
Annie-Many-Ponies was hungry also, but she did not feel her, hunger so
much, because of the heaviness that was in her heart.

When Ramon came he would bring food, or he would tell her where she
might buy. The horse, too, would be fed--when Ramon came. And he would
take her to the priest who was his friend, and together they would kneel
before the priest. But first, if Ramon would wait, she wanted to confess
her sins, so that she need not go into the new life bearing the sins of
the old. The priest could pray away the ache that was in her heart; and
then, with her heart light as air, she would be married with Ramon.
It was long since she had confessed--not since the priest came to the
agency when she was there, before she ran away to work in pictures for
Wagalexa Conka.

Before her the glow deepened and darkened. A rabbit hopped out of a
thick clump of stunted bushes, sniffed the air that blew the wrong way
to warn him, and began feeding. Shunka Chistala gathered his soft paws
under him, scratched softly for a firm foothold in the ground, and when
the rabbit, his back turned and the evening wind blowing full in his
face, fed unsuspectingly upon some young bark that he liked, the little
black dog launched himself suddenly across the space that divided them.
There was a squeak and a thin, whimpering crying--and the little black
dog, at least, was sure of his supper.

Annie-Many-Ponies, roused from her brooding, shivered a little when the
rabbit cried. She started forward to save it--she who had taught the
little black dog to hunt gophers and prairie-dogs!--and when she was
too late she scolded the dog in the language of the Sioux. She tore the
rabbit away from him while he eyed her reproachfully; but when she saw
that it was quite dead, she flung the warm body back to him and went and
sat down again with her back to the rock.

A train whistled for the little station of Bernalillo, and soon she saw
its headlight paint the squat houses that had before been hidden behind
the creeping dusk. Ramon was late in coming and for one breath she
caught herself hoping that he would not come at all. But immediately she
remembered the love words he had taught her, and smiled her inscrutable
little smile that had now a tinge of sadness. Perhaps, she thought
wishfully, Ramon had come on the train from Albuquerque. Perhaps he had
a horse in the town, and would ride out and meet her here where he had
told her to wait.

The train shrieked and painted swiftly hill and embankment and little
adobe huts and a corral full of huddled sheep, and went churning away to
the northeast. Annie-Many-Ponies followed its course absently with her
eyes until the last winking light from its windows and the last wisp of
smoke was hidden behind hills and trees. The little black dog finished
the rabbit, nosed its tracks back to where it had hopped out of the
brush, and came back and curled up at the feet of his mistress, licking
his lips and again his travel-sore paws. In a moment, feeling in his
dumb way her loneliness, perhaps, he reached up and laid his pink tongue
caressingly upon her brown hand.

Dark came softly and with it a noisy wind that whistled and murmured and
at last, growing more boisterous as the night deepened, whooped over her
bead and tossed wildly the branches of a clump of trees that grew
near. Annie-Many-Ponies listened to the wind and thought it a brother,
perhaps, of the night wind that came to the Dakota prairies and caroused
there until dawn bade it be still. Too red the blood of her people ran
in her veins for her to be afraid of the night, even though she peopled
it with dim shapes of her fancy.

After a long while the wind grew chill. Annie-Many-Ponies shivered, and
then rose and went to the horse and, reaching into the bundle which was
still bound to the saddle, she worked a plaid shawl loose from the other
things and pulled it out and wrapped it close around her and pulled it
over her head like a cowl. Then she went back and sat down against the
bowlder, waiting, with the sublime patience of her kind, for Ramon.

Until the wind hushed, listening for the dawn, she sat there and waited.
At her feet the little black dog slept with his nose folded between his
front paws over which he whimpered sometimes in his dreams. At every
little sound all through--the night Annie-Many-Ponies had listened,
thinking that at last here came Ramon to take her to the priest, but for
the first time since she had stolen out on the mesa to meet him, Ramon
did not keep the tryst--and this was to be their marriage meeting!
Annie-Many-Ponies grew very still and voiceless in her heart, as if her
very soul waited. She did not even speculate upon what the future would
be like if Ramon never came. She was waiting.

Then, just before the sky lightened, someone stepped cautiously along
a little path that led through rocks and bushes back into the hills.
Annie-Many Ponies turned her face that way and listened. But the steps
were not the steps of Ramon; Annie-Many-Ponies had too much of the
Indian keenness to be fooled by the hasty footsteps of this man. And
since it was not Ramon--her slim fingers closed upon the keen-edged
knife she carried always in its sinew-sewed buckskin sheath near her
heart.

The little black dog lifted his head suddenly and growled, and the
footsteps came to a sudden stop quite near the rock.

"It is you?" asked a cautious voice with the unmistakable Mexican tone
and soft, slurring accent, "speak me what yoh name."

"Ramon comes?" Annie asked him quietly, and the footsteps came swiftly
nearer until his form was silhouetted by the rock.

"Sh-sh--yoh not spik dat name," he whispered. "Luis Rojas me. I come for
breeng yoh. No can come, yoh man. No spik name--som'bodys maybe hears."

Annie-Many-Ponies rose and stood peering at him through the dark.
"What's wrong?" she asked abruptly, borrowing the curt phrase from Luck
Lindsay. "Why I not speak name? Why--some body--?" she laid ironical
stress upon the word--"not come? What business you got, Luis Rojas?"

"No--don' spik names, me!" The figure was seen to throw out an imploring
hand. "Moch troubles, yoh bet! Yoh come now--somebodys she wait in
dam-hurry!"

Annie-Many-Ponies, with her fingers still closed upon the bone handle of
her sharp-edged knife, thought swiftly. Wariness had been born into her
blood--therefore she could understand and meet halfway the wariness of
another. Perhaps Wagalexa Conka had suspected that she was going
with Ramon; Wagalexa Conka was very keen, and his anger blazed hot as
pitch-pine flame. Perhaps Ramon feared Wagalexa Conka--as she, too,
feared him. She was not afraid--she would go to Ramon.

She stepped away from the rock and took the black horse by its dropped
bridle-reins and followed Luis Rojas up the dim path that wound through
trees and rocks until it dropped into a little ravine that was chocked
with brush, so that Annie-Many-Ponies had to put the stiff branches
aside with her hand lest they scratch her face as she passed.

Luis went swiftly along the path, as though his haste was great; but he
went stealthily as well, and she knew that he had some unknown cause for
secrecy. She wondered a little at this. Had Wagalexa Conka discovered
where she and Ramon were to meet? But how could he discover that which
had been spoken but once, and then in the quiet loneliness of that place
far back on the mesa? Wagalexa Conka bad not been within three miles of
that place, as Annie-Many-Ponies knew well. How then did he know? For he
must have followed, since Ramon dared not come to the place he had named
for their meeting.

Dawn came while they were still following the little, brush-choked
ravine with its faint pathway up the middle of it, made by cattle or
sheep or goats, perhaps all three. Luis hurried along, stopping now and
then and holding up a hand for silence so that he might listen. Fast as
he went, Annie-Many-Ponies kept within two long steps of his heels, her
plaid shawl drawn smoothly over her black head and folded together under
her chin. Her mouth was set in a straight line, and her chin had the
square firmness of the Indian. Luis, looking back at her curiously,
could not even guess at her thoughts, but he thought her too calm and
cold for his effervescent nature--though he would have liked to tell her
that she was beautiful. He did not, because he was afraid of Ramon.

"Poco tiempo, come to his camp, Ramon," he said when the sun was peering
over the high shoulder of a ridge; and he spoke in a hushed tone, as if
he feared that someone might overhear him.

"You 'fraid Wagalexa Conka, he come?" Annie-Many-Ponies asked abruptly,
looking at him full.

Luis did not understand her, so he lifted his shoulders in the Mexican
gesture which may mean much or nothing. "Quien sabe?" he muttered
vaguely and went on. Annie-Many-Ponies did not know what he meant, but
she guessed that he did not want to be questioned upon the subject;
so she readjusted the shawl that had slipped from her head and went on
silently, two long steps behind him.

In a little he turned from the ravine, which was becoming more open and
not quite so deep. They scrambled over boulders which the horse must
negotiate carefully to avoid a broken leg, and then they were in another
little ravine, walled round with rocks and high, brushy slopes. Luis
went a little way, stopped beside a huge, jutting boulder and gave a
little exclamation of dismay.

"No more here, Ramon," he said, staring down at the faintly smoking
embers of a little fire. "She's go som' place, I don't know, me."

The slim right hand of Annie-Many-Ponies went instinctively to her bosom
and to what lay hidden there. But she waited, looking from the little
campfire that was now almost dead, to Luis whom she suspected of
treachery. Luis glanced up at her apologetically, caught something of
menace in that unwinking, glittering stare, and began hastily searching
here and there for some sign that would enlighten him further.

"She's here when I go, Ramon," he explained deprecatingly. "I don'
un'stan', me. She's tell me go breeng yoh thees place. She's say I mus'
huree w'ile dark she's las'. I'm sure s'prised, me!" Luis was a slender
young man with a thin, patrician face that had certain picture values
for Luck, but which greatly belied his lawless nature. Until he stood
by the rock where she had waited for Ramon, Annie-Many-Ponies had
never spoken to him. She did not know him, therefore she did not trust
him--and she looked her distrust.

Luis turned from her after another hasty glance, and began searching
for some sign of Ramon. Presently, in a tiny cleft near the top of the
boulder, his black eyes spied a folded paper--two folded papers, as he
discovered when he reached up eagerly and pulled them out.

"She's write letter, Ramon," he cried with a certain furtive excitement.
"Thees for yoh." And he smiled while he gave her a folded note with
"Ana" scrawled hastily across the face of it.

Annie-Many-Ponies extended her left hand for it, and backed the few
steps away from him which would insure her safety against a sudden
attack, before she opened the paper and read:

"Querida mia, you go with Luis. Hes all rite you trus him. He bring you
where i am. i lov you. Ramon"

She read it twice and placed the note in her bosom--next the knife--and
looked at Luis, the glitter gone from her eyes. She smiled a little.
"I awful hongry," she said in her soft voice, and it was the second
sentence she had spoken since they left the rock where she had waited.

Luis smiled back, relief showing in the uplift of his lips and the
lightening of his eyes. "She's cache grob, Ramon," he said. "She's go
som' place and we go also. She's wait for us. Dam-long way--tree days, I
theenk me."

"You find that grub," said Annie-Many-Ponies, letting her hand drop away
from the knife. "I awful hongry. We eat, then we go."

"No--no go till dark comes! We walk in night--so somebody don' see!"

Annie-Many-Ponies looked at him sharply, saw that he was very much in
earnest, and turned away to gather some dry twigs for the fire. Up the
canon a horse whinnied inquiringly, and Luis, hastening furtively that
way, found the horse he had ridden into this place with Ramon. With
the problem of finding provender for the two animals, he had enough to
occupy him until Annie-Many-Ponies, from the coarse food he brought her,
cooked a crude breakfast.

Truly, this was not what she had dreamed the morning would be like--she
who had been worried over the question of whether Ramon would let her
confess to the priest before they were married! Here was no priest and
no Ramon, even; but a keen-eyed young Mexican whom she scarcely knew at
all; and a mysterious hiding-out in closed-in canons until dark before
they might follow Ramon who loved her. Annie-Many-Ponies did not
understand why all this stealthiness should be necessary, for she knew
that proof of her honorable marriage would end Luck's pursuit--supposing
he did pursue--even though his anger might live always for her. She did
not understand; and when an Indian confronts a situation which puzzles
him, you may be very sure that same Indian is going to be very, very
cautious. Annie-Many-Ponies was Indian to the middle of her bone.





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