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For The Good Of The Company








From: The Heritage Of The Sioux

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 with him.

"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 arroyo somewhere.

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 minutes apart."

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 completely.

"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 watch.

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 endearing trait.

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.





Next: I Go Where Wagalexa Conka Say

Previous: Love Words For Annie



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