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I Go Where Wagalexa Conka Say








From: The Heritage Of The Sioux

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-Many-Ponies.

"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 poco tiempo."

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 triumph.

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 scene altogether.

"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 watched.

"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 try.

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
treacherous current.

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.





Next: Adventure Comes Smiling

Previous: For The Good Of The Company



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