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Love Words For Annie








From: The Heritage Of The Sioux

In Tijeras Arroyo the moon made black shadows where stood the tiny
knolls here and there, marking frequently the windings of dry washes
where bushes grew in ragged patches and where tall weeds of mid-May
tangled in the wind. The roundup tents of the Flying U Feature Film
Company stood white as new snow in the moonlight, though daylight showed
them an odd, light-blue tint for photographic purposes. On a farther
slope cunningly placed by the scenic artist to catch the full sunlight
of midday, the camp of the Chavez brothers gleamed softly in the magic
light.

So far had spring roundup progressed that Luck was holding the camp in
Tijeras Arroyo for picture-making only. Applehead's calves were branded,
to the youngest pair of knock-kneed twins which Happy Jack found curled
up together cunningly hidden in a thicket. They had been honored with a
"close-up" scene, those two spotted calves, and were destined to further
honors which they did not suspect and could not appreciate.

They slept now, as slept the two camps upon the two slopes that lay
moon-bathed at midnight. Back where the moon was making the barren
mountains a wonderland of deep purple and black and silvery gray and
brown, a coyote yapped a falsetto message and was answered by one nearer
at hand--his mate, it might be. In a bush under the bank that made of
it a black blot in the unearthly whiteness of the sand, a little
bird fluttered uneasily and sent a small, inquiring chirp into the
stillness. From somewhere farther up the arroyo drifted a faint,
aromatic odor of cigarette smoke.

Had you been there by the bush you could not have told when
Annie-Many-Ponies passed by; you would not have seen her--certainly you
could not have heard the soft tread of her slim, moccasined feet. Yet
she passed the bush and the bank and went away up the arroyo, silent as
the shadows themselves, swift as the coyote that trotted over a nearby
ridge to meet her mate nearer the mountains. Sol following much the same
instinct in much the same way, Annie-Many-Ponies stole out to meet the
man her heart timidly yearned for a possible mate.

She reached the rock-ledge where the smoke odor was strongest, and she
stopped. She saw Ramon Chavez, younger of the Chavez brothers who were
ten-mile-off neighbors of Applehead, and who owned many cattle and much
land by right of an old Spanish grant. He was standing in the shadow of
the ledge, leaning against it as they of sun-saturated New Mexico always
lean against anything perpendicular and solid near which they happen to
stand. He was watching the white-lighted arroyo while he smoked, waiting
for her, unconscious of her near presence.

Annie-Many-Ponies stood almost within reach of him, but she did not make
her presence known. With the infinite wariness of her race she waited to
see what he would do; to read, if she might, what were his thoughts--his
attitude toward her in his unguarded moments. That little, inscrutable
smile which so exasperated Applehead was on her lips while she watched
him.

Ramon finished that cigarette, threw away the stab and rolled and
lighted another. Still Annie-Many-Ponies gave no little sign of her
presence. He watched the arroyo, and once he leaned to one side and
stared back at his own quiet camp on the slope that had the biggest and
the wildest mountain of that locality for its background. He settled
himself anew with his other shoulder against the rock, and muttered
something in Spanish--that strange, musical talk which Annie-Many-Ponies
could not understand. And still she watched him, and exulted in his
impatience for her coming, and wondered if it would always be lovelight
which she would see in his eyes.

He was not of her race, though in her pride she thought him favored when
she named him akin to the Sioux. He was not of her race, but he was tall
and he was straight, he was dark as she, he was strong and brave and he
bad many cattle and much broad acreage. Annie-Many-Ponies smiled upon
him in the dark and was glad that she, the daughter of a chief of the
Sioux, had been found good in his sight.

Five minutes, ten minutes. The coyote, yap-yap-yapping in the broken
land beyond them, found his mate and was silent. Ramon Chavez, waiting
in the shadow of the ledge, muttered a Mexican oath and stepped out into
the moonlight and stood there, tempted to return to his camp--for he,
also, had pride that would not bear much bruising.

Annie-Many-Ponies waited. When he muttered again and threw his cigarette
from him as though it had been something venomous; when he turned his
face toward his own tents and took a step forward, she laughed softly, a
mere whisper of amusement that might have been a sleepy breeze stirring
the bushes somewhere near. Ramon started and turned his face her way;
in the moonlight his eyes shone with a certain love-hunger which
Annie-Many-Ponies exulted to see--because she did not understand.

"You not let moon look on you," she chided in an undertone, her
sentences clipped of superfluous words as is the Indian way, her voice
that pure, throaty melody that is a gift which nature gives lavishly to
the women of savage people. "Moon see, men see."

Ramon swung back into the shadow, reached out his two arms to fold her
close and got nothing more substantial than another whispery laugh.

"Where are yoh,sweetheart?" He peered into the shadow where she had
been, and saw the place empty. He laughed, chagrined by her elusiveness,
yet hungering for her the more.

"You not touch," she warned. "Till priest say marriage prayers, no man
touch."

He called her a devil in Spanish, and she thought it a love-word and
laughed and came nearer. He did not attempt to touch her, and so,
reassured, she stood close so that he could see the pure, Indian profile
of her face when she raised it to the sky in a mute invocation, it might
be, of her gods.

"When yoh come?" he asked swiftly, his race betrayed in tone and accent.
"I look and look--I no see yoh."

"I come," she stated with a quiet meaning. "I not like cow, for make
plenty noise. I stand here, you smoke two times, I look."

"You mus' be moonbeam," he told her, reaching out again, only to lay
hold upon nothing. "Come back, sweetheart. I be good."

"I not like you touch," she repeated. "I good girl. I mind priest, I
read prayers, I mind Wagalexa Conka--" There she faltered, for the last
boast was no longer the truth.

Ramon was quick to seize upon the one weak point of her armor. "So? He
send yoh then to talk with Ramon at midnight? Yoh come to please yoh
boss?"

Annie-Many-Ponies turned her troubled face his way. "Wagalexa Conka
sleep plenty. I not ask," she confessed. "You tell me come here you tell
me must talk when no one hear. I come. I no ask Wagalexa Conka--him say
good girl stay by camp. Him say not walk in night-time, say me not talk
you. I no ask; I just come."

"Yoh lov' him, perhaps? More as yoh lov' me? Always I see yoh look at
him--always watch, watch. Always I see yoh jomp when he snap the finger;
always yoh run like train dog. Yoh lov' him, perhaps? Bah! Yoh dirt
onder his feet." Ramon did not seriously consider that any woman whom
he favored could sanely love another man more than himself, but to
his nature jealousy was a necessary adjunct of lovemaking; not to
have displayed jealousy would have been to betray indifference, as he
interpreted the tender passion.

Annie-Many-Ponies, woman-wily though she was by nature, had little
learning in the devious ways of lovemaking. Eyes might speak, smiles
might half reveal, half hide her thoughts; but the tongue, as her tribe
had taught her sternly, must speak the truth or keep silent. Now she
bent her head, puzzling how best to put her feelings toward Luck Lindsay
into honest words which Ramon would understand.

"Yoh lov' him, perhaps--since yoh all time afraid he be mad." Ramon
persisted, beating against the wall of her Indian taciturnity which
always acted as a spur upon his impetuosity. Besides, it was important
to him that he should know just what was the tie between these two. He
had heard Luck Lindsay speak to the girl in the Sioux tongue. He had
seen her eyes lighten as she made swift answer. He had seen her always
eager to do Luck's bidding--had seen her anticipate his wants and
minister to them as though it was her duty and her pleasure to do so.
It was vital that he should know, and it was certain that he could not
question Luck upon the subject--for Ramon Chavez was no fool.

"Long time ago--when I was papoose with no shoes," she began with
seeming irrelevance, her eyes turning instinctively toward the white
tents of the Flying U camp gleaming in the distance, "my people go for
work in Buffalo Bill show. My father go, my mother go, I go. All time we
dance for show, make Indian fight with cowboys--all them act for Buffalo
Bill-Pawnee Bill show. That time Wagalexa Conka boss of Indians. He
Indian Agent. He take care whole bunch. He make peace when fights, he
give med'cine when somebody sick. He awful good to them Indians. He give
me candy, always stop to talk me. I like him. My father like him. All
them Indians like him plenty much. My father awful sick one time, he no
let doctor come. Leg broke all in pieces. He say die plenty if Wagalexa
Conka no make well. I go ticket wagon, tell Wagalexa Conka, he come
quick, fix up leg all right.

"All them Indians like to make him--" She stopped, searching her mind
for the elusive, little-used word which she had learned in the mission
school. "Make him sdop'," she finished triumphantly. "Indians make much
dance, plenty music, lots speeches make him Indian man. My father big
chief, he make Wagalexa Conka him son. Make him my brother. Give him
Indian name Wagalexa Conka. All Indians call that name for him.

"Pretty soon show stop, all them Indians go home by reservation. long
time we don't see Wagalexa Conka no more. I get big girl, go school
little bit. Pretty soon Wagalexa Conka come back, for wants them Indians
for work in pictures. My father go, my mother go, all us go. We work
long time. I," she added with naive pride in her comeliness, "awful good
looking. I do lots of foreground stuff. Pretty soon hard times come.
Indians go home by reservation. I go--I don't like them reservations no
more. Too lonesome. I like for work all time in pictures. I come, tell
Wagalexa Conka I be Indian girl for pictures. He write letter for agent,
write letter for my father. They writes letter for say yes, I stay. I
stay and do plenty more foreground stuff."

"I don't see you do moch foreground work since that white girl come,"
Ramon observed, hitting what he instinctively knew was a tender point.

Had he seen her face, he must have been satisfied that the chance shot
struck home. But in the shadow hate blazed unseen from her eyes. She did
not speak, and so he went back to his first charge.

"All this don't tell me moch," he complained. "Yoh lov' him, maybe?
That's what I ask."

"Wagalexa Conka my brother, my father, my friend," she replied calmly,
and let him interpret it as he would.

"He treats yoh like a dog. He crazee 'bout that Jean. He gives her all
smiles, all what yoh call foreground stuff. I know--I got eyes. Me, it
makes me mad for see how he treat yoh--and yoh so trying hard always
to Please. He got no heart for yoh--me, I see that." He moved a step
closer, hesitating, wanting yet not quite daring to touch her. "Me, I
lov' yoh, little Annie," he murmured. "Yoh lov' me little bit, eh? Jus'
little bit! Jus' for say, 'Ramon, I go weeth yoh, I be yoh woman--'"

Annie-Many-Ponies widened the distance between them. "Why you not say
wife?" she queried suspiciously.

"Woman, wife, sweetheart--all same," he assured her with his voice like
a caress. "All words mean I lov' yoh jus' same. Now yoh say yoh lov' me,
say yoh go weeth me, I be one happy man. I go back on camp and my heart
she's singing lov' song. My girl weeth eyes that shine so bright, she
lov' me moch as I lov' her. That what my heart she sing. Yoh not be so
cruel like stone--yoh say, 'Ramon, I lov' yoh.' Jus' like that! So easy
to say!"

"Not easy," she denied, moved to save her freedom yet a while longer.
"I say them words, then I--then I not be same girl like now. Maybe much
troubles come. Maybe much happy--I dunno. Lots time I see plenty trouble
come for girl that say them words for man. Some time plenty happy--I
think trouble comes most many times. I think Wagalexa Conka he be awful
mad. I not like for hims be mad."

"Now you make ME mad--Ramon what loves yoh! Yoh like for Ramon be mad,
perhaps? Always yoh 'fraid Luck Lindsay this, 'fraid Luck that other.
Me, I gets damn' sick hear that talk all time. Bimeby he marree som'
girl, then what for you? He don' maree yoh, eh? He don' lov' yoh; he
think too good for maree Indian girl. Me, I not think like that. I,
Ramon Chavez, I think proud to lov, yoh. Ramon--"

"I not think Wagalexa Conka marry me." The girl was turning stubborn
under his importunities. "Wagalexa Conka my brother--my friend. I tell
you plenty time. Now I tell no more."

"Ramon loves yoh so moch," he pleaded, and smiled to himself when he saw
her turn toward toward him again. The love-talk--that was what a woman
likes best to hear! "Yoh say yoh lov' Ramon jus' little bit!"

"I not say now. When I say I be sure I say truth."

"All right, then I be sad till yoh lov' me. Yoh maybe be happy, yoh know
Ramon's got heavy heart for yoh."

"I plenty sorry, you be sad for me," she confessed demurely. "I lov' yoh
so moch! I think nothing but how beautiful my sweetheart is. I not tease
yoh no more. Tell me, how long Luck says he stay out here? Maybe yoh
hear sometimes he's going for taking pictures in town?"

"I not hear."

"Going home, maybe? You mus' hear little bit. Yoh tell me, sweetheart;
what's he gone do when roundup's all finish? Me, I know she's finish
las' week. Looks like he's taking pictures out here all summer! You hear
him say something, maybe?"

"I not hear."

"Them vaqueros--bah! They don't bear nothings either. What's matter over
there, nobody hear nothing? Luck, he got no tongue when camera's shut
up, perhaps?"

"Nah--I dunno."

Ramon looked at her for a minute in mute rage. It was not the first time
he had found himself hard against the immutable reticence of the Indian
in her nature.

"Why you snapping teeth like a wolf?" she asked him slyly.

"Me? I don' snap my teeth, sweetheart." It cost Ramon some effort to
keep his voice softened to the love key.

"Why you not ask Wagalexa Conka what he do?"

"I don' care, that's why I don' ask. Me, it's' no matter."

He hesitated a moment, evidently weighing a matter of more importance
to him than he would have Annie-Many-Ponies suspect. "Sweetheart, yoh do
one thing for Ramon?" His voice might almost be called wheedling. "Me,
I'm awful busy tomorrow. I got long ride away off--to my rancho. I got
to see my brother Tomas. I be back here not before night. Yoh tell Bill
Holmes he come here by this rock--yoh say midnight that's good time--I
sure be here that time. Yoh say I got something I wan' tell him. Yoh do
that for Ramon, sweetheart?"

He waited, trying to hide the fact that he was anxious.

"I not like Bill Holmes." Annie-Many-Ponies spoke with an air of
finality. "Bill Holmes comes close, I feel snakes. Him not friend to
Wagalexa Conka--say nothing--always go around still, like fox watching
for rabbit. You not friend to Bill Holmes?"

"Me? No--I not friend, querida mia. I got business. I sell Bill Holmes
one silver bridle, perhaps. I don' know--mus' talk about it. Yoh tell
him come here by big rock, sweetheart?"

Annie-Many-Ponies took a minute for deliberation--which is the Indian
way. Ramon, having learned patience, said no more but watched her
slant-eyed.

"I tell," she promised at last, and added, "I go now." Then she slipped
away. And Ramon, though he stood for several minutes by the rock smiling
queerly and staring down the arroyo, caught not the slightest glimpse
of her after she left him. He knew that she would deliver faithfully
his message to Bill Holmes, she had given her word. That was one
great advantage, considered Ramon, in dealing with those direct,
uncompromising natures. She might torment him with her aloofness and her
reticence, but once he had won her to a full confidence and submission
he need not trouble himself further about her loyalty. She would tell
Bill Holmes--and, what was vastly more important, she would do it
secretly; he had not dared to speak of that, but he thought he might
safely trust to her natural wariness. So Ramon, after a little, stole
away to his own camp quite satisfied.

The next night, when he stood in the shadow of the rock ledge and
waited, he was not startled by the unexpected presence of the person he
wanted to see. For although Bill Holmes came as cautiously as he knew
how, and avoided the wide, bright-lighted stretches of arroyo where he
would have been plainly visible, Ramon both saw and heard him before he
reached the ledge. What Ramon did not see or hear was Annie-Many-Ponies,
who did not quite believe that those two wished merely to talk about a
silver bridle, and who meant to listen and find out why it was that they
could not talk openly before all the boys.

Annie-Many-Ponies had ways of her own. She did not tell Ramon that she
doubted his word, nor did she refuse to deliver the message. She waited
calmly until Bill Holmes left camp stealthily that night, and she
followed him. It was perfectly simple and sensible and the right thing
to do; if you wanted to know for sure whether a person lied to you, you
had but to watch and listen and let your own eyes and ears prove guilt
or innocence.

So Annie-Many-Ponies stood by the rock and listened and watched. She
did not see any silver bridle. She heard many words, but the two were
speaking in that strange Spanish talk which she did not know at all,
save "Querida mia," which Ramon had told her meant sweetheart.

The two talked, low-voiced and earnest, Bill was telling all that he
knew of Luck Lindsay's plans--and that was not much.

"He don't talk," Bill complained. "He just tells the bunch a day
ahead--just far enough to get their makeup and costumes on, generally.
But he won't stay around here much longer; he's taken enough spring
roundup stuff now for half a dozen pictures. He'll be moving in to the
ranch again pretty quick. And I know this picture calls for a lot of
town business that he'll have to take. I saw the script the other day."
This, of course, being a free translation of the meaningless jumble of
strange words which Annie heard.

"What town business is that? Where will he work?" Ramon was plainly
impatient of so much vagueness.

"Well, there's a bank robbery--I paid particular attention, Ramon, so I
know for certain. But when he'll do it, or what bank he'll use, I don't
know any more than you do. And there's a running fight down the street
and through the Mexican quarter. The rest is just street stuff--that
and a fiesta that I think he'll probably me the old plaza for location.
He'll need a lot of Mexicans for that stuff. He'll want you, of course."

"That bank--who will do that?" Ramon's fingers trembled so that he could
scarcely roll a cigarette. "Andy, perhaps?"

"No--that's the Mexican bunch. I--why, I guess that will maybe be
you, Ramon. I wasn't paying much attention to the parts--I was after
locations, and I only had about two minutes at the script. But he's been
giving you some good bits right along where he needed a Mexican type;
and those scenes in the rocks the other day was bandit stuff with you
for lead. It'll be you or Miguel--the Native Son, as they call him--and
so far he's cast for another part. That's the worst of Luck. He won't
talk about what he's going to do till he's all ready to do it."

There was a little further discussion. Ramon muttered a few
sentences--rapid instructions, Annie-Many-Ponies believed from the tone
he used.

"All right, I'll keep you posted," Bill Holmes replied in English. And
he added as he started off, "You can send word by the squaw."

He went carefully back down the arroyo, keeping as much as possible in
the shade. Behind him stole Annie-Many-Ponies, noiseless as the shadow
of a cloud. Bill Holmes, she reflected angrily, had seen the day, not so
far in the past, when he was happy if the "squaw" but smiled upon him.
It was because she had repelled his sly lovemaking that he had come to
speak of her slightingly like that; she knew it. She could have named
the very day when his manner toward her had changed. Mingled with her
hate and dread of him was a new contempt and a new little anxiety over
this clandestine intimacy between Ramon and him. Why should Bill Holmes
keep Ramon posted? Surely not about a silver bridle!

Shunka Chistala was whining in her little tent when she came into the
camp. She heard Bill Holmes stumble over the end of the chuck-wagon
tongue and mutter the customary profanity with which the average man
meets an incident of that kind. She whispered a fierce command to the
little black dog and stood very still for a minute, listening. She
did not hear anything further, either from Bill Holmes or the dog, and
finally reassured by the silence, she crept into her tent and tied the
flaps together on the inside, and lay down in her blankets with the
little black dog contentedly curled at her feet with his nose between
his front paws.





Next: For The Good Of The Company

Previous: To The Victors The Spoils



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