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Squaw-talk-far-off Heap Smart








From: Good Indian

Good Indian spoke briefly with the good-looking young squaw, who had a
shy glance for him when he came up; afterward he took hold of his hat
by the brim, and ducked through the low opening of a wikiup which she
smilingly pointed out to him.

"Howdy, Peppajee? How you foot?" he asked, when his unaccustomed eyes
discerned the old fellow lying back against the farther wall.

"Huh! Him heap sick all time." Having his injury thus brought afresh
to his notice, Peppajee reached down with his hands, and moved the foot
carefully to a new position.

"Last night," Good Indian began without that ceremony of long waiting
which is a part of Indian etiquette, "much men come to Hart ranch.
Eight." He held up his two outspread hands, with the thumbs tucked
inside his palms. "Come in dark, no seeum till sun come back. Makeum
camp. One man put sticks in ground, say that part belong him. Twenty
acres." He flung up his hands, lowered them, and immediately raised
them again. "Eight men do that all same. Have guns, grub, blankets--stop
there all time. Say they wash gold. Say that ranch have much gold,
stake placer claims. Baumberger"--he saw Peppajee's eyelids draw
together--"tell men to go away. Tell Peaceful he fight those men--in
court. You sabe. Ask Great Father to tell those men they go away, no
wash gold on ranch." He waited.

There is no hurrying the speech of an Indian. Peppajee smoked stolidly,
his eyes half closed and blinking sleepily. The veneer of white men's
ways dropped from him when he entered his own wikiup, and he would not
speak quickly.

"Las' night--mebbyso yo' watchum?" he asked, as one who holds his
judgment in abeyance.

"I heap fool. I no watch. I let those men come while I think of--a girl.
My eyes sleep." Good Indian was too proud to parry, too bitter with
himself to deny. He had not said the thing before, even to himself,
but it was in his heart to hate his love, because it had cost this
catastrophe to his friends.

"Kay bueno." Peppajee's voice was harsh. But after a time he spoke more
sympathetically. "Yo' no watchum. Yo' let heap trouble come. This day
yo' heart bad, mebbyso. This day yo' no thinkum squaw all time. Mebbyso
yo' thinkum fight, no sabe how yo' fight."

Grant nodded silently. It would seem that Peppajee understood, even
though his speech was halting. At that moment much of the unfounded
prejudice, which had been for a few days set aside because of bigger
things, died within him. He had disliked Peppajee as a pompous egotist
among his kind. His latent antagonism against all Indians because they
were unwelcomely his blood relatives had crystallized here and there
against; certain individuals of the tribe. Old Hagar he hated coldly.
Peppajee's staginess irritated him. In his youthful arrogance he had not
troubled to see the real man of mettle under that dingy green blanket.
Now he looked at Peppajee with a startled sense that he had never known
him at all, and that Peppajee was not only a grimy Indian--he was also a
man.

"Me no sabe one thing. One otha thing me sabe. Yo' no b'lieve Baumberga
one frien'. Him all same snake. Them mens come, Baumberga tellum come
all time. All time him try for foolum Peaceful. Yo' look out. Yo' no
sleepum mo'. All time yo' watchum."

"I come here," said Good Indian; "I think you mebbyso hear talk, you
tell me. My heart heap sad, I let this trouble come. I want to kill
that trouble. Mebbyso make my friends laugh, be heap glad those men no
stealum ranch. You hear talk, mebbyso you tell me now."

Peppajee smoked imperturbably what time his dignity demanded. At length
he took the pipe from his mouth, stretched out his arm toward Hartley,
and spoke in his sonorous tone, calculated to add weight to his words.

"Yo' go speakum Squaw-talk-far-off," he commanded. "All time makum
talk--talk--" He drummed with his fingers upon his left forearm.
"Mebbyso heap sabe. Heap sabe Baumberga kay bueno. He thinkum sabe
stealum ranch. All time heap talk come Man-that-coughs, come all same
Baumberga. Heap smart, dat squaw." A smile laid its faint light upon
his grim old lips, and was gone. "Thinkum yo' heap bueno, dat squaw. All
time glad for talkum yo'. Yo' go."

Good Indian stood up, his head bent to avoid scraping his hat against
the sloping roof of the wikiup.

"You no hear more talk all time you watch?" he asked, passing over Miss
Georgie's possible aid or interest in the affair.

"Much talkum--no can hear. All time them damn' Baumberga shut door--no
talkum loud. All time Baumberga walkum in dark. Walkum where apples
grow, walkum grass, walkum all dat ranch all time. All time me heap
watchum. Snake come, bitum foot--no can watchum mo'. Dat time, much
mens come. Yo' sabe. Baumberga all time talkum, him heap frien'
Peacefu'--heap snake all time. Speakum two tongue Yo' no b'lievum. All
time heap big liar, him. Yo' go, speakum Squaw-talk-far-off. Bueno, dat
squaw. Heap smart, all same mans. Yo' go. Pikeway." He settled back with
a gesture of finality, and so Good Indian left him.

Old Hagar shrilled maledictions after him when he passed through the
littered camp on his way back to where he had left his horse, but for
once he was deaf to her upbraidings. Indeed, he never heard her--or if
he did, her clamor was to him as the yelping of the dogs which filled
his ears, but did not enter his thoughts.

The young squaw smiled at him shy-eyed as he went by her, and though
his physical eyes saw her standing demurely there in the shade of her
wikiup, ready to shrink coyly away from too bold a glance, the man-mind
of him was blind and took no notice. He neither heard the baffled
screaming of vile epithets when old Hagar knew that her venom could not
strike through the armor of his preoccupation, nor saw the hurt look
creep into the soft eyes of the young squaw when his face did not turn
toward her after the first inattentive glance.

Good Indian was thinking how barren had been his talk with Peppajee, and
was realizing keenly how much he had expected from the interview. It is
frequently by the depth of our disappointment only that we can rightly
measure the height of our hope. He had come to Peppajee for something
tangible, some thing that might be called real evidence of the
conspiracy he suspected. He had got nothing but suspicion to match his
own. As for Miss Georgie Howard--

"What can she do?" he thought resentfully, feeling as if he had been
offered a willow switch with which to fight off a grizzly. It seemed to
him that he might as sensibly go to Evadna herself for assistance,
and that, even his infatuation was obliged to admit, would be idiotic.
Peppajee, he told himself when he reached his horse, was particularly
foolish sometimes.

With that in his mind, he mounted--and turned Keno's head toward
Hartley. The distance was not great--little more than half a mile--but
when he swung from the saddle in the square blotch of shade east by
the little, red station house upon the parched sand and cinders, Keno's
flanks were heaving like the silent sobbing of a woman with the pace his
master's spurred heels had required of him.

Miss Georgie gave her hair a hasty pat or two, pushed a novel out of
sight under a Boise newspaper, and turned toward him with a breezily
careless smile when he stepped up to the open door and stopped as if he
were not quite certain of his own mind, or of his welcome.

He was secretly thinking of Peppajee's information that Miss Georgie
thought he was "bueno," and he was wondering if it were true. Not that
he wanted it to be true! But he was man enough to look at her with a
keener interest than he had felt before. And Miss Georgie, if one might
judge by her manner, was woman enough to detect that interest and
to draw back her skirts, mentally, ready for instant flight into
unapproachableness.

"Howdy, Mr. Imsen?" she greeted him lightly. "In what official capacity
am I to receive you, please? Do YOU want to send a telegram?" The accent
upon the pronoun was very faint, but it was there for him to notice if
he liked. So much she helped him. She was a bright young woman indeed,
that she saw he wanted help.

"I don't believe I came to see you officially at all," he said, and
his eyes lighted a little as he looked at her. "Peppajee Jim told me to
come. He said you're a 'heap smart squaw, all same mans.'"

"Item: One pound of red-and-white candy for Peppajee Jim next time I see
him." Miss Georgie laughed--but she also sat down so that her face was
turned to the window. "Are you in urgent need of a heap smart squaw?"
she asked. "I thought"--she caught herself up, and then went recklessly
on--"I thought yesterday that you had found one!"

"It's brains I need just now." After the words were out, Good Indian
wanted to swear at himself for seeming to belittle Evadna. "I mean,"
he corrected quickly--"do you know what I mean? I'll tell you what has
happened, and if you don't know then, and can't help me, I'll just have
to apologize for coming, and get out."

"Yes, I think you had better tell me why you need me particularly. I
know the chicken's perfect, and doesn't lack brains, and you didn't mean
that she does. You're all stirred up over something. What's wrong?" Miss
Georgie would have spoken in just that tone if she had been a man or if
Grant had been a woman.

So Good Indian told her.

"And you imagine that it's partly your fault, and that it wouldn't have
happened if you had spent more time keeping your weather eye open, and
not so much making love?" Miss Georgie could be very blunt, as well as
keen. "Well, I don't see how you could prevent it, or what you could
have done--unless you had kicked old Baumberger into the Snake. He's the
god in this machine. I'd swear to that."

Good Indian had been fiddling with his hat and staring hard at a pile of
old ties just outside the window. He raised his head, and regarded her
steadily. It was beginning to occur to him that there was a good deal to
this Miss Georgie, under that offhand, breezy exterior. He felt himself
drawn to her as a person whom he could trust implicitly.

"You're right as far as I'm concerned," he owned, with his queer,
inscrutable smile. "I think you're also right about him. What makes you
think so, anyway?"

Miss Georgie twirled a ring upon her middle finger for a moment before
she looked up at him.

"Do you know anything about mining laws?" she asked, and when he swung
his head slightly to one side in a tacit negative, she went on: "You say
there are eight jumpers. Concerted action, that. Premeditated. My daddy
was a lawyer," she threw in by way of explanation. "I used to help him
in the office a good deal. When he--died, I didn't know enough to go
on and be a lawyer myself, so I took to this." She waved her hand
impatiently toward the telegraph instrument.

"So it's like this: Eight men can take placer claims--can hold them, you
know--for one man. That's the limit, a hundred and sixty acres. Those
eight men aren't jumping that ranch as eight individuals; they're in the
employ of a principal who is engineering the affair. If I were going to
shy a pebble at the head mogul, I'd sure try hard to hit our corpulent
friend with the fishy eye. And that," she added, "is what all these
cipher messages for Saunders mean, very likely. Baumberger had to have
someone here to spy around for him and perhaps help him choose--or at
least get together--those eight men. They must have come in on the night
train, for I didn't see them. I'll bet they're tough customers, every
mother's son of them! Fighters down to the ground, aren't they?"

"I only saw four. They were heeled, and ready for business, all right,"
he told her. "Soon as I saw what the game was, and that Baumberger was
only playing for time and a free hand, I pulled out. I thought Peppajee
might give me something definite to go on. He couldn't, though."

"Baumberger's going to steal that ranch according to law, you see," Miss
Georgie stated with conviction. "They've got to pan out a sample of gold
to prove there's pay dirt there, before they can file their claims. And
they've got to do their filing in Shoshone. I suppose their notices are
up O.K. I wonder, now, how they intend to manage that? I believe," she
mused, "they'll have to go in person--I don't believe Baumberger can do
that all himself legally. I've got some of daddy's law-books over in my
trunk, and maybe I can look it up and make sure. But I know they haven't
filed their claims yet. They've GOT to take possession first, and
they've got to show a sample of ore, or dust, it would be in this case.
The best thing to do--" She drew her eyebrows together, and she
pinched her under lip between her thumb and forefinger, and she
stared abstractedly at Good Indian. "Oh, hurry up, Grant!" she cried
unguardedly. "Think--think HARD, what's best to do!"

"The only thing I can think of," he scowled, "is to kill that--"

"And that won't do, under the circumstances," she cut in airily.
"There'd still be the eight. I'd like," she declared viciously, "to put
rough-on-rats in his dinner, but I intend to refrain from doing as I'd
like, and stick to what's best."

Good Indian gave her a glance of grateful understanding. "This thing
has hit me hard," he confided suddenly. "I've been holding myself in all
day. The Harts are like my own folks. They're all I've had, and she's
been--they've all been--" Then the instinct of repression walled in his
emotion, and he let the rest go in a long breath which told Miss
Georgie all she needed to know. So much of Good Indian would never find
expression in speech; all that was best of him would not, one might be
tempted to think.

"By the way, is there any pay dirt on that ranch?" Miss Georgie kept
herself rigidly to the main subject.

"No, there isn't. Not," he added dryly, "unless it has grown gold in
the last few years. There are colors, of course. All this country
practically can show colors, but pay dirt? No!"

"Look out," she advised him slowly, "that pay dirt doesn't grow over
night! Sabe?"

Good Indian's eyes spoke admiration of her shrewdness.

"I must be getting stupid, not to have thought of that," he said.

"Can't give me credit for being 'heap smart'?" she bantered. "Can't
even let me believe I thought of something beyond the ken of the average
person? Not," she amended ironically, "that I consider YOU an average
person! Would you mind"--she became suddenly matter of fact--"waiting
here while I go and rummage for a book I want? I'm almost sure I have
one on mining laws. Daddy had a good deal of that in his business, being
in a mining country. We've got to know just where we stand, it seems to
me, because Baumberger's going to use the laws himself, and it's with
the law we've got to fight him."

She had to go first and put a stop to the hysterical chattering of
the sounder by answering the summons. It proved to be a message for
Baumberger, and she wrote it down in a spiteful scribble which left it
barely legible.

"Betraying professional secrets, but I don't care," she exclaimed,
turning swiftly toward him. "Listen to this:

"'How's fishing? Landed the big one yet? Ready for fry?"'

She threw it down upon the table with a pettish gesture that was
wholly feminine. "Sounds perfectly innocent, doesn't it? Too perfectly
innocent, if you ask me." She stared out of the window abstractedly,
her brows pinched together and her lips pursed with a corner between her
teeth, much as she had stared after Baumberger the day before; and when
she spoke she seemed to have swung her memory back to him then.

"He came up yesterday--with fish for Pete, he SAID, and of course he
really did have some--and sent a wire to Shoshone. I found it on file
when I came back. That was perfectly innocent, too. It was:

"'Expect to land big one to-night. Plenty of small fry. Smooth trail.'

"I've an excellent memory, you see." She laughed shortly. "Well, I'll
go and hunt up that book, and we'll proceed to glean the wisdom of the
serpent, so that we won't be compelled to remain as harmless as the
dove! You won't mind waiting here?"

He assured her that he would not mind in the least, and she ran out
bareheaded into the hot sunlight. Good Indian leaned forward a little in
his chair so that he could watch her running across to the shack where
she had a room or two, and he paid her the compliment of keeping her
in his thoughts all the time she was gone. He felt, as he had done with
Peppajee, that he had not known Miss Georgie at all until to-day, and he
was a bit startled at what he was finding her to be.

"Of course," she laughed, when she rustled in again like a whiff of
fresh air, "I had to go clear to the bottom of the last trunk I looked
in. Lucky I only have three to my name, for it would have been in the
last one just the same, if I'd had two dozen and had ransacked them all.
But I found it, thank Heaven!"

She came eagerly up to him--he was sitting in the beribboned rocker
dedicated to friendly callers, and had the rug badly rumpled with his
spurs, which he had forgotten to remove--and with a sweep of her forearm
she cleared the little table of novel, newspaper, and a magazine and
deck of cards, and barely saved her box of chocolates from going bottom
up on the floor.

"Like candy? Help yourself, if you do," she said, and tucked a piece
into her mouth absent-mindedly before she laid the leather-bound book
open on the table. "Now, we'll see what information Mr. Copp can give
us. He's a high authority--General Land Office Commissioner, if you
please. He's a few years old--several years old, for that matter--but
I don't think he's out of date; I believe what he says still goes.
M-m-m!-'Liens on Mines'--'Clause Inserted in Patents'--'Affidavits Taken
Without Notice to Opposing'--oh, it must be here--it's GOT to be here!"

She was running a somewhat sticky forefinger slowly down the index
pages. "It isn't alphabetically arranged, which I consider sloppy of Mr.
Copp. Ah-h! 'Minerals Discovered After Patent Has Issued to Agricultural
Claimant'--two hundred and eight. We'll just take a look at that first.
That's what they're claiming, you know." She hitched her chair closer,
and flipped the leaves eagerly. When she found the page, they touched
heads over it, though Miss Georgie read aloud.

"Oh, it's a letter--but it's a decision, and as such has weight. U-m!

"SIR: In reply to your letter of inquiry. . . I have to state that all
mineral deposits discovered on land after United States Patent therefor
has issued to a party claiming under the laws regulating the disposal of
agricultural lands, pass with the patent, and this office has no further
jurisdiction in the premise. Very respectfully,"

"'PASS WITH THE PATENT!'" Miss Georgie turned her face so that she could
look into Grant's eyes, so close to her own. "Old Peaceful must surely
have his patent--Baumberger can't be much of a lawyer, do you think?
Because that's a flat statement. There's no chance for any legal
quibbling in that--IS there?"

"That's about as straight as he could put it," Good Indian agreed, his
face losing a little of its anxiety.

"Well, we'll just browse along for more of the same," she suggested
cheerfully, and went back to the index. But first she drew a lead pencil
from where it had been stabbed through her hair, and marked the letter
with heavy brackets, wetting the lead on her tongue for emphasis.

"'Agricultural Claimants Entitled to Full Protection,'" she read
hearteningly from the index, and turned hastily to see what was to be
said about it. It happened to be another decision rendered in a letter,
and they jubilated together over the sentiment conveyed therein.

"Now, here is what I was telling you, Grant," she said suddenly, after
another long minute of studying silently the index. "'Eight Locaters of
Placer Ground May Convey to One Party'--and Baumberger's certainly that
party!--'Who Can Secure Patent for One Hundred and Sixty Acres.' We'll
just read up on that, and find out for sure what the conditions are.
Now, here"--she had found the page quickly--"listen to this:

"'I have to state that if eight bona-fide locaters'

("Whether they're that remains to be proven, Mr. Baumberger!")

'each having located twenty acres, in accordance with the congressional
rules and regulations, should convey all their right, title, and
interest in said locations to one person, such person might apply for a
patent--'

"And so on into tiresomeness. Really, I'm beginning to think
Baumberger's awfully stupid, to even attempt such a silly thing. He
hasn't a legal leg to stand on. 'Goes with the patent'--that sounds
nice to me. They're not locating in good faith--those eight jumpers
down there." She fortified herself with another piece of candy. "All you
need," she declared briskly, "is a good lawyer to take this up and see
it through."

"You seem to be doing pretty well," he remarked, his eyes dwelling
rather intently upon her face, and smiling as they did so.

"I can read what's in the book," she remarked lightly, her eyes upon
its pages as if she were consciously holding them from meeting his look.
"But it will take a lawyer to see the case through the courts. And let
me tell you one thing very emphatically." She looked at him brightly.
"Many a case as strong as this has been lost, just by legal quibbling
and ignorance of how to handle it properly. Many a case without a leg to
stand on has been won, by smooth work on the part of some lawyer. Now,
I'll just jot down what they'll have to do, and prove, if they get that
land--and look here, Mr. Man, here's another thing to consider. Maybe
Baumberger doesn't expect to get a patent. Maybe he means to make old
Peaceful so deucedly sick of the thing that he'll sell out cheap rather

than fight the thing to a finish. Because this can be appealed, and
taken up and up, and reopened because of some technical error--oh, as
Jenny Wren says in--in--"

"'Our Mutual Friend?'" Good Indian suggested unexpectedly.

"Oh, you've read it!--where she always says: 'I know their tricks and
their manners!' And I do, from being so much with daddy in the office
and hearing him talk shop. I know that, without a single bit of justice
on their side, they could carry this case along till the very expense
of it would eat up the ranch and leave the Harts flat broke. And if
they didn't fight and keep on fighting, they could lose it--so there you
are."

She shut the book with a slam. "But," she added more brightly when
she saw the cloud of gloom settle blacker than before on his face, and
remembered that he felt himself at least partly to blame, "it helps a
lot to have the law all on our side, and--" She had to go then, because
the dispatcher was calling, and she knew it must be a train order.
"We'll read up a little more, and see just what are the requirements
of placer mining laws--and maybe we can make it a trifle difficult
for those eight to comply!" she told him over her shoulder, while her
fingers chittered a reply to the call, and then turned her attention
wholly to receiving the message.

Good Indian, knowing well the easy custom of the country which makes
smoking always permissible, rolled himself a cigarette while he waited
for her to come back to his side of the room. He was just holding the
match up and waiting for a clear blaze before setting his tobacco afire,
when came a tap-tap of feet on the platform, and Evadna appeared in the
half-open doorway.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, and widened her indigo eyes at him sitting there
and looking so much at home.

"Come right in, chicken," Miss Georgie invited cordially. "Don't stand
there in the hot sun. Mr. Imsen is going to turn the seat of honor over
to you this instant. Awfully glad you came. Have some candy."

Evadna sat down in the rocker, thrust her two little feet out so that
the toe, of her shoes showed close together beyond the hem of her
riding-skirt, laid her gauntleted palms upon the arms of the chair and
rocked methodically, and looked at Grant and then at Miss Georgie, and
afterward tilted up her chin and smiled superciliously at an insurance
company's latest offering to the public in the way of a calendar two
feet long.

"When did you come up?" Good Indian asked her, trying so hard to keep a
placating note out of his voice that he made himself sound apologetic.

"Oh--about an hour ago, I think," Evadna drawled sweetly--the sweet
tones which always mean trouble, when employed by a woman.

Good Indian bit his lip, got up, and threw his cigarette out of the
window, and looked at her reproachfully, and felt vaguely that he was
misunderstood and most unjustly placed upon the defensive.

"I only came over," Evadna went on, as sweetly as before, "to say that
there's a package at the store which I can't very well carry, and I
thought perhaps you wouldn't mind taking it--when you go."

"I'm going now, if you're ready," he told her shortly, and reached for
his hat.

Evadna rocked a moment longer, making him wait for her reply. She
glanced at Miss Georgie still busy at the telegraph table, gave a little
sigh of resignation, and rose with evident reluctance.

"Oh--if you're really going," she drawled, and followed him outside.





Next: Don't Get Excited!

Previous: The Claim-jumpers



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