The Daughter Of A Chief
From: The Heritage Of The Sioux
In spite of Andy Green's plea for delay until they knew what Luck meant
to do, Applehead went on with his energetic preparations for a spring
roundup of his own. Some perverse spirit seemed to possess him and drive
him out of his easy-going shiftlessness. He offered to hire the Happy
Family by the day, since none of them would promise any permanent
service until they heard from Luck. He put them to work gathering up
the saddle-horses that had been turned loose when Luck's picture was
finished, and repairing harness and attending to the numberless details
of reorganizing a ranch long left to slipshod make-shifts.
The boys of the Flying U argued while they worked, but in spite of
themselves the lure of the mesa quickened their movements. They were
supposed to wait for Luck before they did anything; an they all knew
that. But, on the other hand, Luck was supposed to keep them informed as
to his movements; which he had not done. They did not voice one single
doubt of Lucks loyalty to them, but human nature is more prone to
suspicion than to faith, as every one knows. And Luck had the power and
the incentive to "double-cross" them if he was the kind to do such a
thing. He was manager for their little free-lance picture company which
did not even have a name to call itself by. They had produced one big
feature film, and it was supposed to be a cooperative affair from
start to finish. If Luck failed to make good, they would all be broke
together. If Luck cleared up the few thousands that had been their hope,
why--they would all profit by the success, if Luck--
I maintain that they showed themselves of pretty good metal, in that
not even Happy Tack, confirmed pessimist that he was, ever put the least
suspicion of Luck's honesty into words. They were not the kind to
decry a comrade when his back was turned. And they had worked with Luck
Lindsay and had worked for him. They had slept under the same roof
with him, had shared his worries, his hopes, and his fears. They did not
believe that Luck had appropriated the proceeds of The Phantom Herd
and had deliberately left them there to cool their heels and feel the
emptiness of their pockets in New Mexico, while he disported himself in
Los Angeles; they did--not believe that--they would have resented the
implication that they harbored any doubt of him. But for all that, as
the days passed and he neither came nor sent them any word, they yielded
more and more to the determination of Applehead to start out upon his
own business, and they said less and less about Luck's probable plans
for the future.
And then, just when they were making ready for an early start the next
morning; just when Applehead had the corral full of horses and his
chuckwagon of grub; just when the Happy Family had packed their war-bags
with absolute necessities and were justifying themselves in final
arguments with Andy Green, who refused point-blank to leave the;
ranch--then, at the time a dramatist would have chosen for his entrance
for an effective "curtain," here came Luck, smiling and driving a huge
seven-passenger machine crowded to the last folding seat and with the
chauffeur riding on the running board where Luck had calmly banished him
when he skidded on a sharp turn and came near upsetting them.
Applehead, stowing a coil of new rope in the chuck-wagon, took off his
hat and rubbed his shiny, pink pate in dismay. He was, for the moment,
a culprit caught in the act of committing a grave misdemeanor if not
an actual felony. He dropped the rope and went forward with dragging
feet--ashamed, for the first time in his life, to face a friend.
Luck gave the wheel a twist, cut a fine curve around the windmill and
stopped before the house with as near a flourish as a seven-passenger
automobile loaded from tail-lamp to windshield can possibly approach.
"There. That's the way I've been used to seeing cars behave," Luck
observed pointedly to the deposed chauffeur as he slammed the door open
and climbed out. "You don't have to act like you're a catepillar on a
rail fence, to play safe. I believe in keeping all four wheels on the
ground--but I like to see 'em turn once in awhile. You get me?" He
peeled a five-dollar banknote off a roll the size of his wrist, handed
it to the impressed chauffeur and dismissed the transaction with a
wave of his gloved hand. "You're all right, brother," he tempered his
criticism, "but I'm some nervous about automobiles."
"I noticed that myself," drawled a soft, humorous voice from the rear.
"This is the nearest I ever came to traveling by telegraph."
Luck grinned, waved his hand in friendly greeting to the Happy Family
who were taking long steps up from the corral, and turned his attention
to the unloading of the machine. "Howdy, folks!--guess yuh thought I'd
plumb lost the trail back," he called to them over his shoulder while he
dove after suitcases, packages of various sizes and shapes, a box or
two which the Happy Family recognized as containing "raw stock," and a
camera tripod that looked perfectly new.
From the congested tonneau a tall, slim young woman managed to descend
without stepping on anything that could not bear being stepped upon. She
gave her skirts a little shake, pushed back a flying strand of hair and
turned her back to the machine that she might the better inspect her
Old Dave Wiswell, the dried little man who never had much to say, peered
at her sharply, hesitated and then came forward with his bony hand
outstretched and trembling with eagerness. "Why, my gorry! If it ain't
Jean Douglas, my eyes are lyin' to me," he cried.
"It isn't Jean Douglas--but don't blame your eyes for that," said the
girl, taking his hand and shaking it frankly. "Jean Douglas Avery,
thanks to the law that makes a girl trade her name for a husband. You
know Lite, of course--dad, too."
"Well, well--my gorry I I should say I do! Howdy, Aleck?" He shook the
hand of the old man Jean called dad, and his lips trembled uncertainly,
seeking speech that would not hurt a very, very sore spot in the heart
of big Aleck Douglas. "I'm shore glad to meet yuh again," he stuttered
finally, and let it go at that "And how are yuh, Lite? Just as long and
lanky as ever--marriage shore ain't fattened you up none. My gorry! I
shore never expected to see you folks away down here!"
"Thought you heard me say when I left that the Great Western had offered
to get me Jean Douglas for leading lady," Luck put in, looking around
distractedly for a place to deposit his armload of packages. "That's
one thing that kept me--waiting for her to show up. Of course a man
naturally expects a woman to take her own time about starting--"
"I like that!" Jean drawled. "We broke up housekeeping and wound up a
ranch and traveled a couple of thousand miles in just a week's time.
We--we ALMOST hit the same gait you did from town out here today!"
Rosemary Green came out then, and Luck turned to greet her and to
present Jean to her, and was pleased when he saw from their eyes that
they liked each other at first sight. He introduced the Happy Family
and Applehead to her and to her husband, Lite Avery, and her father.
He pulled a skinny individual forward and announced that this was Pete
Lowry, one of the Great Western's crack cameramen; and another chubby,
smooth-cheeked young man he presented as Tommy Johnson, scenic artist
and stage carpenter. And he added with a smile for the whole bunch,
"We're going to produce some real stuff from now on believe me, folks!"
In the confusion and the mild clamor of the absence-bridging questions
and hasty answers, two persons had no part. Old Applehead, hard-ridden
by the uneasy consciousness of his treason to Luck, leaned against a
porch post and sucked hard at the stem of an empty pipe. And just beyond
the corner out of sight but well within hearing, Annie-Many-Ponies stood
flattened against the wall and listened with fast-beating pulse for the
sound of her name, spoken in the loved voice of Wagalexa Conka. She, the
daughter of a chief and Luck's sister by tribal adoption--would he
not miss her: from among those others who welcomed him? Would he not
presently ask: "Where is Annie-Many-Ponies?" She knew just how he would
turn and search for her with his eyes.
She knew just how his voice would sound when he asked for her. Then,
after a minute--when he had missed her and had asked for her--she would
come and stand before him. And he would take her hand and say to that
white woman; "This is my Indian sister, Annie-Many-Ponies, who played
the part of the beautiful Indian girl who died so grandly in The Phantom
Herd. This is the girl who plays my character leads." Then the white
girl, who was to be his leading woman, would not feel that she was the
only woman in the company who could do good work for Luck.
Annie-Many-Ponies had worked in pictures since she was fifteen and did
only "atmosphere stuff" in the Indian camps of Luck's arranging. She was
wise in the ways of picture jealousies. Already she was jealous of this
slim woman with the dark hair and eyes and the slow smile that always
caught one's attention and held it. She waited. She wanted Wagalexa
Conka to call her in that kindly, imperious voice of his--the voice of
the master. This leading woman would see, then, that here was a girl
more beautiful for whom Luck Lindsay felt the affection of family ties.
She waited, flattened against the wall, listening to every word that
was spoken in that buzzing group. She saw the last bundle taken from
the machine, and she saw Luck's head and shoulders disappear within the
tonneau, making sure that it was the last bundle and that nothing had
been overlooked. She saw the driver climb in, slam the fore-door shut
after him and bend above the starter. She saw the machine slide out of
the group and away in a wide circle to regain the trail. She saw the
group break and start off in various directions as duty or a passing
interest led. But Wagalexa Conka never once seemed to remember that she
was not there. Never once did he speak her name.
Instead, just as Rosemary was leading the way into the house, this slim
young woman they called Jean glanced around inquiringly. "I thought you
had a squaw working for you," she said in that soft, humorous voice of
hers. "The one who did the Indian girl in The Phantom Herd. Isn't she
here any more?"
"Oh, yes!" Luck stopped with one foot on the porch. "Sure! Where is
Annie? Anybody know?"
"She was around here just before you came," said Rosemary carelessly. "I
don't know where she went."
"Hid out, I reckon," Luck commented. "Injuns are heap shy of meeting
strangers. She'll show up after a little."
Annie-Many-Ponies stooped and slid safely past the window that might
betray her, and then slipped away behind the house. She waited, and she
listened; for though the adobe walls were thick, there were open windows
and her hearing was keen. Within was animated babel and much laughter.
But not once again did Annie-Many-Ponies hear her name spoken. Not once
again did Wagalexa Conka remember her. Save when she, that slim woman
who bad come to play his leads, asked to see her, she had been wholly
forgotten. Even then she had been named a squaw. It was as though they
had been speaking of a horse. They did not count her worthy of a place
in their company, they did not miss her voice and her smile.
"Hid out," Wagalexa Conka had said. Well, she would hide out, then--she,
the daughter of a chief of the Sioux; she, whom Wagalexa Conka had been
glad to have in his picture when he was poor and had no money to pay
white leading women. But now he had much money; now he could come in a
big automobile, with a slim, white leading woman and a camera man and
scenic artist and much money in his pocket; and she--she was just
a squaw who had hid out, and who would show up after a while and be
grateful if he took her by the hand and said, "How!"
With so many persons moving eagerly here and there, none but an Indian
could have slipped away from that house and from the ranch without being
seen. But though the place was bald and open to the four winds save for
a few detached outbuildings, Annie-Many-Ponies went away upon the mesa
and no one saw her go.
She did not dare go to the corral for her horse. The corral was in plain
sight of the house, and the eyes of Wagalexa Conka were keen as the
eye of the Sioux, his foster brothers. He would see her there. He would
call: "Annie, come here!" and she would go, and would stand submissive
before him, and would be glad that he noticed her; for she was born of
the tribe where women obey their masters, and the heritage of centuries
may not be lightly lain aside like an outgrown garment. She felt that
this was so; that although her heart might burn with resentment because
he had forgotten and must be reminded by a strange white woman that the
"squaw" was not present, still, if he called her she must go, because
Wagalexa Conka was master there and the master must be obeyed.
Down the dry wash where Applehead had hunted for baling wire she went
swiftly, with the straight-backed, free stride of the plainswoman who
knows not the muscle-bondage of boned girdle. In moccasins she walked;
for a certain pride of race, a certain sense of the picture-value of
beaded buckskin and bright cloth, held her fast to the gala dress of her
people, modified and touched here and there with the gay ornaments
of civilization. So much had her work in the silent drama taught her.
Bareheaded, her hair in two glossy braids each tied with a big red bow,
she strode on and on in the clear sunlight of spring.
Not until she was more than two miles from the ranch did she show
herself upon one of the numberless small ridges which, blended together
in the distance, give that deceptive look of flatness to the mesa. Even
two miles away, in that clear air that dwarfs distance so amazingly,
Wagalexa Conka might recognize her if he looked at her with sufficient
attention. But Wagalexa Conka, she told herself with a flash of her
black eyes, would not look. Wagalexa Conka was too busy looking at that
slim woman he had brought with him.
That ridge she crossed, and two others. On the last one she stopped
and stood, straight and still, and stared away towards the mountains,
shading her eyes with one spread palm. On a distant slope a small herd
of cattle fed, scattered and at peace. Nearer, a great hawk circled
slowly on widespread wings, his neck craned downward as if he
were watching his own shadow move ghostlike over the grass.
Annie-Many-Ponies, turning her eyes disappointedly from the empty mesa,
envied the hawk his swift-winged freedom.
When she looked again toward the far slopes next the mountains, a black
speck rolled into view, the nucleus of a little dust cloud. Her face
brightened a little; she turned abruptly and sought easy footing down
that ridge, and climbed hurriedly the longer rise beyond. Once or twice,
when she was on high ground, she glanced behind her uneasily, as does
one whose mind holds a certain consciousness of wrongdoing. She did not
pause, even then, but hurried on toward the dust cloud.
On the rim of a shallow, saucer-like basin that lay cunningly concealed
until one stood upon the very edge of it, Annie-Many-Ponies stopped
again and stood looking out from under her spread palm. Presently the
dust cloud moved over the crest of a ridge, and now that it was so
much closer she saw clearly the horseman loping abreast of the
dust. Annie-Many-Ponies stood for another moment watching, with that
inscrutable half smile on her lips. She untied the cerise silk kerchief
which she wore knotted loosely around her slim neck, waited until the
horseman showed plainly in the distance and then, raising her right hand
high above her head, waved the scarf three times in slow, sweeping half
circles from right to left. She waited, her eyes fixed expectantly upon
the horseman. Like a startled rabbit he darted to the left, pulled in
his horse, turned and rode for three or four jumps sharply to the right;
stopped short for ten seconds and then came straight on, spurring his
horse to a swifter pace.
Annie-Many-Ponies smiled and went down into the shallow basin and seated
herself upon the wide, adobe curbing of an old well that marked, with
the nearby ruins of an adobe house, the site, of an old habitation of
tragic history. She waited with the absolute patience of her race for
the horseman had yet a good two miles to cover. While she waited she
smiled dreamily to herself and with dainty little pats and pulls she
widened the flaring red bows on her hair and retied the cerise scarf in
its picturesque, loose knot about her throat. As a final tribute to
that feminine instinct which knows no race she drew from some cunningly
devised hiding place a small, cheap "vanity box," and proceeded very
gravely to powder her nose.
Next: To The Victors The Spoils
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