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The Malice Of A Squaw








From: Good Indian

Good Indian looked in the hammock, but Evadna was not there. He went to
the little stone bench at the head of the pond, and when he still did
not see her he followed the bank around to the milk-house, where was
a mumble of voices. And, standing in the doorway with her arm thrown
around her Aunt Phoebe's shoulders in a pretty protective manner, he saw
her, and his eyes gladdened. She did not see him at once. She was facing
courageously the three inseparables, Hagar, Viney, and Lucy, squatted at
the top of the steps, and she was speaking her mind rapidly and angrily.
Good Indian knew that tone of old, and he grinned. Also he stopped by
the corner of the house, and listened shamelessly.

"That is not true," she was saying very clearly. "You're a bad old squaw
and you tell lies. You ought to be put in jail for talking that way."
She pressed her aunt's shoulder affectionately. "Don't you mind a
word she says, Aunt Phoebe. She's just a mischief-making old hag, and
she--oh, I'd like to beat her!"

Hagar shook her head violently, and her voice rose shrill and malicious,
cutting short Evadna's futile defiance.

"Ka-a-ay bueno, yo'!" Her teeth gnashed together upon the words. "I no
tellum lie. Good Injun him kill Man-that-coughs. All time I seeum creep,
creep, through sagebrush. All time I seeum hoss wait where much rock
grow. I seeum. I no speakum heap lie. Speakum true. I go tell sheriff
mans Good Indian killum Man-that-coughs. I tellum--"

"Why didn't you, then, when the sheriff was in Hartley?" Evadna flung at
her angrily. "Because you know it's a lie. That's why."

"Yo' thinkum Good Injun love yo', mebbyso." Hagar's witch-grin was at
its malevolent widest. Her black eyes sparkled with venom. "Yo' heap
fool. Good Injun go all time Squaw-talk-far-off. Speakum glad word. Good
Injun ka-a-ay bueno. Love Squaw-talk-far-off. No love yo'. Speakum lies,
yo'. Makum yo' heap cry all time. Makeum yo' heart bad." She cackled,
and leered with vile significance toward the girl in the doorway.

"Don't you listen to her, honey." It was Phoebe's turn to reassure.

Good Indian took a step forward, his face white with rage. Viney saw him
first, muttered an Indian word of warning, and the three sprang up and
backed away from his approach.

"So you've got to call me a murderer!" he cried, advancing threateningly
upon Hagar. "And even that doesn't satisfy you. You--"

Evadna rushed up the steps like a crisp little whirlwind, and caught his
arm tightly in her two hands.

"Grant! We don't believe a word of it. You couldn't do a thing like
that. Don't we KNOW? Don't pay any attention to her. We aren't going to.
It'll hurt her worse than any kind of punishment we could give her. Oh,
she's a VILE old thing! Too vile for words! Aunt Phoebe and I shouldn't
belittle ourselves by even listening to her. SHE can't do any harm
unless we let it bother us--what she says. I know you never could take
a human life, Grant. It's foolish even to speak of such a thing. It's
just her nasty, lying tongue saying what her black old heart wishes
could be true." She was speaking in a torrent of trepidation lest he
break from her and do some violence which they would all regret. She
did not know what he could do, or would do, but the look of his face
frightened her.

Old Hagar spat viciously at them both, and shrilled vituperative
sentences--in her own tongue fortunately; else the things she said
must have brought swift retribution. And as if she did not care for
consequences and wanted to make her words carry a definite sting, she
stopped, grinned maliciously, and spoke the choppy dialect of her tribe.

"Yo' tellum me shont-isham. Mebbyso yo' tellum yo' no ketchum
Squaw-talk-far-off in sagebrush, all time Saunders go dead! Me ketchum
hair--Squaw-talk-far-off hair. You like for see, you thinkum me tell
lies?"

From under her blanket she thrust forth a greasy brown hand, and shook
triumphantly before them a tangled wisp of woman's hair--the hair of
Miss Georgie, without a doubt. There was no gainsaying that color and
texture. She looked full at Evadna.

"Yo' like see, me show whereum walk," she said grimly. "Good Injun boot
make track, Squaw-talk-far-off little shoe make track. Me show, yo'
thinkum mebbyso me tell lie. Stoppum in sagebrush, ketchum hair. Me
ketchum knife--Good Injun knife, mebbyso." Revenge mastered cupidity,
and she produced that also, and held it up where they could all see.

Evadna looked and winced.

"I don't believe a word you say," she declared stubbornly. "You STOLE
that knife. I suppose you also stole the hair. You can't MAKE me believe
a thing like that!"

"Squaw-talk-far-off run, run heap fas', get home quick. Me seeum, Viney
seeum, Lucy seeum." Hagar pointed to each as she named her, and waited
until they give a confirmatory nod. The two squaws gazed steadily at the
ground, and she grunted and ignored them afterward, content that they
bore witness to her truth in that one particular.

"Squaw-talk-far-off sabe Good Injun killum Man-that-coughs, mebbyso,"
she hazarded, watching Good Indian's face cunningly to see if the guess
struck close to the truth.

"If you've said all you want to say, you better go," Good Indian told
her after a moment of silence while they glared at each other. "I won't
touch you--because you're such a devil I couldn't stop short of killing
you, once I laid my hands on you."

He stopped, held his lips tightly shut upon the curses he would not
speak, and Evadna felt his biceps tauten under her fingers as if he
were gathering himself for a lunge at the old squaw. She looked up
beseechingly into his face, and saw that it was sharp and stern, as
it had been that morning when the men had first been discovered in the
orchard. He raised his free arm, and pointed imperiously to the trail.

"Pikeway!" he commanded.

Viney and Lucy shrank from the tone of him, and, hiding their faces in
a fold of blanket, slunk silently away like dogs that have been whipped
and told to go. Even Hagar drew back a pace, hardy as was her untamed
spirit. She looked at Evadna clinging to his arm, her eyes wide and
startlingly blue and horrified at all she had heard. She laughed
then--did Hagar--and waddled after the others, her whole body seeming to
radiate contentment with the evil she had wrought.

"There's nothing on earth can equal the malice of an old squaw," said
Phoebe, breaking into the silence which followed. "I'd hope she don't go
around peddling that story--not that anyone would believe it, but--"

Good Indian looked at her, and at Evadna. He opened his lips for speech,
and closed them without saying a word. That near he came to telling them
the truth about meeting Miss Georgie, and explaining about the hair and
the knife and the footprints Hagar had prated about. But he thought of
Rachel, and knew that he would never tell anyone, not even Evadna. The
girl loosened his arm, and moved toward her aunt.

"I hate Indians--squaws especially," she said positively. "I hate the
way they look at one with their beady eyes, just like snakes. I believe
that horrid old thing lies awake nights just thinking up nasty, wicked
lies to tell about the people she doesn't like. I don't think you ought
to ride around alone so much, Grant; she might murder you. It's in her
to do it, if she ever got the chance."

"What do you suppose made her ring Georgie Howard in like that?" Phoebe
speculated, looking at Grant. "She must have some grudge against her,
too."

"I don't know why." Good Indian spoke unguardedly, because he was still
thinking of Rachel and those laboriously printed words which he had
scattered afar. "She's always giving them candy and fruit, whenever they
show up at the station."

"Oh--h!" Evadna gave the word that peculiar, sliding inflection of
hers which meant so much, and regarded him unwinkingly, with her hands
clasped behind her.

Good Indian knew well the meaning of both her tone and her stare, but he
only laughed and caught her by the arm.

"Come on over to the hammock," he commanded, with all the arrogance of a
lover. "We're making that old hag altogether too important, it seems to
me. Come on, Goldilocks--we haven't had a real satisfying sort of scrap
for several thousand years."

She permitted him to lead her to the hammock, and pile three cushions
behind her head and shoulders--with the dark-blue one on top because her
hair looked well against it--and dispose himself comfortably where he
could look his fill at her while he swung the hammock gently with his
boot-heel, scraping a furrow in the sand. But she did not show any
dimples, though his eyes and his lips smiled together when she looked
at him, and when he took up her hand and kissed each finger-tip in turn,
she was as passive as a doll under the caresses of a child.

"What's the matter?" he demanded, when he found that her manner did not
soften. "Worrying still about what that old squaw said?"

"Not in the slightest." Evadna's tone was perfectly polite--which was a
bad sign.

Good Indian thought he saw the makings of a quarrel in her general
attitude, and he thought he might as well get at once to the real root
of her resentment.

"What are you thinking about? Tell me, Goldilocks," he coaxed, pushing
his own troubles to the back of his mind.

"Oh, nothing. I was just wondering--though it's a trivial matter which
is hardly worth mentioning--but I just happened to wonder how you came
to know that Georgie Howard is in the habit of giving candy to the
squaws--or anything else. I'm sure I never--" She bit her lips as if she
regretted having said so much.

Good Indian laughed. In truth, he was immensely relieved; he had been
afraid she might want him to explain something else--something which he
felt he must keep to himself even in the face of her anger. But this--he
laughed again.

"That's easy enough," he said lightly. "I've seen her do it a couple of
times. Maybe Hagar has been keeping an eye on me--I don't know; anyway,
when I've had occasion to go to the store or to the station, I've nearly
always seen her hanging around in the immediate vicinity. I went a
couple of times to see Miss Georgie about this land business. She's wise
to a lot of law--used to help her father before he died, it seems. And
she has some of his books, I discovered. I wanted to see if there wasn't
some means of kicking these fellows off the ranch without making a lot
more trouble for old Peaceful. But after I'd read up and talked the
thing over with her, we decided that there wasn't anything to be done
till Peaceful comes back, and we know what he's been doing about it.
That's what's keeping him, of course.

"I suppose," he added, looking at her frankly, "I should have mentioned
my going there. But to tell you the truth, I didn't think anything much
about it. It was just business, and when I'm with you, Miss Goldilocks,
I like to forget my troubles. You," he declared, his eyes glowing upon
her, "are the antidote. And you wouldn't have mo believe you could
possibly be jealous!"

"No," said Evadna, in a more amiable tone. "Of course I'm not. But I do
think you showed a--well, a lack of confidence in me. I don't see why
I can't help you share your troubles. You know I want to. I think
you should have told me, and let me help. But you never do. Just for
instance--why wouldn't you tell me yesterday where you were before
breakfast? I know you were SOMEWHERE, because I looked all over the
place for you," she argued naively. "I always want to know where you
are, it's so lonesome when I don't know. And you see--"

She was interrupted at that point, which was not strange. The
interruption lasted for several minutes, but Evadna was a persistent
little person. When they came back to mundane matters, she went right on
with what she had started out to say.

"You see, that gave old Hagar a chance to accuse you of--well, of a
MEETING with Georgie. Which I don't believe, of course. Still, it does
seem as if you might have told me in the first place where you had been,
and then I could have shut her up by letting her see that I knew all
about it. The horrid, mean old THING! To say such things, right to
your face! And--Grant, where DID she get hold of that knife, do you
suppose--and--that--bunch of--hair?" She took his hand of her own
accord, and patted it, and Evadna was not a demonstrative kind of person
usually. "It wasn't just a tangle, like combings," she went on slowly.
"I noticed particularly. There was a lock as large almost as my finger,
that looked as if it had been cut off. And it certainly WAS Georgie's
hair."

"Georgie's hair," Good Indian smilingly asserted, "doesn't interest me
a little bit. Maybe Hagar scalped Miss Georgie to get it. If it had been
goldy, I'd have taken it away from her if I had to annihilate the whole
tribe, but seeing it wasn't YOUR hair--"

Well, the argument as such was a poor one, to say the least, but it had
the merit of satisfying Evadna as mere logic could not have done, and
seemed to allay as well all the doubt that had been accumulating for
days past in her mind. But an hour spent in a hammock in the shadiest
part of the grove could not wipe out all memory of the past few days,
nor quiet the uneasiness which had come to be Good Indian's portion.

"I've got to go up on the hill again right after dinner,
Squaw-with-sun-hair," he told her at last. "I can't rest, somehow, as
long as those gentlemen are camping down in the orchard. You won't mind,
will you?" Which shows that the hour had not been spent in quarreling,
at all events.

"Certainly not," Evadna replied calmly. "Because I'm going with you. Oh,
you needn't get ready to shake your head! I'm going to help you, from
now on, and talk law and give advice and 'scout around,' as you call it.
I couldn't be easy a minute, with old Hagar on the warpath the way she
is. I'd imagine all sorts of things."

"You don't realize how hot it is," he discouraged.

"I can stand it if you can. And I haven't seen Georgie for DAYS. She
must get horribly lonesome, and it's a perfect SHAME that I haven't been
up there lately. I'm sure she wouldn't treat ME that way." Evadna
had put on her angelic expression. "I WOULD go oftener," she declared
virtuously, "only you boys always go off without saying anything
about it, and I'm silly about riding past that Indian camp alone. That
squaw--the one that caught Huckleberry the other day, you know--would
hardly let go of the bridle. I was scared to DEATH, only I wouldn't let
her see. I believe now she's in with old Hagar, Grant. She kept asking
me where you were, and looked so--"

"I think, on the whole, we'd better wait till after supper when it's
cooler, Goldenhair," Good Indian observed, when she hesitated over
something she had not quite decided to say. "I suppose I really ought
to stay and help the boys with that clover patch that Mother Hart is
worrying so about. I guess she thinks we're a lazy bunch, all right,
when the old man's gone. We'll go up this evening, if you like."

Evadna eyed him with open suspicion, but if she could read his real
meaning from anything in his face or his eyes or his manner, she must
have been a very keen observer indeed.

Good Indian was meditating what he called "making a sneak." He wanted
to have a talk with Miss Georgie himself, and he certainly did not want
Evadna, of all people, to hear what he had to say. For just a minute
he wished that they had quarreled again. He went down to the stable,
started to saddle Keno, and then decided that he would not. After all,
Hagar's gossip could do no real harm, he thought, and it could not make
much difference if Miss Georgie did not hear of it immediately.





Next: Peaceful Returns

Previous: A Bit Of Paper



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