Annie-many-ponies Waits





In the magic light of many unnamable soft shades which the sun leaves

in New Mexico as a love token for his dark mistress night,

Annie-Many-Ponies sat with her back against a high, flat rock at the

place where Ramon had said she must wait for him, and stared somber-eyed

at what she could see of the new land that bad held her future behind

the Sandias; waiting for Ramon; and she wondered if Wagalexa Conka had

come home from his picture-making in Bear Canon and was angry because

she had gone; and shrank from the thought, and tried to picture what

life with Ramon would be like, and whether his love would last beyond

the wide ring of shiny gold that was to make her a wife.



At her feet the little black dog lay licking his sore paws that had

padded patiently after her all day. Beside the rock the black horse

stood nibbling at some weeds awkwardly, because of the Spanish bit in

his mouth. The horse was hungry, and the little black dog was hungry;

Annie-Many-Ponies was hungry also, but she did not feel her, hunger so

much, because of the heaviness that was in her heart.



When Ramon came he would bring food, or he would tell her where she

might buy. The horse, too, would be fed--when Ramon came. And he would

take her to the priest who was his friend, and together they would kneel

before the priest. But first, if Ramon would wait, she wanted to confess

her sins, so that she need not go into the new life bearing the sins of

the old. The priest could pray away the ache that was in her heart; and

then, with her heart light as air, she would be married with Ramon.

It was long since she had confessed--not since the priest came to the

agency when she was there, before she ran away to work in pictures for

Wagalexa Conka.



Before her the glow deepened and darkened. A rabbit hopped out of a

thick clump of stunted bushes, sniffed the air that blew the wrong way

to warn him, and began feeding. Shunka Chistala gathered his soft paws

under him, scratched softly for a firm foothold in the ground, and when

the rabbit, his back turned and the evening wind blowing full in his

face, fed unsuspectingly upon some young bark that he liked, the little

black dog launched himself suddenly across the space that divided them.

There was a squeak and a thin, whimpering crying--and the little black

dog, at least, was sure of his supper.



Annie-Many-Ponies, roused from her brooding, shivered a little when the

rabbit cried. She started forward to save it--she who had taught the

little black dog to hunt gophers and prairie-dogs!--and when she was

too late she scolded the dog in the language of the Sioux. She tore the

rabbit away from him while he eyed her reproachfully; but when she saw

that it was quite dead, she flung the warm body back to him and went and

sat down again with her back to the rock.



A train whistled for the little station of Bernalillo, and soon she saw

its headlight paint the squat houses that had before been hidden behind

the creeping dusk. Ramon was late in coming and for one breath she

caught herself hoping that he would not come at all. But immediately she

remembered the love words he had taught her, and smiled her inscrutable

little smile that had now a tinge of sadness. Perhaps, she thought

wishfully, Ramon had come on the train from Albuquerque. Perhaps he had

a horse in the town, and would ride out and meet her here where he had

told her to wait.



The train shrieked and painted swiftly hill and embankment and little

adobe huts and a corral full of huddled sheep, and went churning away to

the northeast. Annie-Many-Ponies followed its course absently with her

eyes until the last winking light from its windows and the last wisp of

smoke was hidden behind hills and trees. The little black dog finished

the rabbit, nosed its tracks back to where it had hopped out of the

brush, and came back and curled up at the feet of his mistress, licking

his lips and again his travel-sore paws. In a moment, feeling in his

dumb way her loneliness, perhaps, he reached up and laid his pink tongue

caressingly upon her brown hand.



Dark came softly and with it a noisy wind that whistled and murmured and

at last, growing more boisterous as the night deepened, whooped over her

bead and tossed wildly the branches of a clump of trees that grew

near. Annie-Many-Ponies listened to the wind and thought it a brother,

perhaps, of the night wind that came to the Dakota prairies and caroused

there until dawn bade it be still. Too red the blood of her people ran

in her veins for her to be afraid of the night, even though she peopled

it with dim shapes of her fancy.



After a long while the wind grew chill. Annie-Many-Ponies shivered, and

then rose and went to the horse and, reaching into the bundle which was

still bound to the saddle, she worked a plaid shawl loose from the other

things and pulled it out and wrapped it close around her and pulled it

over her head like a cowl. Then she went back and sat down against the

bowlder, waiting, with the sublime patience of her kind, for Ramon.



Until the wind hushed, listening for the dawn, she sat there and waited.

At her feet the little black dog slept with his nose folded between his

front paws over which he whimpered sometimes in his dreams. At every

little sound all through--the night Annie-Many-Ponies had listened,

thinking that at last here came Ramon to take her to the priest, but for

the first time since she had stolen out on the mesa to meet him, Ramon

did not keep the tryst--and this was to be their marriage meeting!

Annie-Many-Ponies grew very still and voiceless in her heart, as if her

very soul waited. She did not even speculate upon what the future would

be like if Ramon never came. She was waiting.



Then, just before the sky lightened, someone stepped cautiously along

a little path that led through rocks and bushes back into the hills.

Annie-Many Ponies turned her face that way and listened. But the steps

were not the steps of Ramon; Annie-Many-Ponies had too much of the

Indian keenness to be fooled by the hasty footsteps of this man. And

since it was not Ramon--her slim fingers closed upon the keen-edged

knife she carried always in its sinew-sewed buckskin sheath near her

heart.



The little black dog lifted his head suddenly and growled, and the

footsteps came to a sudden stop quite near the rock.



"It is you?" asked a cautious voice with the unmistakable Mexican tone

and soft, slurring accent, "speak me what yoh name."



"Ramon comes?" Annie asked him quietly, and the footsteps came swiftly

nearer until his form was silhouetted by the rock.



"Sh-sh--yoh not spik dat name," he whispered. "Luis Rojas me. I come for

breeng yoh. No can come, yoh man. No spik name--som'bodys maybe hears."



Annie-Many-Ponies rose and stood peering at him through the dark.

"What's wrong?" she asked abruptly, borrowing the curt phrase from Luck

Lindsay. "Why I not speak name? Why--some body--?" she laid ironical

stress upon the word--"not come? What business you got, Luis Rojas?"



"No--don' spik names, me!" The figure was seen to throw out an imploring

hand. "Moch troubles, yoh bet! Yoh come now--somebodys she wait in

dam-hurry!"



Annie-Many-Ponies, with her fingers still closed upon the bone handle of

her sharp-edged knife, thought swiftly. Wariness had been born into her

blood--therefore she could understand and meet halfway the wariness of

another. Perhaps Wagalexa Conka had suspected that she was going

with Ramon; Wagalexa Conka was very keen, and his anger blazed hot as

pitch-pine flame. Perhaps Ramon feared Wagalexa Conka--as she, too,

feared him. She was not afraid--she would go to Ramon.



She stepped away from the rock and took the black horse by its dropped

bridle-reins and followed Luis Rojas up the dim path that wound through

trees and rocks until it dropped into a little ravine that was chocked

with brush, so that Annie-Many-Ponies had to put the stiff branches

aside with her hand lest they scratch her face as she passed.



Luis went swiftly along the path, as though his haste was great; but he

went stealthily as well, and she knew that he had some unknown cause for

secrecy. She wondered a little at this. Had Wagalexa Conka discovered

where she and Ramon were to meet? But how could he discover that which

had been spoken but once, and then in the quiet loneliness of that place

far back on the mesa? Wagalexa Conka bad not been within three miles of

that place, as Annie-Many-Ponies knew well. How then did he know? For he

must have followed, since Ramon dared not come to the place he had named

for their meeting.



Dawn came while they were still following the little, brush-choked

ravine with its faint pathway up the middle of it, made by cattle or

sheep or goats, perhaps all three. Luis hurried along, stopping now and

then and holding up a hand for silence so that he might listen. Fast as

he went, Annie-Many-Ponies kept within two long steps of his heels, her

plaid shawl drawn smoothly over her black head and folded together under

her chin. Her mouth was set in a straight line, and her chin had the

square firmness of the Indian. Luis, looking back at her curiously,

could not even guess at her thoughts, but he thought her too calm and

cold for his effervescent nature--though he would have liked to tell her

that she was beautiful. He did not, because he was afraid of Ramon.



"Poco tiempo, come to his camp, Ramon," he said when the sun was peering

over the high shoulder of a ridge; and he spoke in a hushed tone, as if

he feared that someone might overhear him.



"You 'fraid Wagalexa Conka, he come?" Annie-Many-Ponies asked abruptly,

looking at him full.



Luis did not understand her, so he lifted his shoulders in the Mexican

gesture which may mean much or nothing. "Quien sabe?" he muttered

vaguely and went on. Annie-Many-Ponies did not know what he meant, but

she guessed that he did not want to be questioned upon the subject;

so she readjusted the shawl that had slipped from her head and went on

silently, two long steps behind him.



In a little he turned from the ravine, which was becoming more open and

not quite so deep. They scrambled over boulders which the horse must

negotiate carefully to avoid a broken leg, and then they were in another

little ravine, walled round with rocks and high, brushy slopes. Luis

went a little way, stopped beside a huge, jutting boulder and gave a

little exclamation of dismay.



"No more here, Ramon," he said, staring down at the faintly smoking

embers of a little fire. "She's go som' place, I don't know, me."



The slim right hand of Annie-Many-Ponies went instinctively to her bosom

and to what lay hidden there. But she waited, looking from the little

campfire that was now almost dead, to Luis whom she suspected of

treachery. Luis glanced up at her apologetically, caught something of

menace in that unwinking, glittering stare, and began hastily searching

here and there for some sign that would enlighten him further.



"She's here when I go, Ramon," he explained deprecatingly. "I don'

un'stan', me. She's tell me go breeng yoh thees place. She's say I mus'

huree w'ile dark she's las'. I'm sure s'prised, me!" Luis was a slender

young man with a thin, patrician face that had certain picture values

for Luck, but which greatly belied his lawless nature. Until he stood

by the rock where she had waited for Ramon, Annie-Many-Ponies had

never spoken to him. She did not know him, therefore she did not trust

him--and she looked her distrust.



Luis turned from her after another hasty glance, and began searching

for some sign of Ramon. Presently, in a tiny cleft near the top of the

boulder, his black eyes spied a folded paper--two folded papers, as he

discovered when he reached up eagerly and pulled them out.



"She's write letter, Ramon," he cried with a certain furtive excitement.

"Thees for yoh." And he smiled while he gave her a folded note with

"Ana" scrawled hastily across the face of it.



Annie-Many-Ponies extended her left hand for it, and backed the few

steps away from him which would insure her safety against a sudden

attack, before she opened the paper and read:



"Querida mia, you go with Luis. Hes all rite you trus him. He bring you

where i am. i lov you. Ramon"



She read it twice and placed the note in her bosom--next the knife--and

looked at Luis, the glitter gone from her eyes. She smiled a little.

"I awful hongry," she said in her soft voice, and it was the second

sentence she had spoken since they left the rock where she had waited.



Luis smiled back, relief showing in the uplift of his lips and the

lightening of his eyes. "She's cache grob, Ramon," he said. "She's go

som' place and we go also. She's wait for us. Dam-long way--tree days, I

theenk me."



"You find that grub," said Annie-Many-Ponies, letting her hand drop away

from the knife. "I awful hongry. We eat, then we go."



"No--no go till dark comes! We walk in night--so somebody don' see!"



Annie-Many-Ponies looked at him sharply, saw that he was very much in

earnest, and turned away to gather some dry twigs for the fire. Up the

canon a horse whinnied inquiringly, and Luis, hastening furtively that

way, found the horse he had ridden into this place with Ramon. With

the problem of finding provender for the two animals, he had enough to

occupy him until Annie-Many-Ponies, from the coarse food he brought her,

cooked a crude breakfast.



Truly, this was not what she had dreamed the morning would be like--she

who had been worried over the question of whether Ramon would let her

confess to the priest before they were married! Here was no priest and

no Ramon, even; but a keen-eyed young Mexican whom she scarcely knew at

all; and a mysterious hiding-out in closed-in canons until dark before

they might follow Ramon who loved her. Annie-Many-Ponies did not

understand why all this stealthiness should be necessary, for she knew

that proof of her honorable marriage would end Luck's pursuit--supposing

he did pursue--even though his anger might live always for her. She did

not understand; and when an Indian confronts a situation which puzzles

him, you may be very sure that same Indian is going to be very, very

cautious. Annie-Many-Ponies was Indian to the middle of her bone.





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