I Go Where Wagalexa Conka Say





That afternoon Ramon joined them, suave as ever and seeming very much at

peace with the world and his fellow-beings. He watched the new leading

woman make a perilous ride down a steep, rocky point and dash up to

camera and on past it where she set her horse back upon, its haunches

with a fine disregard for her bones and a still finer instinct for

putting just the right dash of the spectacular into her work without

overdoing it.



"That senora, she's all right, you bet!" he praised the feat to those

who stood near him; "me, I not be stuck on ron my caballo down that

place. You bet she's fine rider. My sombrero, he's come off to that

lady!"



Jean, hearing, glanced at him with that little quirk of the lips which

was the beginning of a smile, and rode off to join her father and Lite

Avery. "He made that sound terribly sincere, didn't he?" she commented.

"It takes a Mexican to lift flattery up among the fine arts." Then she

thought no more about it.



Annie-Many-Ponies was sitting apart, on a rock where her gay blanket

made a picturesque splotch of color against the gray barrenness of the

hill behind her. She, too, heard what Ramon said, and she, too, thought

that he had made the praise sound terribly sincere. He had not spoken to

her at all after the first careless nod of recognition when he rode

up. And although her reason had approved of his caution, her sore heart

ached for a little kindness from him. She turned her eyes toward him

now with a certain wistfulness; but though Ramon chanced to be looking

toward her she got no answering light in his eyes, no careful little

signal that his heart was yearning for her. He seemed remote, as

indifferent to her as were any of the others dulled by accustomedness

to her constant presence among them. A premonitory chill, as from

some great sorrow yet before her in the future, shook the heart of

Annie-Many-Ponies.



"Me, I fine out how moch more yoh want me campa here for pictures,"

Ramon was saying now to Luck who was standing by Pete Lowry, scribbling

something on his script. "My brother Tomas, he liking for us at ranch

now, s'pose yoh finish poco tiempo."



Luck wrote another line before he gave any sign that he heard.

Annie-Many-Ponies, watching from under her drooping lids, saw that Bill

Holmes had edged closer to Ramon, while he made pretense of being much

occupied with his own affairs.



"I don't need your camp at all after today." Luck shoved the script into

his coat pocket and looked at his watch.



"This afternoon when the sun is just right I want to get one or two

cut-back scenes and a dissolve out. After that you can break camp any

time. But I want you, Ramon--you and Estancio Lopez and Luis Rojas. I'll

need you for two or three days in town--want you to play the heavy in a

bank-robbery and street fight. The makeup is the same as when you worked

up there in the rocks the other day. You three fellows come over and

go in to the ranch tomorrow if you like. Then I'll have you when I want

you. You'll get five dollars a day while you work." Having made himself

sufficiently clear, he turned away to set and rehearse the next scene,

and did not see the careful glance which passed between Ramon and Bill

Holmes.



"Annie," Luck said abruptly, swinging toward her, "can you come down

off that point where Jean Douglas came? You'll have to ride horseback,

remember, and I don't want you to do it unless you're sure of yourself.

How about it?"



For the first time since breakfast her somber eyes lightened with a

gleam of interest. She did not look at Ramon--Ramon who had told her

many times how much he loved her, and yet could praise Jean Douglas for

her riding. Ramon had declared that he would not care to come riding

down that point as Jean had come; very well, then she would show Ramon

something.



"It isn't necessary, exactly," Luck explained further. "I can show you

at the top, looking down at the way Jean came; and then I can pick

you up on an easier trail. But if you want to do it, it will save some

cut-backs and put another little punch in here. Either way it's up to

you."



The voice of Annie-Many-Ponies did not rise to a higher key when she

spoke, but it had in it a clear incisiveness that carried her answer to

Ramon and made him understand that she was speaking for his ears.



"I come down with big punch," she said.



"Where Jean came? You're riding bareback, remember."



"No matter. I come down jus' same." And she added with a haughty tilt of

her chin, "That's easy place for me."



Luck eyed her steadfastly, a smile of approval on his face. "All right.

I know you've got plenty of nerve, Annie. You mount and ride up that

draw till you get to the ridge. Come up to where you can see camp over

the brow of the hill--sabe?--and then wait till I whistle. One whistle,

get ready to come down. Two whistles, you, come. Ride past camera, just

the way Jean did. You know you're following the white girl and trying to

catch up with her. You're a friend and you have a message for her, but

she's scared and is running away--sabe? You want to come down slow first

and pick your trail?"



"No." Annie-Many-Ponies started toward the pinto pony which was her

mount in this picture. "I come down hill. I make big punch for you. Pete

turn camera."



"You've got more nerve than I have, Annie," Jean told her good-naturedly

as she went by. "I'd hate to run a horse down there bareback."



"I go where Wagalexa Conka say." From the corner of her eye she saw the

quick frown of jealousy upon the face of Ramon, and her pulse gave an

extra beat of triumph.



With an easy spring she mounted the pinto pony, took the reins of her

squaw bridle that was her only riding gear, folded her gay blanket

snugly around her uncorseted body and touched the pinto with her

moccasined heels. She was ready--ready to the least little tensed nerve

that tingled with eagerness under the calm surface.



She rode slowly past luck, got her few final instructions and a warning

to be careful and to take no chances of an accident--which brought that

inscrutable smile to her face; for Wagalexa Conka knew, and she knew

also, that in the mere act of riding down that slope faster than a walk

she was taking a chance of an accident. It was that risk that lightened

her heart which had been so heavy all day. The greater the risk, the

more eager was she to take it. She would show Ramon that she, too, could

ride.



"Oh, do be careful, Annie!" Jean called anxiously when she was riding

into the mouth of the draw. "Turn to the right, when you come to that

big flat rock, and don't come down where I did. It's too steep. Really,"

she drawled to Rosemary and Lite, "my heart was in my mouth when I came

straight down by that rock. It's a lot steeper than it looks from here."



"She won't go round it," Rosemary predicted pessimistically. "She's in

one of her contrary moods today. She'll come down the worst way she can

find just to scare the life out of us."



Up the steep draw that led to the top, Annie-Many-Ponies rode

exultantly. She would show Ramon that she could ride wherever the white

girl dared ride. She would shame Wagalexa Conka, too, for his injustice

to her. She would put the too, for big punch in that scene or--she would

ride no more, unless it were upon a white cloud, drifting across the

moon at night and looking, down at this world and upon Ramon.



At the top of the ridge she rode out to the edge and made the peace-sign

to Luck as a signal that she was ready to do his bidding. Incidentally,

while she held her hand high over her head, her eyes swept keenly the

bowlder-strewn bluff beneath her. A little to one side was a narrow

backbone of smoother soil than the rest, and here were printed deep the

marks of Jean's horse. Even there it was steep, and there was a

bank, down there by the big flat rock which Jean had mentioned.

Annie-Many-Ponies looked daringly to the left, where one would say the

bluff was impassable. There she would come down, and no other place. She

would show Ramon what she could do--he who had praised boldly another

when she was by!



"All right, Annie!" Luck called to her through his megaphone. "Go back

now and wait for whistle. Ride along the edge when you come, from bushes

to where you stand. I want silhouette, you coming. You sabe?"



Annie-Many-Ponies raised her hand even with her breast, and swept it

out and upward in the Indian sign-talk which meant "yes." Luck's eyes

flashed appreciation of the gesture; he loved the sign-talk of the old

plains tribes.



"Be careful, Annie," he cried impulsively. "I don't want you to be

hurt." He dropped the megaphone as she swung her horse back from the

edge and disappeared. "I'd cut the whole scene out if I didn't know what

a rider she is," he added to the others, more uneasy than he cared to

own. "But it would hurt her a heap more if I wouldn't let her ride where

Jean rode. She's proud; awfully proud and sensitive."



"I'm glad you're letting her do it," Jean said sympathetically. "She'd

hate me if you hadn't. But I'm going to watch her with my eyes shut,

just the same. It's an awfully mean place in spots."



"She'll make it, all right," Luck declared. But his tone was not so

confident as his words, and he was manifestly reluctant to place the

whistle to his lips. He fussed with his script, and he squinted into

the viewfinder, and he made certain for the second time just where the

side-lines came, and thrust half an inch deeper in the sandy soil the

slender stakes which would tell Annie-Many-Ponies where she must guide

the pinto when she came tearing down to foreground. But he could delay

the signal only so long, unless he cut out the scene altogether.



"Get back, over on that side, Bill," he commanded harshly. "Leave her

plenty of room to pass that side of the camera. All ready, Pete?" Then,

as if he wanted to have it over with as soon as possible, he whistled

once, waited while he might have counted twenty, perhaps, and sent

shrilling through the sunshine the signal that would bring her.



They watched, holding their breaths in fearful expectancy. Then they saw

her flash into view and come galloping down along the edge of the ridge

where the hill fell away so steeply that it might be called a cliff.

Indian fashion, she was whipping the pinto down both sides with the end

of her reins. Her slim legs hung straight, her moccasined toes pointing

downward. One corner of her red-and-green striped blanket flapped out

behind her. Haste--the haste of the pursuer--showed in every movement,

every line of her figure.



She came to the descent, and the pinto, having no desire for applause

but a very great hankering for whole bones in his body, planted his

forefeet and slid to a stop upon the brink. His snort came clearly down

to those below who watched.



"He won't tackle it," Pete Lowry predicted philosophically while he

turned the camera crank steadily round and round and held himself ready

to "panoram" the scene if the pinto bolted.



But the pinto, having Annie-Many-Ponies to reckon with, did not bolt.

The braided rein-end of her squaw bridle lashed him stingingly; the

moccasined heels dug without mercy into the tender part of his flanks.

He came lunging down over the first rim of the bluff; then since he

must, he gathered himself for the ordeal and came leaping down and down

and down, gaining momentum with every jump. He could not have stopped

then if he had tried--and Annie-Many-Ponies, still the incarnation of

eager pursuit, would not let him try.



At the big flat rock of which Jean had warned her, the pinto would have

swerved. But she yanked him into the straighter descent, down over the

bank. He leaped, and he fell and slid twice his own length, his nose

rooting the soil. Annie-Many-Ponies lurched, came hard against a boulder

and somehow flung herself into place again on the horse. She lifted

his head and called to him in short, harsh, Indian words. The pinto

scrambled to his knees, got to his feet and felt again the sting of the

rein-end in his flanks. Like a rabbit he came bounding down, down

where the way was steepest and most treacherous. And at every jump the

rein-end fell, first on one side and then along the other, as a skilled

canoeman shifts the paddle to force his slight craft forward in a

treacherous current.



Down the last slope he came thundering. On his back Annie-Many-Ponies

lashed him steadily, straining her eyes in the direction which Jean had

taken past the camera. She knew that they were watching her--she knew

also that the camera crank in Pete Lowry's hands was turning, turning,

recording every move of hers, every little changing expression. She

swept down upon them so close that Pete grabbed the tripod with one

hand, ready to lift it and dodge away from the coming collision. Still

leaning, still lashing and straining every nerve in pursuit, she dashed

past, pivoted the pinto upon his hind feet, darted back toward the

staring group and jumped off while he was yet running.



Now that she had done it; now that she had proven that she also had

nerve and much skill in riding, black loneliness settled upon her again.

She came slowly back, and as she came she heard them praise the ride she

had made. She heard them saying how frightened they had been when the

pinto fell, and she heard Wagalexa Conka call to her that she had made

a strong scene for him. She did not answer. She sat down upon a rock, a

little apart from them, and looking as remote as the Sandias Mountains,

miles away to the north, folded her blanket around her and spoke no word

to anyone.



Soon Ramon mounted his horse to return to his camp. He came riding down

to her--for his trail lay that way--and as he rode he called to the

others a good natured "Hasta luego!" which is the Mexican equivalent of

"See you later." He did not seem to notice Annie-Many-Ponies at all as

he rode past her. He was gazing off down the arroyo and riding with all

his weight on one stirrup and the other foot swinging free, as is the

nonchalant way of accustomed riders who would ease their muscles now

and then. But as he passed the rock where she was sitting he murmured,

"Tonight by the rock I wait for you, querida mia." Though she gave no

sign that she had heard, the heart of Annie-Many-Ponies gave a throb of

gladness that was almost pain.





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