Love Words For Annie





In Tijeras Arroyo the moon made black shadows where stood the tiny

knolls here and there, marking frequently the windings of dry washes

where bushes grew in ragged patches and where tall weeds of mid-May

tangled in the wind. The roundup tents of the Flying U Feature Film

Company stood white as new snow in the moonlight, though daylight showed

them an odd, light-blue tint for photographic purposes. On a farther

slope cunningly placed by the scenic artist to catch the full sunlight

of midday, the camp of the Chavez brothers gleamed softly in the magic

light.



So far had spring roundup progressed that Luck was holding the camp in

Tijeras Arroyo for picture-making only. Applehead's calves were branded,

to the youngest pair of knock-kneed twins which Happy Jack found curled

up together cunningly hidden in a thicket. They had been honored with a

"close-up" scene, those two spotted calves, and were destined to further

honors which they did not suspect and could not appreciate.



They slept now, as slept the two camps upon the two slopes that lay

moon-bathed at midnight. Back where the moon was making the barren

mountains a wonderland of deep purple and black and silvery gray and

brown, a coyote yapped a falsetto message and was answered by one nearer

at hand--his mate, it might be. In a bush under the bank that made of

it a black blot in the unearthly whiteness of the sand, a little

bird fluttered uneasily and sent a small, inquiring chirp into the

stillness. From somewhere farther up the arroyo drifted a faint,

aromatic odor of cigarette smoke.



Had you been there by the bush you could not have told when

Annie-Many-Ponies passed by; you would not have seen her--certainly you

could not have heard the soft tread of her slim, moccasined feet. Yet

she passed the bush and the bank and went away up the arroyo, silent as

the shadows themselves, swift as the coyote that trotted over a nearby

ridge to meet her mate nearer the mountains. Sol following much the same

instinct in much the same way, Annie-Many-Ponies stole out to meet the

man her heart timidly yearned for a possible mate.



She reached the rock-ledge where the smoke odor was strongest, and she

stopped. She saw Ramon Chavez, younger of the Chavez brothers who were

ten-mile-off neighbors of Applehead, and who owned many cattle and much

land by right of an old Spanish grant. He was standing in the shadow of

the ledge, leaning against it as they of sun-saturated New Mexico always

lean against anything perpendicular and solid near which they happen to

stand. He was watching the white-lighted arroyo while he smoked, waiting

for her, unconscious of her near presence.



Annie-Many-Ponies stood almost within reach of him, but she did not make

her presence known. With the infinite wariness of her race she waited to

see what he would do; to read, if she might, what were his thoughts--his

attitude toward her in his unguarded moments. That little, inscrutable

smile which so exasperated Applehead was on her lips while she watched

him.



Ramon finished that cigarette, threw away the stab and rolled and

lighted another. Still Annie-Many-Ponies gave no little sign of her

presence. He watched the arroyo, and once he leaned to one side and

stared back at his own quiet camp on the slope that had the biggest and

the wildest mountain of that locality for its background. He settled

himself anew with his other shoulder against the rock, and muttered

something in Spanish--that strange, musical talk which Annie-Many-Ponies

could not understand. And still she watched him, and exulted in his

impatience for her coming, and wondered if it would always be lovelight

which she would see in his eyes.



He was not of her race, though in her pride she thought him favored when

she named him akin to the Sioux. He was not of her race, but he was tall

and he was straight, he was dark as she, he was strong and brave and he

bad many cattle and much broad acreage. Annie-Many-Ponies smiled upon

him in the dark and was glad that she, the daughter of a chief of the

Sioux, had been found good in his sight.



Five minutes, ten minutes. The coyote, yap-yap-yapping in the broken

land beyond them, found his mate and was silent. Ramon Chavez, waiting

in the shadow of the ledge, muttered a Mexican oath and stepped out into

the moonlight and stood there, tempted to return to his camp--for he,

also, had pride that would not bear much bruising.



Annie-Many-Ponies waited. When he muttered again and threw his cigarette

from him as though it had been something venomous; when he turned his

face toward his own tents and took a step forward, she laughed softly, a

mere whisper of amusement that might have been a sleepy breeze stirring

the bushes somewhere near. Ramon started and turned his face her way;

in the moonlight his eyes shone with a certain love-hunger which

Annie-Many-Ponies exulted to see--because she did not understand.



"You not let moon look on you," she chided in an undertone, her

sentences clipped of superfluous words as is the Indian way, her voice

that pure, throaty melody that is a gift which nature gives lavishly to

the women of savage people. "Moon see, men see."



Ramon swung back into the shadow, reached out his two arms to fold her

close and got nothing more substantial than another whispery laugh.



"Where are yoh,sweetheart?" He peered into the shadow where she had

been, and saw the place empty. He laughed, chagrined by her elusiveness,

yet hungering for her the more.



"You not touch," she warned. "Till priest say marriage prayers, no man

touch."



He called her a devil in Spanish, and she thought it a love-word and

laughed and came nearer. He did not attempt to touch her, and so,

reassured, she stood close so that he could see the pure, Indian profile

of her face when she raised it to the sky in a mute invocation, it might

be, of her gods.



"When yoh come?" he asked swiftly, his race betrayed in tone and accent.

"I look and look--I no see yoh."



"I come," she stated with a quiet meaning. "I not like cow, for make

plenty noise. I stand here, you smoke two times, I look."



"You mus' be moonbeam," he told her, reaching out again, only to lay

hold upon nothing. "Come back, sweetheart. I be good."



"I not like you touch," she repeated. "I good girl. I mind priest, I

read prayers, I mind Wagalexa Conka--" There she faltered, for the last

boast was no longer the truth.



Ramon was quick to seize upon the one weak point of her armor. "So? He

send yoh then to talk with Ramon at midnight? Yoh come to please yoh

boss?"



Annie-Many-Ponies turned her troubled face his way. "Wagalexa Conka

sleep plenty. I not ask," she confessed. "You tell me come here you tell

me must talk when no one hear. I come. I no ask Wagalexa Conka--him say

good girl stay by camp. Him say not walk in night-time, say me not talk

you. I no ask; I just come."



"Yoh lov' him, perhaps? More as yoh lov' me? Always I see yoh look at

him--always watch, watch. Always I see yoh jomp when he snap the finger;

always yoh run like train dog. Yoh lov' him, perhaps? Bah! Yoh dirt

onder his feet." Ramon did not seriously consider that any woman whom

he favored could sanely love another man more than himself, but to

his nature jealousy was a necessary adjunct of lovemaking; not to

have displayed jealousy would have been to betray indifference, as he

interpreted the tender passion.



Annie-Many-Ponies, woman-wily though she was by nature, had little

learning in the devious ways of lovemaking. Eyes might speak, smiles

might half reveal, half hide her thoughts; but the tongue, as her tribe

had taught her sternly, must speak the truth or keep silent. Now she

bent her head, puzzling how best to put her feelings toward Luck Lindsay

into honest words which Ramon would understand.



"Yoh lov' him, perhaps--since yoh all time afraid he be mad." Ramon

persisted, beating against the wall of her Indian taciturnity which

always acted as a spur upon his impetuosity. Besides, it was important

to him that he should know just what was the tie between these two. He

had heard Luck Lindsay speak to the girl in the Sioux tongue. He had

seen her eyes lighten as she made swift answer. He had seen her always

eager to do Luck's bidding--had seen her anticipate his wants and

minister to them as though it was her duty and her pleasure to do so.

It was vital that he should know, and it was certain that he could not

question Luck upon the subject--for Ramon Chavez was no fool.



"Long time ago--when I was papoose with no shoes," she began with

seeming irrelevance, her eyes turning instinctively toward the white

tents of the Flying U camp gleaming in the distance, "my people go for

work in Buffalo Bill show. My father go, my mother go, I go. All time we

dance for show, make Indian fight with cowboys--all them act for Buffalo

Bill-Pawnee Bill show. That time Wagalexa Conka boss of Indians. He

Indian Agent. He take care whole bunch. He make peace when fights, he

give med'cine when somebody sick. He awful good to them Indians. He give

me candy, always stop to talk me. I like him. My father like him. All

them Indians like him plenty much. My father awful sick one time, he no

let doctor come. Leg broke all in pieces. He say die plenty if Wagalexa

Conka no make well. I go ticket wagon, tell Wagalexa Conka, he come

quick, fix up leg all right.



"All them Indians like to make him--" She stopped, searching her mind

for the elusive, little-used word which she had learned in the mission

school. "Make him sdop'," she finished triumphantly. "Indians make much

dance, plenty music, lots speeches make him Indian man. My father big

chief, he make Wagalexa Conka him son. Make him my brother. Give him

Indian name Wagalexa Conka. All Indians call that name for him.



"Pretty soon show stop, all them Indians go home by reservation. long

time we don't see Wagalexa Conka no more. I get big girl, go school

little bit. Pretty soon Wagalexa Conka come back, for wants them Indians

for work in pictures. My father go, my mother go, all us go. We work

long time. I," she added with naive pride in her comeliness, "awful good

looking. I do lots of foreground stuff. Pretty soon hard times come.

Indians go home by reservation. I go--I don't like them reservations no

more. Too lonesome. I like for work all time in pictures. I come, tell

Wagalexa Conka I be Indian girl for pictures. He write letter for agent,

write letter for my father. They writes letter for say yes, I stay. I

stay and do plenty more foreground stuff."



"I don't see you do moch foreground work since that white girl come,"

Ramon observed, hitting what he instinctively knew was a tender point.



Had he seen her face, he must have been satisfied that the chance shot

struck home. But in the shadow hate blazed unseen from her eyes. She did

not speak, and so he went back to his first charge.



"All this don't tell me moch," he complained. "Yoh lov' him, maybe?

That's what I ask."



"Wagalexa Conka my brother, my father, my friend," she replied calmly,

and let him interpret it as he would.



"He treats yoh like a dog. He crazee 'bout that Jean. He gives her all

smiles, all what yoh call foreground stuff. I know--I got eyes. Me, it

makes me mad for see how he treat yoh--and yoh so trying hard always

to Please. He got no heart for yoh--me, I see that." He moved a step

closer, hesitating, wanting yet not quite daring to touch her. "Me, I

lov' yoh, little Annie," he murmured. "Yoh lov' me little bit, eh? Jus'

little bit! Jus' for say, 'Ramon, I go weeth yoh, I be yoh woman--'"



Annie-Many-Ponies widened the distance between them. "Why you not say

wife?" she queried suspiciously.



"Woman, wife, sweetheart--all same," he assured her with his voice like

a caress. "All words mean I lov' yoh jus' same. Now yoh say yoh lov' me,

say yoh go weeth me, I be one happy man. I go back on camp and my heart

she's singing lov' song. My girl weeth eyes that shine so bright, she

lov' me moch as I lov' her. That what my heart she sing. Yoh not be so

cruel like stone--yoh say, 'Ramon, I lov' yoh.' Jus' like that! So easy

to say!"



"Not easy," she denied, moved to save her freedom yet a while longer.

"I say them words, then I--then I not be same girl like now. Maybe much

troubles come. Maybe much happy--I dunno. Lots time I see plenty trouble

come for girl that say them words for man. Some time plenty happy--I

think trouble comes most many times. I think Wagalexa Conka he be awful

mad. I not like for hims be mad."



"Now you make ME mad--Ramon what loves yoh! Yoh like for Ramon be mad,

perhaps? Always yoh 'fraid Luck Lindsay this, 'fraid Luck that other.

Me, I gets damn' sick hear that talk all time. Bimeby he marree som'

girl, then what for you? He don' maree yoh, eh? He don' lov' yoh; he

think too good for maree Indian girl. Me, I not think like that. I,

Ramon Chavez, I think proud to lov, yoh. Ramon--"



"I not think Wagalexa Conka marry me." The girl was turning stubborn

under his importunities. "Wagalexa Conka my brother--my friend. I tell

you plenty time. Now I tell no more."



"Ramon loves yoh so moch," he pleaded, and smiled to himself when he saw

her turn toward toward him again. The love-talk--that was what a woman

likes best to hear! "Yoh say yoh lov' Ramon jus' little bit!"



"I not say now. When I say I be sure I say truth."



"All right, then I be sad till yoh lov' me. Yoh maybe be happy, yoh know

Ramon's got heavy heart for yoh."



"I plenty sorry, you be sad for me," she confessed demurely. "I lov' yoh

so moch! I think nothing but how beautiful my sweetheart is. I not tease

yoh no more. Tell me, how long Luck says he stay out here? Maybe yoh

hear sometimes he's going for taking pictures in town?"



"I not hear."



"Going home, maybe? You mus' hear little bit. Yoh tell me, sweetheart;

what's he gone do when roundup's all finish? Me, I know she's finish

las' week. Looks like he's taking pictures out here all summer! You hear

him say something, maybe?"



"I not hear."



"Them vaqueros--bah! They don't bear nothings either. What's matter over

there, nobody hear nothing? Luck, he got no tongue when camera's shut

up, perhaps?"



"Nah--I dunno."



Ramon looked at her for a minute in mute rage. It was not the first time

he had found himself hard against the immutable reticence of the Indian

in her nature.



"Why you snapping teeth like a wolf?" she asked him slyly.



"Me? I don' snap my teeth, sweetheart." It cost Ramon some effort to

keep his voice softened to the love key.



"Why you not ask Wagalexa Conka what he do?"



"I don' care, that's why I don' ask. Me, it's' no matter."



He hesitated a moment, evidently weighing a matter of more importance

to him than he would have Annie-Many-Ponies suspect. "Sweetheart, yoh do

one thing for Ramon?" His voice might almost be called wheedling. "Me,

I'm awful busy tomorrow. I got long ride away off--to my rancho. I got

to see my brother Tomas. I be back here not before night. Yoh tell Bill

Holmes he come here by this rock--yoh say midnight that's good time--I

sure be here that time. Yoh say I got something I wan' tell him. Yoh do

that for Ramon, sweetheart?"



He waited, trying to hide the fact that he was anxious.



"I not like Bill Holmes." Annie-Many-Ponies spoke with an air of

finality. "Bill Holmes comes close, I feel snakes. Him not friend to

Wagalexa Conka--say nothing--always go around still, like fox watching

for rabbit. You not friend to Bill Holmes?"



"Me? No--I not friend, querida mia. I got business. I sell Bill Holmes

one silver bridle, perhaps. I don' know--mus' talk about it. Yoh tell

him come here by big rock, sweetheart?"



Annie-Many-Ponies took a minute for deliberation--which is the Indian

way. Ramon, having learned patience, said no more but watched her

slant-eyed.



"I tell," she promised at last, and added, "I go now." Then she slipped

away. And Ramon, though he stood for several minutes by the rock smiling

queerly and staring down the arroyo, caught not the slightest glimpse

of her after she left him. He knew that she would deliver faithfully

his message to Bill Holmes, she had given her word. That was one

great advantage, considered Ramon, in dealing with those direct,

uncompromising natures. She might torment him with her aloofness and her

reticence, but once he had won her to a full confidence and submission

he need not trouble himself further about her loyalty. She would tell

Bill Holmes--and, what was vastly more important, she would do it

secretly; he had not dared to speak of that, but he thought he might

safely trust to her natural wariness. So Ramon, after a little, stole

away to his own camp quite satisfied.



The next night, when he stood in the shadow of the rock ledge and

waited, he was not startled by the unexpected presence of the person he

wanted to see. For although Bill Holmes came as cautiously as he knew

how, and avoided the wide, bright-lighted stretches of arroyo where he

would have been plainly visible, Ramon both saw and heard him before he

reached the ledge. What Ramon did not see or hear was Annie-Many-Ponies,

who did not quite believe that those two wished merely to talk about a

silver bridle, and who meant to listen and find out why it was that they

could not talk openly before all the boys.



Annie-Many-Ponies had ways of her own. She did not tell Ramon that she

doubted his word, nor did she refuse to deliver the message. She waited

calmly until Bill Holmes left camp stealthily that night, and she

followed him. It was perfectly simple and sensible and the right thing

to do; if you wanted to know for sure whether a person lied to you, you

had but to watch and listen and let your own eyes and ears prove guilt

or innocence.



So Annie-Many-Ponies stood by the rock and listened and watched. She

did not see any silver bridle. She heard many words, but the two were

speaking in that strange Spanish talk which she did not know at all,

save "Querida mia," which Ramon had told her meant sweetheart.



The two talked, low-voiced and earnest, Bill was telling all that he

knew of Luck Lindsay's plans--and that was not much.



"He don't talk," Bill complained. "He just tells the bunch a day

ahead--just far enough to get their makeup and costumes on, generally.

But he won't stay around here much longer; he's taken enough spring

roundup stuff now for half a dozen pictures. He'll be moving in to the

ranch again pretty quick. And I know this picture calls for a lot of

town business that he'll have to take. I saw the script the other day."

This, of course, being a free translation of the meaningless jumble of

strange words which Annie heard.



"What town business is that? Where will he work?" Ramon was plainly

impatient of so much vagueness.



"Well, there's a bank robbery--I paid particular attention, Ramon, so I

know for certain. But when he'll do it, or what bank he'll use, I don't

know any more than you do. And there's a running fight down the street

and through the Mexican quarter. The rest is just street stuff--that

and a fiesta that I think he'll probably me the old plaza for location.

He'll need a lot of Mexicans for that stuff. He'll want you, of course."



"That bank--who will do that?" Ramon's fingers trembled so that he could

scarcely roll a cigarette. "Andy, perhaps?"



"No--that's the Mexican bunch. I--why, I guess that will maybe be

you, Ramon. I wasn't paying much attention to the parts--I was after

locations, and I only had about two minutes at the script. But he's been

giving you some good bits right along where he needed a Mexican type;

and those scenes in the rocks the other day was bandit stuff with you

for lead. It'll be you or Miguel--the Native Son, as they call him--and

so far he's cast for another part. That's the worst of Luck. He won't

talk about what he's going to do till he's all ready to do it."



There was a little further discussion. Ramon muttered a few

sentences--rapid instructions, Annie-Many-Ponies believed from the tone

he used.



"All right, I'll keep you posted," Bill Holmes replied in English. And

he added as he started off, "You can send word by the squaw."



He went carefully back down the arroyo, keeping as much as possible in

the shade. Behind him stole Annie-Many-Ponies, noiseless as the shadow

of a cloud. Bill Holmes, she reflected angrily, had seen the day, not so

far in the past, when he was happy if the "squaw" but smiled upon him.

It was because she had repelled his sly lovemaking that he had come to

speak of her slightingly like that; she knew it. She could have named

the very day when his manner toward her had changed. Mingled with her

hate and dread of him was a new contempt and a new little anxiety over

this clandestine intimacy between Ramon and him. Why should Bill Holmes

keep Ramon posted? Surely not about a silver bridle!



Shunka Chistala was whining in her little tent when she came into the

camp. She heard Bill Holmes stumble over the end of the chuck-wagon

tongue and mutter the customary profanity with which the average man

meets an incident of that kind. She whispered a fierce command to the

little black dog and stood very still for a minute, listening. She

did not hear anything further, either from Bill Holmes or the dog, and

finally reassured by the silence, she crept into her tent and tied the

flaps together on the inside, and lay down in her blankets with the

little black dog contentedly curled at her feet with his nose between

his front paws.





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