The Daughter Of A Chief





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

immediate surroundings.



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.





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