To The Victors The Spoils





"Hey, boys!" Luck Lindsay shouted to Applehead and one or two of

the Happy Family who were down at the chuck--wagon engaged in uneasy

discussion as to what Luck would say when he found out about their

intention to leave. "Come on up here--this is going to be a wiping out

of old scores and I want to get it over with!"



"Well, now, I calc'late the fur's about to fly," Applehead made dismal

prophecy, as they started to obey the summons. "All 't su'prises me is

't he's held off this long. Two hours is a dang long time fer Luck to

git in action, now I'm tellin' yuh!" He took off his hat and polished

his shiny pate, as was his habit when perturbed. "I'm shore glad we

had t' wait and set them wagon-tires," he added. "We'd bin started this

mornin' only fer that."



"Aw, we ain't done nothing," Happy Jack protested in premature self

defense. "We ain't left the ranch yet. I guess a feller's got a right to

THINK!"



"He has, if he's got anything to do it with," Pink could not forbear to

remark pointedly.



"Well, if a feller didn't have, he'd have a fat chance borrying from

YOU," Happy Jack retorted.



"Well, by cripes, I ain't perpared to bet very high that there's a

teacupful uh brains in this hull outfit," Big Medicine asserted. "We

might a knowed Luck'd come back loaded fer bear; we WOULD a knowed it if

we had any brains in our heads. I'm plumb sore at myself. By cripes, I

need kickin'!"



"You'll get it, chances are," Pink assured him grimly.



Luck was in the living room, sitting at a table on which were scattered

many papers Scribbled with figures. He had a cigarette in his lips, his

hat on the back of his head and a twinkle in his eyes. He looked up and

grinned as they came reluctantly into the room.



"Time's money from now on, so this is going to be cut short as

possible," he began with his usual dynamic energy showing in his tone

and in the movements of his hands as he gathered up the papers and

evened their edges on the table top. "You fellows know how much you put

into the game when we started out to come here and produce The Phantom

Herd, don't you? If you don't, I've got the figures here. I guess

the returns are all in on that picture--and so far She's brought us

twenty-three thousand and four hundred dollars. She went big, believe

me! I sold thirty states. Well, cost of production is-what we put in the

pool, plus the cost of making the prints I got in Los. We pull out the

profits according to what we put in--sabe? I guess that suits everybody,

doesn't it?"



"Sure," one astonished voice gulped faintly. The others were dumb.



"Well, I've figured it out that way--and to make sure I had it right I

got Billy Wilders, a pal of mine that works in a bank there, to figure

it himself and check up after me. We all put in our services--one man's

work against every other man's work, mine same as any of you. Bill

Holmes, here, didn't have any money up, and he was an apprentice--but

I'm giving him twenty a week besides his board. That suit you, Bill?"



"I guess it's all right," Bill answered in his colorless tone.



Luck, being extremely sensitive to tones, cocked an eye up at Bill

before he deliberately peeled, from the roll he drew from his pocket,

enough twenty dollar notes to equal the number of weeks Bill had worked

for him. "And that's paying you darned good money for apprentice work,"

he informed him drily, a little hurt by Bill's lack of appreciation. For

when you take a man from the streets because he is broke and hungry and

homeless, and feed him and give him work and clothes and three meals a

day and a warm bed to sleep in, if you are a normal human being you are

going to expect a little gratitude from that man; Luck had a flash of

disappointment when he saw how indifferently Bill Holmes took those

twenties and counted them before shoving them into his pocket. His own

voice was more crisply businesslike when he spoke again.



"Annie-Many-Ponies back yet? She's not in on the split either. I'm

paying her ten a week besides her board. That's good money for a squaw."

He counted out the amount in ten dollar bills and snapped a rubber band

around them.



"Now here is the profit, boys, on your winter's work. Applehead comes

in with the use of his ranch and stock and wagons and so on. Here,

pard--how does this look to you?" His own pleasure in what he was doing

warmed from Luck's voice all the chill that Bill Holmes had sent into

it. He smiled his contagious smile and peeled off fifty dollar banknotes

until Applehead's eyes popped.



"Oh, don't give me so dang much!" he gulped nervously when Luck had

counted out for him the amount he had jotted down opposite his name.

"That there's moren the hul dang ranch is worth if I was t' deed it over

to yuh, Luck! I ain't goin' to take--"



"You shut up," Luck commanded him affectionately. "That's yours--now,

close your face and let me get this thing wound up. Now--WILL you quit

your arguing, or shall I throw you out the window?"



"Well, now, I calc'late you'd have a right busy time throwin' ME out

the window," Applehead boasted, and backed into a corner to digest this

astonishing turn of events.



One by one, as their names stood upon his list, Luck called the boys

forward and with exaggerated deliberation peeled off fifty-dollar notes

and one-hundred-dollar notes to take their breath and speech from them.



With Billy Wilders, his friend in the bank, to help him, he had boyishly

built that roll for just this heart-warming little ceremony. He might

have written checks to square the account of each, but he wanted to make

their eyes stand out, just as he was doing. He had looked forward to

this half hour more eagerly than any of them guessed; he had, with his

eyes closed, visualized this scene over more than one cigarette, his

memory picturing vividly another scene wherein these same young men

had cheerfully emptied their pockets and planned many small personal

sacrifices that he, Luck Lindsay, might have money enough to come here

to New Mexico and make his one Big Picture. Luck felt that nothing less

than a display of the profits in real money could ever quite balance

that other scene when all the Happy Family had in the world went in the

pot and they mourned because it was so little.



"Aw, I betche Luck robbed a bank er something!" Happy Jack stuttered

with an awkward attempt to conceal his delight when his name was

called, his investment was read and the little sheaf of currency that

represented his profit was laid in his outstretched palm.



"It's me for the movies if this is the way they pan out," Weary declared

gleefully. "Mamma! I didn't know there was so much money in the world!"



"I'll bet he milked Los Angeles dry of paper money," Andy Green asserted

facetiously, thumbing his small fortune gloatingly. "Holding out

anything for yourself, Luck? We don't want to be hogs."



"I'm taking care of my interests--don't you worry about that a minute,"

Luck stated complacently. "I held mine out first. That wipes the

slate--and cleans up the bank-roll. I maintain The Phantom Herd

was so-o-ome picture, boys. They'll be getting it here in 'Querque

soon--we'll all go in and see it."



"Now we're all set for a fresh start. And while you're all here I'll

just put you up to date on what kind of a deal I made with Dewitt. We

come in under the wing of Excelsior, and our brand name will be Flying

U Feature Film--how does that hit you? You boys are all on a straight

board-and-salary basis--thirty dollars a week, and it's up to me to

make you earn it!" He grinned and beckoned to Jean Douglas Avery and her

companions in the next room.



"Mrs. Avery, here, is our leading woman--keeping the name of Jean

Douglas, since she made it valuable in that Lazy A serial she did a

year or so ago. Lite is on the same footing as the rest of you boys.

Her father will be my assistant in choosing locations and so on. Tommy

Johnson, as I said, is another assistant in another capacity, that of

scenic artist and stage carpenter. Pete Lowry, here, is camera man and

Bill Holmes will be his assistant. The rest of you work wherever I need

you--a good deal the way we did last winter. Annie-Many-Ponies stays

with us as character lead and is in general stock. Rosemary--" he

stopped and smiled at her understandingly--"Rosemary draws fifteen a

week--oh, don't get scared! I won't give you any foreground stuff!

just atmosphere when I need it, and general comforter and mascot of the

company!"



Luck may have stretched a point there, but if he did it was merely a

technical one. Rosemary Green was hopelessly camera-shy, but he could

use her in background atmosphere, and when it came to looking after the

physical and mental welfare of the bunch she was worth her weight in any

precious metal you may choose to name.



"You better put me down as camp cook and dishwasher, Luck Lindsay,"

Rosemary protested, blushing.



"No--thank the Lord you won't have to cook for this hungry bunch any

longer. I've got a Mexican hired and headed this way. There'll be no

more of that kind of thing for you, lady--not while you're with us.



"Now, boys, let's get organized for action. Weather's perfect--Lowry's

been raving over the light, all the way out from town. I've got a range

picture all blocked out--did it while I was waiting in Los for Jean to

show up. Done anything about roundup yet, Applehead?"--



Poor old Applehead, with his guilty conscience and his soft-hearted

affection for Luck so deeply stirred by the money laid in his

big-knuckled hand, shuffled his feet and cleared his throat and did not

get one intelligible word past his dry tongue.



"If you haven't," Luck hurried on, spurred by his inpatient energy,

"I want to organize and get out right away with a regular roundup

outfitchuck-wagon, remuda and all--see what I mean I While I'm getting

the picture of the stuff I want, we can gather and brand your calves.

That way, all my range scenes will be of the real thing. I may want to

throw the Chavez outfit in with ours, too, so as to get bigger stuff.

I'll try and locate Ramon Chavez and see what I can do. But anyway,

I want the roundup outfit ready to start just as soon as

possible--tomorrow, if we could get it together in time. How about that

cracked tongue on the chuck-wagon? Anybody fixed that?"



"We-ell, I wired it up so'st it's as solid as the rest uh the runnin'

gear," Applehead confessed shamefacedly, rolling his eyes apprehensively

at the flushed faces of his fellow traitors.



"Yuh did? Good! Tires need setting, if I recollect--"



"Er--I had the boys set the tires, 'n'--"



"Fine! I might have known you fellows would put things in shape while

I was gone! How about the horses? I thought I saw a bunch in the big

corral--"



"I rustled enough saddle horses to give us all two apiece," Applehead

admitted, perspiring coldly. "'Tain't much of a string, but--"



"You did? Sounds like you've been reading my mind, Applehead. Now we'll

grubstake the outfit--"



"Er--well, I took the chuck-wagon in yest'day and loaded 'er up with

grub fer two weeks," blurted Applehead heroically. "I was figurin'--"



"Good! Couldn't ask better. Applehead, you sure are there when it comes

to backing a man's play. If I haven't said much about how I stand toward

you fellows it isn't because I don't appreciate every durned one of

you."



The Happy Family squirmed guiltily and made way for Applehead, who was

sidling toward the open door, his face showing alarming symptoms of

apoplexy. Their confusion Luck set down to a becoming modesty. He went

on planning and perfecting details. Standing as he did on the threshold

of a career to which his one big success had opened the door, he was

wholly absorbed in making good.



There was nothing now to balk his progress, he told himself. He had his

company, he had the location for his big range stuff, he had all the

financial backing any reasonable man could want. He had a salary that

in itself gauged the prestige he had gained among producers, and as an

added incentive to do the biggest work of his life he had a contract

giving him a royalty on all prints of his pictures in excess of a fixed

number. Better than all this, he had big ideals and an enthusiasm for

the work that knew no limitations.



Perhaps he was inclined to dream too big; per-haps he assumed too great

an enthusiasm on the part of those who worked with him--I don't know

just where he did place the boundary line. I do know that he never once

suspected the Happy Family of any meditated truancy from the ranch and

his parting instructions to "sit tight." I also know that the Happy

Family was not at all likely to volunteer information of their lapse.

And as for Applehead, the money burned his soul deep with remorse; so

deep that he went around with an abject eagerness to serve Luck that

touched that young man as a rare example of a bone-deep loyalty that

knows no deceit. Which proves once more how fortunate it is that we

cannot always see too deeply into the thoughts and motives of our

friends.





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