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Wagalexa Conka Cola!

From: The Heritage Of The Sioux

"So good little girl yoh are to true' Ramon! Now I knows for sure yoh
lov' me moch as I lov' yoh! Now we go little ride more to my house high
up in the pinons--then we be so happy like two birds in nes'. Firs' we
rest ourselves, querida mia. This good place for res', my sweetheart
that comes so far to be with Ramon. To-morrow we go to my house--to
nes' of my loved one. Thees cabin, she's very good little nes' ontil
tomorrow--yoh theenk so?"

Annie-Many-Ponies, sitting beside the doorway of the primitive little
log cabin where the night-journeys with Luis had ended, looked up into
Ramon's flushed face with her slow smile. But her eyes were two deep,
black wells whose depths he could not fathom.

"Where them priest you promise?" she asked, her voice lowered to its
softest Indian tone. "Now I think we make plenty marriage; then we go
for live in your house."

Ramon turned and caught her unexpectedly in his arms. "Ah, now you spik
foolish talk. Yoh not trus' Ramon! Why yoh talk pries', pries' all time?
Lov', she's plenty pries' for us. Pries' she don' make us more lov'
each other--pries' don' make us happy--we like birds that make nes'
in tree-tops. Yoh think they mus' have pries' for help them be happy?
Lov'--that's plenty for me."

Annie-Many-Ponies drew herself away from his embrace, but she did it
gently. Bill Holmes, coming up from the spring, furnished excuse enough,
and Ramon let her go.

"You promise me priest for making us marriage," she persisted in her
soft voice.

Ramon twisted the points of his black mustache and regarded her askance,
smiling crookedly. "Yoh 'fraid for trus' me, that's why I promise,"
he said at last. "Me, I don' need padre to mumble-mumble foolish
words before I can be happy. Yoh 'fraid of Luck Leen'sey, that's why I
promise. Now yoh come way up here, so luck don' matter no more. Yoh be
happy weeth me."

"You promise," Annie-Many-Ponies repeated, a sullen note creeping into
her voice.

Bill Holmes, lounging up to the doorway, glanced from one to the other
and laughed. "What's the matter, Ramon?" he bantered. "Can't you square
it with your squaw? Go after her with a club, why don't you? That's what
they're used to."

Ramon did not make any reply whatever, and Bill gave another chuckling
laugh and joined Luis, who was going to take the gaunt horses to a tiny
meadow beyond the hill. As he went he said something that made Luis look
back over his shoulder and laugh.

Annie-Many-Ponies lifted her head and stared straight at Ramon. He
did not meet her eyes, nor did he show any resentment of Bill Holmes'
speech; yet he had sworn that he loved her, that he would be proud to
have her for his wife. She, the daughter of a chief, had been insulted
in his presence, and he had made no protest, shown no indignation.

"You promise priest for making us marriage," she reiterated coldly, as
if she meant to force his real self into the open. "You promise you put
ring of gold for wedding on my finger, like white woman's got."

Ramon's laugh was not pleasant. "Yoh theenk marry squaw?" he sneered.
"Luck Leen'sey, he don't marry yoh. Why yoh theenk I marry yoh? You be
good, Ramon lov' yoh. Buy yoh lots pretty theengs, me treat yoh fine.
Yoh lucky girl, yoh bet. Yoh don't be foolish no more. Yoh run away, be
my womans. W'at yoh theenk? Go back, perhaps? Yoh theenk Luck Leen'sey
take yoh back? You gone off with Ramon Chavez, he say; yoh stay weeth
Ramon then. Yoh Ramon's woman now. Yoh not be foolish like yoh too good
for be kees. Luck, be kees yoh many times, I bet! Yoh don' play
good girl no more for Ramon--oh-h, no! That joke she's w'at yoh call
ches'nut. We don' want no more soch foolish talk, or else maybe I do
w'at Bill Holmes says she's good for squaw!"

"You awful big liar," Annie-Many-Ponies stated with a calm, terrific
frankness. "You plenty big thief. You fool me plenty--now I don't be
fool no more. You so mean yoh think all mens like you. You think all
girls bad girls. You awful big fool, you think I stay for you. I go."

Ramon twisted his mustache and laughed at her. "Now yoh so pretty,
when yoh mad," he teased. "How yoh go? All yoh theengs in cabin--monee,
clothes, grob--how yoh go? Yoh mad now--pretty soon Ramon he makes yoh
glad! Shame for soch cross words--soch cross looks! Now I don't talk
till yoh be good girl, and says yoh lov' Ramon. I don't let yoh go,
neither. Yoh don't get far way--I promise yoh for true. I breeng yoh
back, sweetheart, I promise I breeng yoh back I Yoh don't want to go no
more w'en I'm through weeth yoh--I promise yoh! Yoh theenk I let yoh go?
O-oh-h, no! Ramon not let yoh get far away!"

In her heart she knew that he spoke at last the truth; that this was
the real Ramon whom she had never before seen. To every woman must come
sometime the bitter awakening from her dreamworld to the real world in
all its sordidness and selfishness. Annie-Many-Ponies, standing there
looking at Ramon--Ramon who laughed at her goodness--knew now what the
future that had lain behind the mountains held in store for her. Not
happiness, surely; not the wide ring of gold that would say she was
Ramon's wife. Luis was right. He had spoken the truth, though she had
believed that he lied when he said Ramon would never marry a woman. He
would love and laugh and ride away, Luis had told her. Well, then--

"Shunka Chistala!" she called softly to the little black dog, that came
eagerly, wagging his burr-matted tail. She laid her hand on its head
when the dog jumped up to greet her. She smiled faintly while she
fondled its silky, flapping ears.

"Why you all time pat that dam-dog?" Ramon flashed out jealously. "You
don't pet yoh man what lov' yoh!"

"Dogs don't lie," said Annie-Many-Ponies coldly, and walked away. She
did not look back, she did not hurry, though she must have known that
Ramon in one bound could have stopped her with his man's strength. Her
head was high, her shoulders were straight, her eyes were so black the
pupils did not show at all, and a film of inscrutability veiled what
bitter thoughts were behind them.

As it had been with Luis so it was now with Ramon. Her utter disregard
of him held him back from touching her. He stood with wrath in his eyes
and let her go--and to hide his weakness from her strength he sent after
her a sneering laugh and words that were like a whip.

"All right--jus' for now I let you ron," he jeered. "Bimeby she's
different. Bimeby I show yoh who's boss. I make yoh cry for Ramon be
good to yoh!"

Annie-Many-Ponies did not betray by so much as a glance that she beard
him. But had he seen her face he would have been startled at the look
his words brought there. He would have been startled and perhaps
he would have been warned. For never bad she carried so clearly the
fighting look of her forefathers who went out to battle. With the little
black dog at her heels she climbed a small, round-topped hill that had a
single pine like a cockade growing from the top.

For ten minutes she stood there on the top and stared away to the
southeast, whence she had come to keep her promise to Ramon. Never, it
seemed to her, had a girl been so alone. In all the world there could
not be a soul so bitter. Liar--thief--betrayer of women--and she had
left the clean, steadfast friendship of her brother Wagalexa Conka
for such human vermin as Ramon Chavez! She sat down, and with her face
hidden in her shawl and her slim body rocking back and forth in weird
rhythm to her wailing, she crooned the mourning song of the Omaha.
Death of her past, death of her place among good people, death of her
friendship, death of hope--she sat there with her face turned toward the
far-away, smiling mesa where she had been happy, and wailed softly to
herself as the women of her tribe had wailed when sorrow came to them in
the days that were gone.

All through the afternoon she sat there with her back to the lone pine
tree and her face turned toward the southeast, while the little black
dog lay at her feet and slept. From the cabin Ramon watched her,
stubbornly waiting until she would come down to him of her own accord.
She would come--of that he was sure. She would come if he convinced her
that he would not go up and coax her to come. Ramon had known many
girls who were given to sulking over what he considered their imaginary
wrongs, and he was very sure that he knew women better than they knew
themselves. She would come, give her time enough, and she could not
fling at him then any taunt that he had been over-eager. Certainly she
would come--she was a woman!

But the shadow of the pines lengthened until they lay like long fingers
across the earth; and still she did not come. Bill Holmes and Luis,
secure in the knowledge that Ramon was on guard against any unlooked-for
visitors, slept heavily on the crude bunks in the cabin. Birds began
twittering animatedly as the beat of the day cooled and they came forth
from their shady retreats--and still Annie-Many-Ponies sat on the little
hilltop, within easy calling distance of the cabin, and never once
looked down that way. Still the little black dog curled at her feet
and slept. For all the movement these two made, they might have been of
stone; the pine above was more unquiet than they.

Ramon, watching her while he smoked many cigarettes, became filled with
a vague uneasiness What was she thinking? What did she mean to do? He
began to have faint doubts of her coming down to him. He began to be
aware of something in her nature that was unlike those other women;
something more inflexible, more silent, something that troubled him even
while he told himself that she was like all the rest and he would be her

"Bah! She thinks to play with me, Ramon! Then I will go up and I will
show her--she will follow weeping at my heels--like that dog of hers
that some day I shall kill!"

He got up and threw away his cigarette, glanced within and saw that Bill
and Luis still slept, and started up the hill to where that motionless
figure sat beneath the pine and kept her face turned from him. It would
be better, thought Ramon, to come upon her unawares, and so he went
softly and very slowly, placing each foot as carefully as though he were
stalking a wild thing of the woods.

Annie-Many-Ponies did not hear him coming. All her heart was yearning
toward that far away mesa. "Wagalexa Conka--cola!" she whispered, for
"cola" is the Sioux word for friend. Aloud she dared not speak the
word, lest some tricksy breeze carry it to him and fill him with; anger
because she had betrayed his friendship. "Wagalexa Conka--cola! cola!"

Friendship that was dead--but she yearned for it the more. And it seemed
to her as she whispered, that Wagalexa Conka was very, very near. Her
heart felt his nearness, and her eyes softened. The Indian look--the
look of her fighting forefathers--drifted slowly from her face as fog,
drifts away before the sun. He was near--perhaps he was dead and
his spirit had come to take her spirit by the hand and call her
cola--friend. If that were so, then she wished that her spirit might go
with his spirit, up through all that limitless blue, away and away
and away, and never stop, and never tire and never feel anything but
friendship like warm, bright sunshine!

Down at the cabin a sound--a cry, a shout--startled her. She brushed her
hand across her eyes and looked down. There, surrounding the cabin, were
the Happy Family, and old Applehead whom she hated because he hated her.
And in their midst stood Bill Holmes and Luis, and the setting sun shone
on something bright--like great silver rings--that clasped their wrists.

Coming up the hill toward her was Wagalexa Conka, climbing swiftly,
looking up as he came. Annie-Many-Ponies sprang to her feet, startling
the little black dog that gave a yelp of astonishment. Came he in peace?
She hesitated, watching him unwinkingly. Something swelled in her chest
until she could hardly breathe, and then fluttered there like a prisoned
bird. "COLA!" she gasped, just under her breath, and raised her hand in
the outward, sweeping gesture that spoke peace.

"You theenk to fix trap, you--!"

She whirled and faced Ramon, whose eyes blazed bate and murder and whose
tongue spoke the foulness of his soul. He flung out his arm fiercely and
thrust her aside. "Me, I kill that dam--"

He did not say any more, and the six-shooter he had levelled at Luck
dropped from his nerveless hand like a coiled adder, Annie-Many-Ponies
had struck. Like an avenging spirit she pulled the knife free and held
it high over her head, facing Luck who stared up at her from below.
He thought the look in her eyes was fear of him and of the law, and he
lifted his hand and gave back the peace-sign. It was for him she had
killed and she should not be punished if he could save her. But Luck
failed to read her look aright; it was not fear he saw, but farewell.

For with her free hand she made the sign of peace and farewell--and then
the knife descended straight as a plummet to her heart. But even as
she fell she spurned the dead Ramon with her feet, so that he rolled a
little way while the black dog growled at him with bared teeth; even in
death she would not touch him who had been so foul.

Luck ran the last few, steep steps, and took her in his arms. His eyes
were blurred so that he could not see her face, and his voice shook so
that he could scarcely form the words that brushed back death from her
soul and brought a smile to her eyes.

"Annie--little sister!"

Annie-Many-Ponies raised one creeping hand, groping until her fingers
touched his face.

"Wagalexa Conka--cola!"

He took her fingers and for an instant, while she yet could feel, he
laid them against his lips.

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