J. Breckenridge Ellis.

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The chief turned his back upon the company, and started toward the
mountain, his face turned toward Brick's place of observation. He began
climbing upward, the red feather in his hair gleaming against the green
of the cedars. Brick had but to remain where he was, to reach forth
his hand presently and seize the warrior - but in that case, those on
the plain would come swarming up the ascent for vengeance.

Brick darted from his post, swept like a dipping swallow across the
ravine, and snatching up the rope-ladder from its nook under the
boulder, scurried down into the granite chamber. Having removed the
ladder, he crept to the extremity of the excavation, and with his back
against the wall and his gun held in readiness, awaited the coming of
the chief. After the lapse of many minutes he grew reassured; the
Indian, thinking the dugout his only home, had passed the crevice
without the slightest suspicion.

However, lest in thrusting forth his head, he call attention to his
home in the rock, he kept in retreat the rest of that day, nor did he
venture forth that night. After all, the housewarming did not take
place. The stove remained cold, the tobacco and pipe upon it were
undisturbed, and the evening meal consisted notably of plums.



One bright warm afternoon in October two years later, Brick Willock sat
smoking his pipe before the open door of his dugout, taking advantage
of the mountain-shadow that had just reached that spot. In repose, he
always sat, when in the cove, with his face toward the natural roadway
leading over the flat hill-island into the farther reach of the
horseshoe. It was thus he hoped to prevent surprise from inimical
horsemen, and it was thus that, on this particular afternoon, he
detected a shadow creeping over the reddish-brown stone passage before
its producing cause rode suddenly against the background of the blue

At first glimpse of that shadow of a feathered head, Willock flung
himself down the dirt steps leading to the open door; now, lying flat,
he directed the barrel of his gun over the edge of the level ground,
covering an approaching horseman. As only one Indian came into view,
and as this Indian was armed in a manner as astounding as it was
irresistible, Willock rose to his height of six-foot-three, lowered his
weapon, and advanced to meet him.

When he was near, the Indian - the same chief from whom Willock had fled
on the day of his intended housewarming - this Indian sprang lightly to
the ground, and lifted from the horse that defense which he had borne
in front of him on penetrating the cove; it was the child for whose
sake Willock had separated himself from his kind.

At first, Willock thought he was dreaming one of those dreams that had
solaced his half-waking hours, for he had often imagined how it would
be if that child were in the mountains to bear him company. But however
doubtful he might he regarding her, he took no chances about the
Indian, but kept his alert gaze fixed on him to forestall any design of

The Indian made a sign to the little girl to remain with the horse;
then he glided forward, holding somewhat ostentatiously, a filled pipe
in his extended hand. He had evidently come to knit his soul to that
of his white brother while the smoke from their pipes mingled on the
quiet air, forming a frail and uncertain monument to the spirit of

"Was it you that left a pipe and tobacco on my stove two years ago?"
Willock asked abruptly.

"Yes. You got it? We will smoke." He seated himself gravely on the

Willock went into the cabin, and brought out the clay pipe. They
smoked. Willock cast covert glances toward the girl. She stood slim
and straight, her face rigid, her eyes fixed on the horse whose halter
she held. Her limbs were bare and a blanket that descended to her
knees seemed her only garment. The face of the sleeping child of five
was the same, however, as this of the seven-year-old maid, except that
it had grown more beautiful; the wealth of glowing brown hair made
amends for all poverty of attire.

Willock was wonderfully moved; so much so that his manner was harsh,
his voice gruff in the extreme. "What are you going to do with that
girl?" he demanded.

"You take her?" inquired the chief passively.

"Yes - I take her."

"Good!" The Indian smoked serenely.

"Where'd you find her?"

"Not been lost. Her safe all time. Sometime in one village - here,
then there, two, three - move her about. Safe all time. I never
forget. There she is. You take her?"

"I said so, didn't I? Where's her daddy?"

The Indian said nothing, only smoked, his eyes fixed on space.

Willock raised his voice. "Must I ask HER where he is?"

"Her not know. Her not seen him one, two year. She say him dead."

"Oh, he's dead, is he?"

"Him safe, too." He looked at the sun. "Long trail before me. Then I
leave her. I go, now."

"Not much you don't go! Not THIS minute. Where is that girl's daddy?"

No answer.

"If he's safe, why hasn't she been with him all this time?"

"Me big chief."

"Oh, yes, I judge you are. But that's nothing to me. I'm big chief,
too. I own this corner of the universe - and I want to know about that
girl's daddy."

"Him great man."

"Well - go ahead; tell the rest of it."

"Him settle among my tribe; him never leave our country. 'Big country,
fat country, very rich. Him change name - everything; him one of us.
Marry my daughter. THAT girl not his daughter - daughter of dead woman.
Keep her away from him all time, so him never see white man, white
woman, white child, forget white people, be good Indian. The girl make
him think of dead woman. When a man marry again, not good to remember
dead woman. Him think girl dead, but no care, no worry, no sad. SHE
never his daughter - dead woman's daughter. All his path is white, no
more blue. Him very glad, every day - my daughter his wife. She keep
scalp-knife from his head. My braves capture - they dance about fire,
she say 'No.' She marry him. Their path is white; the sky over them
is white."

He rose, straight as an arrow, and turned his grim face toward the

"I see. And you don't want to tell me where he is, because you want
him to forget he is a white man?"

"Him always live with my people; him marry my daughter."

"Tell me this; is he far away?"

"Very far. Many days. You never find him. You stay here, keep girl,
and me and my people your friends. You come after him - not your

"Why, bless your heart, I never want to see that man again; your
daughter is welcome to him, but I'm afraid she's got a bad bargain.
This girl's just as I'd have her - unencumbered. I'm AWFUL glad you
come, pardner! Whenever you happen to be down in this part of Texas,
drop in and make us a visit!"

With every passing moment, Willock was realizing more keenly what this
amazing sequel to the past meant to him. He would not only have
company in his dreary solitude, but, of all company, the very one he
yearned for to comfort his heart. "Give us your paw, old man - shake.
You bet I'll take her!"

He strode forward and addressed the girl: "Are you willing to stay
with me, little one?"

She shrank back from the wild figure. During his two years of hiding
in the mountains, Willock had cared nothing for his personal
appearance. His garments, on disintegrating had been replaced by
skins, thus giving an aspect of assorted colors and materials rather
remarkable. Only when driven by necessity had he ventured on long
journeys to the nearest food-station, carrying the skins obtained by
trapping, and bringing back fresh stores of provisions and tobacco on
the pony purchased by the Spanish gold.

Willock was greatly disconcerted by her attitude. He said regretfully,
"I guess I've been so much with myself that I ain't noticed my outside
as a man ought. Won't you make your home with me, child?" He held out
his rough hand appealingly.

She retreated farther, saying with disapproval, "Much hair!"

Willock laid his hand on his breast, returning, "Much heart!"

"Him white," said the Indian, swinging himself upon his horse. "Him
save your life. Sometime me come visit, come eat, come stay with you."

As he wheeled about, she held out her arms toward him, crying wildly,
"Don't go! Don't leave me! Him much hair!"

The Indian dashed away without turning his head.

"Good lord, honey," exclaimed Willock, at his wits' ends, "don't cry!
I can't do nothing if you CRY. Won't you come look at your new home?"
He waved eagerly toward the dugout.

"Hole in the ground!" cried the girl desperately. "I want my tepee. Am
I a prairie-dog?"

"No, honey, you ain't. You and me is both white, and we ought to live
together; it ain't right for you to live with red people that kills and
burns your own kith and kin."

She looked at him repellently through her streaming tears. "Big hair!"
she cried. "Big hair!"

"And must I cut it off? I'll make my head as smooth as yonder
bald-headed mountain-peak if it'll keep you from crying. Course you
ain't seen nobody with whiskers amongst them Indians, but THEY ain't
your people. Your people is white, they are like me, they grows hair.
But I'll shave and paint myself red, and hunt for feathers, if that's
what you want."

Her sobbing grew less violent. Despite his ferocious aspect, no fear
could remain in her heart at sight of that distressed countenance, at
sound of those conciliatory tones. Willock, observing that the tempest
was abating, continued in his most appealing manner:

"I'm going to do whatever you say, honey, and you're going to be the
queen of the cove. Ain't you never been lonesome amongst all them red
devils? Ain't you missed your poor mammy as died crossing the plains?
It was me that buried her. Ain't you never knowed how it felt to want
to lay your head on somebody's shoulder and slip your little arms about
his neck, and go to sleep like an angel whatever was happening around?
I guess SO! Well, that's me, too. Here I've been for two long year,
never seeing nothing but wild animals or prowling savages till the last
few months when a settler comes to them mountains seven mile to the
southwest. Looked like I'd die, sometimes, just having myself to

"You lonesome, too?" said the girl, looking up incredulously. She drew
a step nearer, a wistful light in her dark eyes.

The man stretched out his arms and dropped them to his side, heavily.
"Like that," he cried - "just emptiness!"

"I stay," she said simply. "All time, want my own people; all time,
Red Feather say some day take me to white people - want to go, all time.
But Red Feather never tell me 'BIG HAIR.' Didn't know what it was I
was looking for - never thought it would be something like you."

"But you ain't afraid now, are you, little one?"

She shook her head, and drawing nearer, seated herself on the ground
before the dugout. "You LOOK Big Hair," she explained sedately, "but
your speech is talk of weak squaw."

Somewhat disconcerted by these words, Willock sat down opposite her,
and resumed his pipe as if to assert his sex. "I seem weak to you," he
explained, "because I love you, child, and want to make friends with
you. But let me meet a big man - well, you'd see, then!" He looked so
ferocious as he uttered these words, that she started up like a
frightened quail, grasping her blanket about her.

"No, no, honey," he cooed abjectly, "I wouldn't hurt a fly. Me, I was
always a byword amongst my pards. They'd say, 'There goes Brick
Willock, what never harmed nobody.' When they kept me in at school I
never clumb out the window, and it was me got all the prize cards at
Sunday-school. How comes it, honey, that you ain't forgot to talk like
civilized beings?"

"Red Feather, him always put me with squaw that know English - that been
to school on the reservation. Never let me learn talk like the
Indians. Him always say some day take me to my own people. But never
said 'BIG HAIR.'"

"Did he tell you your mother died two years ago?"

"Yes - father, him dead, too. Both died in the plains. Father was shot
by robbers. Mother was left in big wagon - you bury her near this

"Oh, ho! So your father was killed at the same time your mother was,


"Well - all right. And now you got nobody but me to look after you - but
you don't need no more; as long as I'm able to be up and about, nothing
is going to hurt you. Just you tell me what you want, and it'll be

"Want to be ALL like white people; want to be just like mother."

"Well, I'll teach you as fur up as I've been myself. Your style of
talk ain't correct, but it was the best Red Feather could do by you.
Him and you lay down your words like stepping-stones for your thoughts
to step over; but just listen at me, how smooth and fine-textured my
language is, with no breaks or crevices from the beginning of my
periods to where my voice steps down to start on a lower ledge. That's
the way white people talks, not that they got more to say than Injuns,
but they fills in, and embodies everything, like filling up cabin-walls
with mud. I'll take you by the hand right from where Red Feather left
you, and carry you up the heights."

She examined him dubiously: "You know how?"

"I ain't no bell-wether in the paths of learning, honey, but Red
Feather is some miles behind me. What's your name?"


"Born that way, or Injunized?"

"Father before he died, him all time want to go settle in the Oklahoma
country - settle on a claim with mother. They go there two
times - three - but soldiers all time make them go back to Kansas. So me,
I was born and they named me Oklahoma - but all time they call me
Lahoma. That I must be called, Lahoma because that father and mother
all time call me. Lahoma, that my name." She inquired anxiously, "You
call me Lahoma?" She leaned forward, hands upon knees, in breathless

"You bet your life I will, Lahoma!"

"Then me stay all time with you - all time. And you teach me talk
right, and dress right, and be like mother and my white people? You
teach me all that?"

"That's the program. I'm going to civilize you - that means to make you
like white folks. It's going to take time, but the mountains is full
of time."

"You 'civilize' me right now? - You begin today?" She started up and
stood erect with arms folded, evidently waiting for treatment.

"The process will be going on all the while you're associating with me,
honey. That chief, Red Feather - he has a daughter, hasn't he?"

"No; him say no girl, no boy." She spoke with confidence.

"I see. And your father's dead too, eh?" Evidently Red Feather had
thoroughly convinced her of the truth of these pretenses.

"Both - mother, father. Nobody but me." She knelt down at his side,
her face troubled. "If I had just one!"

"Can you remember either of them?"

"Oh, yes, yes - and Red Feather, him talk about them, talk, talk, always
say me be white with the white people some day. This is the day. You
make me like mother was. You civilize me - begin!" She regarded him
with dignified attention, her little hands locked about her blanket
where it lay folded below her knees. The cloud had vanished from her
face and her eyes sparkled with expectancy.

"I ain't got the tools yet, honey. They's no breaking up and enriching
land that ain't never bore nothing but buffalo-grass, without I have
picks and spades and plows and harrers. I got to get my tools, to

She stiffened herself. "You needn't be afraid I'll cry. I WANT you to
hurt me, if that the way."

"It ain't like a pain in the stomach, Lahoma. All I gets for you will
be some books. Them is the tools I'm going to operate with."

"Books? What are books?"

"Books?" Willock rubbed his bushy head in desperation. "Books? Why,
they is just thoughts that somebody has ketched and put in a cage where
they can't get away. You go and look at them thoughts somebody capable
has give rise to, and when you finds them as has never ranged in your
own brain, you captures 'em, puts your brand on 'em, and serves 'em out
in your own herd. You see, Lahoma, what you think in your own brain
ain't of no service, for YOU don't know nothing. If you want to be
civilized, you got to lasso other people's thoughts - people as has went
to and fro and has learned life - and you got to dehorn them ideas, and
tame 'em."

Lahoma examined him with new interest. "Are YOU civilized?" Her
countenance fell.

"Not to no wide extent, but I can ford toler'ble deep streams that
would drown you, honey. Just put confidence in me, and when I get over
my head, I'll holler for help. I judge I can put five good years' work
on you without exhausting my stores. I can read amongst the small
words pretty peart - the young calves, so to say - and lots of them big
steers in three or four syllables, - I can sort o' guess at their
road-brands from the company I've saw 'em traveling with, in times
past. And I can write my own name, and yours too, I reckon. - Lahoma
Gledware - yes, I'm toler'ble well versed on a capital 'G' - you just
make a gap with a flying tail to it."

"My name NOT Lahoma Gledware," she interposed in some severity. "My
name, Lahoma Willock. Beautiful name - lovely, like flower - Willock;
call me Lahoma Willock - like song of little stream. Gledware,
hard - rough."

Brick Willock stared at her in amazement. "Where'd you get that from?"

"My name Lahoma Willock - Red Feather tell me."

He smoked in silence, puffing rapidly. Then - "My name is Brick
Willock. How came you to be named Lahoma Willock?"

Lahoma suggested thoughtfully - "All white people named Willock?"

"There's a few," Willock shook his head, "with less agreeable names.
But after all, I'm glad you have my name. Yes - the more I think on it,
the more pleased I get. I reckon we're sort of kinfolks, anyhow. Well,
honey, this is enough talk about being civilized; now let's make the
first move on the way. You want to see your mother's grave, and lay
some of these wild flowers on it. That's a part of being civilized,
caring for graves is. It's just savages as forgets the past and
consequently never learns nothing. Come along. Them moccasins will do
famous until I can get you shoes from the settlements. It's seventy
mile to Vernon, Texas, and none too easy miles. But I got a pony the
first time I ventured to Doan's store, and it'll carry you, if I have
to walk at your side. We'll make a festibul march of that journey, and
lay in clothes as a girl should wear, and books to last through the

Willock rose and explained that they must cross the mountain. As they
traversed it, he reminded her that she had not gathered any of the
flowers that were scattered under sheltering boulders.

"Why?" asked Lahoma, showing that her neglect to do so was intentional.

"Well, honey, don't you love and honor that mother that bore so much
pain and trouble for you, traveling with you in her arms to the
Oklahoma country, trying to make a home for you up there in the
wilderness, and at last dying from the hardships of the plains. Ain't
she worth a few flowers."

"She dead. She not see flowers, not smell flowers, not know."

Willock said nothing, but the next time they came to a clump of
blossoms he made a nosegay. Lahoma watched him with a face as calm and
unemotional as that of Red Feather, himself. She held her back with
the erect grace and moved her limbs with the swift ease of those among
whom she had passed the last two years. In delightful harmony with
this air of wildness was the rich and delicate beauty of her
sun-browned face, and the golden glow of her silken brown hair.
Willock's heart yearned toward her as only the heart of one destined to
profound loneliness can yearn toward the exquisite grace and
unconscious charm of a child; but to the degree that he felt this
attraction, he held himself firmly aloof, knowing that wild animals are
frightened when kindness beams without its veil.

"What you do with that?" She pointed at the flowers in his rough hand.

"I'm going to put 'em on your mother's grave."

"She not know. Not see, not smell. She dead, mother dead."

"Lahoma, do you know anything about God?"

"Yes - Great Spirit. God make my path white."

"Well, I want God to know that somebody remembers your mother. It's
God that smells the flowers on the graves of the dead."

They walked on. Pretty soon Lahoma began looking about for flowers,
but they had reached the last barren ledge, and no more came in sight.

"Take these, Lahoma."

"No. Couldn't fool God." They began the last descent. Willock
suddenly discovered that tears were slipping down the girl's face. He
said nothing; he did not fear, now, for he thought the tears promised a
brighter dawning.

Suddenly Lahoma cried joyfully, "Oh, look, Brick, look!" And she
darted toward the spot at the foot of a tall cedar, where purple and
white blossoms showed in profusion. She gathered an armful, and they
went down to the plain.

"Her head's toward the west," he said, as they stood beside the pile of
stones. Lahoma placed the flowers at the Western margin of the
pyramid. Willock laid his at the foot of the grave. The sun had set
and the warmth of the heated sand was tempered by a fragrant breeze.
Though late in October, he felt as if spring were just dawning. He
took Lahoma's hand, and his heart throbbed to find that she showed no
disposition to draw away.

He looked up with a great sigh of thanksgiving. "Well, God," he said
softly, "here she is - You sure done it!"



During the two years passed by Brick Willock in dreary solitude,
conditions about him had changed. The hardships of pioneer life which,
fifty years ago, had obtained in the Middle States yet prevailed, in
1882, in the tract of land claimed by Texas under the name of Greer
County; but the dangers of pioneer life were greatly lessened. As
Lahoma made the acquaintance of the mountain-range, and explored the
plain extending beyond the natural horseshoe, Willock believed she ran
little danger from Indians. He, himself, had ceased to preserve his
unrelaxing watchfulness; after all, it had been the highwaymen rather
than the red men whom he had most feared - and after two years it did
not seem likely that such volatile men would pre serve the feeling of

With the wisdom derived from his experience with wild natures, he
carefully abstained from any attempt to force Lahoma's friendship,
hence it was not long before he obtained it without reserve. As she
walked beside him, grave and alert, she no longer thought of his bushy
beard and prodigious mop of harsh hair; and the daily exhibition of his
strength caused him to grow handsome in her eyes because most of those
feats were performed for her comfort or pleasure. In the meantime he
talked incessantly, and to his admiration, he presently found her
manner of speech wonderfully like his own, both fluent and

He knew nothing of grammar, to be sure, but there were times when his
mistakes, echoed from her lips, struck upon his ear, and though he
might not always know how to correct them, he was prompt to suggest
changes, testing each, as a natural musician judges music, by ear.
Dissatisfied with his own standards, he was all the more impatient to
depart on the expedition after mental tools, despite the dangers that
might beset the journey.

His first task prompted by the coming of Lahoma, had been to partition
off the half of the dugout containing the stove for the child's private
chamber. Cedar posts set in the ground and plastered with mud higher
than his head, left a space between the top and the apex of the ceiling
that the temperature might be equalized in both rooms. Thus far,
however, they did not stay in the dugout except long enough to eat and
sleep, for the autumn had continued delightful, and the cove seemed to
the child her home, of which the dugout was a sort of cellar.
Concerning the stone retreat in the crevice she knew nothing. Willock
did not know why he kept the secret, since he trusted Lahoma with all
his treasures, but the unreasoning reticence of the man of great
loneliness still rested on him. Some day, he would tell - but not just

"Lahoma," he said one day, "there's a settler over yonder in the
mountains across the south plain. How'd you like to pay him a visit?"

"I don't want anybody but you," said Lahoma promptly.

Willock stood on one leg, rubbing the other meditatively with his

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Online LibraryJ. Breckenridge EllisLahoma → online text (page 4 of 17)