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   Chapter 4 SMOKING THE PEACE PIPE

Ruth Fielding in the Great Northwest; Or, The Indian Girl Star of the Movies By Alice B. Emerson Characters: 9143

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Ruth Fielding almost screamed aloud. She rose in her seat, clinging to Helen Cameron's arm.

"Oh! what will she do?" gasped the girl of the Red Mill, just as the rifle in the Indian sharp-shooter's hands spat its brief tongue of flame.

The glass ball in Dakota Joe's fingers was shattered and he went through a cloud of feathers as he turned his horse at a tangent and rode away from the Indian girl. It was a good shot, but one that the proprietor of the Wild West Show did not approve of!

"Oh!" exclaimed Mercy Curtis, bitterly, "why didn't she shoot him instead of the ball? He deserves it, I know."

"Dear me, Mercy," drawled Jennie Stone, "you most certainly are a blood-thirsty person!"

"I just know that man is a villain, and the Indian girl is in his power."

"Next reel!" giggled Helen. "It is a regular Western cinema drama, isn't it?"

"I certainly want to become better acquainted with that Wonota," declared Ruth, not at all sure but that Mercy Curtis was right in her opinion. "There! Wonota is going off."

The applause the Indian girl received was vociferous. Most of the spectators believed that the shooting of the glass ball out of the man's hand had been rehearsed and was one of Wonota's chief feats. Ruth and her friends had watched what had gone before too closely to make that mistake. There was plainly a serious schism between Dakota Joe and the girl whom he had called the Indian princess.

The girls settled back in their seats after Wonota had replied to the applause with a stiff little bow from the entrance to the dressing-tent. The usual representation of "Pioneer Days" was then put on, and while the "stage" was being set for the attack on the emigrant train and Indian massacre, the fellow who had stood at the pasture fence and talked to the girls when the black bull had done his turn, suddenly appeared in the aisle between the plank seats and gestured to Ruth.

"What?" asked the girl of the Red Mill "You want me?"

"You're the lady," he said, grinning. "Won't keep you a minute. You can git back and see the rest of the show all right."

"It must be that Wonota has sent him for me," explained Ruth, seeing no other possible reason for this call. Refusing to let even Helen go with her, she followed the man up the aisle and down a narrow flight of steps to the ground.

"What is the matter with her? What does she want me for?" Ruth asked him when she could get within earshot and away from the audience.

"Her?"

"Yes. You come from Wonota, don't you?"

The man chuckled, but still kept on. "You'll see her in a minute. Right this way, Miss," he said.

They came to a canvas-enclosed place with a flap pinned back as though it were the entrance to a tent. The guide flourished a hamlike hand, holding back the canvas flap.

"Just step in and you'll find her," he said, again chuckling.

Ruth was one not easily alarmed. But the fellow seemed impudent. She gave him a reproving look and marched into what appeared to be an office, for there was a desk and a chair in view.

There, to her surprise, was Dakota Joe, the long-haired proprietor of the Wild West Show! He stood leaning against a post, his arms folded and smoking a very long and very black cigar. He did not remove his hat as Ruth entered, but rolled his cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other and demanded harshly:

"You know this Injun girl I got with the show?"

"Certainly I know her!" Ruth exclaimed without hesitation, "She saved my life."

"Huh! I heard about that, ma'am. And I don't mean it just that way. I'm talking about her-drat her! She says she has got a date with you and your friends between the afternoon and night shows."

"Yes," Ruth said wonderingly. "We are to meet-and talk."

"That's just it, ma'am," said the man, rolling the cigar again in an offensive way. "That's just it. When you come to talk with that Injun girl, I want you to steer her proper on one p'int. We're white, you an' me, and I reckon white folks will stick together when it comes to a game against reds. Get me?"

"I do not think I do-yet," answered Ruth hesitatingly.

"Why, see here, now," Dakota Joe went on. "It's easy to see you're a lady-a white lady. I'm a white gent. This Injun wench has got it in for me. Did you see what she come near doin' to me right out there in the ring?"

Ruth restrained a strong wish to tell him exactly what she had seen. But somehow she felt that caution in the handling of this rough man would be the wiser part.

"I saw that she made a very clever shot in breaking

that ball in your hand, Mr. Dakota Joe," the girl of the Red Mill said.

"Heh? Well, didn't you see she aimed straight at me? Them reds ain't got no morals. They'd jest as lief shoot a feller they didn't like as not. We have to keep 'em down all the time. I know. I been handling 'em for years."

"Well, sir?" asked Ruth impatiently.

"Why, this Wonota-drat her!-is under contract with me. She's a drawin' card, I will say. But she's been writin' back to the agency where I got her and making me trouble. She means to leave me flat if she can--and a good winter season coming on."

"What do you expect me to do about it, Mr.-er-Dakota Joe?" asked Ruth.

"Fenbrook. Fenbrook's my name, ma'am," tardily explained the showman. "Now, see here. She's nothin' but an ignorant redskin. Yep. She's daughter of old Totantora, hereditary chief of the Osages. But he's out of the way and her guardian is the Indian Agent at Three Rivers Station in Oklahoma where the Osages have their reservation. As I say, this gal has writ to the agent and told him a pack o' lies about how bad she is treated. And she ain't treated bad a mite."

"Well, Mr. Fenbrook?" demanded Ruth again.

"Why, see now. This Injun gal thinks well of you. I know what she's told the other performers. And I see her looking at you. Naturally, being nothin' but a redskin, she'll look up to a white lady like you. You tell her she's mighty well off here, all things considered-will you? Just tell her how hard some gals of her age have to work, while all she does is to ride and shoot in a show. All them Injuns is crazy to be play-actors, you know. Even old Chief Totantora was till he got mixed up with them Germans when the war come on.

"Huh? You savvy my idee, Miss? Jest tell her she's better off with the show than she would be anywhere else. Will you? Do as I say, Miss, and I'll slip you a bunch of tickets for all your friends. We're showin' at Great Forks on Friday, at Perryville Saturday, and at Lymansburg fust of the week. You can take your friends in and have fust-class seats to all them places."

"Thank you very much, Mr. Fenbrook," said Ruth, having difficulty to keep from laughing. "But owing to other engagements I could not possibly accept your kind offer. However, I will speak to the girl and advise her to the best of my ability."

Which was exactly what Ruth did when, later, she and her friends were met by the Princess Wonota at the exit of the big tent. The girl of the Red Mill had had no opportunity to explain to Helen and Jennie and Mercy in full about her interview with Dakota Joe. But she was quite decided as to what she proposed to do.

"Let us go on to the automobile, girls," Ruth said, taking Wonota's hand. "We want to talk where nobody will overhear us."

It was Mercy, when they arrived at Helen's car, who put the first question to the Indian maid:

"Why didn't you shoot that man? I would have done so!"

"Oh, hush, Mercy!" ejaculated Jennie Stone. "She will think you are quite a savage."

Helen laughed gaily and helped Wonota into the tonneau.

"Come on!" she cried. "Let us smoke the peace-pipe and tell each other all our past lives."

But Ruth remained rather grave, looking steadily at the Indian girl. When they were seated, she said:

"If you care to confide in us, Wonota, perhaps we can advise you, or even help you. I know that you are unhappy and unkindly treated at this show. I owe you so much that I would be glad to feel that I had done something for you in return."

The grave face of the Indian girl broke into a slow smile. When she did smile, Ruth thought her very winsome indeed. Now that she had removed her headdress and wore her black hair in two glossy plaits over her shoulders, she was even more attractive.

"You are very kind," Wonota said. "But perhaps I should not trouble you with any of my difficulties."

"If you have troubles," interposed Jennie, "you've come to the right shop. We all have 'em and a few more won't hurt us a bit. We're just dying to know why that man treats you so mean."

"He wouldn't treat me that way!" put in Mercy vigorously.

"But you see I-I am quite alone," explained Wonota. "Since Father Totantora went away I have been without any kin and almost without friends in our nation."

"That is it," said Ruth. "Begin at the beginning. Tell us how the chief came to leave you, and how you got mixed up with this Dakota Joe. I have a very small opinion of that man," added the girl of the Red Mill, "and I do not think you should remain in his care."

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