The Phantom Herd
The Phantom Herd
Chapter 1 The Indians Must Go
Luck Lindsay had convoyed his thirty-five actor-Indians to their reservation at Pine Ridge, and had turned them over to the agent in good condition and a fine humor and nice new hair hatbands and other fixings; while their pockets were heavy with dollars that you may be sure would not he spent very wisely. He had shaken hands with the braves, and had promised to let them know when there was another job in sight, and to speak a good word for them to other motion-picture companies who might want to hire real Indians. He had smiled at the fat old squaws who had waddled docilely in and out of the scenes and teetered tirelessly round and round in their queer native dances in the hot sun at his behest, when Luck wanted several rehearsals of "atmosphere" scenes before turning the camera on them.
They hated to go back to the tame life of the reservation and to stringing beads and sewing buckskin with sinew, and to gossiping among themselves of things their heavy-lidded black eyes had looked upon with such seeming apathy. They had given Luck an elaborately beaded buckskin vest that would photograph beautifully, and three pairs of heavy, beaded moccasins which he most solemnly assured them he would wear in his next picture. The smoke-smell of their tepee fires and perfumes still clung heavily to the Indian-tanned buckskin, so that Luck carried away with him an aroma indescribable and unmistakable to any one who has ever smelled it.
Just when he was leaving, a shy, big-eyed girl of ten had slid out from the shelter of her mother's poppy-patterned skirt, had proffered three strings of beads, and had fled. Luck had smiled his smile again-a smile of white, even teeth and so much good will that you immediately felt that he was your friend-and called her back to him. Luck was chief; and his commands were to be obeyed, instantly and implicitly; that much he had impressed deeply upon the least of these. While the squaws grinned and murmured Indian words to one another, the big-eye girl returned reluctantly; and Luck, dropping a hand to his coat pocket while he smiled reassurance, emptied that pocket of gum for her. His smile had lingered after he turned away; for like flies to an open syrup can the papooses had gathered around the girl.
Well, that job was done, and done well. Every one was satisfied save Luck himself. He swung up to the back of the Indian pony that would carry him through the Bad Lands to the railroad, and turned for a last look. The bucks stood hip-shot and with their arms folded, watching him gravely. The squaws pushed straggling locks from their eyes that they might watch him also. The papooses were chewing gum and staring at him solemnly. Old Mrs. Ghost-Dog, she of the ponderous form and plaid blanket that Luck had used with such good effect in the foreground of his atmosphere scenes, lifted up her voice suddenly, and wailed after him in high-keyed lament that she would see his face no more; and Luck felt a sudden contraction of the throat while he waved his hand to them and rode away.
Well, now he must go on to the next job, which he hoped would be more pleasant than this one had been. Luck hated to give up those Indians. He liked them, and they liked him,-though that was not the point. He had done good work with them. When he directed the scenes, those Indians did just what he wanted, and just the way he wanted it done; Luck was too old a director not to know the full value of such workers.
But the Acme Film Company, caught with the rest of the world in the pressure of hard times, wanted to economize. The manager had pointed out to Luck, during the course of an evening's discussion, that these Indians were luxuries in the making of pictures, and must be taken off the payroll for the good of the dividends. The manager had contended that white men and women, properly made up, could