TO-NIGHT it is withered Diego 1 who begins with his story, in the musical but strange Tée-wahn tongue, of "Shée-choon t'o-ah-fuar." Serious as that looks, it means only "the war-dance of the Mice."
Once upon a time there was war between the people of Isleta and the Mice. There was a great battle, in which the Tée-wahn killed many Mice and took their scalps. Then the Tée-wahn returned to their village, and the warriors went into the estufa (sacred council-chamber) to prepare themselves by fasting for the great scalp-dance in twelve days. While the warriors were sitting inside, the Mice came secretly by night to attack the town, and their spies crept up to the estufa. When all the Tée-wahn warriors had fallen asleep, the Mice came stealing down the big ladder into the room, and creeping from sleeper to sleeper, they gnawed every bowstring and cut the feathers from the arrows and the strap of every sling. When this was done, the Mice raised a terrible war-whoop and rushed upon the warriors, brandishing their
spears. The Tée-wahn woke and caught up their bows and arrows, but only to find them useless. So the warriors could do nothing but run from their tiny foes, and up the ladder to the roof they rushed pell-mell and thence fled to their homes, leaving the Mice victorious.
The rest of the town made such fun of the warriors that they refused to return to the fight; and the elated Mice held a public dance in front of the estufa. A brave sight it was, the army of these little people, singing and dancing and waving their spears. They were dressed in red blankets, with leather leggings glistening with silver buttons from top to bottom, and gay moccasins. Each had two eagle feathers tied to the top of his spear-the token of victory. And as they danced and marched and counter-marched, they sang exultingly:
Hló-tu feé-ny p'-óh-teh!
over and over again--which means
Quick we cut the bowstring!
Quick we cut the sling-strap!
We shaved the arrow-feathers off!
For four days they danced and sang, and on the night of the fourth day danced all night around a big bonfire. The next morning they marched away. That was the time when the Mice conquered men; and that is the reason why we have never been able to drive the Mice out of our homes to this day.
"Is that the reason?" ask all the boys, who have been listening with big black eyes intent.
"That is the very reason," says withered Diego.
Now, compadre Antonio, there is a tail to you." Antonio, thus called upon, cannot refuse. Indian etiquette is very strict upon this point--as well as upon all others. So he fishes in his memory for a story, while the boys turn expectant faces toward him. He is not nearly so wrinkled as Diego, but he is very, very old, and his voice is a little tremulous at first. Wrapping his blanket about him, he begins:
Then I will tell you why the Coyote and the Blackbirds are enemies--for once they were very good friends in the old days.
24:1 Pronounced Dee-áy-go.