WHEN it came old Anastacio's turn, one night, to tell a story to the waiting circle, it was several minutes before he responded to the quaint summons; and at last Lorenso repeated: "There is a tail to you, compadre Anastacio!" The words seemed to remind him of something; for he turned to his fat grandson, and said:
"Juan! Knowest thou why the Bear and the Badger have short tails? For once they had them long as Kéem-ee-deh, the Mountain Lion. In-dah? Then I will tell thee."
Once in the Days of the Old, it was that a young man lived here in Shee-eh-whíb-bak whom they called T'hoor-hlóh-ah, the Arrow of the Sun. He was not of the Tée-wahn, but a Ute, who was taken in war while yet a child. When the warriors brought him here, a Grandmother who was very poor took him for her son, and reared him, loving him greatly, and teaching him all the works of men. Coming to be a young man, he was a mighty hunter; but so good in his heart that he loved the animals as brothers, and they all loved
him. When he went out to hunt, the first game he killed he always dressed and left there for his animal-friends to eat. Sometimes it was Kéem-ee-deh, king of the four-feet, who came to the feast Sun-Arrow had made; and sometimes Kahr-naí-deh, the Badger, who is best of all to dig, and who showed Those of Old how to make their caves; and sometimes the smaller ones. They were all grateful; for no other was so kind to feed them.
Now the Grandmother would never let Sun-Arrow go to war, fearing that he would be killed; and all the other young men laughed at him, because he had never taken the sacred oak-bark. And when the others danced the great round-dance, he had to stand alone. So he was ashamed, and vowed that he would prove himself a man; and taking secretly his bow and arrows and his thunder-knife, he went away by night alone, and crossed the Eagle-Feather Mountains.
Now in that time there was always great war with the Comanches, who lived in the plains. They came often across the mountains and attacked Isleta by night, killing many people. Their chief was P'ee-kú-ee-fa-yíd-deh, or Red Scalp, the strongest and largest and bravest of men. For many years all the warriors of Isleta had tried to kill him, for he was the head of the war; but he slew all who came against him. He was very brave, and painted his scalp red with páh-ree, so that he might be known from far; and left his scalp-lock very long, and braided it neatly, so that an enemy might grasp it well.
Now Sun-Arrow met this great warrior; and
with the help of an old Spider-woman, 1 slew him and took his scalp. When the people of Isleta saw Sun-Arrow returning, the young men began to laugh and say: "Va! T'hoor-hlóh-ah has gone to make war again on the rabbits!'
But when he came into the plaza, saying nothing, and they saw that oak-bark which all knew, all cried out: "Come and look! For here is Sun-Arrow, who was laughed at--and now he has brought the bark of Red Scalp, whom our bravest have tried in vain to kill."
So when he had taken the scalp to the Cacique, and they had had the round-dance, and the days of purification were over, they called Sun-Arrow the greatest warrior of the Tée-wahn, and made him second to the Cacique. Then all who had daughters looked at him with good eyes, and all the maidens wished for so brave a husband. But he saw none of them, except the youngest daughter of the Cacique; for he loved her. When the Grandmother had spoken to the Cacique, and it was well, they brought the young people together, and gave them to eat of the betrothal corn--to Sun-Arrow an ear of the blue corn, and to her an ear of the white corn, because the hearts of maidens are whiter than those of men. When both had eaten the raw corn, every seed of it, the old folks said: "It is well! For truly they love each other. And now let them run the marrying-race."
Then all the people gathered yonder where are the ashes of the evil-hearted ones who were burned when Antelope Boy won for his people. And the
elders marked a course, as of three miles, from there to the sacred sand-hill beside the Kú-mai. When they said the word, Sun-Arrow and the girl went running like young antelope, side by side. Up to the Place of the Bell they ran, and turned back running; and when they came to the people, the girl was a little in front, and all cried:
"It is well! For now Eé-eh-chah has won a husband, and she shall always be honored in her own house."
So they were married, and the Cacique blessed them. They made a house by the plaza, 1 and Sun-Arrow was given of the fields, that he might plant.
But of the maidens there was one who did not forgive Sun-Arrow that he would not look at her; and in her heart she thought to pay him. So she went to a Spider-woman, 2 and said: "Grandmother, help me! For this young man despised me, and now I will punish him."
Then the Spider-woman made an accursed prayer-stick of the feathers of the woodpecker, and spoke to the Ghosts, and said to the girl:
"It is well, daughter! For I am the one that will help you. Take only this Toad, and bury it in your floor, this way, and then ask T'hoor-hlóh-ah to come to your house."
The girl made a hole in her floor, and buried P'ah-foo-ée-deh, the Toad. Then she went to Sun-Arrow and said: "Friend T'hoor-hlóh-ah, come to my house a little; for I have to talk to you."
But when Sun-Arrow sat down in her house, his
feet were upon the floor over the hole; and in a moment the Toad grew very great, and began to swallow him by the feet. Sun-Arrow kicked and fought, for he was very strong. But he could do nothing; and in a little, he was swallowed to the knees. Then he called in a great voice for his wife; and all the people of the Tée-wahn came running with her. When they saw him so, they were very sad; and Eé-eh-chah took his hand, and the Grandmother took his other, and all the people helped them. But all were not so strong as the great Toad; and fast it was swallowing him, until he was at the waist. Then he said:
"Go, my people! Go, my wife! For it is in vain. Go from this place, that you may not see me. And pray to the Trues if they will help me." So they all went, mourning greatly.
In that time it came that Shee-íd-deh, the House-Mouse, stirred from his hole; and seeing Sun-Arrow so, he came to him, weeping.
"Oh, Friend Sun-Arrow!" he cried. "You who have been a father to us all, you who have fed us, and have proved yourself so brave--it is not deserved that you should be thus. But we for whom you have cared, we will be the ones to help you!"
Then Shee-íd-deh ran from the house until he found the Dog, and to him told it all. And Quee-ah-níd-deh, whose voice was big, ran out into the plains, up and down, pregonando 1 to all the animals; and they came hurrying from all places. Soon all the birds and all the four-feet were met in
council in the room where Sun-Arrow was; and the Mountain Lion was captain. When he had listened to them, he said:
"Now let each tribe of you choose from it one who is young and strong, to give help to him who has fed us. For we cannot leave him to die so."
When every kind that walks or flies had chosen its strongest one, the chosen stood out; and Kéem-ee-deh called them by name to take their turns.
"Kóo-ah-raí-deh!" he called; and the Bluebird of the mountains came to Sun-Arrow, who was now swallowed up to his armpits. Sun-Arrow grasped her long tail with both hands, and she flew and flew with all her might, not caring for the pain, until her tail was pulled off. But Sun-Arrow was not budged a hair.
Then the captain called Ku-íd-deh, the Bear, to try. He gave his long tail to Sun-Arrow to hold; and when he had counted "One, two, three!" he pulled with a great pull, so hard that his whole tail came off And still Sun-Arrow was not stirred.
Then it was to the Coyote. But he said: "My ears are stronger"; for he was a coward, and would not give to pull on his pretty tail, of which he is proud. So he gave to Sun-Arrow to hold by his ears, and began to pull backward. But soon it hurt him, and he stopped when his ears were pulled forward.
"Now it is to you, Kahr-naí-deh," said the Mountain Lion; and the Badger came out to try. . First he dug around Sun-Arrow, and gave him to hold his tail. Then he counted three, and pulled greatly, so that his tail came off--and Sun-Arrow
was moved a very little. But the Badger did not fear the pain, and said:
"Let it be to me twice again, Kah-báy-deh." 1
"It is well!" said the Mountain Lion. "So let it be."
So the Badger dug again, and gave the stump of his tail, and pulled. And Sun-Arrow was loosened a little more; but the stump slipped through his hands, for it was very short.
"Around me, friend," said the Badger, when he had dug a third time; and Sun-Arrow clasped his hands around the Badger's body, behind the fore legs. Then for the third time Kahr-naí-deh pulled--so mightily that he dragged Sun-Arrow clear out from the Toad's mouth. At that, all the animals fell upon the wicked Toad, and killed it; and gave thanks to Those Above for the deliverance of their friend.
When they had prayed, Sun-Arrow thanked all the animals, one by one; and to the Bluebird, the Bear, and the Badger, he said:
"Friends, how shall I thank you who have suffered so much for me? And how can I pay you for your help, and for the tails that you have lost?" But to the Coyote he did not say a word.
Then said the Badger:
"Friend T'hoor-hlóh-ah, as for me, your hand has always been held out to me. You have fed me, and have been as a father: I want no pay for this tail that I have lost."
And the Bear and the Bluebird both answered the same thing.
So Sun-Arrow again gave them many thanks, and they went away to their homes. As for Sun-Arrow, he hurried to the Medicine House, where all the Tée-wahn were making medicine 1 that he might be saved. And when they saw him entering, his wife ran and cried on his shoulder, and all the people gave thanks to the Trues.
Sun-Arrow told them all that was; and when the Father-of-all-Medicine looked in the sacred cajete 2 he saw the evil-hearted girl paying the Spider-woman. Then the Cum-pah-whít-la-wen 3 went running with their bows and arrows, and brought the girl; and she was punished as are they that have the evil road. As for the Spiderwoman, she was already dead of shame; for she knew all that had been.
In a time it came that his father-in-law the Cacique died; and they made Sun-Arrow Cacique in his place. For many years he was so, bringing great good to his people; for he was very wise.
As for the Bear, the Badger, and the Bluebird, they would never go to the medicine-men of their tribes to have their tails mended to grow again; for they were proud that they had suffered to help their friend. And to this very day they go with short tails, and are honored by all the animals, and by all True Believers. But Too-wháy-deh, the
coward, he who would not hurt himself with pulling--he is a laughed-at to this day. For his ears cannot lie back, as is well for beasts, but always point straight forward, as Sun-Arrow pulled them.
Any one who has ever seen the Coyote, or any other of the wolf or fox tribe, must have noticed the alert forward pricking of the ears. Among the Pueblos, any such peculiarity of nature--and particularly of animal life--is very sure to have a folk-story hung to it. It has always seemed to me that the boy who always wants to know "why?" has a better time of it among my Indian friends than anywhere else. For there is always sure to be a why, and an interesting one--which is much more satisfactory than only learning that "it's bedtime now," or that "I'm busy."
171:1 About equivalent to our "fairy godmother."
172:1 Public square in the center of the pueblo.
172:2 Here equivalent to a witch.
73:1 The technical (Spanish) word for the official heralding by which all announcements are still made among the Pueblos.
176:1 Not compounding remedies, but going through the magic dance and incantations to which the Indians always resort in time of trouble. For a description of a medicine-making, see "Some Strange Corners of Our Country."
176:2 A jar of magic water, in which the chief conjuror is supposed to see all that is going on in the world.
176:3 Armed guards of the Medicine House.