THE mountain ranges skirting the Rio Grande del Norte on the west, nearly opposite the town of Santa Fé, in the Territory of New Mexico, are to-day but little known. The interior of the chain, the Sierra de los Valles, is as yet imperfectly explored. Still, these bald-crested mountains, dark and forbidding as they appear from a distance, conceal and shelter in their deep gorges and clefts many a spot of great natural beauty, surprisingly picturesque, but difficult of access. From the river these cañons, as they are called in New Mexico, can be reached only by dint of toilsome climbing and clambering; for their western openings are either narrow gaps, or access to them is barred by colossal walls and pillars of volcanic rocks. The entire formation of the chain, as far as it faces the Rio Grande, is volcanic, the walls of the gorges consisting generally of a friable white or yellowish tufa containing nodules of black, translucent obsidian. The rock is so soft that in many places it can be scooped out or detached with the most primitive tools, or even with the fingers alone. Owing to this peculiarity the slopes exposed to the south and east, whence most of the heavy rains strike them, are invariably abrupt, and often even perpendicular; whereas the opposite declivities, though steep, still afford room for scanty vegetation. The gorges run from west to east,--that is, they descend from the mountain
crests to the Rio Grande, cutting the long and narrow pedestal on which the high summits are resting.
Through some but not all of these gorges run never-failing streams of clear water. In a few instances the gorge expands and takes the proportions of a narrow vale. Then the high timber that usually skirts the rivulets shrinks to detached groves, and patches of clear land appear, which, if cultivated, would afford scanty support to one or two modem families. To the village Indian such tillable spots were of the greatest value. The deep ravine afforded shelter not only against the climate but against roving enemies, and the land was sufficient for his modest crops; since his wants were limited, and game was abundant.
The material of which the walls of these cañons are composed, suggested in times past to the house-building Indian the idea of using them as a home. The tufa and pumice-stone are so friable that, as we have said, the rock can be dug or burrowed with the most primitive implements. It was easier, in fact, to excavate dwellings than to pile up walls in the open air.
Therefore the northern sides of these secluded gorges are perforated in many places by openings similar in appearance to pigeon-holes. These openings are the points of exit and entrance of artificial caves, dug out by sedentary aborigines in times long past. They are met with in clusters of as many as several hundred; more frequently, however, the groups are small. Sometimes two or more tiers of caves are superimposed. From the objects scattered about and in the cells, and from the size and disposition of the latter, it becomes evident that the people who excavated and inhabited them were on the same level of culture as the so-called Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.
It is not surprising, therefore, that some traditions and myths are preserved to-day among the Pueblos concerning
these cave-villages. Thus the Tehua Indians of the pueblo of Santa Clara assert that the artificial grottos of what they call the Puiye and the Shufinne, west of their present abodes, were the homes of their ancestors at one time. The Queres of Cochiti in turn declare that the tribe to which they belong, occupied, many centuries before the first coming of Europeans to New Mexico, the cluster of cave-dwellings, visible at this day although abandoned and in ruins, in that romantic and picturesquely secluded gorge called in the Queres dialect Tyuonyi, and in Spanish "El Rito de los Frijoles."
The Rito is a beautiful spot. Situated in a direct line not over twenty miles west of Santa Fé, it can still be reached only after a long day's tedious travel. It is a narrow valley, nowhere broader than half a mile; and from where it begins in the west to where it closes in a dark and gloomy entrance, scarcely wide enough for two men to pass abreast, in the east, its length does not exceed six miles. Its southern rim is formed by the slope of a timbered mesa, and that slope is partly overgrown by shrubbery. The northern border constitutes a line of vertical cliffs of yellowish and white pumice, projecting and re-entering like decorations of a stage,--now perpendicular and smooth for some distance, now sweeping back in the shape of an arched segment. These cliffs vary in height, although nowhere are they less than two hundred feet. Their tops rise in huge pillars, in crags and pinnacles. Brushwood and pine timber crown the mesa of which these fantastic projections are but the shaggy border.
Through the vale itself rustles the clear and cool brook to which the name of Rito de los Frijoles is applied. It meanders on, hugging the southern slope, partly through open spaces, partly through groves of timber, and again past tall stately pine-trees standing isolated in the valley. [paragraph continues]
Willows, cherry-trees, cottonwoods, and elders form small thickets along its banks. The Rito is a permanent streamlet notwithstanding its small size. Its water freezes in winter, but it never dries up completely during the summer months.
Bunches of tall grass, low shrubbery, and cactus grow in the open spaces between rocky débris fallen from above. They also cover in part low mounds of rubbish, and ruins of a large pentagonal building erected formerly at the foot of a slope leading to the cliffs. In the cliffs themselves, for a distance of about two miles, numerous caves dug out by the hand of man are visible. Some of these are yet perfect; others have wholly crumbled away except the rear wall. From a distance the port-holes and indentations appear like so many pigeons' nests in the naked rock. Together with the cavities formed by amygdaloid chambers and crevices caused by erosion, they give the cliffs the appearance of a huge, irregular honeycomb.
These ruins, inside as well as outside the northern walls of the cañon of the Rito, bear testimony to the tradition still current among the Queres Indians of New Mexico that the Rito, or Tyuonyi, was once inhabited by people of their kind, nay, even of their own stock. But the time when those people wooed and wed, lived and died, in that secluded vale is past long, long ago. Centuries previous to the advent of the Spaniards, the Rito was already deserted. Nothing remains but the ruins of former abodes and the memory of their inhabitants among their descendants. These ancient people of the Rito are the actors in the story which is now to be told; the stage in the main is the Rito itself. The language of the actors is the Queres dialect, and the time when the events occurred is much anterior to the discovery of America, to the invention of gunpowder and the printing-press in Europe. Still the Rito must have appeared
then much as it appears now,--a quiet, lovely, picturesque retreat, peaceful when basking in the sunlight, wonderfully quiet when the stars sparkled over it, or the moon shed its floods of silver on the cliffs and on the murmuring brook below.
In the lower or western part of its course the Tyuonyi rushes in places through thickets and small groves, out of which rise tall pine-trees. It is very still on the banks of the brook when, on a warm June day, noon-time is just past and no breeze fans the air; not a sound is heard beyond the rippling of the water; the birds are asleep, and the noise of human activity does not reach there from the cliffs. Still, on the day of which we are now speaking, a voice arose from the thicket, calling aloud,--
"To ima satyumishe,--'come hither, my brother,'" another voice replied in the same dialect, adding, "See what a big fish I have caught."
It sounded as though this second voice had issued from the very waters of the streamlet.
Pine boughs rustled, branches bent, and leaves shook. A step scarcely audible was followed by a noiseless leap. On a boulder around which flowed streams of limpid water there alighted a young Indian.
He was of medium height and well-proportioned. His hands and feet were rather small and delicate. He carried his head erect with ease and freedom. jet-black hair, slightly waving, streamed loose over temples and cheeks, and was gathered at the back in a short thick knot. In front it parted naturally, leaving exposed a narrow strip of
the brow. The features of the face, though not regular, were still attractive, for large black eyes, almond-shaped, shone bright from underneath heavy lashes. The complexion was dusky, and the skin had a velvety gloss. Form, carriage, and face together betokened a youth of about eighteen years.
His costume was very plain. A garment of unbleached cotton, coarsely woven, covered the body as low as the knee. This garment, sleeveless and soiled by wear, was tied over the right shoulder. A reddish-brown scarf or belt of the same material fastened it around the waist. Feet, arms, and the left shoulder were bare. Primitive as was this costume, there was, nevertheless, an attempt here and there at decoration. The belt was ornamented with black and white stitches; from each ear hung a turquoise suspended by a cotton thread, and a necklace of coloured pebbles strung on yucca fibre encircled the neck.
Like a statue of light-coloured bronze decked with scanty drapery, and adorned with crude trinkets, holding a bow in the right hand, while the left clenched a few untipped arrows, the youth stood on the boulder outlined against the shrubbery, immovable above the running brook. His gaze was fixed on the opposite bank, where a youngster was kneeling.
The latter was a boy of perhaps nine years. A dirty wrap hung loosely over shoulders and back, and no necklace or ear-pendants decorated his body. But the childish features were enlivened by a broad grin of satisfaction, and his eyes sparkled like coals just igniting, while he pointed to a large mountain trout which he pressed against a stone with both hands. He looked at the older youth with an expression not merely of pleasure, but of familiar intimacy also. It was clear that both boys were children of the same parents.
The younger one spoke first,--
"See here, Okoya," he began, grinning; "while you are older than I, and bigger and stronger, I am more cunning than you. Ever since the sun came out you have followed the turkeys, and what have you? Nothing! Your hands are empty! I have just come down from the field, and look! I caught this fish in the water. Shall we fry and eat it here, or carry it home to the mother?"
The older brother did not relish the taunt; his lips curled. He replied scornfully,--
"Any child may catch a fish, but only men can follow turkeys. The tzina is shy and wary; it knows how sure my aim is, therefore it hides when I go out to hunt."
The little one replied to this pompous explanation with a clear mocking laugh.
"Turkeys care nothing about you," he retorted. "It is nothing to them whether you go out or not!"
"Shyuote," his brother scolded, "stop prating about things of which you do not know. It is true I am not one of the order of hunters, Shyayak, but I may become so soon." He stopped, as if a sudden thought had struck him, and then exclaimed: "Now I know why luck has failed me this morning! When I left our houses I should have scattered meal, and placed a pebble on the heap beside the trail, and offered a plume to our Mother Above. All this I neglected. Now I am punished for it by the birds concealing themselves. For had they come out--"
"You would have missed them," tauntingly replied the other. "If you want to kill turkeys join the Koshare. Then you will catch them with roots and flowers."
Okoya grew angry.
"Hush! foolish boy," he retorted, "what are the Koshare
to me? Don't speak about such things here. Come, take your fish, and let us go home."
With this Okoya leaped over the brook. Shyuote whispered audibly to him, "Yes; you are very fond of the Koshare." But the sarcastic remark was not heeded by the elder lad, who turned to go, Shyuote following him. Proudly the little boy tossed his fish from one hand to the other.
Beyond the straight and lofty pine trunks a whitish glare soon appeared. Brilliant sunlight broke through the tree-tops, and played around the dark needles, turning them into a brighter, lighter, emerald green. A background of yellow and cream-coloured rocks, visible now through openings in the shrubbery, showed that the boys were approaching a clear space.
Here the elder one suddenly stopped, turned to his brother, looked straight at him, and asked,--
"Shyuote, what have you heard about the Koshare?"
Instead of answering the child looked down, indifferent and silent, as if he had not heard the query.
"What have you heard, boy?" continued the other.
Shyuote shrugged his shoulders. He had no inclination to reply.
"Why don't you answer?" Okoya persisted.
His brother looked up, cast a furtive glance at the interlocutor, then stared vacantly, but with head erect before him. His eyes were glassy and without any expression.
Whenever the Indian does not wish to speak on any subject, whatever it be, no power on earth can compel him to break silence. Okoya, as an Indian, felt rather than understood this; and the child's refusal to answer a very simple question aroused his suspicions. He looked at the stubborn boy for a moment, undecided whether he would not resort to force. The child's taunts had mortified his
pride in the first place; now that child's reticence bred misgivings. He nevertheless restrained both anger and curiosity for the present, not because of indifference but for policy's sake, and turned to go. Shyuote looked for a moment as if he wished to confess to his brother all that the latter inquired about, but soon pouted, shrugged his shoulders, and set out after Okoya in a lively fox-trot again.
The valley lay before them; they had reached the end of the grove.
Smiling in the warm glow of a June day, with a sky of deepest azure, the vale of the Rito expanded between the spot which the boys had reached and the rocky gateways in the west, where that valley seemed to begin. Fields, small and covered with young, bushy maize-plants, skirted the brook, whose silvery thread was seen here and there as its meanderings carried it beneath the shadow of shrubs and trees, or exposed it to the full light of the dazzling sun. In the plantations human forms appeared, now erect, now bent down over their work. A ditch of medium size bordered the fields on the north, carrying water from the brook for purposes of irrigation. Still north of the ditch, and between it and the cliffs, arose a tall building, which from a distance looked like a high clumsy pile of clay or reddish earth.
This pile was irregularly terraced. Human beings stood on the terraces or moved along them. Now and then one was seen to rise from the interior of the pile to one of the terraced roofs, or another slowly sank from sight, as if descending into the interior of the earthy heap. On the outside, beams leaned against it, and on them people went up and down, as if climbing ladders. Thin films of smoke quivered in the air from imperceptible flues.
The cliffs themselves extended north of this building and east and west as far as the range of view permitted, like a
yellowish ribbon of towering height with innumerable flexures and alternations of light and shade. Their base was enlivened by the bustle of those who dwelt in caves all along the foot of the imposing rocky wall. Where to-day only vacant holes stare at the visitor, at the hour on the day when our story begins, human eyes peered through. Other doors were closed by deer-hides or robes. Sometimes a man, a woman, or a child, would creep out of one of these openings, and climbing upward, disappear in the entrance of an upper tier of cave-dwellings. Others would descend the slope from the cliffs to the fields, while still others returned from the banks of the ditch or of the brook. At the distance from which the boys viewed the landscape all passed noiselessly; no human voice, no clamour disturbed the stillness of the scene.
Peaceful as Nature appeared, neither of the youth were in the least struck by its charms or influenced by the spell which such a tranquil and cheerful landscape is likely to exercise upon thinking and feeling man. With both it was indifference; for the Indian views Nature with the eyes of a materially interested spectator only. But the elder brother had another reason for not noticing the beauty of the scene. He was not only troubled, he was seriously embarrassed. The hint thrown out by his little brother about the Koshare had struck him; for it led to the inference that the child had knowledge of secret arts and occult practices of which even he, Okoya, although on the verge of manhood, had never received any intimation. Far more yet than this knowledge, which Shyuote might have obtained through mere accident, the hint at unpleasant relations between Okoya and the Koshare startled the latter.
It was perfectly true that he not only disliked but even hated the cluster of men to which the name of Koshare was given in the tribe; but he had concealed his feelings as carefully
as possible until now. Only once, as far as he could remember, had he spoken of his aversion; and then it was during an absolutely confidential conversation with his own mother, who seemed to entertain like sentiments.
To his father he had never uttered a word; because his father was himself a Koshare. Whatever Shyuote knew, he could only have gathered by overhearing a conversation of the Koshare among themselves, in which it was mentioned that he, Okoya, harboured ill-feelings toward that brotherhood. In that case he might be exposed to serious danger, since, as he believed, those people were in possession of knowledge of a higher order, and practised arts of an occult nature. Against danger arising from such a source, Okoya considered himself utterly defenceless.
The more he tried to think over these matters, the more troubled his mind became. Only one thought appeared logical and probable and that was that the boy had overheard one or other of the Koshare's intimate conversations. But how came it that the Koshare knew about Okoya's aversion toward them? Who could have told them? Only his mother knew the secret! Had she, perhaps, she-- The thought was like a spark which glowed for a while, grew to a flame, flared and flickered unsteadily within his heart, then began to shrink. No, no; it was impossible! it could not be! His mother would never betray her child! The flame died out, the spark remained fast dying. Suddenly it blazed up again as if some breath had fanned it.
With renewed insistence, it struck Okoya that even if Shyuote had merely overheard a conversation and the child's knowledge was derived from that source, the most extraordinary part of the information could only have come from one source,--the person in whom he had confided, his mother! She alone could have told the Koshare that Okoya hated them. The spark flared up anew; it burst out
in a wild flame of suspicion. It singed the heart and smothered feeling as well as reason. It so completely absorbed his thoughts, that Okoya forgot everything else. Instead of walking along at a quiet easy gait, he rushed fast and faster, wrapped in dismal despair and in wild impotent wrath. Heedless of his little companion he ran, panting with agitation, until Shyuote, unable to keep pace and startled at his wild gait, pulled his garment and begged him to stop.
"Brother," he cried, "why do you go so fast? I cannot follow you!"
Okoya came to a sudden halt, and turned toward the boy like one aroused from a sinister dream. Shyuote stared at him with surprise akin to fright. How changed was his appearance! Never before had he seen him with a countenance so haggard, with eyes hollow and yet burning with a lurid glow. Loose hair hung down over forehead and cheeks, perspiration stood on the brow in big drops. The child involuntarily shrunk back,, and Okoya, noticing it, gasped,--
"You are right, the day is long yet and the houses near. We will go slower."
Bowing his head again he went on at a slower gait.
Shyuote followed in silence. Although surprised at the change in his brother's looks, he did not for a moment entertain the thought or desire of inquiring into the cause of it. He was fully satisfied that as long as Okoya did not see fit to speak of the matter, he had no right to ask about it: in short, that it was none of his business.
Meanwhile dark and dismal thoughts were chasing each other within the elder brother's soul. Doubt and suspicion became more and more crushing. He was tempted to break the spell and interrogate Shyuote once more, even to wrench from him, if needs be, a full explanation. The boy
was old enough to enjoy that great and often disagreeable quality of the American Indian, reticence. Furthermore, he might have been forbidden to speak.
If the Indian is not an ideal being, he is still less a stolid mentally squalid brute. He is not reticent out of imbecility or mental weakness. He fails properly to understand much of what takes place around him, especially what happens within the circle of our modem civilization, but withal he is far from indifferent toward his surroundings. He observes, compares, thinks, reasons, upon whatever he sees or hears, and forms opinions from the basis of his own peculiar culture. His senses are very acute for natural phenomena; his memory is excellent, as often as he sees fit to make use of it. There is no difference between him and the Caucasian in original faculties, and the reticence peculiar to him under certain circumstances is not due to lack of mental aptitude.
He does not practise that reticence alike toward all. A great number of examples seems to establish the fact that the Indian has developed a system of casuistry, based upon a remarkably thorough knowledge of human nature. Certain matters are kept concealed from some people, whereas they are freely discussed with others, and vice versa. The Indian hardly ever keeps a secret to himself alone; it is nearly always shared by others whom the matter directly concerns. It may be said of the red man that he keeps secrets in the same manner that he lives,--namely, in groups or clusters. The reason is that with him individualism, or the mental and moral independence of the individual, has not attained the high degree of development which prevails among white races.
When Europeans began to colonize America in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the social organization of its inhabitants presented a picture such as had disappeared
long before on the continent of Europe. Everywhere there prevailed linguistic segregation,--divisions into autonomous groups called tribes or stocks, and within each of these, equally autonomous clusters, whose mutual alliance for purposes of sustenance and defence constituted the basis of tribal society. The latter clusters were the clans, and they originated during the beginnings of the human family. Every clan formed a group of supposed blood-relatives, looking back to a mythical or traditional common ancestor. Descent from the mother being always plain, the clan claimed descent in the female line even if every recollection of the female ancestor were lost, and theoretically all the members of one clan were so many brothers and sisters. This organization still exists in the majority of tribes; the members of one clan cannot intermarry, and, if all the women of a clan die, that clan dies out also, since there is nobody left to perpetuate it. The tribe is in reality but a league; the clan is the unit. At the time we speak of, the affairs of each tribe were administered by an assembly of delegates from all its clans who at the same time arbitrated inevitable disputes between the several blood-relations.
Each clan managed its own affairs, of which no one outside of its members needed to know anything. Since the husbands always belonged to a different consanguine group from their wives, and the children followed their mother's line of descent, the family was permanently divided. There was really no family in our sense of the word. The Indian has an individual name only. He is, in addition, distinguished by the name of his clan, which in turn has its proper cognomen. The affairs of the father's clan did not concern his wife or his children, whereas a neighbour might be his confidant on such matters. The mother, son, and daughter spoke among themselves
of matters of which the father was not entitled to know, and about which he scarcely ever felt enough curiosity to inquire. Consequently there grew a habit of not caring about other people's affairs unless they affected one's own, and of confiding secrets to those only whom they could concern, and who were entitled to know them. In the course of time the habit became a rule of education. Reticence, secrecy, discretion, are therefore no virtues with the Indian; they are simply the result of training.
Okoya too had been under the influence of such training, and he knew that Shyuote, young as he was, had already similar seeds planted within him. But uncertainty was insufferable; it weighed too heavily upon him, he could no longer bear it.
"Umo," he burst out, turning abruptly and looking at the boy in an almost threatening manner, "how do you know that I dislike the Koshare?"
Shyuote cast his eyes to the ground, and remained silent. His brother repeated the query; the little fellow only shrugged his shoulders. With greater insistence the elder proceeded,--
"Shyuote Tihua, who told you that the Delight Makers are not precious to me, nor I to them?"
Shyuote shook his head, pouted, and stared vacantly to one side. He manifestly refused to answer.
Cold perspiration stood on the brow of the elder brother; his body quivered in anguish; he realized the truth of his suspicions. Unable any longer to control himself he cried,--
"It is my mother who told them!"
Trembling, with clenched hands and gnashing teeth, he gazed at the child unconsciously. Shyuote, frightened at his wild and menacing attitude. and ignorant of the real
cause of his brother's excitement, raised his hand to his forehead and began to sob.
A shout coming from the immediate vicinity aroused and startled Okoya. A voice called out to him,
He looked around in surprise. They were standing close to the cultivated plots, and a man loomed up from between the maize-plants. He it was who called, and as soon as Okoya turned toward him be beckoned the youth to come nearer. Okoya's face darkened; he reluctantly complied, leaped over the ditch, walked up to the interlocutor, and stood still before him in the attitude of quiet expectancy with downcast eyes. Shyuote had dropped to the ground; the call did not interfere with his sobs; he pouted rather than grieved.
Okoya's interlocutor was a man of strong build, apparently in the forties. His features, although somewhat flat and broad, created a favourable impression at first; upon closer scrutiny, however, the eyes modified that impression. They were small, and their look piercing rather than bright. His costume was limited to a tattered breechclout of buckskin. A collar of small white shells encircled the neck, and from this necklace dangled a triangular piece of alabaster, flat, and with a carving on it suggesting the shape of a dragon-fly. His hair streamed loose over the left ear, where there was fastened to the black coarse strands a tuft of grayish down.
This individual eyed Okoya in silence for a moment, as if inspecting his person; then he inquired,--
"Where do you come from?"
The young fellow looked up and replied,--
"From below," pointing to the lower end of the gorge.
What did you hunt?" the other continued, glancing at the bow and arrows of the boy.
"Tzina;" and with perceptible embarrassment Okoya added, "but I killed nothing."
The man seemed not to heed the humiliation which this confession entailed, and asked,--
"Have you seen tracks of the mountain-sheep down yonder?"
"Not one; but I saw at a distance on the slope two bears very large and strong."
The other shook his head.
"Then there are no mountain sheep toward that end of the Tyuonyi," he said, waving his left hand toward the southeast, "thank you, boy," at the same time extending his right to the youth. Okoya grasped it, and breathed on the outside of the hand. Then he said, "hoa umo," and turned and sauntered back to where his little brother was still squatting and pouting, morose and silent.
The man had also turned around, bent down, and gone on weeding the corn. Withal he did not lose sight of the boys; on the contrary, an occasional stealthy glance from his half-closed eyes shot over where they met.
Shyuote rose from the ground. His eyes were dry, but he glanced at his brother with misgivings as well as with curiosity. The latter felt a sudden pang upon beholding the childish features. The short interruption, though annoying at first, had diverted him from gloomy thoughts. Now, everything came back to his mind with renewed force,--the same anguish, the feeling of utter helplessness in case of impending danger, indignation at what he believed to have been base treason on the part of his mother,--all this rushed upon him with fearful force, and he stood again motionless, a picture of wild perplexity. His face betokened the state of his mind. Shyuote did not dare to
inquire of him further than to ask a very insignificant question,--namely, who the man was that had called.
Okoya answered readily, for this query was almost a relief,--a diversion which enabled him to subdue his agitation. "Tyope Tihua," he said hastily, "wanted to know if I had seen any mountain sheep. I told him that I had only seen bear-tracks. Let him follow those," he growled. "Come on, satyumishe, it is getting late."
While this conversation had been carried on, the boys, now hurrying and now slackening their pace, had arrived within a short distance of the tall clay-pile, which was seen to be a high polygonal building, apparently closed on all sides. Between them and this edifice there was still another lower one, not unlike an irregular honey-comb. About forty cells, separated from each other by walls of earth, carried up from the ground to a few inches above the terraced roof, constituted a ground-floor on which rested a group of not more than a dozen similar cells. The walls of this structure were of stones, irregularly broken and clumsily piled, but they were covered by a thick coating of clay so that nothing of the rough core remained visible. Instead of doors or entrances, air-holes, round or oval, perforated these walls.
The house appeared empty. No smoke flitted over the flat roof; the coating was so recent that many places were hardly dry.
North of this building, a circular structure thirty feet in diameter rose a few feet only above the soil, like the upper part of a sunken cylinder. Its top was flat, and large flags of stone formed a rough staircase leading to its roof. In the centre, a square opening appeared, out of which a tall beam, notched at regular intervals like a primitive ladder, protruded, and down which also the beam disappeared as if extended into the bowels of the earth. This edifice, half
underground, half above the soil, was what to-day is called in New Mexico an estufa. 1 This Spanish word has become a technical term, and we shall hereafter use it in the course of the story as well as the designations tshikia and kaaptsh of the Queres Indians.
The estufas were more numerous in a single pueblo formerly than they are now. Nor are they always sunken. At the Rito there were at least ten, five of which were circular chambers in the rock of the cliffs. These chambers or halls were, in the times we speak of, gathering places for men exclusively. No woman was permitted to enter, unless for the purpose of carrying food to the inmates. Each clan had its own estufa, and the young men slept in it under the surveillance of one or more of the aged principals, until they married, and frequently even afterward.
There the young men became acquainted with the affairs of their individual connections, and little by little also with the business of the tribe. There, during the long evenings of winter, old men taught them the songs and prayers embodying traditions and myths, first of their own clan, then of the tribe. 2 The estufa was school, club-house, nay, armory to a certain extent. It was more. Many of the prominent religious exercises took place in it. The estufa on special occasions became transformed into a temple for the clan who had reared it.
From the depths of this structure there came a series of
dull sounds like beats of a drum. The youngsters stopped short, and looked at each other in surprise.
"The new house," whispered Okoya, "which the Corn-clan have built here is empty, yet there is somebody in its estufa. What may this mean?"
Let us look into it," eagerly suggested Shyuote.
"Go you alone!" directed the elder brother. "I will walk on, and you can overtake me by-and-by."
That suited Shyuote. He crept stealthily toward the round building. There was an air-hole in the rim which rose above the ground. Crouching like a cat, the boy cautiously peered through this opening, but quickly withdrew with an expression of disappointment. The underground chamber was not even finished; its walls were dark and raw, the floor rough, and on this floor a half-dozen young fellows in every stage of dress or undress were lounging. One of them mechanically touched a small drum with a stick, while two or three of the others were humming a monotonous tune to the rhythm of his rappings. Shyuote stole away in evident discontent; his curiosity was satisfied, but at the expense of his expectations.
Loud laughter, screams, and animated talking diverted his attention, and caused him to run in the direction of the new house of the Corn clan. He heard the voice of his brother, but at the same time women's voices also, and as soon as he turned the farther comer of the building, he saw what was plainly a playful encounter between Okoya and a pair of young girls.
The former had his bow in hand ready to shoot, and he pointed the arrow at the maidens alternately; they, utterly unconcerned about his weapon, were pressing him with weapons of their own, which he was much more anxious to avoid than they his missiles. These were two pairs of very dirty hands filled and covered with liquid mud with which
the damsels attempted to decorate his person. Okoya was clearly on the defensive, and the advantage so far seemed on the side of his agressors. Shyuote flew to his assistance. Rushing to a large vessel of burnt clay, standing alongside the wall and filled with water, he plunged both hands into it, and began to bespatter the assailants with the not very clean liquid. Forthwith one of the girls turned against the new enemy. She was older and taller than Shyuote. Seizing his raven locks she pulled him to the ground on his face, knelt on the prostrate form, and then and there gave the boy a series of energetic cuffs against which the youngster struggled and wriggled in the most desperate but absolutely ineffectual manner. The fair sex held the balance of power and wielded it. At every attempt of Shyuote to rise or to roll over, she pushed his face back into the moist ground, she pulled his hair, thumped his shoulders, and boxed his ears. She was in earnest, and Shyuote was powerless in heir firm grasp. He could not even scream, for a thick coating of soil had fastened itself to his features, had penetrated into eye, mouth, and nostrils. His fate was as melancholy as it was ludicrous; it brought about a truce between Okoya and the other maiden. They dropped, he the weapon, she her muddy arms, and looked at the other set of combatants with surprise and with immoderate laughter. The Indian is not tender-hearted on such occasions. When the victorious beauty at last arose, suffering her victim to turn over again, the merriment became uproarious, for Shyuote presented the appearance of a blowing, spitting, coughing, statue of dirt. His looks were in no manner improved by his frenzy after the boy had rubbed his eyes, and recovered his breath. Tears of rage rolled down his cheeks over patches of sand and mud, and when he noticed the mirth of the others Shyuote's fury knew no bounds. He rushed madly at the triumphant lass, who
did not shrink from the hostile approach. The contest was threatening to assume serious proportions, when another person appeared upon the scene, at the sight of whom even Shyuote temporarily stayed all demonstrations, while Okoya seemed both startled and embarrassed. The new-comer was a young girl too; she carried on her head a vessel of burnt clay similar to a flat urn, decorated with black and red designs on cream-coloured ground, and filled with water.
To understand this scene we must know that the two girls had been engaged in putting on the last coat of plaster to the walls of the abode of the Corn people, when Okoya suddenly came upon them. At a glance they saw that he had been on a hunt, and also that he had hunted in vain. Here was a welcome opportunity for jeering and mockery. They interrupted their plastic labour, and turned against him with such merciless allusions to his ill-success that unable any longer to reply to their sarcasm Okoya threatened them, in jest of course, with his bow. Instead of desisting, the girls at once moved upon him with muddy hands. The one who last appeared upon the scene, although assistant to the others, inasmuch as she carried the water needed in the preparation of the mud for plastering, had not seen the engagement just fought. She looked at the group in blank surprise, stood still without lifting the bowl from her head, and presented thus the appearance of a handsome statue, dusky and graceful, whose lustrous black eyes alone moved, glancing from one of the members of the group to the other. Those large expressive eyes plainly asked, "What does all this mean?"
The antagonists of Okoya and Shyuote were buxom lasses, rather short, thick-waisted, full-chested, with flat faces, prominent cheek-bones, and bright eyes. The third maiden was taller and much more graceful; her features were
less coarse, less prominently distinctive. The nose was well-proportioned, the mouth also, although the lips were rather heavy. The eyes were large and beaming, soft yet not without an intelligent expression. All three girls were dressed nearly alike. A dark-blue cotton garment descended as far as the knees; it was tied over the left shoulder, and the right was exposed. A red-tinged scarf served as belt around the waist. Arms and feet were bare. The long black hair streamed loosely. Two of them wore heavy necklaces of green stones, red pebbles, and shell beads. The last comer carried only a single string of shell beads with an iridescent conch fastened to it in front. Ear-pendants of turquoises hung from the ears of all three.
The attention of the girl with the urn on her head soon rested on Shyuote, and she was the first to break the silence by a hearty peal of laughter. This started her companions again, and the one nearest to Okoya exclaimed,--
"Mitsha help us throw the water in your urn over the head of the boy. Okoya began it all, give it to him, too. You are strong enough."
At the mention of Okoya's name the maiden addressed as Mitsha started. She threw a quick glance like a flash at him. Her face quivered and coloured slightly. Turning away, she deposited the water-urn at the foot of the wall, and remained standing, her eyes directed to the cliffs, her lithe fingers carelessly playing with the beads of her necklace. She was disinclined to take any part in the fray, and her behaviour acted as a damper on the buoyancy of the others. Okoya hastily gathered up his arrows, and called Shyuote to his side. But the boy did not care to obey. Thirst for revenge held him to the spot of his defeat; he shook his fists at the girls, clenched his teeth, and began to threaten vengeance, and to shower uncomplimentary expressions upon them. As soon, however, as the one who
had so effectually routed him showed again a decided movement toward his raven locks, he beat a hasty retreat to his elder brother. This change of base excited new hilarity, and under a shower of jokes and sarcasms the two boys departed. Okoya walked along at a steady gait; but Shyuote, as soon as he considered the distance safe enough, turned around, making grimaces at the belligerent damsels, vowing vengeance, and uttering opprobrious epithets of the choicest kind. He noticed that the two returned his compliments without reserve, whereas Mitsha stood in silence leaning against the house-wall. One single look, one earnest almost sad glance, she sent after the disappearing form of Shyuote's elder brother.
The main building was now close at hand. It was an irregular pentagon, and at places two, at others three stories high. With one single exception these stories formed terraces, retreating successively from the ground to the top like so many steps of a staircase. Nowhere did there appear any entrance. Notched beams led up to trapdoors in the roofs, similar beams penetrated into the interior below. Absolute stillness reigned about the edifice. Some women scoured scanty clothing in the ditch running past the structure; on the terraces not a soul appeared. The lads directed their course toward that side where the three stories presented a perpendicular wall, and as they neared it an entrance, or doorway, high enough for a man and wide enough for four abreast appeared in the vertical front. It led them through a dark passage into an interior court which was fairly clean and contained three estufas. Its diameter did not exceed one hundred and fifty feet.
Toward this court, or yard, the stories of the building descended in terraces also; but though everywhere beams leaned up as ladders, access to the ground-floor was also afforded by narrow doorways closed with hides or mats. It
was hot and quiet in this yard; the sun shed glaring light into it and over the roofs. Naked urchins played and squirmed below, whereas above, an old woman or some aged man would cower motionless, shading their blear eyes with one hand and warming their cold frames in the heat Okoya went directly to one of the ground-floor openings, lifted the deer-skin that hung over it, and called out the usual greeting,--
"Opona,--'come in,'" responded a woman's voice. Both lads obeyed the summons. At first the room seemed dark on account of the sudden contrast with the glare outside, but as soon as this first impression was overcome, it appeared moderately lighted. It was a chamber about fourteen feet long and ten feet wide, and its walls were whitewashed with burnt gypsum. Deer-hides and a mat plaited of yucca-leaves lay rolled up in one comer. A niche contained a small earthen bowl, painted white with black symbolic figures. A doorway to the right led into another compartment which seemed darker than the first. As soon as the boys entered the room, a woman appeared in this side doorway. She was small, slender, and apparently thirty-five years of age. Her features, notwithstanding the high cheek-bones, were attractive though wan and thin. An air of physical suffering lay over them like a thin cloudy veil. At the sight of this woman, Okoya's heart began to throb again; for she it was whom he so direly suspected, nay, accused of treachery and deceit. This woman was his mother.
5:1 The word "umo" properly signifies "grandfather;" but it is used indiscriminately for all ages and sexes in calling. An old man, for instance, will call his grandchild "umo;" so will a wife her husband, a brother his sister, etc.
19:1 Estufa properly means a stove, and the name was applied to those semi-subterranean places by the Spaniards on account of their comfortable temperature in winter. They recalled to them the temascalli, or sweat-houses, of Mexico.
19:2 The preservation of traditions is much systematized among the Pueblo Indians. Certain societies know hardly any other but the folk-tales relating to their own particular origin. To obtain correct tradition it is necessary to gain the confidence of men high in degree. That is mostly very difficult.