"DID you find that?" asked the shaman.
"Yes, I found it. I and Hayash Tihua together."
"On the kauash, on the trail that leads to the north."
"Who killed sa nashtio?" the chayan further inquired. He alone carried on the investigation; Hoshkanyi Tihua had mingled with the rest again, and stood there silent and speechless over the terrible news. Neither did any of the others utter a single word, but from time to time one or the other shook his head and sighed deeply.
"We don't know," replied the Indian, "for we did not find anything else."
"Have you looked for more?" emphasized the medicine man.
The other hung his head as if he felt the reproach. "No," he said in a low tone.
"Because we were afraid that other Tehuas might be around."
"How do you know that the people from the north have killed our nashtio?"
"Because the Moshome Dinne never wear such." He pointed to the sandal, which he had handed to the tapop.
"Did the shoe lie where our father died?
"No, we found it closer to the Tyuonyi."
A flutter went through the group,--a movement of surprise and of terror. Many persons had collected, and the steps of more were heard coming up. In the valley the wind sighed. Louder than its plaintive moaning sounded the howling wail that continued in the great house with undiminished power. The Hishtanyi continued,--
"How did the shuatyam kill our father?" His voice trembled as he uttered these words.
"Have you brought them along?"
"Where is the corpse?"
"At the house of Tanyi hanutsh."
The shaman turned around. "Tyame," he called to the delegate of the Eagle clan, "do your duty. And you, too, Tapop."
The group was about to disperse when the Shikama Chayan called back the men who had brought the news. All stood still and listened.
"Is the head entire?" asked the medicine-man. "The scalp is not on it."
A murmur of indignation arose. The chayan turned away and walked slowly along the foot of the cliffs toward his dwelling. Every one set out for the great house, talking together excitedly, but in low voices. The tapop, Tyame, And the two men who had found the body took the lead. The Hishtanyi Chayan and the Shkuy Chayan came last.
The nearer they came to the great building, the louder and more dismal sounded the lamentations.
The storm was approaching with threatening speed. One dense mass of inky clouds shrouded the west. From time to time it seemed to open, and sheets of fire would fill
the gap. To this threatening sky the death-wail ascended tremulously and plaintively, like a timid appeal for redress. In response the heavens shot angry lightning and thunder-peals. The cliffs on the Tyuonyi trembled, and re-echoed the voices from above, which seemed to tell feeble humanity below "We come!"
It was long before sunset when the old war-chief of the Queres, after having thoroughly examined the spot where the interview between Shotaye and the Tehua Indian took place, began to follow on the tracks of the latter. He was undertaking a difficult, an extremely dangerous task. It is not easy for a man well provided with weapons to pursue an armed Indian, but to attempt it unarmed is foolhardiness. The Indian is most dangerous when retreating, for then he enjoys the best opportunities to display his main tactics in warfare, which are hiding and patient lurking. He has every opportunity to prepare his favourite ambush, and woe unto him who runs after an Indian on the retreat, unless the pursuer is thoroughly prepared and well acquainted with the war-tricks of the redman. The annals of western warfare give sad evidence of the disastrous results. The mountaineers among the Indian tribes are those who are best skilled in the murderous hide-and-seek game. Indians of the plains have less occasion to cultivate it.
Topanashka Tihua was aware that if he followed the Tehua. he was risking his own life. But it was not the first time he had attempted such dangerous undertakings, and so far he had never failed. With the configuration of the ground, and the landmarks in vegetation and scenery he was far better acquainted than the Tehua. Furthermore, he enjoyed the material advantage that the latter could not have noticed him. Everything depended on ascertaining unseen as much as possible about the enemy's movements.
From some of Shotaye's gesticulations the maseua had concluded that the Tehua would proceed on the old trail leading from the Rito to the Puye, or at least keep himself very near that trail. He was confirmed in it by the direction which the friend of the woman took after leaving her. Topanashka maintained, therefore, the same course, going slowly and with the greatest caution. He kept on the alert for the least noise that struck him as suspicious, or for which he could not at once account.
In consequence of the heat of the day, the forest was remarkably still. Not a breeze sighed through the tops of the pines, for the wind that blows toward a coming storm and heralds its approach rises later in the day. The distant gobbling of turkeys was a sound that awakened no suspicions, the more so as it grew fainter and fainter, receding in the direction of the higher crests and peaks. Neither were the numerous crows a source of uneasiness to him. On every clearing these birds gravely promenaded by half-dozens together, and his cautious gliding across such exposed places did not in the least discommode the dusky company. As soon as Topanashka came in sight of the trail again he kept near it, but to its left, gliding from tree to tree or creeping across clear expanses from shrub to shrub. He therefore moved more slowly than the Tehua whom he was pursuing.
In this manner he had advanced for quite a while, always keeping an eye on the trail to his right, when he caught sight of a suspicious object lying directly in the path, where the latter was barely more than a faint streak across the thin grass that grows sometimes on the plateaus in bunches. At once the old man stopped, cowered behind a juniper, and waited.
A novice on the war-path, or an inexperienced white man, would have gone to examine the strange object more closely,
but the old scout takes such unexpected finds in the light of serious warning. Nothing appears more suspicious to him than something which seems to have been accidentally dropped on a trail over which hostile Indians are retreating. He forthwith thinks of a decoy, and is careful not to approach. For Topanashka it was doubly significant, for had the object purposely been placed there, it led to the disagreeable inference that the Tehua was aware of his pursuit. In that case he was sure to lie in wait for him, and upon nearer approach he could expect an arrow-shot without the least doubt. That shot might miss him, but at all events the lurking enemy would find out that his pursuer was an unarmed man, and that there was no danger in attacking him openly. Then the situation would become desperate.
Still, as the old man had always kept to the right of the trail, it was possible that the enemy had not so far noticed him. But somewhere in the neighbourhood of the suspicious object that enemy must be hidden; of that he felt sure. It was a very serious moment, for any awkward movement or the least noise might bring about his destruction. Under such circumstances many a one sends a short prayer to Heaven for assistance in his hour of need. Not so the Indian; he has only formulas and ritualistic performances, and there was no time to remember the former or to think of the latter. Topanashka strained his eyes to the utmost to find out the nature of the suspicious object that lay not far from his hiding-place, but he could arrive at no satisfactory result. It appeared to be round, like a flat disk; but of what material it was made and for what purpose it had been manufactured, he could not discover. At last it flashed upon him that it might be one of the circular war-sandals of the Tehua, whose tracks he had noticed from time to time. which the owner might hive taken off and
deposited here. There was no doubt that the enemy must be close at hand.
Topanashka had no thought of turning back. Flight was very difficult, since he did not know where the foe lurked. To wait was the only thing to be done,--wait until night came, and then improve the darkness to return to the Rito in safety. But what of the all-important council-meeting, at which he was compelled to assist? Crouched behind the juniper-bush, cautiously peering out from behind it now and then, the old warrior pondered over the situation. At last he saw what to do.
Slowly extending his feet and legs backward, he little by little succeeded in laying himself flat on his stomach. He had noticed that not far behind him there was another and much taller bush. Toward this bush he crept, but like a crawfish, feet foremost. Had his enemy stood otherwise than in a line with the first shelter which Topanashka had made use of, he would surely have sent an arrow during this retrograde performance. He continued to crawfish until the tall bush was between him and the smaller one. Once covered by the former, he raised his head and looked around.
A peculiar stillness reigned. Not a breeze stirred, the sun was blazing hot, notwithstanding the long, trailing clouds that traversed the sky.
"Kuawk, kuawk, kuawk!" sounded the cries of several crows, as they flew from a neighbouring tree. They went in the very direction where Topanashka suspected the Tehua to be, and alighted on a piñon in that neighbourhood. The old man glanced, not at the birds, but at the trunk above which the crows were sitting. It was not thick enough to conceal the body of a man, and about it the ground was bare. If there had been anybody hiding there, the cunning and mistrustful birds would never have alighted. [paragraph continues]
The maseua took this into consideration, and began to doubt the correctness of his former conclusions. Yet it was wiser not to attempt a close examination of the sandal; such curiosity might still lead to fatal results.
Like an old fox, Topanashka determined to circumvent the dangerous spot, by describing a wide arc around it. He would thus meet the trail farther north, and be able to judge from signs there whether or not the Tehua was close upon the Rito. First he would have to crawl backward until he was at a sufficient distance to be out of sight altogether.
This movement he began to execute in his usual slow and deliberate manner, crawfishing until he felt sure that he could not be seen from the point where the crows had taken their position. Once during his retreat the birds fluttered upward, croaking, but alighted again on the same spot. Something must have disturbed them.
Topanashka arose, straightened himself, and moved ahead as noiselessly as possible. He maintained a course parallel to the trail.
The old man considered himself now as being in the country of the enemy and on hostile ground. For whereas he was in reality not far from the Rito, still, possibly, he had an enemy in his rear. It is the custom of a warrior of high rank in the esoteric cluster of the war magicians, ere the trailing of an enemy begins, to pronounce a short prayer, and Topanashka had neglected it. His indignation at the discovery of Shotaye's misdeed was the cause of this neglect. Now it came to his mind.
"Kuawk, kuawk, kuawk!"
A crow flew overhead. It came from the tree where the others had been sitting, or at least from that direction.
To the Indian the crow is a bird of ill omen. Its discordant voice is, next to the cry of the owl, regarded as the
most dismal forewarning. The use of its plumage in magic is strongly condemned. Was it not strange that those harbingers of misfortune so persistently followed him, and that their repulsive croaking always interrupted his thoughts? Topanashka resolved to make good on the spot what he had omitted, and ere he moved, to pray.
In place of the formula which the warrior recites when he is on the track of an enemy, Topanashka selected another one, spoken upon entering dangerous ground where enemies may be lurking. It seemed to him that the latter was better adapted to the occasion, since he was unarmed and therefore unable to fight in case of necessity. He still carried with him the same fetich, a rude alabaster figure of the panther, which we saw dangling from his necklace on the day he went to visit the tapop. But the necklace he had left at home this time, and he carried the amulet in a leather satchel concealed under his wrap. He took out the wallet and removed the fetich from it. To the back of the figure was fastened a small arrow-head, on the sides a turquoise and a few shells were tied with strings of yucca fibre.
The old man squatted on the ground, took from the same satchel a pinch of sacred meal, and scattered it to the six regions. Then he whispered,--
"Ā-ā. Nashtio, Shiuana, Kopishtai! Make me precious this day, even if the land be full of enemies. Let not my life be threatened by them. Protect me from them. Let none of the Moshome go across this line," he drew a line in the sand with the arrow-point, "give me protection from them I Mokatsh, Tyame, Shiuana, shield my heart from the enemy."
While pronouncing the latter words he drew three more lines, breathed on the fetich, placed it in the satchel again, and rose. He felt strengthened, for he had performed his duty toward the Shiuana, had satisfied Those Above.
"Kuawk, kuawk, kuawk!" The crow soared back over his head. The ugly, ill-voiced bird! Topanashka's eyelids twitched angrily; he was amazed.
He resumed his walk, or rather his cautious, gliding gait, his head bent forward, all his faculties strained to see, to hear, and to detect. Frequently he would stop, hide him. self, and listen. All was quiet around him, for even the crows kept silent or were heard in the distance only.
The glare of the sunlight was less vivid, the afternoon was on the wane. The late hour was not alone the cause of the diminution of light; the sun was shrouded by heavy masses of clouds. With the waning daylight it grew cooler, a faint breeze being wafted over from the Rio Grande.
The old man rightly supposed that he was approaching the trail again and would soon strike it. The cañon near which he had surprised Shotaye and her ally lay some distance in his rear and to the right, for the old trail crosses it at its upper end, and the cañon bends to the north. Topanashka intended to reach this upper terminus. He expected in case other Tehuas should be about, that they would be hidden in that vicinity. He wanted to strike the path first, and survey it, if from a distance only, then keep on again in a line parallel to its course until it crossed the ravine. Afterward be would go back to the Tyuonyi, if possible, with the sandal as corroborative evidence.
He almost chided himself now for not having picked up the foot-gear. The more he reflected, the more he became convinced that his suspicions about some ambush having been prepared by means of the sandal were groundless. The crows especially seemed to be a sure sign of it. That bird is very bold, but also very sly; and had a warrior or any human being been in concealment, would never have selected his vicinity for a place of comfortable rest. Had they not flown away as soon as he approached
their roosting-place? And yet he moved very slowly and noiselessly.
But why did the crows so persistently follow him? What signified their restlessness, their loud and repeated cries? It boded nothing good. The black pursuivants either foretold or intended evil. Were they real crows?
The Indian is so imbued with the notion of sorcery that any animal that behaves unusually appears to him either as a human being changed into an animal, or some spirit which has assumed the form for a purpose. That purpose is either good or bad. Owls, crows, and turkey-buzzards, also the coyote, are regarded as forms assumed by evil spirits, or by men under the influence of evil charms. The more Topanashka reflected upon the conduct of the birds, the more superstitious he became concerning them. They certainly meant harm. Either they sought to allure him into danger, or they indicated the presence of imminent peril.
Whatever that danger might be and wherever it might lurk, the man thought of nothing but to do his duty under all circumstances. He was, after all, glad that he had not taken up the sandal. It had brought him as far as he was now, and he considered it his duty to go to the bitter end, and find out everything if possible. That he exposed himself more than was really necessary did not enter his mind. He failed to consider that if he were killed, nobody would be able to give timely warning at the Rito, and that the very search for him might expose his people to the danger which he was striving to avert. Death had little terror for him; it was nothing but the end of all pain and trouble.
As soon as Topanashka, believed that he had come again into proximity of the path, he resumed his previous methods of locomotion; that is, he began to crawl on hands and feet. The timber was of greater density here, for it was nearer the foot of the mountains.
In proportion as the trees become taller and as they stand closer together, the ground below is freer from shrubbery, and may be scanned from a certain distance with greater ease. Nevertheless the soil is more rock ledges crop out on the surface, isolated blocks appear, boulders, and sometimes low, dyke-like protuberances.
When Topanashka felt certain of the proximity of the trail, he scanned the ground very carefully. It was still flat, notwithstanding some rocky patches. The shade was deep, and as far as the eye reached, nothing moved; nothing suspicious was seen, nay, nothing that bore life, except the sombre vegetation. The wind increased in force; the pines faintly murmured from time to time; a blast penetrated beneath them to the surface of the soil, chasing the dry needles in fitful whirls or playing with the tall bunchgrasses that were growing profusely here.
If any man was about he certainly kept outside the range of vision. So the old man reasoned, and he began to creep toward a place where the smoothness of the rocks indicated the wear and tear of human feet. It was the only trace of the trail, and barely visible. As he approached the place he knew that he must be seen, but he relied upon the fact that a man lying flat on the ground is very difficult to hit. An arrow could scarcely strike him, and in no case could the wound be other than slight, for the shot must come from a distance, as there was, he felt certain, no one near by.
He glided like a snake, or rather like a huge lizard, which crawls over obstacles, and whose body adapts itself to depressions instead of crossing or bridging them over. His cautious progress scarcely caused a leaf to rustle or a stone to rattle, and these noises were perceptible only in the vicinity of where they were produced. So he pushed himself gradually close up to a ledge, which, while of indifferent
height, still protected his body somewhat. On this ledge he expected to notice scratches which indicated that the trail passed over it.
It was as he suspected,--the rock was slightly worn by human feet; but of fresh tracks there could of course be no trace here, for only long and constant wear and tear, and not an occasional hurried tread, can leave marks behind. But Topanashka noticed a few fragments of rock and little bits of stone that lay alongside the old worn-out channel. Without lifting his head, he extended his arm, grasped some of the fragments, and began to examine them.
Loose rocks or stones that have been lying on the ground undisturbed for some time, always have their lower surface moist, while the upper dries rapidly. When the yellowish tufa of these regions becomes wet, it changes colour and grows of a darker hue. Topanashka had noticed that some among the stones which he was examining were darker than the others. The Indian, when he examines anything, looks at it very carefully. One of the fragments was darker on the surface; of this he felt sure, as when he removed them he was careful to keep them as they lay. Below, the piece had its natural colour, that of dry stone. He assured himself that the darker shade really proceeded from humidity; it was still moist. The fragment, therefore, must have been turned over; and that, too, a very short time ago. Only a large animal or a man could have done this. He looked closely to see whether there were any scratches indicative of the passage of deer-hoofs or bear-claws, but there were none except those that appeared so large as to show plainly from a distance. There was every likelihood, therefore, that some human being had but very lately moved the stones, and not only since the rain of last night but since the surface had had time to dry again; that is, in the course of the afternoon.
He moved his body forward where he could examine the soil alongside the ledge. The grass was nowhere bent and broken, still that was no sufficient indication. There at last was a plain human track, the impression of a naked foot with its toe-marks to the north, and the impression was fresh! But the Tehua walked on round sandals. Had he not lost one of them? It was very uncomfortable walking on one of the circular disks only. Topanashka rose on hands and feet and crept farther, regardless of what might be behind him. His eyes were directed northward and he relied upon his ear to warn him of danger in the rear.
The trail lay before him quite distinct for a short distance. Close to it some grasses were bent, and on the sandy place near by there was a print as if from a small hoop, but the impression was old and partly blurred. In vain did the old warrior search for other marks; the rain had obliterated everything except this faint trace that might originally have been plainer because deeper. It looked as if the wearer of the sandal had stepped on the grass-bunch with the fore part of his foot, slipped back lightly, and thus pressed the hind part of the hoop deeper into the soil. In that case some trace of the heel-print might still be found. And indeed a very slight concavity appeared behind the impression of the sandal. The heel was turned from the north, consequently the man was going to, not coming from the Rito. The tracks were surely old ones.
Everything was plain now. The Tehua had lost one of his sandals and was returning on his bare feet. But why should he leave it? Why did he not take it along? Even that Topanashka could easily explain. People from the Rito frequently roamed over the northern mesa, close to the Tyuonyi. He might have noticed the presence of some of them, and have fled in haste, leaving his foot-gear behind. [paragraph continues]
Most likely the ties or thongs had given way, and he had no time to mend them. That was an evidence also that the man was alone, else he would not have fled with such precipitation. Neither was he in this vicinity any longer. Topanashka felt that his task was done; he could not gain anything by proceeding farther.
"Kuawk, kuawk, kuawk!" sounded overhead. A crow had been sitting quietly on the tree above him, but now it flew off again, the unlucky bird! Its cry startled the old man, and he raised his head to look after the herald of evil, following him with his eye. All was still. Then he rose to his knees.
A sharp humming twang, a hissing sound, and a thud followed in lightning-like succession. Topanashka bends over, and at the same time tumbles forward on his face. There he lies, the left cheek and shoulder on the ground. The left arm, with which he has sought to support the body, has slipped; and it now lies fully extended partly below the head, the prostrate head. The chest is heaving painfully, as if under extraordinary pressure. Face and neck are colouring; the lips part; the throat makes a convulsive effort to swallow. The eyes are starting; they denote suffocation and terrible pain. The legs twitch; they seem struggling to come to the rescue of the body's upper half.
From the back of the old man there protrudes an arrow-shaft. It has pierced it close to the spine, between it and the right shoulder-blades, penetrating into the lungs, where it now stabs and smarts.
From a distant tree-top there sounds the hoarse "kuawk, kuawk" of the crow. Otherwise all is still.
The wounded man coughs; with the cough blood comes to his lips,--light red blood. The thighs begin to struggle as if formication was going on in the muscles. It is an impotent
movement, and yet is done consciously; for the trunk of the body, which was beginning more and more to yield, now begins to turn clumsily backward; the left hand clutches the soil; the arm is trying to heave, to lift. But the weight is too heavy, the shaft inside too firmly and too deeply rooted. Nevertheless the hips succeed in rising; the trunk follows; then it tumbles over on the back, contracts with a moan of pain and suffering, and lies there trembling with spasmodic shivers.
Topanashka has made this superhuman effort for a purpose. He feels that his wound is severe, that his strength is gone; his senses are darkened and his thoughts confused. Still there is a spark of life left, and that spark demands that he should attempt to see whence came the arrow that so terribly lacerates his breast. But as he has fallen over heavily, the point of the arrow has been pressed deeper. Flint--an arrow-head of flint with notched edges--tears; the muscles do not close about the intruder. The blood flows into the chest; it fills the lungs; he suffocates. Yet all consciousness has not vanished, although pain and oppression overwhelm the physical instruments of consciousness, and deprive the will of its connection with its tools. The will longs to see him who has destroyed its abode, but it no longer controls the shattered tissues; the nerves shiver like the broken springs of clockwork ere they come to a stand-still forever. The eye still distinguishes light occasionally, but it cannot see any longer.
Weaker and weaker become the breathings. On both sides of the mouth a fold begins to form over the blood that has curdled and dried; new fillets stream to the lips from within. The legs still twitch convulsively.
Now a stream of blood gushes from the open mouth; wave after wave rushes up with such swiftness that bubbles and froth form between the lips and remain there. A chill
pervades the whole body; it is the last nervous tremor; the lower jaw hangs down, showing with fearful distinctness the folds, the ghastly folds, of death.
All is still. Through the tops of the pines comes a humming sound like a chant, a last lay to the brave and dutiful man. Still, stark, and stiff he lies in his gore. His career is ended; his soul has gone to rest.
And thus all remained quiet for a short time. Then the grass was waved and shaken in the direction to which the old man had turned his back in the last hapless moment. The grass seemed to grow, to suddenly rise; and a figure appeared which had been lying flat behind a projecting rocky ledge. As this figure straightened itself, bunches of grass dropped from its back to the ground. It was the figure of a man.
But it is not the Tehua Indian who stands there motionless, with bow half drawn and an arrow in readiness, who gazes over to the corpse to see whether it is really a corpse, or whether it will need a second shaft to despatch it forever. The man is of middle height, raw-boned and spare. Shaggy hair bristles from under the strands that surround his head like a turban. He wears nothing but a kilt of deerskin; from his shoulders hangs a quiver; a flint knife depends from the belt. This man is no village Indian, notwithstanding that dark paint on his body. It is one of the hereditary foes of the sedentary aborigines,--a Navajo!
He is eyeing the dead body suspiciously. If it is surely dead the second arrow may be saved. Those glassy eyes; that sallow face; and the fold, the ghastly fold that runs on both sides of the mouth, of that mouth filled with blood now clotting,--they show that life is gone.
Still the savage keeps his bow well in hand, as with head and neck extended he steals forward slowly, mistrustfully approaching his victim. When he is close to the body his
eyes sparkle with delight and pride, and his face gleams with the triumph of some hellish spirit.
He touches the corpse. It is warm, but surely lifeless. He grasps at the wrap; it is of no value to him, although made of cotton. Beneath, however, there must be something that attracts his attention, for he quickly tears off the scanty dress and fumbles about the chest of the victim. A horrible grin of delight distorts his features, already hideously begrimed, for he has found the little bag and takes from it the fetich of the dead man. That fetich is a prize, for with it the magic power that was subservient to the victim while alive now becomes the victor's. He handles the amulet carefully, almost tenderly, breathes on it, and puts it back into the bag. Then he detaches his stone knife, grasps it with the right hand, and with the left clutches the gray hair of the dead man and with a sudden jerk pulls the head up. Then he begins to cut the scalp with his shaggy knife-blade of flint.
A faint whistling sound, as of some one hissing near him, is heard; and ere he looks up a male voice by his side has said,--
"That is good, very good!" The words are spoken in the Dinne language.
The murderer looks up, staying his work of mutilation. By his side there stands another Navajo, dressed, painted, and armed like himself.
A short time after he had risen from his hiding-place and was stealing over toward the body of his victim, this other Navajo had appeared in sight. He watched from the distance his companion's proceedings, and as he recognized that he was busying himself with some dead body, approached rapidly, though without the least noise. He discovered the dead, stood still, fastened a piercing glance on the prostrate form, and heaved a great sigh of relief. Notwithstanding
the paint on his face it was easy to see how delighted he was at the sight. He again advanced, not unlike a cat which is afraid to go too near another that is playing with a mouse, for fear of being scratched or bitten by her. But when unobserved he had reached the Navajo, he could not withhold a joyful exclamation that startled and interrupted the murderer. He asked,--
"Dost thou know who that is?"
The other shrugged his shoulders.
"That is Topanashka, the strong and wise warrior. That is very, very good!"
Navajo number two looked closely at the corpse; then he grasped the hair again and resumed the cutting. Number one touched his arm.
"Why do you do this?" he asked.
The other chuckled.
"Dost thou not see it, Nacaytzusle," said he the people of the houses know that we only take a lock of the hair. If now they find the body and see that this"--he pointed to the skin--"is gone, they will think it is one of those up here"--waving his hand to the north--"that has done it."
Nacaytzusle, for he was indeed the second Navajo, nodded approvingly and suffered the other to go on.
Cutting, scraping, tearing, and pulling, he at last succeeded in making a deep incision around the skull. Blood flowed over his fingers and hands. Then he grasped the gray hair, planted himself with both feet on the neck, and pulled until the scalp was wrenched off and dangled in his fist. Over the bare skull numberless fillets of blood began to trickle, at once changing the face and neck of the dead into a red mass. Then he turned to the other, nodded, and said,--
"It is well."
Nacaytzusle turned his eyes upon the dead, and replied in a hoarse voice,--
"It is well."
He scanned the surroundings suspiciously.
"Thou hast done well, very well," he said to the murderer. "Thou art strong and cunning. This one"--he touched the body with his toes--"was strong and wise also, but now he is so no longer. Now," he hissed, "we can go down into the Tu Atzissi and get what we want."
"What dost thou mean, Nacaytzusle?" inquired the victorious Navajo.
"Go thou back to the hogan," whispered Nacaytzusle to him, "and tell the men to be there," pointing southwestward, "four days from now. I will be there and will speak to them."
The other nodded.
"Let us go," said he.
They moved off in silence without casting another glance at the dead. Their direction was southwest. They carefully avoided making the least noise; they spied and peered cautiously in every direction, shy, suspicious. Thus they vanished in the forest like wolves sneaking through timber.
Evening had set in. Stronger blew the wind, and the top of the pines shook occasionally with a solemn rushing sound that resembled distant thunder. The breeze swayed the grass, the blades nodded and bowed beside the remains of the brave man as if they were asking his forgiveness for the bloody deed of which they had been the innocent witnesses. A crow came up, flapping her wings, and alighted on a tree which stood near the corpse, and peered down upon the body. Then she croaked hoarsely, jumped to a lower limb, and peered again. Thus the bird continued to descend from one branch to another, croaking and
chuckling as it were to herself. At last she fluttered down to the ground, a few paces from the body, peeped slyly over to where it lay, and walked toward it with slow, stately steps and eager nods. But something rattled in the distance; the bird's head turned to the east, and as quick as lightning she rose in the air and flew off with a loud, angry, "kuawk, kuawk, kuawk!"
Two men are coming toward the spot. They are Indians from Tyuonyi who came up in the course of the afternoon with bows and arrows. They perceive the body, and the blood on it and around it. Both stand still, terrified at the sight. At last one of them exclaims,--
"It is one from the Zaashtesh!"
They run together to the spot, heedless of the danger which may yet be lurking about. They bend over the dead, then look at each other speechless, confused. At last they find words, and exclaim simultaneously,--
"It is our father, Topanashka Tihua!"
"It is sa nashtio maseua!"
Both men are young yet, they weep. Their sorrow is so great, in presence of the loss sustained by them and by all, that they forget all caution. Had the Navajos been about still, two more of the house-dwellers would have fallen.
They attempt to decide what is to be done; their thoughts become confused, for the terrible discovery distracts them. Little by little they become conscious that it is impossible to leave the body here, a prey to the wolves and carrion crows; that it must be brought home, down into the valley where he was so beloved, so worshipped almost, by everybody. Nothing else can be done.
With sighs and sobs, stifled groans and tears, the body is raised up, one supporting the head, the other the feet. Thus they drag and carry it along on the old trail to the [paragraph continues]
Rito. Blood clings to their hands and to their dress. Never mind. Is it not the blood of a good man, and may not with that blood some of his good qualities perhaps pass into them? Not a word is spoken, not even when they lay down the corpse to rest themselves a while. In such moments they stand motionless, one by the mutilated head, the other at the feet. They look neither at each other nor at it, for if they should attempt it tears would be sure to come to their eyes. Without a word they lift up the body again, tenderly as if it were a child's, and on they go, slowly, painfully, and silently.
It is night now, and the forest is more full of life. The dread voices of the darkness are heard around them; coyotes howl and whine; in the distance owls hiss and shriek and flit from tree to tree, as the panting men approach. They think not of danger, not even of those who so ruthlessly slaughtered their great and good maseua; on they go as fast as the heavy load permits and as their heavy hearts afford them strength.
Now one of them stumbles and falls, and as he rises he notices that the object over which he has tripped is still clinging to his foot. He cannot see what it is, but grasping it, discovers a round war-sandal, over which he has stumbled, whose thongs have remained between his toes. This discovery he communicates to his companion. With fresh vigour they resume their dismal march. It is dark, so dark that nothing more can be seen; nothing more is heard save distant thunder and the discordant voices of the night in the forest. Slowly and silently they proceed homeward with their gory but precious burden.