It was very long ago, in the days of the ancients. There stood a village in the cañon south of Thunder Mountain where the Gods of Prey all lived with their sisters and mothers: the Mountain Lion, the great Black Bear, the Wildcat, the Gray Wolf, the Eagle, and even the Mole-all the Gods of Prey lived there together with their mothers and sisters. Day after day they went out hunting, for hunting was their business of life, and they were great hunters.
Now, right up on the edge of Thunder Mountain there lived a spotted Demon, named Síuiuki, and whenever the people of the towns round about went hunting, he lay in wait for them and ate them up.
After a long while the Gods of Prey grew discontented, and they said to one another: "What in the world can we do? None of the children of men ever make sacrifices to us, for, whenever our children among men go out hunting, this Demon who lives on the top of Thunder Mountain destroys them and eats them up. What in the world can be done?"
"It would be a good thing if we could kill him, said some of them.
Now, just down below the house of the Demon,
in Wolf Cañon, lived a Coyote, and he had found out where the Gods of Prey lived, and whenever he wanted a feast of sinew and gristle, he went below their houses and gnawed at the bones that they had thrown away, and thus it happened that when the gods were talking together in this way he was near their doorway gnawing a bone, and he heard all they said.
"Yes," said one or two of the others, "and if anybody will go and kill Síuiuki, we will give him our sister to marry."
"Aha!" said the Coyote to himself. "Ha, ha!"--and he dropped the bone he was gnawing and cut off for home as fast as ever he could.
Next morning, bright and early, he began to dig into the side of the cañon below the Demon's home, and after he had dug a great hollow in the side of the arroyo, he rolled a heavy stone into it, and found another, which he placed beside it. Then he brought a great many leg-bones of deer and antelope. Then he found a large bowl and put a lot of yellow medicine-fluid in it, and placed it beside the rock. He then sat down and began to crack the leg-bones with the two stones he had brought there.
The old Demon was not in the habit of rising very early, but when he arose that morning he came out and sat down on the edge of the cliff; there the Coyote was, battering away at the bones and pretending to bathe his own lips with the medicine-fluid.
"I wonder what in the world that little sneak is
doing down there," said the old Demon. So he put on his war-badge and took his bow and arrows, as though he were going out to hunt, and started down to where the Coyote was.
"Hello!" said the Coyote, "how did you pass the night?"
"What in the world are you doing here?" asked the Demon.
"Why, don't you know?" replied the Coyote.
"This is the way I train myself for running, so as to catch the deer; I can run faster than any deer in the country. With my medicine, here, I take the swiftness out of these bones."
"Is it possible?" said the old Demon.
"Of course it is," said the Coyote. "There is no deer that can run away from me."
"Will you show me?" said the Demon, eagerly.
"Why, yes, of course I will; and then we will go hunting together."
"Good, good!" said the old Demon. "I have a hard time catching deer and antelope."
"Well, now, you sit down right over there and watch me," said the Coyote, "and I will show you all about it."
So he laid his left leg over the rock, and then slily took an antelope bone and laid it by the side of it. Then he picked up a large stone and struck it as hard as ever he could against the bone. Whack! went the stone, and it split the bone into splinters; and the Coyote pretended that it was the bone of his own leg.
"Aye! Ah! Oh!" exclaimed he, "But then it
will get well!" Still crying "Oh! Ah!" he splashed the leg with the medicine-water and rubbed it. "Didn't I tell you?" said he, "it is all right now." And then away he went and ran like lightning round and round on the plain below, and rushed back again. "Didn't I tell you so?" said he.
"Fury! what a runner it makes out of you," said the old Demon, and his eyes stuck out more than ever. "Let me try it now."
"Hold on, hold on," said the Coyote; "I have not half finished yet."
So he repeated the experiment with his other leg, and made great ado, as if it hurt him more than ever. But, pretending to cure himself with the medicine-water, he ran round and round on the plain below so fast that he fairly left a streak of dust behind him.
"Why, indeed, you are one of the fastest runners I ever saw!" said the Demon, rubbing his eyes.
Then the Coyote repeated the experiment first with his left paw and then with his right; and the last time he ran more swiftly than before.
"Why, do you mean to say that if I do that I can run as fast as you do?" said the Demon.
"Certainly," replied the Coyote. "But it will hurt you."
"Ho! who cares for a little hurt?" said the Demon.
"Oh! but it hurts terribly," said the Coyote, "and I am afraid you won't have the pluck to go through with it."
"Do you think I am a baby?" said the old Demon,
getting up,--"or a woman, that I should be afraid to pound my legs and arms?"
"Well, I only thought I 'd tell you how much it hurts," said the Coyote but if you want to try it yourself, why, go ahead. There's one thing certain: when you make yourself as swift as I am, there's no deer in all the country that can get away from us two."
"What shall I do?" said the Demon.
"You just sit right down there, and I'll show you how," said the Coyote. So the Demon sat down by the rock.
"There, now, you just lay your leg right over that stone and take the other rock and strike your leg just as hard as you can; and as soon as you have done, bathe it in the medicine-water. Then do just the same way to the other."
"All right," said the Demon. So he laid his leg over the rock, and picking up the other stone, brought it down with might and main across his thigh--so hard, indeed, that he crushed the bone into splinters.
"Oh, my! Oh, my! what shall I do?" shouted the Demon.
"Be patient, be patient; it will get well," said the Coyote, and he splashed it with the medicine-fluid.
Then, picking up the stone again, the Demon hit the other thigh even harder, from pain.
"It will get well, my friend; it will get well," shouted the Coyote; and he splashed more of the medicine-water on the two wounded legs.
Then the Demon picked up the stone once more, and, laying his left arm across the other stone, pounded that also until it was broken.
"Hold on; let me bathe it for you," said the Coyote. "Does it hurt? Oh, well, it will get well. Just wait until you have doctored the other arm, and then in a few minutes you will be all right."
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" groaned the Demon. "How in the world can I doctor the other arm, for my left arm is broken?"
"Lay it across the rock, my friend," said the Coyote, "and I'll doctor it for you."
So the Demon did as he was bidden, and the Coyote brought the stone down with might and main against his arm. "Have patience, my friend, have patience," said he, as he bathed the injured limb with more of the medicine-water. But the Demon only groaned and howled, and rolled over and over in the dust with pain.
"Ha, ha!" laughed the Coyote, as he keeled a somersault over the rocks and ran off over the plain. "How do you feel now, old man?"
"But it hurts! It hurts!" cried the Demon.
"I shall never get well; it will kill me!"
"Of course it will," laughed the Coyote. "That's just what I wanted it to do, you old fool!"
So the old Demon lay down and died from sheer pain.
Then the Coyote took the Demon's knife from him, and, cutting open his breast, tore out his heart, wind-pipe, and all. Then, stealing the war-badge
that the Demon had worn, he cut away as fast as ever he could for the home of the Prey-gods. Before noon he neared their house, and, just as he ran up into the plaza in front of it, the youngest sister of the Prey-gods came out to hang up some meat to dry. Now, her brothers had all gone hunting; not one of them was at home.
"I say, wife," said the Coyote. "Wife! Wife!"
"Humph!" said the girl. "Impertinent scoundrel! I wonder where he is and who he is that has the impudence to call me his wife, when he knows that I have never been married!"
"Wife! Wife!" shouted the Coyote again.
"Away with you, you shameless rascal!" cried the girl, in indignation. Then she looked around and spied the Coyote sitting there on the ash-heap, with his nose in the air, as though he were the biggest fellow in the world.
"Clear out, you wretch!" cried the girl.
"Softly, softly," replied the Coyote. "Do you remember what your brothers said last night?
"What was that?" said the girl.
"Why, whoever would kill the speckled Demon, they declared, should have you for his wife."
"Well, what of that?" said the girl.
"Oh, nothing," replied the Coyote, "only I've killed him!" And, holding up the Demon's heart and war-badge, he stuck his nose in the air again.
So the poor girl said not a word, but sat there until the Coyote called out: "I say, wife, come down and take me up; I can't climb the ladders."
So the poor girl went down the ladder, took her
foul-smelling husband in her arms, and climbed up with him.
"Now, take me in with you," said the Coyote. So she did as she was bidden. Then she was about to mix some dough, but the Coyote kept getting in her way.
"Get out of the way a minute, won't you?" said the girl, "until I cook something for you."
"I want you to come and sit down with me," said the Coyote, "and let me kiss you, for you know you are my wife, now." So the poor girl had to submit to the ill-smelling creature's embraces.
Presently along came her brother, the Gray Wolf, but he was a very good-natured sort of fellow; so he received the Coyote pleasantly. Then along came the Bear, with a big antelope over his shoulder; but he didn't say anything, for he was a lazy, good natured fellow. Then presently the other brothers came in, one by one; but the Mountain Lion was so late in returning that they began to look anxiously out for him. When they saw him coming from the north with more meat and more game than all the others together had brought, he was evidently not in good humor, for as he approached the house he exclaimed, with a howl: "Hu-hu-ya!"
"There he goes again," said the brothers and sisters, all in a chorus. "Always out of temper with something."
"Hu-hu-ya!" exclaimed the Mountain Lion again, louder than before. And, as he mounted the ladder, he exclaimed for a third time: "Hu-hu-ya!" and, throwing his meat down, entered swearing
and growling until his brothers were ashamed of him, and told him he had better behave himself.
"Come and eat," said the sister, as she brought a bowl of meat and put it on the floor.
"Hu-hu-ya!" again exclaimed the Mountain Lion, as he came nearer and sat down to eat. "What in the world is the matter with you, sister? You smell just like a Coyote. Hu-hu-ya!"
"Have you no more decency than to come home and scold your sister in that way?" exclaimed the Wolf. "I'm disgusted with you."
"Hu-hu-ya!" reiterated the Mountain Lion.
Now, when the Coyote had heard the Mountain Lion coming, he had sneaked off into a corner; but he stuck his sharp nose out, and the Mountain Lion espied it. "Hu-hu-ya!" said he. "Sling that bad-smelling beast out of the house! Kick him out!" cried the old man, with a growl. So the sister, fearing that her brother would eat her husband up, took the Coyote in her arms and carried him into another room.
"Now, stay there and keep still, for brother is very cross; but then he is always cross if things don't go right," she said.
So when evening came her brothers began to discuss where they would go hunting the next day; and the Coyote, who was listening at the door, heard them. So he called out: "Wife! Wife!"
"Shom-me!" remarked old Long Tail. "Shut up, you dirty whelp." And as the sister arose to go to see what her husband wanted, the Mountain
Lion remarked: "You had better sling that foul-smelling cub of yours over the roof."
No sooner had the girl entered than the Coyote began to brag what a runner he was, and to cut around at a great rate.
"Shom-me!" exclaimed the Mountain Lion again.
A Coyote always will make a Coyote of himself, foul-smelling wretch! "Hu-hu-ya!"
"Shut up, and behave yourself!" cried the Wolf.
Don't you know any better than to talk about your brother-in-law in that way?" But neither the Coyote nor the girl could sleep that night for the growlings and roarings of their big brother, the Long Tail.
When the brothers began to prepare for the hunt the next morning, out came the Coyote all ready to accompany them. "You, you?" said the Mountain Lion. "You going to hunt with us? You conceited sneak!"
"Let him go if he wants to," said the Wolf.
"Hu-hu-ya! Fine company!" remarked the Mountain Lion. "If you fellows want to walk with him, you may. There's one thing certain, I'll not be seen in his company," and away strode the old fellow, lashing his tail and growling as he went. So the Coyote, taking a luncheon of dried meat that his wife put up for him, sneaked along behind with his tail dragging in the dust. Finally they all reached the mountain where they intended to hunt, and soon the Mountain Lion and the Bear started out to drive in a herd of antelope that they had scented in the distance. Presently along rushed the leaders of the herd.
"Now, then, I'll show your cross old brother whether I can hunt or not," cried the Coyote, and away he rushed right into the herd of antelope and deer before anyone could restrain him. Of course he made a Coyote of himself, and away went the deer in all directions. Nevertheless, the brothers, who were great hunters, succeeded in catching a few of them; and, just as they sat down to lunch, the Mountain Lion returned with a big elk on his shoulders.
"Where is our sweet-scented brother-in-law?" he asked.
"Nobody knows," replied they. "He rushed off after the deer and antelope, and that was the last of him."
"Of course the beast will make a Coyote of himself. But he can go till he can go no longer, for all I care," added the Mountain Lion, as he sat down to eat.
Presently along came the Coyote.
"Where's your game, my fine hunter?" asked the Mountain Lion.
"They all got away from me," whined the Coyote.
"Of course they did, you fool!" sneered the Mountain Lion. "The best thing that you can do is to go home and see your wife. Here, take this meat to sister," said he, slinging him a haunch of venison.
"Where's the road?" asked the Coyote.
"Well," said the Wolf, "follow that path right over there until you come to where it forks; then be sure to take the right-hand trail, for if you
follow the left-hand trail it will lead you away from home and into trouble."
"Which trail did you say?" cried the Coyote.
"Shom-me!" again exclaimed the Mountain Lion.
"Oh, yes," hastily added the Coyote; "the right-hand trail. No, the left-hand trail."
"Just what you might expect," growled the Mountain Lion. "Already the fool has forgotten what you told him. Well, as for me, he can go on the left-hand trail if he wants to, and the farther he goes the better."
"Now, be sure and take the right-hand trail," called the Wolf, as the Coyote started.
"I know, I know," cried the Coyote; and away he went with his heavy haunch of venison slung over his shoulder. After a while he came to the fork in the trail. "Let me see," said he "it's the left-hand trail, it seems to me. No, the right-hand trail. Well, I declare, I've forgotten! Perhaps it is the right-hand trail, and maybe it is the left-hand trail. Yes, it is the left-hand trail. Now I'm certain." And, picking up his haunch of venison, away he trotted along the left-hand trail. Presently he came to a steep cliff and began to climb it. But he had no sooner reached the middle than a lot of Chimney-swallows began to fly around his head and pick at his eyes, and slap him on the nose with their wings.
"Oh, dear! oh, dear!" exclaimed the Coyote. "Aye! aye!" and he bobbed his head from side to side to dodge the Swallows, until he missed his footing, and down he tumbled, heels over head,--
meat, Coyote, and all,--until he struck a great pile of rocks below, and was dashed to pieces.
That was the end of the Coyote; but not of my story.
Now, the brothers went on hunting again. Then, one by one, they returned home. As before, the Mountain Lion came in last of all. He smelt all about the room. "Whew!" exclaimed he. "It still smells here as if twenty Coyotes had been around. But it seems to me that our fine brother-in-law isn't anywhere about."
"No," responded the rest, with troubled looks on their faces. "Nobody has seen anything of him yet."
"Shom--m-m!" remarked the Mountain Lion again. "Didn't I tell you, brothers, that he was a fool and would forget your directions? I say I told you that before he started. Well, for my part, I hope the beast has gone so far that he will never return," and with that he ate his supper.
When supper was over, the sister said: "Come, brothers, let's go and hunt for my husband."
At first the Mountain Lion growled and swore a great deal; but at last he consented to go. When they came to where the trails forked, there were the tracks of the Coyote on the left-hand trail.
"The idiot!" exclaimed the Mountain Lion. "I hope he has fallen off the cliff and broken every bone in his body!"
When at last the party reached the mountain, sure enough, there lay the body of the Coyote, with not a whole bone in him except his head.
"Good enough for you," growled the Mountain Lion, as he picked up a great stone and, tu-um! threw it down with all his strength upon the head of the Coyote.
That's what happened a great while ago. And for that reason whenever a Coyote sees a bait of meat inside of a stone deadfall he is sure to stick his nose in and get his head mashed for his pains.
Thus shortens my story.