The Trail Book by Mary Austin et al

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  • 1918
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[Illustration: “‘Arr-rr-ump!’ I said”]













































From the time that he had first found, himself alone with them, Oliver had felt sure that the animals could come alive again if they wished. That was one blowy afternoon about a week after his father had been made night engineer and nobody had come into the Museum for several hours.

Oliver had been sitting for some time in front of the Buffalo case, wondering what might be at the other end of the trail. The cows that stood midway in it had such a _going_ look. He was sure it must lead, past the hummock where the old bull flourished his tail, to one of those places where he had always wished to be. All at once, as the boy sat there thinking about it, the glass case disappeared and the trail shot out like a dark snake over a great stretch of rolling, grass-covered prairie.

He could see the tops of the grasses stirring like the hair on the old Buffalo’s coat, and the ripple of water on the beaver pool which was just opposite and yet somehow only to be reached after long travel through the Buffalo Country. The wind moved on the grass, on the surface of the water and the young leaves of the alders, and over all the animals came the start and stir of life.

And then the slow, shuffling steps of the Museum attendant startled it all into stillness again.

The attendant spoke to Oliver as he passed, for even a small boy is worth talking to when you have been all day in a Museum where nothing is new to you and nobody comes.

“You want to look out, son,” said the attendant, who really liked the boy and hadn’t a notion what sort of ideas he was putting into Oliver’s head. “If you ain’t careful, some of them things will come downstairs some night and go off with ye.”

And why should MacShea have said that if he hadn’t known for certain that the animals _did_ come alive at night? That was the way Oliver put it when he was trying to describe this extraordinary experience to his sister.

Dorcas Jane, who was eleven and a half and not at all imaginative, eyed him suspiciously. Oliver had such a way of stating things that were not at all believable, in a way that made them seem the likeliest things in the world. He was even capable of acting for days as if things were so, which you knew from the beginning were only the most delightful of make-believes. Life on this basis was immensely more exciting, but then you never knew whether or not he might be what some of his boy friends called “stringing you,” so when Oliver began to hint darkly at his belief that the stuffed animals in the Mammal room of the Museum came alive at night and had larks of their own, Dorcas Jane offered the most noncommittal objection that occurred to her.

“They couldn’t,” she said; “the night watchman wouldn’t let them.” There were watchmen, she knew, who went the rounds of every floor.

But, insisted Oliver, why should they have watchmen at all, if not to prevent people from breaking in and disturbing the animals when they were busy with affairs of their own? He meant to stay up there himself some night and see what it was all about; and as he went on to explain how it would be possible to slip up the great stair while the watchmen were at the far end of the long hall, and of the places one could hide if the watchman came along when he wasn’t wanted, he said “we” and “us.” For, of course, he meant to take Dorcas Jane with him. Where would be the fun of such an adventure if you had it alone? And besides, Oliver had discovered that it was not at all difficult to scare himself with the things he had merely imagined. There were times when Dorcas Jane’s frank disbelief was a great comfort to him. Still, he wasn’t the sort of boy to be scared before anything has really happened, so when Dorcas Jane suggested that they didn’t know what the animals might do to any one who went among them uninvited, he threw it off stoutly.

“Pshaw! They can’t do anything to us! They’re stuffed, Silly!”

And to Dorcas Jane, who was by this time completely under the spell of the adventure, it seemed quite likely that the animals should be stuffed so that they couldn’t hurt you, and yet not stuffed so much that they couldn’t come alive again.

It was all of a week before they could begin. There is a kind of feeling you have to have about an adventure without which the affair doesn’t come off properly. Anybody who has been much by himself in the woods has had it; or sometime, when you are all alone in the house, all at once there comes a kind of pricking of your skin and a tightness in your chest, not at all unpleasant, and a kind of feeling that the furniture has its eye on you, or that some one behind your shoulder is about to speak, and immediately after that something happens. Or you feel sure it would have happened if somebody hadn’t interrupted.

Dorcas Jane _never_ had feelings like that. But about a week after Oliver had proposed to her that they spend a part of the night in the long gallery, he was standing in front of the Buffalo case, wondering what actually did happen when a buffalo caught you. Quite unexpectedly, deep behind the big bull’s glassy eye, he caught a gleam as of another eye looking at him, meaningly, and with a great deal of friendliness. Oliver felt prickles come out suddenly all over his body, and without quite knowing why, he began to move away from that place, tip-toe and slippingly, like a wild creature in the woods when it does not know who may be about. He told himself it would never do to have the animals come alive without Dorcas Jane, and before all those stupid, staring folk who might come in at any minute and spoil everything.

That night, after their father had gone off clanking to his furnaces, Dorcas heard her brother tapping on the partition between their rooms, as he did sometimes when they played “prisoner.” She knew exactly what he meant by it and tapped back that she was ready.

Everything worked out just as they had planned. They heard the strange, hollow-sounding echoes of the watchman’s voice dying down the halls, as stair by stair they dropped the street lamps below them, and saw strange shadows start out of things that were perfectly harmless and familiar by day.

There was no light in the gallery except faint up-and-down glimmers from the glass of the cases, and here and there the little spark of an eye. Outside there was a whole world of light, the milky way of the street with the meteor roar of the Elevated going by, processions of small moons marching below them across the park, and blazing constellations in the high windows opposite. Tucked into one of the window benches between the cases, the children seemed to swing into another world where almost anything might happen. And yet for at least a quarter of an hour nothing did.

“I don’t believe nothing ever does,” said Dorcas Jane, who was not at all careful of her grammar.

“Sh-sh!” said Oliver. They had sat down directly in front of the Buffalo Trail, though Dorcas would have preferred to be farther away from the Polar Bear. For suppose it hadn’t been properly stuffed! But Oliver had eyes only for the trail.

“I want to see where it begins and where it goes,” he insisted.

So they sat and waited, and though the great building was never allowed to grow quite cold, it was cool enough to make it pleasant for them to sit close together and for Dorcas to tuck her hand into the crook of his arm….

All at once the Bull Buffalo shook himself.

[Illustration: Line Art of Mastadons]



“_Wake! Wake!_” said the Bull Buffalo, with a roll to it, as though the word had been shouted in a deep voice down an empty barrel. He shook the dust out of his mane and stamped his fore-foot to set the herd in motion. There were thousands of them feeding as far as the eye could reach, across the prairie, yearlings and cows with their calves of that season, and here and there a bull, tossing his heavy head and sending up light puffs of dust under the pawings of his hoof as he took up the leader’s signal.

“Wake! Wa–ake!”

It rolled along the ground like thunder. At the sound the herds gathered themselves from the prairie, they turned back from the licks, they rose up _plop_ from the wallows, trotting singly in the trails that rayed out to every part of the pastures and led up toward the high ridges.

“Wa-ak–” began the old bull; then he stopped short, threw up his head, sniffing the wind, and ended with a sharp snort which changed the words to “_What? What?_”

“What’s this,” said the Bull Buffalo, “Pale Faces?”

“They are very young,” said the young cow, the one with the _going_ look. She had just been taken into the herd that season and had the place of the favorite next to the leader.

“If you please, sir,” said Oliver, “we only wished to know where the trail went.”

“Why,” said the Buffalo Chief, surprised, “to the Buffalo roads, of course. We must be changing pasture.” As he pawed contempt upon the short, dry grass, the rattlesnake, that had been sunning himself at the foot of the hummock, slid away under the bleached buffalo skull, and the small, furry things dived everywhere into their burrows.

“That is the way always,” said the young cow, “when the Buffalo People begin their travels. Not even a wolf will stay in the midst of the herds; there would be nothing left of him by the time the hooves had passed over.”

The children could see how that might be, for as the thin lines began to converge toward the high places, it was as if the whole prairie had turned black and moving. Where the trails drew out of the flat lands to the watersheds, they were wide enough for eight or ten to walk abreast, trodden hard and white as country roads. There was a deep, continuous murmur from the cows like the voice of the earth talking to itself at twilight.

“Come,” said the old bull, “we must be moving.”

“But what is that?” said Dorcas Jane, as a new sound came from the direction of the river, a long chant stretching itself like a snake across the prairie, and as they listened there were words that lifted and fell with an odd little pony joggle.

“That is the Pawnees, singing their travel song,” said the Buffalo Chief.

And as he spoke they could see the eagle bonnets of the tribesmen coming up the hollow, every man mounted, with his round shield and the point of his lance tilted forward. After them came the women on the pack-ponies with the goods, and the children stowed on the travoises of lodge-poles that trailed from the ponies’ withers.

“Ha-ah,” said the old bull. “One has laid his ear to the ground in their lodges and has heard the earth tremble with the passing of the Buffalo People.”

“But where do they go?” said Dorcas.

“They follow the herds,” said the old bull, “for the herds are their food and their clothes and their housing. It is the Way Things Are that the Buffalo People should make the trails and men should ride in them. They go up along the watersheds where the floods cannot mire, where the snow is lightest, and there are the best lookouts.”

“And, also, there is the easiest going,” said a new voice with a snarly running whine in it. It came from a small gray beast with pointed ears and a bushy tail, and the smut-tipped nose that all coyotes have had since their very first father blacked himself bringing fire to Man from the Burning Mountain. He had come up very softly at the heels of the Buffalo Chief, who wheeled suddenly and blew steam from his nostrils.

“That,” he said, “is because of the calves. It is not because a buffalo cannot go anywhere it pleases him; down ravines where a horse would stumble and up cliffs where even you, O Smut Nose, cannot follow.”

“True, Great Chief,” said the Coyote, “but I seem to remember trails that led through the snow to very desirable places.”

This was not altogether kind, for it is well known that it is only when snow has lain long enough on the ground to pack and have a hard coating of ice, that the buffaloes dare trust themselves upon it. When it is new-fallen and soft they flounder about helplessly until they die of starvation, and the wolves pull them down, or the Indians come and kill them. But the old bull had the privilege which belongs to greatness, of not being obliged to answer impertinent things that were said to him. He went on just as if nothing had interrupted, telling how the buffalo trails had found the mountain passes and how they were rutted deep into the earth by the migrating herds.

“I have heard,” he said, “that when the Pale Faces came into the country they found no better roads anywhere than the buffalo traces–“

“Also,” purred Moke-icha, “I have heard that they found trails through lands where no buffalo had been before them.” Moke-icha, the Puma, lay on a brown boulder that matched so perfectly with her watered coat that if it had not been for the ruffling of the wind on her short fur and the twitchings of her tail, the children might not have discovered her. “Look,” she said, stretching out one of her great pads toward the south, where the trail ran thin and white across a puma-colored land, streaked with black lava and purple shadow. Far at the other end it lifted in red, wall-sided buttes where the homes of the Cliff People stuck like honeycombs in the wind-scoured hollows.

“Now I recall a trail in that country,” said Moke-icha, “that was older than the oldest father’s father of them could remember. Four times a year the People of the Cliffs went down on it to the Sacred Water, and came back with bags of salt on their shoulders.”

Even as she spoke they could see the people coming out of the Cliff dwellings and the priests going into the kivas preparing for the journey.

That was how it was; when any animal spoke of the country he knew best, that was what the children saw. And yet all the time there was the beginning of the buffalo trail in front of them, and around them, drawn there by that something of himself which every man puts into the work of his hands, the listening tribesmen. One of these spoke now in answer to Moke-icha.

“Also in my part of the country,” he said, “long before there were Pale Faces, there were trade trails and graded ways, and walled ways between village and village. We traded for cherts as far south as Little River in the Tenasas Mountains, and north to the Sky-Blue Water for copper which was melted out of rocks, and there were workings at Flint Ridge that were older than the great mound at Cahokia.”

“Oh,” cried both the children at once, “Mound-Builders!”–and they stared at him with interest.

He was probably not any taller than the other Indians, but seemed so on account of his feather headdress which was built up in front with a curious cut-out copper ornament. They thought they recognized the broad banner stone of greenish slate which he carried, the handle of which was tasseled with turkey beards and tiny tails of ermine. He returned the children’s stare in the friendliest possible fashion, twirling his banner stone as a policeman does his night stick.

“Were you? Mound-Builders, you know?” questioned Oliver.

“You could call us that. We called ourselves Tallegewi, and our trails were old before the buffalo had crossed east of the Missi-Sippu, the Father of all Rivers. Then the country was full of the horned people, thick as flies in the Moon of Stopped Waters.” As he spoke, he pointed to the moose and wapiti trooping down the shallow hills to the watering-places. They moved with a dancing motion, and the multitude of their horns was like a forest walking, a young forest in the spring before the leaves are out and there is a clicking of antlered bough on bough. “They would come in twenty abreast to the licks where we lay in wait for them,” said the Tallega. “They were the true trail-makers.”

“Then you must have forgotten what I had to do with it,” said a voice that seemed to come from high up in the air, so that they all looked up suddenly and would have been frightened at the huge bulk, if the voice coming from it in a squeaky whisper had not made it seem ridiculous. It was the Mastodon, who had strolled in from the pre-historic room, though it was a wonder to the children how so large a beast could move so silently.

“Hey,” said a Lenni-Lenape, who had sat comfortably smoking all this time, “I’ve heard of you–there was an old Telling of my father’s–though I hardly think I believed it. What are you doing here?”

“I’ve a perfect right to come,” said the Mastodon, shuffling embarrassedly from foot to foot. “I was the first of my kind to have a man belonging to me, and it was I that showed him the trail to the sea.”

“Oh, please, would you tell us about it?” said Dorcas.

The Mastodon rocked to and fro on his huge feet, embarrassedly.

“If–if it would please the company–“

Everybody looked at the Buffalo Chief, for, after all, it was he who began the party. The old bull pawed dust and blew steam from his nostrils, which was a perfectly safe thing to do in case the story didn’t turn out to his liking.

“Tell, tell,” he agreed, in a voice like a man shouting down twenty rain barrels at once.

And looking about slyly with his little twinkling eyes at the attentive circle, the Mastodon began.



“In my time, everything, even the shape of the land was different. From Two Rivers it was all marsh, marsh and swamp with squidgy islands, with swamp and marsh again till you came to hills and hard land, beyond which was the sea. Nothing grew then but cane and coarse grass, and the water rotting the land until there was no knowing where it was safe treading from year to year. Not that it mattered to my people. We kept to the hills where there was plenty of good browse, and left the swamp to the Grass-Eaters–bunt-headed, woolly-haired eaters of grass!”

Up came Arrumpa’s trunk to trumpet his contempt, and out from the hillslope like a picture on a screen stretched for a moment the flat reed-bed of Two Rivers, with great herds of silly, elephant-looking creatures feeding there, with huge incurving trunks and backs that sloped absurdly from a high fore-hump. They rootled in the tall grass or shouldered in long, snaky lines through the canes, their trunks waggling.

“Mammoths they were called,” said Arrumpa, “and they hid in the swamp because their tusks curved in and they were afraid of Saber-Tooth, the Tiger. There were a great many of them, though not so many as our people, and also there was Man. It was the year my tusks began to grow that I first saw him. We were coming up from the river to the bedding-ground and there was a thin rim of the moon like a tusk over the hill’s shoulder. I remember the damp smell of the earth and the good smell of the browse after the sun goes down, and between them a thin blue mist curling with a stinging smell that made prickles come along the back of my neck.

“‘What is that?’ I said, for I walked yet with my mother.

“‘It is the smell which Man makes so that other people may know where he is and keep away from him,’ she said, for my mother had never been friends with Man and she did not know any better.

“Then we came up over the ridge and saw them, about a score, naked and dancing on the naked front of the hill. They had a fire in their midst from which the blue smell went up, and as they danced they sang–

“‘Hail, moon, young moon!
Hail, hail, young moon!
Bring me something that I wish,
Hail, moon, hail!’

“–catching up fire-sticks in their hands and tossing them toward the tusk of the moon. That was how they made the moon grow, by working fire into it, so my man told me afterwards. But it was not until I began to walk by myself that he found me.

“I had come up from the lower hills all one day,” said the Mastodon. “There was a feel in the air as if the Great Cold had breathed into it. It curdled blue as pond water, and under the blueness the forest color showed like weed under water. I walked by myself and did not care who heard me. Now and then I tore up a young tree, for my tusks had grown fast that year and it was good to feel the tree tug at its roots and struggle with me. Farther up, the wind walked on the dry leaves with a sound like a thousand wapiti trooping down the mountain. Every little while, for want of something to do, I charged it. Then I carried a pine, which I had torn up, on my tusks, until the butt struck a boulder which went down the hill with an avalanche of small stones that set all the echoes shouting.

“In the midst of it I lifted up my voice and said that I was I, Arrumpa, walking by myself,–and just then a dart struck me. The men had come up under cover of the wind on either side so that there was nothing for me to do but to move forward, which I did, somewhat hurriedly.

“I had not come to my full size then, but I was a good weight for my years,” said Arrumpa modestly,–“a very good weight, and it was my weight that saved me, for the edge of the ravine that opened suddenly in front of me crumbled, so that I came down into the bottom of it with a great mass of rubbish and broken stone, with a twisted knee, and very much astonished.

“I remember blowing to get the blood and dust out of my eyes,–there was a dart stuck in my forehead,–and seeing the men come swarming over the edge of the ravine, which was all walled in on every side, shaking their spears and singing. That was the way with men; whatever they did they had to sing about it. ‘Ha-ahe-ah!’ they sang–

“‘Great Chief, you’re about to die,
The Gods have said it.’

“So they came capering, but there was blood in my eyes and my knee hurt me, so when one of them stuck his spear almost up to the haft in my side, I tossed him. I took him up lightly on my tusks and he lay still at the far end of the ravine where I had dropped him. That stopped the shouting; but it broke out again suddenly, for the women had come down the wild vines on the walls, with their young on their shoulders, and the wife of the man I had tossed found him. The noise of the hunters was as nothing to the noise she made at me. Madness overtook her; she left off howling over her man and seizing her son by the hand,–he was no more than half-grown, not up to my shoulder,–she pushed him in front of me. ‘Take him! Take my son, Man-Killer!’ she screamed. ‘After you have taken the best of the tribe, will you stop at a youngling?’ Then all the others screeched at her like gulls frightened from their rock, and stopped silent in great fear to see what I would do about it.

“I did not know what to do, for there was no way I could tell her I was sorry I had killed her husband; and the lad stood where she had pushed him, not making any noise at all but a sharp, steady breathing. So I took him up in my trunk, for, indeed, I did not know what to do, and as I held him at the level of my eyes, I saw a strange thing,–that the boy was not afraid. He was not in the least afraid, but very angry.

“‘I hate you, Arrumpa,’ he said, ‘because you have killed my father. I am too little to kill you for it now, but when I am a man I shall kill you.’ He struck me with his fists. ‘Put me down, Man-Killer!’

“So I put him down. What else was there to do? And there was a sensation in my breast, a sensation as of bending the knees and bowing the neck–not at all unpleasant–He stood where I placed him, between my tusks, and one of the hunters, who was a man in authority, called out to him to come away while they killed me.

“‘That you shall not,’ said my manling, ‘for he has killed my father, therefore he is mine to kill according to the custom of killing.’

“Then the man was angry.

“‘Come away, little fool,’ he said. ‘He is our meat. Have we not followed him for three days and trapped him?’

“The boy looked at him under his brows, drawn level.

“‘That was my father’s spear that stuck in him, Opata,’ he said.

“Now, as the man spoke, I began to see what they had done to me these three days, for there was no way out of the ravine, and the women had brought their fleshing-knives and baskets: but the boy was quicker even than my anger. He reached up a hand to either of my tusks,–he could barely lay hands on them,–and his voice shook, though I do not think it was with anger. ‘He is mine to kill,’ he said, ‘according to custom. He is my Arrumpa, and I call the tribe to witness. Not one of you shall lay hands on him until one of us has killed the other.’

“Then I lifted up my trunk over him, for my heart swelled against the hunters, and I gave voice as a bull should when he walks by himself.

“‘Arr-rr-ump!’ I said. And the people were all silent with astonishment.

“Finally the man who had first spoken, spoke again, very humbly, ‘Great Chief, give us leave to take away your father.’ So we gave them leave. They took the hurt man–his back was broken–away by the vine ladders, and my young man went and lay face down where his father had lain, and shook with many strange noises while water came out of his eyes. When he sat up at last and saw me blowing dust on the spear-cut in my side to stop the bleeding, he gathered broad leaves, dipped them in pine gum, and laid them on the cut. Then I blew dust on these, and seeing that I was more comfortable, Taku-Wakin–that was what I learned to call him–saluted with both hands to his head, palms outward. ‘Friend,’ he said,–‘for if you are not my friend I think I have not one other in the world,–besides, I am too little to kill you,–I go to bury my father.’

“For three days I bathed my knee in the spring, and saw faces come to peer about the edge of it and heard the beat of the village drums. The third day my young man came, wearing his father’s collar of bear’s teeth, with neither fire-stick nor food nor weapon upon him. “‘Now I am all the man my mother has,’ he said; ‘I must do what is necessary to become a tribesman.’

“I did not know then what he meant, but it seems it was a custom.”

All the Indians in the group that had gathered about the Mastodon, nodded at this.

“It was so in my time,” said the Mound-Builder. “When a youth has come to the age where he is counted a man, he goes apart and neither eats nor drinks until, in the shape of some living thing, the Great Mystery has revealed itself to him.

“It was so he explained it to me,” agreed Arrumpa; “and for three days he ate and drank nothing, but walked by himself talking to his god. Other times he would talk to me, scratching my hurts and taking the ticks out of my ears, until–I do not know what it was, but between me and Taku-Wakin it happened that we understood, each of us, what the other was thinking in his heart as well as if we had words–Is this also a custom?”

A look of intelligence passed between the members of his audience.

“Once to every man,” said an Indian who leaned against Moke-icha’s boulder, “when he shuts all thought of killing out of his heart and gives himself to the beast as to a brother, knowledge which is different from the knowledge of the chase comes to both of them.

“Oh,” said Oliver, “I had a dog once–” But he became very much embarrassed when he discovered that he had drawn the attention of the company. It had always been difficult for him to explain why it was he had felt so certain that his dog and he had always known what the other was thinking; but the Indians and the animals understood him.

“All this Taku explained to me,” went on Arrumpa. “The fourth day, when Taku fainted for lack of food, I cradled him in my tusks and was greatly troubled. At last I laid him on the fresh grass by the spring and blew water on him. Then he sat up laughing and spluttering, but faintly.

“‘Now am I twice a fool,’ he said, ‘not to know from the first that you are my Medicine, the voice of the Mystery.’

“Then he shouted for his mother, who came down from the top of the ravine, very timidly, and fed him.

“After that he would come to me every day, sometimes with a bough of wild apples or a basket of acorns, and I would set him on my neck so he could scratch between my ears and tell me all his troubles. His father, he said, had been a strong man who put himself at the head of the five chiefs of the tribe and persuaded them to leave off fighting one another and band together against the enemy tribes. Opata, the man who had wished to kill me, was the man likeliest to be made High Chief in his father’s place.

“‘And then my bad days will begin,’ said Taku-Wakin, ‘for he hates me for my father’s sake, and also a little for yours, Old Two-Tails, and he will persuade the Council to give my mother to another man and I shall be made subject to him. Worse,’ he said,–‘the Great Plan of my father will come to nothing.’

“He was always talking about this Great Plan and fretting over it, but I was too new to the customs of men to ask what he meant by it.

“‘If I had but a Sign,’ he said, ‘then they would give me my father’s place in the Council … but I am too little, and I have not yet killed anything worth mentioning.’

“So he would sit on my neck and drum with his heels while he thought, and there did not seem to be anything I could do about it. By this time my knee was quite well. I had eaten all the brush in the ravine and was beginning to be lonely. Taku wasn’t able to visit me so often, for he had his mother and young brothers to kill for.

“So one night when the moon came walking red on the trail of the day, far down by Two Rivers I heard some of my friends trumpeting; therefore I pulled down young trees along the sides of the ravine, with great lumps of earth, and battered the rotten cliffs until they crumbled in a heap by which I scrambled up again.

“I must have traveled a quarter of the moon’s course before I heard the patter of bare feet in the trail and a voice calling:–

“‘Up! Take me up, Arrumpa!’

“So I took him up, quite spent with running, and yet not so worn out but that he could smack me soundly between the eyes, as no doubt I deserved.

“‘Beast of a bad heart,’ he said, ‘did I not tell you that to-morrow the moon is full and the Five Chiefs hold Council?’ So he had, but my thick wits had made nothing of it. ‘If you leave me this night,’ said Taku, ‘then they will say that my Medicine has left me and my father’s place will be given to Opata.’

“‘Little Chief,’ I said, ‘I did not know that you had need of me, but it came into my head that I also had need of my own people. Besides, the brush is eaten.’

“‘True, true!’ he said, and drummed on my forehead. ‘Take me home,’ he said at last, ‘for I have followed you half the night, and I must not seem wearied at the Council.’

“So I took him back as far as the Arch Rock which springs high over the trail by which the men of Taku’s village went out to the hunting. There was a cleft under the wing of the Arch, close to the cliff, and every man going out to the hunt threw a dart at it, as an omen. If it stuck, the omen was good, but if the point of the dart broke against the face of the cliff and fell back, the hunter returned to his hut, and if he hunted at all that day, he went out in another direction. We could see the shafts of the darts fast in the cleft, bristling in the moonlight.

“‘Wait here, under the Arch,’ said Taku-Wakin, ’till I see if the arrow of my thought finds a cleft to stick into.’

“So we waited, watching the white, webby moons of the spiders, wet in the grass, and the man huts sleeping on the hill, and felt the Dawn’s breath pricking the skin of our shoulders. The huts were mere heaps of brush like rats’ nests.

“‘Shall I walk on the huts for a sign, Little Chief?’ said I.

“‘Not that, Old Hilltop,’ he laughed; ‘there are people under the huts, and what good is a Sign without people?’

“Then he told me how his father had become great by thinking, not for his own clan alone, but for all the people–it was because of the long reach of his power that they called him Long-Hand. Now that he was gone there would be nothing but quarrels and petty jealousies. ‘They will hunt the same grounds twice over,’ said Taku-Wakin; ‘they will kill one another when they should be killing their enemies, and in the end the Great Cold will get them.’

“Every year the Great Cold crept nearer. It came like a strong arm and pressed the people west and south so that the tribes bore hard on one another.

“‘Since old time,’ said Taku-Wakin, ‘my people have been sea people. But the People of the Great Cold came down along the ice-rim and cut them off from it. My father had a plan to get to the sea, and a Talking Stick which he was teaching me to understand, but I cannot find it in any of the places where he used to hide it. If I had the Stick I think they would make me chief in my father’s place. But if Opata is made chief, then I must give it to him if I find it, and Opata will have all the glory. If I had but a Sign to keep them from making Opata chief…’ So he drummed on my head with his heels while I leaned against the Arch Rock–oh, yes, I can sleep very comfortably, standing–and the moon slid down the hill until it shone clear under the rock and touched the feathered butts of the arrows. Then Taku woke me.

“‘Up, put me up, Arrumpa! For now I have thought of a Sign that even the Five Chiefs will have respect for.’

“So I put him up until his foot caught in the cleft of the rock and he pried out five of the arrows.

“‘Arrows of the Five Chiefs,’ he said,–‘that the chiefs gave to the gods to keep, and the gods have given to me again!’

“That was the way always with Taku-Wakin, he kept all the god customs of the people, but he never doubted, when he had found what he wanted to do, that the gods would be on his side. He showed me how every arrow was a little different from the others in the way the blood drain was cut or the shaft feathered.

“‘No fear,’ he said. ‘Every man will know his own when I come to the Council.’

“He hugged the arrows to his breast and laughed over them, so I hugged him with my trunk, and we agreed that once in every full moon I was to come to Burnt Woods, and wait until he called me with something that he took from his girdle and twirled on a thong. I do not know what it was called, but it had a voice like young thunder.

“Like this?” The Mound-Builder cut the air with an oddly shaped bit of wood swung on an arm’s-length of string, once lightly, like a covey of quail rising, and then loud like a wind in the full-branched forest.

“Just such another. Thrice he swung it so that I might not mistake the sound, and that was the last I saw of him, hugging his five arrows, with the moon gone pale like a meal-cake, and the tame wolves that skulk between the huts for scraps, slinking off as he spoke to them.”

“And did they–the Five Chiefs, I mean–have respect for his arrows?” Dorcas Jane wondered.

“So he told me. They came from all the nine villages and sat in a council ring, each with the elders of his village behind him, and in front his favorite weapon, tied with eagle feathers for enemies he had slain, and red marks for battles, and other signs and trophies. At the head of the circle there was the spear of Long-Hand, and a place left for the one who should be elected to sit in it. But before the Council had time to begin, came Taku-Wakin with his arms folded–though he told me it was to hide how his heart jumped in his bosom–and took his father’s seat. Around the ring of the chiefs and elders ran a growl like the circling of thunder in sultry weather, and immediately it was turned into coughing; every man trying to eat his own exclamation, for, as he sat, Taku laid out, in place of a trophy, the five arrows.

“‘Do we sit at a game of knuckle-bone?’ said Opata at last, ‘or is this a Council of the Elders?’

“‘Game or Council,’ said Taku-Wakin, ‘I sit in my father’s place until I have a Sign from him whom he will have to sit there.'”

“But I don’t understand–” began Oliver, looking about the circle of listening Indians. “His father was dead, wasn’t he?”

“What is ‘dead’?” said the Lenni-Lenape; “Indians do not know. Our friends go out of their bodies; where? Into another–or into a beast? When I was still strapped in my basket my father set me on a bear that he had killed and prayed that the bear’s cunning and strength should pass into me. Taku-Wakin’s people thought that the heart of Long-Hand might have gone into the Mastodon.”

“Why not?” agreed Arrumpa gravely. “I remember that Taku would call me Father at times, and–if he was very fond of me–Grandfather. But all he wanted at that tune was to keep Opata from being elected in his father’s place, and Opata, who understood this perfectly, was very angry.

“‘It is the custom,’ he said, ‘when a chief sleeps in the High Places,’–he meant the hilltops where they left their dead on poles or tied to the tree branches,–‘that we elect another to his place in the Council.’

“‘Also it is a custom,’ said Taku-Wakin, ‘to bring the token of his great exploit into Council and quicken the heart by hearing of it. You have heard, O Chiefs,” he said, “that my people had a plan for the good of the people, and it has come to me in my heart that that plan was stronger in him than death. For he was a man who finished what he had begun, and it may be that he is long-handed enough to reach back from the place where he has gone. And this is a Sign to me, that he has taken his cut stick, which had the secret of his plan, with him.’

“Taku-Wakin fiddled with the arrows, laying them straight, hardly daring to look up at Opata, for if the chief had his father’s cut stick, now would be the time that he would show it. Out of the tail of his eye he could see that the rest of the Council were startled. That was the way with men. Me they would trap, and take the skin of Saber-Tooth to wrap their cubs in, but at the hint of a Sign, or an old custom slighted, they would grow suddenly afraid. Then Taku looked up and saw Opata stroking his face with his hand to hide what he was thinking. He was no fool, and he saw that if the election was pressed, Taku-Wakin, boy as he was, would sit in his father’s place because of the five arrows. Taku-Wakin stood up and stretched out his hand to the Council.

“‘Is it agreed, O Chiefs, that you keep my father’s place until there is a Sign?’–and a deep _Hu-huh_ ran all about the circle. It was sign enough for them that the son of Long-Hand played unhurt with arrows that had been given to the gods. Taku stretched his hand to Opata, ‘Is it agreed, O Chief?’

“‘So long as the tribe comes to no harm,’ said Opata, making the best of a bad business. ‘It shall be kept until Long-Hand or his Talking Rod comes back to us.’

“‘And,’ said Taku-Wakin to me, ‘whether Opata or I first sits in it, depends on which one of us can first produce a Sign.'”

[Illustration: TAKU AND ARRUMPA.]



“It was the Talking Stick of his father that Taku-Wakin wanted,” said Arrumpa. “He still thought Opata might have it, for every now and then Taku would catch him coming back with marsh mud on his moccasins. That was how I began to understand that the Great Plan was really a plan to find a way _through_ the marsh to the sea on the other side of it.

“‘Opata has the Stick,’ said Taku, ‘but it will not talk to him; therefore he goes, as my father did, when the waters are low and the hummocks of hard ground stand up, to find a safe way for the tribe to follow. But my father had worked as far as the Grass Flats and beyond them, to a place of islands.’

“‘Squidgy Islands,’ I told him. ‘The Grass-Eaters go there to drop their calves every season.’ Taku kicked me behind the ears.

“‘Said I not you were a beast of a bad heart!’ he scolded. But how should I know he would care to hear about a lot of silly Mammoths. ‘Also,’ he said, ‘you are my Medicine. You shall find me the trail of the Talking Stick, and I, Taku, son of Long-Hand, shall lead the people.’

“‘In six moons,’ I told him, ‘the Grass-Eaters go to the Islands to calve–‘

“‘In which time,’ said Taku, ‘the chiefs will have quarreled six times, and Opata will have eaten me. Drive them, Arrumpa, drive them!’

“Umph, uh-ump!” chuckled the old beast reminiscently. “We drove; we drove. What else was there to do? Taku-Wakin was my man. Besides, it was great fun. One-Tusk helped me. He was one of our bachelor herd who had lost a tusk in his first fight, which turned out greatly to his advantage. He would come sidling up to a refractory young cow with his eyes twinkling, and before anybody suspected he could give such a prod with his one tusk as sent her squealing…. But that came afterward. The Mammoth herd that fed on our edge of the Great Swamp was led by a wrinkled old cow, wise beyond belief. Scrag we called her. She would take the herd in to the bedding-ground by the river, to a landing-point on the opposite side, never twice the same, and drift noiselessly through the canebrake, choosing blowy hours when the swish of cane over woolly backs was like the run of the wind. Days when the marsh would be full of tapirs wallowing and wild pig rootling and fighting, there might be hundreds feeding within sound of you and not a hint of it except the occasional _toot-toot_ of some silly cow calling for Scrag, or a young bull blowing water.

“They bedded at the Grass Flats, but until Scrag herself had a mind to take the trail to the Squidgy Islands, there was nobody but Saber-Tooth could persuade her.

“‘Then Saber-Tooth shall help us,’ said my man.

“Not for nothing was he called Taku-Wakin, which means ‘The Wonderful.’ He brought a tiger cub’s skin of his father’s killing, dried stiff and sewed up with small stones inside it. At one end there was a thong with a loop in it, and it smelled of tiger. I could see the tip of One-Tusk’s trunk go up with a start every time he winded it. There was a curled moon high up in the air like a feather, and a moon-white tusk glinting here and there, where the herds drifted across the flats. There was no trouble about our going among them so long as Scrag did not wind us. _They_ claimed to be kin to us, and they cared nothing for Man even when they smelled him. We came sidling up to a nervous young cow, and Taku dropped from my neck long enough to slip the thong over a hind foot as she lifted it. The thong was wet at first and scarcely touched her. Presently it tightened. Then the cow shook her foot to free it and the skin rattled. She squealed nervously and started out to find Scrag, who was feeding on the far side of the hummock, and at every step the tiger-skin rattled and bounced against her. Eyes winked red with alarm and trunks came lifting out of the tall grass like serpents. One-Tusk moved silently, prod-prodding; we could hear the click of ivory and the bunting of shoulder against shoulder. Then some silly cow had a whiff of the skin that bounded along in their tracks like a cat, and raised the cry of ‘Tiger! Tiger!’ Far on the side from us, in the direction of the Squidgy Islands, Scrag trumpeted, followed by frantic splashing as the frightened herd plunged into the reed-beds. Taku slipped from my neck, shaking with laughter.

“‘Follow, follow,’ he said; ‘I go to bring up the people.’

“It was two days before Scrag stopped running.

“From the Grass Flats on to the Islands it was all one reed-bed where the water gathered into runnels between hummocks of rotten rushes, where no trail would lie and any false step might plunge you into black bog to the shoulder. About halfway we found the tiger-skin tramped into the mire, but as soon as we struck the Islands I turned back, for I was in need of good oak browse, and I wished to find out what had become of Taku-Wakin. It was not until one evening when I had come well up into the hills for a taste of fir, that I saw him, black against the sun with the tribe behind him. The Five Chiefs walked each in front of his own village, except that Taku-Wakin’s own walked after Opata, and there were two of the Turtle clan, each with his own head man, and two under Apunkéwis. Before all walked Taku-Wakin holding a peeled stick upright and seeing the end of the trail, but not what lay close in front of him. He did not even see me as I slipped around the procession and left a wet trail for him to follow.

“That was how we crossed to the Islands, village by village, with Taku-Wakin close on my trail, which was the trail of the Grass-Eaters. They swam the sloughs with their children on their shoulders, and made rafts of reeds to push their food bundles over. By night they camped on the hummocks and built fires that burned for days in the thick litter of reeds. Red reflections glanced like fishes along the water. Then there would be the drums and the–the thunder-twirler–“

“But what kept him so long and how did he persuade them?” Dorcas Jane squirmed with curiosity.

“He’d been a long time working out the trail through the canebrake,” said Arrumpa, “making a Talking Stick as his father had taught him; one ring for a day’s journey, one straight mark for so many man’s paces; notches for turns. When he could not remember his father’s marks he made up others. When he came to his village again he found they had all gone over to Opata’s. Apunkéwis, who had the two villages under Black Rock and was a friend of Long-Hand, told him that there would be a Sign.

“‘There will,’ said Taku-Wakin, ‘but I shall bring it.’ He knew that Opata meant mischief, but he could not guess what. All the way to Opata’s his thought went round and round like a fire-stick in the hearth-hole. When he heard the drums he flared up like a spark in the tinder. Earlier in the evening there had been a Big Eating at Opata’s, and now the men were dancing.

“‘_Eyah, eyah!_’ they sang.

“Taku-Wakin whirled like a spark into the ring. ‘_Eyah, eyah!_’ he shouted,–

“‘Great are the people
They have found a sign,
The sign of the Talking Rod!
Eyah! My people!’

“He planted it full in the firelight where it rocked and beckoned. ‘_Eyah_, the rod is calling,’ he sang.

“The moment he had sight of Opata’s face he knew that whatever the chief had meant to do, he did not have his father’s Stick. Taku caught up his own and twirled it, and finally he hid it under his coat, for if any one had handled it he could have seen that this was not the Stick of Long-Hand, but fresh-peeled that season. But because Opata wanted the Stick of Long-Hand, he thought any stick of Taku’s must be the one he wanted. And what Opata thought, the rest of the tribe thought also. So they rose up by clans and villages and followed after the Sign. That was how we came to the Squidgy Islands. There were willows there and young alders and bare knuckles of rock holding up the land.

“Beyond that the Swamp began; the water gathered itself into bayous that went slinking, wolflike, between the trees, or rose like a wolf through the earth and stole it from under your very foot. It doubled into black lagoons to doze, and young snakes coiled on the lily-pads, so that when the sun warmed them you could hear the shi-shisi-ss like a wind rising. Also by night there would be greenish lights that followed the trails for a while and went out suddenly in whistling noises. Now and then in broad day the Swamp would fall asleep. There would be the plop of turtles falling into the creek and the slither of alligators in the mud, and all of a sudden not a ripple would start, and between the clacking of one reed and another would come the soundless lift and stir of the Swamp snoring. Then the hair on your neck would rise, and some man caught walking alone in it would go screaming mad with fear.

“Six moons we had to stay in that place, for Scrag had hidden the herd so cleverly that it was not until the week-old calves began to squeak for their mothers that we found them. And from the time they were able to run under their mother’s bodies, One-Tusk and I kept watch and watch to see that they did not break back to the Squidgy Islands. It was necessary for Taku-Wakin’s plan that they should go out on the other side where there was good land between the Swamp and the Sea, not claimed by the Kooskooski. We learned to eat grass that summer and squushy reeds with no strength in them–did I say that all the Grass-Eaters were pot-bellied? Also I had to reason with One-Tusk, who had not loved a man, and found that the Swamp bored him. By this time, too, Scrag knew what we were after; she covered her trail and crossed it as many times as a rabbit. Then, just as we thought we had it, the wolf water came and gnawed the trail in two.

“Taku-Wakin would come to me by the Black Lagoon and tell me how Opata worked to make himself chief of the nine villages. He had his own and Taku-Wakin’s, for Taku had never dared to ask it back again, and the chief of the Turtle clan was Opata’s man.

“‘He tells the people that my Stick will not talk to me any more. But how can it talk, Arrumpa, when you have nothing to tell it?’

“‘Patience,’ I said. ‘If we press the cows too hard they will break back the way they have come, and that will be worse than waiting.’

“‘And if I do not get them forward soon,’ said Taku-Wakin, ‘the people will break back, and my father will be proved a fool. I am too little for this thing, Grandfather,’ he would say, leaning against my trunk, and I would take him up and comfort him.

“As for Opata, I used to see him sometimes, dancing alone to increase his magic power,–I speak but as the people of Taku-Wakin spoke,–and once at the edge of the lagoon, catching snakes. Opata had made a noose of hair at the end of a peeled switch, and he would snare them as they darted like streaks through the water. I saw him cast away some that he caught, and others he dropped into a wicker basket, one with a narrow neck such as women used for water. How was I to guess what he wanted with them? But the man smelled of mischief. It lay in the thick air like the smell of the lagoons; by night you could hear it throbbing with the drums that scared away the wandering lights from the nine villages.

“Scrag was beginning to get the cows together again; but by that time the people had made up their minds to stay where they were. They built themselves huts on platforms above the water and caught turtles in the bayous.

“‘Opata has called a Council,’ Taku told me, ‘to say that I must make my Stick talk, or they will know me for a deceiver, a maker of short life for them.’

“‘Short life to him,’ I said. ‘In three nights or four, the Grass-Eaters will be moving.’

“‘And my people are fast in the mud,’ said Taku-Wakin. ‘I am a mud-head myself to think a crooked rod could save them.’ He took it from his girdle warped by the wet and the warmth of his body. ‘My heart is sick, Arrumpa, and Opata makes them a better chief than I, for I have only tried to find them their sea again. But Opata understands them. This is a foolish tale that will never be finished.’

“He loosed the stick from his hand over the black water like a boy skipping stones, but–this is a marvel–it turned as it flew and came back to Taku-Wakin so that he had to take it in his hand or it would have struck him. He stood looking at it astonished, while the moon came up and made dart-shaped ripples of light behind the swimming snakes in the black water. For he saw that if the Stick would not leave him, neither could he forsake–Is this also known to you?” For he saw the children smiling.

The Indian who leaned against Moke-icha’s boulder drew a crooked stick, shaped something like an elbow, from under his blanket. Twice he tossed it lightly and twice it flew over the heads of the circle and back like a homing pigeon as he lightly caught it.

“Boomerangs!” cried the children, delighted.

“We called it the Stick-which-kills-flying,” said the Indian, and hid it again under his blanket.

“Taku-Wakin thought it Magic Medicine,” said the Mastodon. “It was a Sign to him. Two or three times he threw the stick and always it came back to him. He was very quiet, considering what it might mean, as I took him back between the trees that stood knee-deep in the smelly water. We saw the huts at last, built about in a circle and the sacred fire winking in the middle. I remembered the time I had watched with Taku under the Arch Rock.

“‘Give me leave,’ I said, ‘to walk among the huts, and see what will come of it.’

“Taku-Wakin slapped my trunk.

“‘Now by the oath of my people, you shall walk,’ he said. ‘If the herds begin to move, and if no hurt comes to anybody by it, you shall walk; for as long as they are comfortable, even though the Rod should speak, they would not listen.’

“The very next night Scrag began to move her cows out toward the hard land, and when I had marked her trail for five man journeys, I came back to look for Taku-Wakin. There was a great noise of singing a little back from the huts at the Dancing-Place, and all the drums going, and the smoke that drifted along the trails had the smell of a Big Eating. I stole up in the dark till I could look over the heads of the villagers squatted about the fire. Opata was making a speech to them. He was working himself into a rage over the wickedness of Taku-Wakin. He would strike the earth with his stone-headed spear as he talked, and the tribe would yelp after him like wolves closing in on a buck. If the Talking Stick which had led them there was not a liar, let it talk again and show them the way to their sea. Let it talk! And at last, when they had screeched themselves hoarse, they were quiet long enough to hear it.

“Little and young, Taku-Wakin looked, standing up with his Stick in his hand, and the words coming slowly as if he waited for them to reach him from far off. The Stick was no liar, he said; it was he who had lied to them; he had let them think that this was his father’s Stick. It was a new stick much more powerful, as he would yet show them. And who was he to make it talk when it would not? Yet it would talk soon…very soon…he had heard it whispering… Let them not vex the Stick lest it speak strange and unthought-of things…

“Oh, but he was well called ‘The Wonderful.’ I could see the heads of the tribesmen lifting like wolves taking a new scent, and mothers tighten their clutch on their children. Also I saw Opata. Him I watched, for he smelt of mischief. His water-basket was beside him, and as the people turned from baiting Taku-Wakin to believing him, I saw Opata push the bottle secretly with his spear-butt. It rolled into the cleared space toward Taku-Wakin, and the grass ball which stopped its mouth fell out unnoticed. _But no water came out!_

“Many of the waters of the Swamp were bitter and caused sickness, so it was no new thing for a man to have his own water-bottle at Council. But why should he carry a stopped bottle and no water in it? Thus I watched, while Taku-Wakin played for his life with the people’s minds, and Opata watched neither the people nor him, but the unstopped mouth of the water-bottle.

“I looked where Opata looked, for I said to myself, from that point comes the mischief, and looking I saw a streak of silver pour out of the mouth of the bottle and coil and lift and make as a snake will for the nearest shadow. It was the shadow of Taku-Wakin’s bare legs. Then I knew why Opata smelled of mischief when he had caught snakes in the lagoon. But I was afraid to speak, for I saw that if Taku moved the snake would strike, and there is no cure for the bite of the snake called Silver Moccasin.

“Everybody’s eyes were on the rod but mine and Opata’s, and as I saw Taku straighten to throw, I lifted my voice in the dark and trumpeted, ‘Snake! Snake!’ Taku leaped, but he knew my voice and he was not so frightened as the rest of them, who began falling on their faces. Taku leaped as the Silver Moccasin lifted to strike, and the stick as it flew out of his hand, low down like a skimming bird, came back in a circle–he must have practiced many times with it–and dropped the snake with its back broken. The people put their hands over their mouths. They had not seen the snake at all, but a stick that came back to the thrower’s hand was magic. They waited to see what Opata would do about it.

“Opata stood up. He was a brave man, I think, for the Stick was Magic to him, also, and yet he stood out against it. Black Magic he said it was, and no wonder it had not led them out of the Swamp, since it was a false stick and Taku-Wakin a Two-Talker. Taku-Wakin could no more lead them out of the Swamp than his stick would leave him. Like it, they would be thrown and come back to the hand of Taku-Wakin for his own purposes.

“He was a clever man, was Opata. He was a fine tall man, beaked like an eagle, and as he moved about in the clear space by the fire, making a pantomime of all he said, as their way is in speech-making, he began to take hold on the minds of the people. Taku-Wakin watched sidewise; he saw the snake writhing on the ground and the unstopped water-bottle with the ground dry under it. I think he suspected. I saw a little ripple go over his naked body as if a thought had struck him. He stepped aside once, and as Opata came at him, threatening and accusing, he changed his place again, ever so slightly. The people yelped as they thought they saw Taku fall back before him. Opata was shaking his spear, and I began to wonder if I had not waited too long to come to Taku-Wakin’s rescue, when suddenly Opata stopped still in his tracks and shuddered. He went gray in the fire-light, and–he was a brave man who knew his death when he had met it–from beside his foot he lifted up the broken-backed snake on his spear-point. Even as he held it up for all of them to see, his limbs began to jerk and stiffen.

“I went back to look for One-Tusk. The end of those who are bitten by the moccasin is not pretty to see, and besides, I had business. One-Tusk and I walked through all nine villages…and when we had come out on the other side there were not two sticks of them laid together. Then the people came and looked and were afraid, and Taku-Wakin came and made a sound as when a man drops a ripe paw-paw on the ground. ‘Pr-r-utt!’ he said, as though it were no more matter than that. ‘Now we shall have the less to carry.’ But the mother of Taku-Wakin made a terrible outcry. In the place where her hut had been she had found the Talking Stick of Taku’s father, trampled to splinters.

“She had had it all the time hidden in her bundle. Long-Hand had told her it was Magic Medicine and she must never let any one have it. _She_ thought it was the only thing that had kept her and her children safe on this journey. But Taku told them that it was his father’s Rod which had bewitched them and kept them from going any farther because it had come to the end of its knowledge. Now they would be free to follow his own Stick, which was so much wiser. So he caught their minds as he had caught the Stick, swinging back from disaster. For this is the way with men, if they have reason which suits them they do not care whether it is reasonable or not. It was sufficient for them, one crooked stick being broken, that they should rise up with a shout and follow another.”

Arrumpa was silent so long that the children fidgeted.

“But it couldn’t have been just as easy as that,” Dorcas insisted. “And what did they do when they got to the sea finally?”

“They complained of the fishy taste of everything,” said Arrumpa; “also they suffered on the way for lack of food, and Apunkéwis was eaten by an alligator. Then they were afraid again when they came to the place beyond the Swamp where the water went to and fro as the sea pushed it, until some of the old men remembered they had heard it was the sea’s custom. Twice daily the water came in as if to feed on the marsh grass. Great clouds of gulls flew inland, screaming down the wind, and across the salt flats they had their first sight of the low, hard land.

“We lost them there, for we could not eat the salt grass, and Scrag had turned north by a mud slough where the waters were bitter, and red moss grew on the roots of the willows. We ate for a quarter of the moon’s course before we went back around the hard land to see what had become of Taku-Wakin. We fed as far as there was any browse between the sea and the marsh, and at last we saw them come, across the salt pastures. They were sleek as otters with the black slime of the sloughs, and there was not a garment left on them which had not become water-soaked and useless. Some of the women had made slips of sea-birds’ skins and nets of marsh grass for carrying their young. It was only by these things that you could tell that they were Man. They came out where the hard land thinned to a tusk, thrust far out into the white froth and the thunder. We saw them naked on the rocks, and then with a great shout join hands as they ran all together down the naked sand to worship the sea. But Taku-Wakin walked by himself…”

“And did you stay there with him?” asked Oliver when he saw by the stir in the audience that the story was quite finished.

“We went back that winter–One-Tusk and I; in time they all went,” said Arrumpa. “It was too cold by the sea in winter. And the land changed. Even in Taku-Wakin’s time it changed greatly. The earth shook and the water ran out of the marsh into the sea again, and there was hard ground most of the way to Two Rivers. Every year the tribes used to go down by it to gather sea food.”

The Indians nodded.

“It was so in our time,” they said. “There were great heaps of shells by the sea where we came and dried fish and feasted.”

“Shell Mounds,” said Oliver. “I’ve heard of those, too. But I never thought they had stories about them.”

“There is a story about everything,” said the Buffalo Chief; and by this time the children were quite ready to believe him.




“Concerning that Talking Stick of Taku-Wa-kin’s,”–said the Coyote, as the company settled back after Arrumpa’s story,–“there is a Telling of _my_ people … not of a Rod, but a Skin, a hide of thy people, Great Chief,”–he bowed to the Bull Buffalo,–“that talked of Tamal-Pyweack and a Dead Man’s Journey–” The little beast stood with lifted paw and nose delicately pointed toward the Bighorn’s country as it lifted from the prairie, drawing the earth after it in great folds, high crest beyond high crest flung against the sun; light and color like the inside of a shell playing in its snow-filled hollows.

Up sprang every Plainsman, painted shield dropped to the shoulder, right hand lifted, palm outward, and straight as an arrow out of every throat, the “Hey a-hey a-huh!” of the Indian salutation.

“Backbone of the World!” cried the Blackfoot. “Did you come over that, Little Brother?”

“Not I, but my father’s father’s first father. By the Crooked Horn,”–he indicated a peak like a buffalo horn, and a sag in the crest below it.

“Then that,” said Bighorn, dropping with one bound from his aerial lookout, “should be _my_ story, for my people made that trail, and it was long before any other trod in it.”

“It was of that first treading that the Skin talked,” agreed the Coyote. He looked about the company for permission to begin, and then addressed himself to Arrumpa. “You spoke, Chief Two-Tails, of the ‘tame wolves’ of Taku-Wakin; _were_ they wolves, or–“

“Very like you, Wolfling, now that I think of it,” agreed the Mastodon, “and they were not tame exactly; they ran at the heels of the hunters for what they could pick up, and sometimes they drove up game for him.”

“Why should a coyote, who is the least of all wolves, hunt for himself when he can find a man to follow?” said the Blackfoot, who sat smoking a great calumet out of the west corridor. “Man is the wolf’s Medicine. In him he hears the voice of the Great Mystery, and becomes a dog, which is great gain to him.”

Pleased as if his master had patted him, without any further introduction the Coyote began his story.

“Thus and so thought the First Father of all the Dogs in the year when he was called Friend-at-the-Back, and Pathfinder. That was the time of the Great Hunger, nearly two years after he joined the man pack at Hidden-under-the-Mountain and was still known by his lair name of Younger Brother. He followed a youth who was the quickest afoot and the readiest laugher. He would skulk about the camp at Hidden-under-the-Mountain watching until the hunters went out. Sometimes How-kawanda–that was the young man he followed–would give a coyote cry of warning, and sometimes Younger Brother would trot off in the direction where he knew the game to be, looking back and pointing until the young men caught the idea; after which, when they had killed, the hunters would laugh and throw him pieces of liver.

“The Country of Dry Washes lies between the Cinoave on the south and the People of the Bow who possessed the Salmon Rivers, a great gray land cut across by deep gullies where the wild waters come down from the Wall-of-Shining-Rocks and worry the bone-white boulders. The People of the Dry Washes live meanly, and are meanly spoken of by the People of the Coast who drove them inland from the sea borders. After the Rains, when the quick grass sprang up, vast herds of deer and pronghorn come down from the mountains; and when there were no rains the people ate lizards and roots. In the moon of the Frost-Touching-Mildly clouds came up from the south with a great trampling of thunder, and flung out over the Dry Washes as a man flings his blanket over a maiden. But if the Rains were scant for two or three seasons, then there was Hunger, and the dust devils took the mesas for their dancing-places.

“Now, Man tribe and Wolf tribe are alike in one thing. When there is scarcity the packs increase to make surer of bringing down the quarry, but when the pinch begins they hunt scattering and avoid one another. That was how it happened that the First Father, who was still called Younger Brother, was alone with Howkawanda when he was thrown by a buck at Talking Water in the moon of the Frost-Touching-Mildly. Howkawanda had caught the buck by the antlers in a blind gully at the foot of the Tamal-Pyweack, trying for the throw back and to the left which drops a buck running, with his neck broken. But his feet slipped on the grass which grows sleek with dryness, and by the time the First Father came up the buck had him down, scoring the ground on either side of the man’s body with his sharp antlers, lifting and trampling. Younger Brother leaped at the throat. The toss of the antlers to meet the stroke drew the man up standing. Throwing his whole weight to the right he drove home with his hunting-knife and the buck toppled and fell as a tree falls of its own weight in windless weather.

“‘Now, for this,’ said Howkawanda to my First Father, when they had breathed a little, ‘you are become my very brother.’ Then he marked the coyote with the blood of his own hurts, as the custom is when men are not born of one mother, and Younger Brother, who had never been touched by a man, trembled. That night, though it made the hair on his neck rise with strangeness, he went into the hut of Howkawanda at Hidden-under-the-Mountain and the villagers wagged their heads over it. ‘Hunger must be hard on our trail,’ they said, ‘when the wolves come to house with us.’

“But Howkawanda only laughed, for that year he had found a maiden who was more than meat to him. He made a flute of four notes which he would play, lying out in the long grass, over and over, until she came out to him. Then they would talk, or the maiden would pull grass and pile it in little heaps while Howkawanda looked at her and the First Father looked at his master, and none of them cared where the Rains were.

“But when no rain fell at all, the camp was moved far up the shrunken creek, and Younger Brother learned to catch grasshoppers, and ate juniper berries, while the men sat about the fire hugging their lean bellies and talking of Dead Man’s Journey. This they would do whenever there was a Hunger in the Country of the Dry Washes, and when they were fed they forgot it.”

The Coyote interrupted his own story long enough to explain that though there were no buffaloes in the Country of the Dry Washes, on the other side of the Wall-of-Shining-Rocks the land was black with them. “Now and then stray herds broke through by passes far to the north in the Land of the Salmon Rivers, but the people of that country would not let Howkawanda’s people hunt them. Every year, when they went up by tribes and villages to the Tamal-Pyweack to gather pine nuts, the People of the Dry Washes looked for a possible trail through the Wall to the Buffalo Country. There was such a trail. Once a man of strange dress and speech had found his way over it, but he was already starved when they picked him up at the place called Trap-of-the-Winds, and died before he could tell anything. The most that was known of this trail at Hidden-under-the-Mountain was that it led through Knife-Cut Cañon; but at the Wind Trap they lost it.

“I have heard of that trail, ‘said the First Father of all the Dogs to Howkawanda, one day, when they had hunted too far for returning and spent the night under a juniper: ‘a place where the wind tramples between the mountains like a trapped beast. But there is a trail beyond it. I have not walked in it. All my people went that way at the beginning of the Hunger.’

“‘For your people there may be a way,’ said Howkawanda, ‘but for mine–they are all dead who have looked for it. Nevertheless, Younger Brother, if we be not dead men ourselves when this Hunger is past, you and I will go on this Dead Man’s Journey. Just now we have other business.’

“It is the law of the Hunger that the strongest must be fed first, so that there shall always be one strong enough to hunt for the others. But Howkawanda gave the greater part of his portion to his maiden.

“So it happened that sickness laid hold on Howkawanda between two days. In the morning he called to Younger Brother. ‘Lie outside,’ he said, ‘lest the sickness take you also, but come to me every day with your kill, and let no man prevent you.’

“So Younger Brother, who was able to live on juniper berries, hunted alone for the camp of Hidden-under-the-Mountain, and Howkawanda held back Death with one hand and gripped the heart of the First Father of all the Dogs with the other. For he was afraid that if he died, Younger Brother would turn wolf again, and the tribe would perish. Every day he would divide what Younger Brother brought in, and after the villagers were gone he would inquire anxiously and say, ‘Do you smell the Rain, Friend and Brother?’

“But at last he was too weak for asking, and then quite suddenly his voice was changed and he said, ‘I smell the Rain, Little Brother!’ For in those days men could smell weather quite as well as the other animals. But the dust of his own running was in Younger Brother’s nose, and he thought that his master’s mind wandered. The sick man counted on his fingers. ‘In three days,’ he said, ‘if the Rains come, the back of the Hunger is broken. Therefore I will not die for three days. Go, hunt, Friend and Brother.’

“The sickness must have sharpened Howkawanda’s senses, for the next day the coyote brought him word that the water had come back in the gully where they threw the buck, which was a sign that rain was falling somewhere on the high ridges. And the next day he brought word, ‘The tent of the sky is building.’ This was the tentlike cloud that would stretch from peak to peak of the Tamal-Pyweack at the beginning of the Rainy Season.

“Howkawanda rose up in his bed and called the people. ‘Go, hunt! go, hunt!’ he said; ‘the deer have come back to Talking Water.’ Then he lay still and heard them, as many as were able, going out joyfully. ‘Stay you here, Friend and Brother,’ he said, ‘for now I can sleep a little.’

“So the First Father of all the Dogs lay at his master’s feet and whined a little for sympathy while the people hunted for themselves, and the myriad-footed Rain danced on the dry thatch of the hut and the baked mesa. Later the creek rose in its withered banks and began to talk to itself in a new voice, the voice of Raining-on-the-Mountain.

“‘Now I shall sleep well, ‘said the sick man. So he fell into deeper and deeper pits of slumber while the rain came down in torrents, the grass sprouted, and far away Younger Brother could hear the snapping of the brush as the Horned People came down the mountain.

“It was about the first streak of the next morning that the people waked in their huts to hear a long, throaty howl from Younger Brother. Howkawanda lay cold, and there was no breath in him. They thought the coyote howled for grief, but it was really because, though his master lay like one dead, there was no smell of death about him, and the First Father was frightened. The more he howled, however, the more certain the villagers were that Howkawanda was dead, and they made haste to dispose of the body. Now that the back of the Hunger was broken, they wished to go back to Hidden-under-the-Mountain.

“They drove Younger Brother away with sticks and wrapped the young man in fine deerskins, binding them about and about with thongs, with his knife and his fire-stick and his hunting-gear beside him. Then they made ready brush, the dryest they could find, for it was the custom of the Dry Washes to burn the dead. They thought of the Earth as their mother and would not put anything into it to defile it. The Head Man made a speech, putting in all the virtues of Howkawanda, and those that he might have had if he had been spared to them longer, while the women cast dust on their hair and rocked to and fro howling. Younger Brother crept as close to the pyre as he dared, and whined in his throat as the fire took hold of the brush and ran crackling up the open spaces.

“It took hold of the wrapped deerskins, ran in sparks like little deer in the short hair, and bit through to Howkawanda. But no sooner had he felt the teeth of the flame than the young man came back from the place where he had been, and sat up in the midst of the burning. He leaped out of the fire, and the people scattered like embers and put their hands over their mouths, as is the way with men when they are astonished. Howkawanda, wrapped as he was, rolled on the damp sand till the fires were out, while Younger Brother gnawed him free of the death-wrappings, and the people’s hands were still at their mouths. But the first step he took toward them they caught up sticks and stones to threaten.

“It was a fearful thing to them that he should come back from being dead. Besides, the hair was burned half off his head, and he was streaked raw all down one side where the fire had bitten him. He stood blinking, trying to pick up their meaning with his eyes. His maiden looked up from her mother’s lap where she wept for him, and fled shrieking.

“‘Dead, go back to the dead!’ cried the Head Man, but he did not stop to see whether Howkawanda obeyed him, for by this time the whole pack was squealing down the creek to Hidden-under-the-Mountain. Howkawanda looked at his maiden running fast with the strength of the portion he had saved for her; looked at the empty camp and the bare hillside; looked once at the high Wall of the Pyweack, and laughed as much as his burns would let him.

“‘If we two be dead men, Brother,’ he said, ‘it may be we shall have luck on a Dead Man’s Journey.’

“It would have been better if they could have set out at once, for rain in the Country of Dry Washes means snow on the Mountain. But they had to wait for the healing of Howkawanda’s burns, and to plump themselves out a little on the meat–none too fat–that came down on its own feet before the Rains. They lay in the half-ruined huts and heard, in the intervals of the storm, the beating of tom-toms at Hidden-under-the-Mountain to keep off the evil influences of one who had been taken for dead and was alive again.

“By the time they were able to climb to the top of Knife-Cut Cañon the snow lay over the mountains like a fleece, and at every turn of the wind it shifted. From the Pass they dropped down into a pit between the ranges, where, long before they came to it, they could hear the wind beating about like a trapped creature. Here great mountain-heads had run together like bucks in autumn, digging with shining granite hooves deep into the floor of the Cañon. Into this the winds would drop from the high places like broken-winged birds, dashing themselves against the polished walls of the Pyweack, dashing and falling back and crying woundedly. There was no other way into this Wind Trap than the way Howkawanda and Younger Brother had come. If there was any way out only the Four-Footed People knew it.

“But over all their trails snow lay, deepening daily, and great rivers of water that fell into the Trap in summer stood frozen stiff like ice vines climbing the Pyweack.

“The two travelers made them a hut in broad branches of a great fir, for the snow was more than man-deep already, and crusted over. They laid sticks on the five-branched whorl and cut away the boughs above them until they could stand. Here they nested, with the snow on the upper branches like thatch to keep them safe against the wind. They ran on the surface of the snow, which was packed firm in the bottom of the Trap, and caught birds and small game wintering in runways under the snow where the stiff brush arched and upheld it. When the wind, worn out with its struggles, would lie still in the bottom of the Trap, the two would race over the snow-crust whose whiteness cut the eye like a knife, working into every winding of the Cañon for some clue to the Dead Man’s Journey.

[Illustration: “Shot downward to the ledge where Howkawanda and Younger Brother hugged themselves”]

“On one of these occasions, caught by a sudden storm, they hugged themselves for three days and ate what food they had, mouthful by mouthful, while the snow slid past them straight and sodden. It closed smooth over the tree where their house was, to the middle branches. Two days more they waited until the sun by day and the cold at night had made a crust over the fresh fall. On the second day they saw something moving in the middle of the Cañon. Half a dozen wild geese had been caught in one of the wind currents that race like rivers about the High Places of the World, and dropped exhausted into the Trap. Now they rose heavily; but, starved and blinded, they could not pitch their flight to that great height. Round and round they beat, and back they dropped from the huge mountain-heads, bewildered. Finally, the leader rose alone higher and higher in that thin atmosphere until the watchers almost lost him, and then, exhausted, shot downward to the ledge where Howkawanda and Younger Brother hugged themselves in the shelter of a wind-driven drift. They could see the gander’s body shaken all over with the pumping of his heart as Younger Brother took him hungrily by the neck.

“‘Nay, Brother,’ said Howkawanda, ‘but I also have been counted dead, and it is in my heart that this one shall serve us better living than dead.’ He nursed the great white bird in his bosom and fed it with the last of their food and a little snow-water melted in his palm. In an hour, rested and strengthened, the bird rose again, beating a wide circle slowly and steadily upward, until, with one faint honk of farewell, it sailed slowly out of sight between the peaks, sure of its direction.

“‘That way,’ said Howkawanda, ‘lies Dead Man’s Journey.’

“When they came back over the same trail a year later, they were frightened to see what steeps and crevices they had covered. But for that first trip the snow-crust held firm while they made straight for the gap in the peaks through which the wild goose had disappeared. They traveled as long as the light lasted, though their hearts sobbed and shook with the thin air and the cold.

“The drifts were thinner, and the rocks came through with clusters of wind-slanted cedars. By nightfall snow began again, and they moved, touching, for they could not see an arm’s length and dared not stop lest the snow cover them. And the hair along the back of Younger Brother began to prick.

“‘Here I die, indeed,’ said Howkawanda at last, for he suffered most because of his naked skin. He sank down in the soft snow at Younger Brother’s shoulder.

“‘Up, Master,’ said Younger Brother, ‘I hear something.’

“‘It is the Storm Spirit singing my death song,’ said Howkawanda. But the coyote took him by the neck of his deerskin shirt and dragged him a little.

“‘Now,’ he said, ‘I smell something.’

“Presently they stumbled into brush and knew it for red cedar. Patches of it grew thick on the high ridges, matted close for cover. As the travelers crept under it they heard the rustle of shoulder against shoulder, the moving click of horns, and the bleat of yearlings for their mothers. They had stumbled in the dark on the bedding-place of a flock of Bighorn.

“‘Now we shall also eat,’ said Younger Brother, for he was quite empty.

“The hand of Howkawanda came out and took him firmly by the loose skin between the shoulders.

“‘There was a coyote once who became brother to a man,’ he said, ‘and men, when they enter a strange house in search of shelter and direction, do not first think of killing.’

“‘One blood we are,’ said the First Father of Dogs, remembering how Howkawanda had marked him,’ but we are not of one smell and the rams may trample me.’

“Howkawanda took off his deerskin and put around the coyote so that he should have man smell about him, for at that time the Bighorn had not learned to fear man.

“They could hear little bleats of alarm from the ewes and the huddling of the flock away from them, and the bunting of the Chief Ram’s horns on the cedars as he came to smell them over. Younger Brother quivered, for he could think of nothing but the ram’s throat, the warm blood and the tender meat, but the finger of Howkawanda felt along his shoulders for the scar of the Blood-Mixing, the time they had killed the buck at Talking Water. Then the First Father of all the Dogs understood that Man was his Medicine and his spirit leaped up to lick the face of the man’s spirit. He lay still and felt the blowing in and out of Howkawanda’s long hair on the ram’s breath, as he nuzzled them from head to heel. Finally the Bighorn stamped twice with all his four feet together, as a sign that he had found no harm in the strangers. They could feel the flock huddling back, and the warmth of the packed fleeces. In the midst of it the two lay down and slept till morning.

“They were alone in the cedar shelter when they woke, but the track of the flock in the fresh-fallen snow led straight over the crest under the Crooked Horn to protected slopes, where there was still some browse and open going.

“Toward nightfall they found an ancient wether the weight of whose horns had sunk him deep in the soft snow, so that he could neither go forward nor back. Him they took. It was pure kindness, for he would have died slowly otherwise of starvation. That is the Way Things Are,” said the Coyote; “when one _must_ kill, killing is allowed. But before they killed him they said certain words.

“Later,” the Coyote went on, “they found a deer occasionally and mountain hares. Their worst trouble was with the cold. Snow lay deep over the dropped timber and the pine would not burn. Howkawanda would scrape together moss and a few twigs for a little fire to warm the front of him and Younger Brother would snuggle at his back, so between two friends the man saved himself.”

The Blackfoot nodded. “Fire is a very old friend of Man,” he said; “so old that the mere sight of it comforts him; they have come a long way together.” “Now I know,” said Oliver, “why you called the first dog Friend-at-the-Back.”

“Oh, but there was more to it than that,” said the Coyote, “for the next difficulty they had was to carry their food when they found it. Howkawanda had never had good use of his shoulder since the fire bit it, and even a buck’s quarter weights a man too much in loose snow. So he took a bough of fir, thick-set with little twigs, and tied the kill on that. This he would drag behind him, and it rode lightly over the surface of the drifts. When the going was bad, Younger Brother would try to tug a little over his shoulder, so at last Howkawanda made a harness for him to pull straight ahead. Hours when they would lie storm-bound under the cedars, he whittled at the bough and platted the twigs together till it rode easily.

“In the moon of Tender Leaves, the people of the Buffalo Country, when they came up the hills for the spring kill, met a very curious procession coming down. They saw a man with no clothes but a few tatters of deerskin, all scarred down one side of his body, and following at his back a coyote who dragged a curiously plaited platform, by means of two poles harnessed across his shoulders. It was the first travoise. The men of the Buffalo Country put their hands over their mouths, for they had never seen anything like it.”

The Coyote waited for the deep “huh-huh” of approval which circled the attentive audience at the end of the story.

“Fire and a dog!” said the Blackfoot, adding a little pinch of sweet-grass to his smoke as a sign of thankfulness,– “Friend-on-the-Hearth and Friend-at-the-Back! Man may go far with them.”

Moke-icha turned her long flanks to the sun. “Now I thought the tale began with a mention of a Talking Skin–“

“Oh, that!” The Coyote recalled himself. “After he had been a year in the Buffalo Country, Howkawanda went back to carry news of the trail to the Dry Washes. All that summer he worked over it while his dogs hunted for him–for Friend-at-the-Back had taken a mate and there were four cubs to run with them. Every day, as Howkawanda worked out the trail, he marked it with stone and tree-blazes. With colored earth he marked it on a buffalo skin; from the Wind Trap to the Buffalo Country.

“When he came to Hidden-under-the-Mountain he left his dogs behind, for he said, ‘Howkawanda is a dead man to them.’ In the Buffalo Country he was known as Two-Friended, and that was his name afterward. He was dressed after the fashion of that country, with a great buffalo robe that covered him, and his face was painted. So he came to Hidden-under-the-Mountain as a stranger and made signs to them. And when they had fed him, and sat him in the chief place as was the custom with strangers, he took the writing from under his robe to give it to the People of the Dry Washes. There was a young woman near by nursing her child, and she gave a sudden sharp cry, for she was the one that had been his maiden, and under the edge of his robe she saw his scars. But when Howkawanda looked hard at her she pretended that the child had bitten her.”

Dorcas Jane and Oliver drew a long breath when they saw that, so far as the rest of the audience was concerned, the story was finished. There were a great many questions they wished to ask,–as to what became of Howkawanda after that, and whether the People of the Dry Washes ever found their way into the Buffalo Country,–but before they could begin on them, the Bull Buffalo stamped twice with his fore-foot for a sign of danger. Far down at the other end of the gallery they could hear the watchman coming.




It was one of those holidays, when there isn’t any school and the Museum is only opened for a few hours in the afternoon, that Dorcas Jane had come into the north gallery of the Indian room where her father was at work mending the radiators. This was about a week after the children’s first adventure on the Buffalo Trail, but it was before the holes had been cut in the Museum wall to let you look straight across the bend in the Colorado and into the Hopi pueblo. Dorcas looked at all the wall cases and wondered how it was the Indians seemed to have so much corn and so many kinds of it, for she had always thought of corn as a civilized sort of thing to have. She sat on a bench against the wall wondering, for the lovely clean stillness of the room encouraged thinking, and the clink of her father’s hammers on the pipes fell presently into the regular _tink-tink-a-tink_ of tortoise-shell rattles, keeping time to the shuffle and beat of bare feet on the dancing-place by the river. The path to it led across a clearing between little hillocks of freshly turned earth, and the high forest overhead was bursting into tiny green darts of growth like flame. The rattles were sewed to the leggings of the women–little yellow and black land-tortoise shells filled with pebbles–who sang as they danced and cut themselves with flints until they bled.

“Oh,” said Dorcas, without waiting to be introduced, “what makes you do that?”

“To make the corn grow,” said the tallest and the handsomest of the women, motioning to the others to leave off their dancing while she answered. “Listen! You can hear the men doing their part.”

From the forest came a sudden wild whoop, followed by the sound of a drum, little and far off like a heart beating. “They are scaring off the enemies of the corn,” said the Corn Woman, for Dorcas could see by her headdress, which was of dried corn tassels dyed in colors, and by a kind of kilt she wore, woven of corn husks, that that was what she represented.

“Oh!” said Dorcas; and then, after a moment, “It sounds as if you were sorry, you know.”

“When the seed corn goes into the ground it dies,” said the Corn Woman; “the tribe might die also if it never came alive again. Also we lament for the Giver-of-the-Corn who died giving.”

“I thought corn just grew,” said Dorcas; “I didn’t know it came from any place.”

“From the People of the Seed, from the Country of Stone Houses. It was bought for us by Given-to-the-Sun. Our people came from the East, from the place where the Earth opened, from the place where the Noise was, where the Mountain thundered…. This is what I have heard; this is what the Old Ones have said,” finished the Corn Woman, as though it were some sort of song.

She looked about to the others as if asking their consent to tell the story. As they nodded, sitting down to loosen their heavy leggings, Dorcas could see that what she had taken to be a shock of last year’s cornstalks, standing in the middle of the dancing-place, was really tied into a rude resemblance to a woman. Around its neck was one of the Indian’s sacred bundles; Dorcas thought it might have something to do with the story, but decided to wait and see.

“There was a trail in those days,” said the Corn Woman, “from the buffalo pastures to the Country of the Stone House. We used to travel it as far as the ledge where there was red earth for face-painting, and to trade with the Blanket People for salt.

“But no farther. Hunting-parties that crossed into Chihuahua returned sometimes; more often they were given to the Sun.–On the tops of the hills where their god-houses were,” explained the Corn Woman seeing that Dorcas was puzzled. “The Sun was their god to them. Every year they gave captives on the hills they built to the Sun.”

Dorcas had heard the guard explaining to visitors in the Aztec room. “Teocales,” she suggested.

“That was one of their words,” agreed the Corn Woman. “They called themselves Children of the Sun. This much we knew; that there was a Seed. The People of the Cliffs, who came to the edge of the Windswept Plain to trade, would give us cakes sometimes for dried buffalo tongues. This we understood was _mahiz_, but it was not until Given-to-the-Sun came to us that we thought of having it for ours. Our men were hunters. They thought it shame to dig in the ground.

“Shungakela, of the Three Feather band, found her at the fork of the Turtle River, half starved and as fierce as she was hungry, but _he_ called her ‘Waits-by-the-Fire’ when he brought her back to his tipi, and it was a long time before we knew that she had any other name. She belonged to one of the mountain tribes whose villages were raided by the People of the Sun, and because she had been a child at the time, she was made a servant. But in the end, when she had shot up like a red lily and her mistress had grown fond of her, she was taken by the priests of the Sun.

“At first the girl did not know what to make of being dressed so handsomely and fed upon the best of everything, but when they painted her with the sign of the Sun she knew. Over her heart they painted it. Then they put about her neck the Eye of the Sun, and the same day the woman who had been her mistress and was fond of her, slipped her a seed which she said should be eaten as she went up the Hill of the Sun, so she would feel nothing. Given-to-the-Sun hid it in her bosom.

“There was a custom that, in the last days, those who were to go up the Hill of the Sun could have anything they asked for. So the girl asked to walk by the river and hear the birds sing. When they had walked out of sight of the Stone Houses, she gave her watchers the seed in their food and floated down the river on a piece of bark until she came ashore in the thick woods and escaped. She came north, avoiding the trails, and after a year Shungakela found her. Between her breasts there was the sign of the Sun.”

The Corn Woman stooped and traced in the dust the ancient sign of the intertwined four corners of the Earth with the Sun in the middle. “Around her neck in a buckskin bag was the charm that is known as the Eye of the Sun. She never showed it to any of us, but when she was in trouble or doubt, she would put her hand over it. It was her Medicine.”

“It was good Medicine, too,” spoke up the oldest of the dancing women.

“We had need of it,” agreed the Corn Woman. “In those days the Earth was too full of people. The tribes swarmed, new chiefs arose, kin hunted against kin. Many hunters made the game shy, and it removed to new pastures. Strong people drove out weaker and took away their hunting-grounds. We had our share of both fighting and starving, but our tribe fared better than most because of the Medicine of Waits-by-the-Fire, the Medicine of the Sun. She was a wise woman. She was made Shaman. When she spoke, even the chiefs listened. But what could the chiefs do except hunt farther and fight harder? So Waits-by-the-Fire talked to the women. She talked of corn, how it was planted and harvested, with what rites and festivals.

“There was a God of the Seed, a woman god who was served by women. When the women of our tribe heard that, they took heart. The men had been afraid that the God of the Corn would not be friendly to us. I think, too, they did not like the idea of leaving off the long season of hunting and roving, for corn is a town-maker. For the tending and harvesting there must be one place, and for the guarding of the winter stores there must be a safe place. So said Waits-by-the-Fire to the women digging roots or boiling old bones in the long winter. She was a wise woman.

“It was the fight we had with the Tenasas that decided us. That was a year of great scarcity and the Tenasas took to sending their young men, two or three at a time, creeping into our hunting-grounds to start the game, and turn it in the direction of their own country. When our young men were sure of this, they went in force and killed inside the borders of the Tenasas. They had surprised a herd of buffaloes at Two Kettle Licks and were cutting up the meat when the Tenasas fell upon them. Waits-by-the-Fire lost her last son by that battle. One she had lost in the fight at Red Buttes and one in a year of Hunger while he was little. This one was swift of foot and was called Last Arrow, for Shungakela had said, ‘Once I had a quiver full.’ Waits-by-the-Fire brought him back on her shoulders from the place where the fight was. She walked with him into the Council.

“‘The quiver is empty,’ she said; ‘the food bags, also; will you wait for us to fill one again before you fill the other?’

“Mad Wolf, who was chief at the time, threw up his hand as a man does when he is down and craves a mercy he is too proud to ask for. ‘We have fought the Tenasas,’ he said; ‘shall we fight our women also?’

“Waits-by-the-Fire did not wait after that for long speeches in the Council. She gathered her company quickly, seven women well seasoned and not comely,–‘The God of the Corn is a woman god,’ she said, sharp smiling,–and seven men, keen and hard runners. The rest she appointed to meet her at Painted Rock ten moons from their going.”

“So long as that!” said Dorcas Jane. “Was it so far from where you lived to Mex–to the Country of Stone Houses?”

“Not so far, but they had to stay from planting to harvest. Of what use was the seed without knowledge. Traveling hard they crossed the River of the White Rocks and reached, by the end of that moon, the mountain overlooking the Country of Stone Houses. Here the men stayed. Waits-by-the-Fire arranged everything. She thought the people of the towns might hesitate to admit so many men strangers. Also she had the women put on worn moccasins with holes, and old food from the year before in their food bags.”

“I should think,” began Dorcas Jane, “they would have wanted to put on the best they had to make a good impression.”

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