Zuni Folktales by Frank Hamilton Cushing
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HOW THE SUMMER BIRDS CAME
In the days of the ancients, in the town under Thunder Mountain called K'iákime, there lived a most beautiful maiden. But one thing which struck the people who knew her was that she seldom came forth from her room, or went out of her house; never seemed to care for the people around her, never seemed to care to see the young men when they were dancing.
Now, this was the way of it. Through the roof of her room was a little skylight, open, and when it rained, one of the Gods Of the Rain descended in the rain-drops and wooed this maiden, and married her all unknown to her people; so that she was in his company every time it rained, and when the dew fell at night, on his ladder of water descending he came, and she was very happy, and cared not for the society of men. By-and-by, behold! to the utter surprise of the people, whose eyes could not see this god, her husband, there was a little boy born to her.
Now, he was the child of the gods, and, therefore, before he was many days old, he had begun to run about and speak, and had wonderful intelligence and wonderful strength and vivacity. He was only a month or two old when he was like a child of five or six or eight years of age, and he would climb to the house-top and run down into the plaza and out around the village hunting birds
or other small animals. With only his fingers and little stones for weapons, he never failed to slay and bring home these little creatures, and his mother's house was supplied more than any other house in the town with plumes for sacrifice, from the birds which he captured in this way.
Finally he observed that the older men of the tribe carried bows and arrows, and that the arrows went more swiftly and straighter than the stones he threw; and though he never failed to kill small animals, he found he could not kill the larger ones in that way. So he said to his mother one night: "Oh, mother, where does the wood grow that they make bows of, and where do they get sticks for their arrows? I wish you would tell me."
But the mother was quite silent; she didn't like to tell him, for she thought it would lead him away from the town and something would happen to him. But he kept questioning her until at last, weary with his importunities, she said: "Well, my little boy, if you go round the cliff here to the eastern side, there is a great hollow in the rocks, and down at the bottom of that hollow is a great cave. Now, around that shelter in the rocks are growing the trees out of which bows are made, and there also grow the bushes from which arrows are cut; they are so plentiful that they could supply the whole town, and furnish all the hunters here with bows and arrows; but they cannot get them, because in the cave lives a great Bear, a very savage being, and no one dares go near there to get timber for the bows or sticks for the arrows, because
the Bear would surely devour whoever ventured there. He has devoured many of our people; therefore you must not go there to get these arrows.
"No, indeed," said the boy. But at night he lay down with much in his mind, and was so thoughtful that he hardly slept the whole night. He was planning what he would do in the morning.
The next morning his mother was busy about her work, and finally she went down to the spring for some water, and the little boy slipped out of the house, ran down the ladder, went to the riverside, stooped down, and crawled along the bank of the river, until he could get around on the side of the cliff where the little valley of the spring that flows under Thunder Mountain lies. There he climbed up and up until he came to the shelter in the rocks round on the eastern side of Thunder Mountain. The mouth of this hollow was entirely closed with fine yellow-wood and oak, the best timber we have for bows, and straight sprouts were growing everywhere out of which arrows could be made.
"Ah, this must be the place," said the boy, as he looked at it. I don't see any Bear. I think I will climb up and see if there is anything to be afraid of, and try if I can cut a stick before the Bear comes out."
He started and climbed into the mouth of the cavern, and his father, one of the Gods of the Rain, threw a tremendous shaft of lightning, and it thundered, and the cave closed together.
"Ha!" cried the boy. "What in the world is the meaning of this?" Then he stood there a moment, and presently the clouds finished and the cave opened, and all was quiet. He started to go in once more, and down came the lightning again, to remind him that he should not go in there.
"Ha!" cried the boy again. "What in the world does it mean?" And he rubbed his eyes, it had rather stunned him,—and so soon as it had cleared away he tried again, and again for the fourth time.
Finally the god said, "Ah! I have reminded him and he does not heed. He must go his own way." So the boy climbed into the cave.
No sooner had he got in than it began to get dark, and Wah! came the Bear on his hind legs and grabbed the boy and began to squeeze him very tight.
"O my! O my!" cried he. Don't squeeze me so hard! It hurts; don't squeeze me so hard! My mother is one of the most beautiful women you ever saw!"
"Hollo!" exclaimed the Bear. "What is that you say?"
"My mother is one of the most beautiful women you ever saw!"
"Indeed!" said the Bear, as he relaxed his hold.
"My son, sit down. What did you come to my house for? I am sure you are very welcome."
"Why," said the boy, "I came to get a piece of wood for a bow and sticks for arrows."
Said the Bear, "I have looked out for this timber
for a long time. There is none better in the whole country. Let me tell you what I will do. You don't look very strong. You haven't anything to cut the trees down with. I will go myself and cut down a tree for you. I will pick out a good one for a bow; not only that, but I will get fine sticks for arrows, too.
So he stalked off into the forest, and crack, crack, he smashed the trees down, and, picking out a good one, gnawed off the ends of it and brought it to the boy, then gathered a lot of fine straight sticks for arrow-shafts and brought them.
"There," said he, "take those home. Do you know how to make a bow, my son?"
"No, I don't very well," replied he.
"Well," said the Bear, "I have cut off the ends; make it about that length. Now take it home, and shave down the inside until it is thin enough to bend quickly at both ends, and lay it over the coals of fire so it will get hard and dry. That is the way to make a good bow."
"All right," said the boy; and as he took up the bundle of sticks and the stave for the bow, he said: "just come along toward night and I will introduce you to my mother."
"All right," said the old Bear; "I will be along just about sunset. Then I can look at your bow and see whether you have made it well or not."
So the boy trudged home with his bundle of sticks and his bow stave, and when he arrived there his mother happened to be climbing out, and saw him coming.
"You wretched boy," she said, "I told you not to go out to the cave! I warrant you have been there where the Bear stays!"
"Oh, yes, my mother; just see what I have brought," said the boy. "I sold you to the Bear. He will be here to get you this evening. See what I have brought!" and he laid out his bow-timber and arrow-shafts.
"Oh," said she, "you are the most wretched and foolish of little boys; you pay no attention to what any one says to you; your mother's word is nothing but wind in your ears."
"Just see what I have brought home," said he. He worked as hard as he could to make his bow, stripped the arrow-shafts, smoothed and straightened them before the fire, and made the points of obsidian—very black it is; very hard and sharp were the points when he placed them on the arrows. Now, after placing the feathers on the arrows, he stood them up on the roof of the house against the parapet in the sunlight to dry; and he had his bow on the other side of the house against the other parapet to dry. He was still at work, toward sunset, when he happened to look up and saw the Bear coming along, slowly, comfortably, rolling over the sand.
"Ah!" said he, "the old man is coming." He paid no attention to him, however.
Presently the Bear came close to the ladder, and shook it to see if it was strong enough to hold him.
"Thou comest?" asked the boy.
"Yes," said the Bear. "How have you been all day?"
"Happy," said the boy.
"How is your mother?"
"Happy," said the boy, "expecting you."
So the old Bear climbed up. "Ah, indeed," said he, as he got over the edge of the house, "have you made the bow?"
"Yes, after a fashion."
So the Bear went over, raised himself on his hind feet, looked at the bow, pulled it, and said, as he laid it down: "It is a splendid bow. What is this black stuff on these arrows?"
"Obsidian," answered the boy.
"These points are nothing but black coals," said the Bear.
"I tell you," said the boy, "they are good, black, flint arrow-heads, hard and sharp as any others."
"No," said the other, "nothing but coals."
"Now, suppose you let me try one of those coals on you," said the boy.
"All right," said the Bear. He walked over to the other side of the roof and stood there, and the boy took one of the arrows, fitted it to the bow, and let go. It went straight into the heart of the Bear, and even passed through him entirely.
"Wah!" uttered the Bear, as he gave a great snort and rolled over on the house-top and died.
"Ha, ha!" shouted the boy, "what you had intended to do unto me, thus unto you! Oh, mother!" called he, as he ran to the skyhole, "here is your husband; come and see him. I have killed him;
but, then, he would have me make the experiment," said the boy.
"Oh, you foolish, foolish, disobedient boy!" said the mother. What have you been doing now? Are we safe?
"Oh, yes," said he; "my step-father is as passive as if he were asleep." And he went on and skinned his once prospective step-father, and then took out his heart and hung it to the cross-piece of the ladder as a sign that the people could go and get all the bow-timber and arrows they pleased.
That night, after the evening meal was over, the boy sat down with his mother, and he said: "By the way, mother, are there any monsters or fearful creatures anywhere round about this country that kill people and make trouble?"
"No," said the mother, "none whatever."
"I don't know about that; I think there must be," said the boy.
"No, there are none whatever, I tell you," answered the mother.
The boy began to tumble on the floor, rolling about, playing with his mother's blankets, and throwing things around, and once in a while he would ask her again the same question, until finally she got very cross with him and said: "Yes, if you want to know, down there in the valley, beyond the great plains of sagebrush, is a den of Misho Lizards who are fearful and deadly to every one who goes near them. Therefore you had better be careful how you run round the valley."
"What makes them so fearful?" asked he.
"Well," said she, "they are venomous; they have a way of throwing from their mouths or breath a sort of fluid which, whenever it strikes a person, burns him, and whenever it strikes the eyes it blinds them. A great many people have perished there. Whenever a man arrives at their den they are very polite and greet him most courteously; they say: 'Come in; sit down right here in the middle of the floor before the fire.' But as soon as the person is seated in their house they gather round the walls and throw this venom on him, and he dies almost immediately."
"Is it possible?" responded the little boy; and for some reason or other he began to grow sleepy, and said: "Now, let us go to sleep, mother."
So he lay down and slept. Just as soon as it was light the next morning he aroused himself, dressed, took his bow and arrows, and, placing them in a corner near the ladder, said: "Oh, mother, give me my breakfast; I want to go and shoot some little birds. I would like to have some roasted birds for dinner."
She gave him his breakfast as quickly as she could, and he ran down the ladder and went to shooting at the birds, until he happened to see that his mother and others were out of sight; then he skulked into the sagebrush and went as straight as he could for the den of the Misho Lizards. There happened to be two young ones sunning themselves outside, and they said:
"Ah, my fine little fellow, glad to see you this morning. Come in, come in; the old ones will
be very much pleased to entertain you. Come in!"
"Thank you," said the boy. He walked in, but he felt under his coat to see if a huge lump of rock salt he had was still there.
"Sit right down here," said the old people. The whole den was filled with these Misho Lizards, and they were excessively polite, every one of them.
The boy sat down, and the old Misho said to the young ones: "Hurry up, now; be quick!" And they began to throw their venom at him, and continued until he was all covered with it; but, knowing beforehand, and being the child of the gods, he was prepared and protected, and it did him no harm.
"Thank you, thank you," said the boy. "I will do the same thing. Then he pulled out the salt and pushed it down into the fire, where it exploded and entirely used up the whole council of Misho Lizards.
"There!" cried the boy. "Thus would you have done unto me, thus unto you."
He took two fine ones and cut out their hearts, then started for home. When he arrived there, he climbed the ladder and suspended the two hearts beside that of the Bear and went down into the house, saying, "Well, mother, is dinner ready?"
"There now," said she, "I know it. I saw you hang those hearts up. You have been down there."
"Yes," said he, "they are all gone—every solitary one of them."
"Oh, you foolish, foolish, disobedient fellow! I
am all alone in the world, and if you should go to some of those fearful places some time and not comeback, who would hunt for me? What should I do?" said the mother.
"Don't be troubled, mother, now," said the boy. "I don't think I will go any more. There is nothing else of that kind around, is there, mother?"
"No, there is not," she replied; "not a thing. There may be somewhere in the world, but there is not anywhere here."
In the evening, as he sat with his mother, the boy kept questioning and teasing her to tell him of some other monsters—pulling on her skirts and repeating his questions.
"I tell you," she said, "there are no such creatures."
"Oh, mother, I know there are," said he, "and you must tell me about them."
So he continued to bother her until her patience gave out, and she told him of another monster. Said she: "If you follow that cañon down to the southeast, there is a very, very, very high cliff there, and the trail that goes over that cliff runs close by the side of a precipice. Now, that has been for ages a terrible place, for there is a Giant living there, who wears a hair-knot on his forehead. He lies there at length, sunning himself at his ease. He is very good-natured and very polite. His legs stretch across the trail on which men have to go who pass that way, and there is no other way to get by. And whenever a man tries to go by that trail, he says: 'Pass right along,
pass right along; I am glad to see you. Here is a fresh trail; some one has just passed. Don't disturb me; I am sunning myself.' Down below is the den where his children live, and on the flesh of these people he feeds them."
"Mercy!" exclaimed the boy. "Fearful! I never shall go there, surely. That is too terrible! Come, let us go to sleep; I don't want to hear anything more about it."
But the next morning, just as soon as daylight appeared, he got up, dressed himself, and snatched a morsel of food.
His mother said to him: "Where are you going? Are you thinking of that place I told you about?"
"No," said he; "I am going to kill some prairie-dogs right here in sight. I will take my war-club."
So he took his war-club, and thrust it into his belt in front, ran down the hill on which the village stood, and straightway went off to the place his mother had told him of. When he reached the top of the rocks he looked down, and there, sure enough, lay the Giant with the forehead knot.
The Giant looked up and said: "Ah, my son, glad to see you this morning; glad to see you coming so early. Some one just passed here a little while ago; you can see his tracks there."
"Well," said the boy, "make room for me."
"Oh, just step right over," said the old man; "step right over me."
"I can't step over your great legs," said the boy; "draw them up."
"All right," said the old Demon. So he drew his knees up. "There, now, there is plenty of room; pass right along, my son."
Just as the boy got near the place, he thrust out his leg suddenly that way, to kick him off the cliff; but the boy was too nimble for him, and jumped aside.
"Oh, dear me," cried the Monster; "I had a stitch in my leg; I had to stretch it out."
"Ah," said the boy, "you tried to kick me off, did you?"
"Oh, no," said the old villain I had a terrible stitch in my knee,"—and he began to knead his knee in the most vehement manner. "just pass right along; I trust it won't happen again."
The boy again attempted to pass, and the same thing happened as before.
"Oh, my knee! my knee!" exclaimed the Monster.
"Yes, your knee, your knee!" said the boy, as he whipped out his war-club and whacked the Giant on the head before he had time to recover himself. "Thus unto me you would have done, thus unto you!" said the boy.
No sooner had the Giant fallen than the little Top-knots gathered round him and began to eat; and they ate and ate and ate,—there were many of them, and they were voracious—until they came to the top-knot on the old fellow's head, and then one of them cried; "Oh, dear, alas and alas! this is our own father!"
And while they were still crying, the boy cut
out the Giant's heart and slung it over his shoulder; then he climbed down the cliff to where the young Top-knots were, and slew them all except two,—a pair of them. Then he took these two, who were still young, like little children, and grasping one by the throat, wrung its neck and threw it into the air, when it suddenly became a winged creature, and spread out its wings and soared away, crying: "Peep, peep, peep," just as the falcons of today do. Then he took the other one by the neck, and swung it round and round, and flung it into the air, and it flew away with a heavy motion, and cried: "Boohoo, boohoo, boohoo!" and became an owl.
"Ah," said the boy, "born for evil, changed for good! Ye shall be the means whereby our children in the future shall sacrifice to the gods themselves."
Then he trudged along home with the Giant's heart, and when he got there, he hung it on the cross-piece of the ladder by the side of the other hearts. It was almost night then.
"There, now!" said his mother, as he entered the house; "I have been troubled almost to death by your not coming home sooner. You went off to the place I told you of; I know you did!"
"Ha!" said he, "of course I did. I went up there, and the poor fellows are all dead."
"Why will you not listen to me?" said she.
"Oh, it is all right, mother," said the boy. "It is all right." She went on scolding him in the usual fashion, but he paid no attention to her.
As soon as she had sat down to her evening tasks, he asked: "Now, is there any other of these terrible creatures?"
"Well, I shall tell you of nothing more now," said she.
"Why, is there anything more?" asked the boy.
"No, there is not," replied she.
"Ah, mother, I think there must be."
"No; there is nothing more, I tell you."
"Ah, mother, I think there must be."
And he kept bothering and teasing until she told him again (she knew she would have to): "Yes, away down in the valley, some distance from here, near the little Cold-making Hill, there lives a fearful creature, a four-fold Elk or Bison, more enormous than any other living thing. Awiteli Wakashi he is called, and no one can go near him. He rushes stamping and bellowing about the country, and people never pass through that section from fear."
"Ah," said the boy don't tell me any more he must be a fearful creature, indeed."
"Yes; but you will be sure to go there," said she.
"Oh, no, no, mother; no, indeed!"
But the next morning he went earlier than ever, carrying with him his bows and arrows. He was so filled with dread, however, or pretended to be, that as he went along the trail he began to cry and sniffle, and walk very slowly, until he came near the hole of an old Gopher, his grandfather. The old fellow was working away, digging another
cellar, throwing the dirt out, when he heard this crying. Said he: "That is my grandson; I wonder what he is up to now." So he ran and stuck his nose out of the hole he was digging, and said:
"Oh, my grandchild, where are you doing?"
The boy stopped and began to look around.
"Right here! right here!" cried the grandfather, calling his attention to the hole. "Come, my boy."
The boy put his foot in, and the hole enlarged, and he went down into it.
"Now, dry your eyes, my grandchild, and tell me what is the matter."
"Well," said the boy, "I was going to find the four-fold Bison. I wanted to take a look at him, but I am frightened!"
"Why, what is the matter? Why do you not go?" said the Gopher.
"Well, to tell you the truth, I thought I would try to kill him," he answered.
"Well, I will do what I can to help; you had better not try to do it alone. Sit here comfortably; dry your eyes, and I will see what I can do."
The old Gopher began to dig, dig, dig under the ground for a long way, making a fine tunnel, and packed it hard on the top and sides so that it would not fall in. He finally came to hear the "thud, thud, thud" of the heart of this creature, where it was lying, and dug the hole up to that spot. When he got there he saw the long layers of hair on its body, where no arrow could penetrate,
and he cut the hair off, so that the skin showed white. Then he silently stole back to where the boy was and said: "Now, my boy, take your bow and arrows and go along through this hole until you get to where the tunnel turns upward, and then, if you look well, you will see a light patch. That is the skin next the heart of the four-fold Bison. He is sleeping there. You will hear the 'thud, thud, thud' of his heart. Shoot him exactly in the middle of that place, and then, mind you, turn around and run for your life, and the moment you get to my hole, tumble in, headforemost or any way."
So the boy did as he was told-crawled through the tunnel until he came to where it went upward, saw the light patch, and let fly an arrow with all his might, then rushed and scrambled back as hard as he could. With a roar that shook the earth the four-fold Bison fell over, then struggled to his feet, snorted, bellowed, and stuck his great horn into the tunnel, and like a flash of fire ripped it from end to end, just as the boy came tumbling into the deeper hole of his grandfather.
"Ah!" exclaimed the Gopher.
"He almost got me," said the boy.
"Sit still a moment and rest, my grandson," said the Gopher. "He didn't catch you. I will go and see whether he is dead."
So the Gopher stuck his nose out of the hole and saw there a great heap of flesh lying. He went out, nosed around, and smelt, jumped back, and went forward again until he came to the end
of the creature, and then he took one of his nails and scratched out an eye, and there was no sign of life. So he ran back to the boy, and said: "Yes, he breathes no more; you need not fear him longer."
"Oh, thank you, my grandfather!" said the boy.
And he climbed out, and laid himself to work to skin the beast. He took off its great thick skin, and cut off a suitable piece of it, for the whole pelt was so large and heavy that he could not carry it; then he took out the animal's great heart, and finally one of the large intestines and filled it with blood, then started for home. He went slowly, because his load was so heavy, and when he arrived he hung the heart on the ladder by the side of the others, and dragged the pelt to the skyhole, and nearly scared the wits out of his mother by dropping it into the room.
"Oh, my child, now, here you are! Where have you been?" cried she. "I warned you of the place where the four-fold Bison was; I wonder that you ever came home."
"Ah, the poor creature said the boy he is dead. just look at this. He isn't handsome any more; he isn't strong and large any more."
"Oh, you wretched, wretched boy! You will be the death of me, as well as of yourself, some time," said the mother.
"No, mother," said the boy; "that is all nonsense."
That evening the boy said to his mother: "Now, mother, is there anything else of this kind left? If there is, I want to know it. Now, don't disappoint me by refusing to tell."
Oh, my dear son," said she, "I wish you wouldn't ask me; but indeed there is. There are terrible birds, great Eagles, fearful Eagles, living over on Shuntekia. In the very middle of an enormous cliff is a hollow place in the rocks where is built their nest, and there are their young ones. Day after day, far and near, they catch up children and young men and women, and carry them away, never more to be seen. These birds are more terrible than all the rest, because how can one get near to slay them? My son, I do hope and trust that you will not go this time,—but, you foolish little boy, I see that you will go."
"Well, mother, let us go to sleep, and never mind anything about it," said the boy.
But after his mother had gone to sleep, he took the piece of rawhide he had skinned from the fourfold Bison, and, cutting it out, made himself a suit—a green rawhide suit, skin-tight almost, so that it was perfectly smooth. Then he scraped the hair off, greased it all over, and put it away inside a blanket so that it would not dry. In the morning, quite early, he took his weapons, and taking also his rawhide suit, and the section of the four-fold Bison's intestine which he had filled with blood, he ran into the inlet, and across it, and climbed the mesa near the Shuntekia cliff. When he came within a short distance of the nest of the Eagles, he stopped and slipped on his rawhide suit, and tied the intestine of blood round his neck, like a sausage.
Then he began to cry and shake his head, and he cried louder than there was any need of his
doing in reality; for presently the old father of the Eagles, who was away up in the sky, just a mere speck, heard and saw him and came swishing down in a great circle, winding round and round the boy, and the boy looked up and began to cry louder still, as if frightened out of his wits, and finally rolled himself up like a porcupine, and threw himself down into the trail, crying and howling with apparent fear. The Eagle swooped down on him, and tried to grasp him in his talons, and, kopo kopooo, his claws simply slipped off the rawhide coat. Then the Eagle made a fiercer grab at him and grew angry, but his claws would continually slip off, until he tore a rent in the intestine about the boy's neck, and the blood began to stream over the boy's coat, making it more slippery than ever. When the Eagle smelt the blood, he thought he had got him, and it made him fiercer than ever; and finally, during his struggling, he got one talon through a stitch in the coat, and he spread out his wings, and flew up, and circled round and round over the point where the young Eagles nest was, when he let go and shook the boy free, and the boy rolled over and over and came down into the nest; but he struck on a great heap of brush, which broke his fall. He lay there quite still, and the old Eagle swooped down and poised himself on a great crag of rock near by, which was his usual perching place.
"There, my children, my little ones," said he, "I have brought you food. Feast yourselves! Feast yourselves! For that reason I brought it."
So the little Eagles, who were very awkward, long-legged and short-winged, limped tip to the boy and reached out their claws and opened their beaks, ready to strike him in the face. He lay there quite still until they got very near, and then said to them: "Shhsht!" And they tumbled back, being awkward little fellows, and stretched up their necks and looked at him, as Eagles will.
Then the old Eagle said: "Why don't you eat him? Feast yourselves, my children, feast yourselves!"
So they advanced again, more cautiously this time, and a little more determinedly too; and they reached out their beaks to tear him, and he said "Shhsht!" and, under his breath, "Don't eat me! And they jumped back again.
"What in the world is the matter with you little fools?" said the old Eagle. "Eat him! I can't stay here any longer; I have to go away and hunt to feed you; but you don't seem to appreciate my efforts much." And he lifted his wings, rose into the air, and sailed off to the northward.
Then the two young Eagles began to walk around the boy, and to examine him at all points. Finally they approached his feet and hands.
"Be careful, be careful, don't eat me! Tell me about what time your mother comes home," said he, sitting up. "What time does she usually come?
"Well," said the little Eagles, "she comes home when the clouds begin to gather and throw their shadow over our nest." (Really, it was the shadow
of the mother Eagle herself that was thrown over the nest.)
"Very well," said the boy; "what time does your father come home?"
"When the fine rain begins to fall," said they, meaning the dew.
"Oh," said the boy. So he sat there, and by-and-by, sure enough, away off in the sky, carrying something dangling from her feet, came the old mother Eagle. She soared round and round until she was over the nest, when she dropped her burden, and over and over it fell and tumbled into the nest, a poor, dead, beautiful maiden. The young boy looked at her, and his heart grew very hot, and when the old Eagle came and perched, in a moment he let fly an arrow, and struck her down and dashed her brains out.
"Ha, ha!" exclaimed the boy. "What you have done to many, thus unto you."
Then he took his station again, and by-and-by the old father Eagle came, bearing a youth, fair to look upon, and dropped him into the nest. The young boy shut his teeth, and he said: "Thus unto many you have done, and thus unto me you would have done; so unto you." And he drew an arrow and shot him. Then he turned to the two young Eagles and killed them, and plucked out all the beautiful colored feathers about their necks, until he had a large bundle of fine plumes with which he thought to wing his arrows or to waft his prayers.
Then he looked down the cliff and saw there was no way to climb down, and there was no way to
climb up. Then he began to cry, and sat on the edge of the cliff, and cried so loud that the old Bat Woman, who was gathering cactus-berries below, or thought she was, overheard the boy.
Said she: "Now, just listen to that. I warrant it is my fool of a grandson, who is always trying to get himself into a scrape. I am sure it must be so. Phoo! phoo!"
She spilled out all the berries she had found from the basket she had on her back, and then labored up to where she could look over the edge of the shelf.
"Yes, there you are," said she; "you simpleton! you wretched boy! What are you doing here?"
"Oh, my grandmother," said he, "I have got into a place and I cannot get out."
"Yes," said she; "if you were anything else but such a fool of a grandson and such a bard-hearted wretch of a boy, I would help you get down; but you never do as your mother and grandmother or grandfathers tell you."
"Ah, my grandmother, I will do just as you tell me this time," said the boy.
"Now, will you?" said she. "Now, can you be certain?—will you promise me that you will keep your eyes shut, and join me, at least in your heart, in the prayer which I sing when I fly down? Yan lehalliah kiana. Never open your eyes; if you do, the gods will teach you a lesson, and your poor old grandmother, too."
"I will do just as you tell me," said he, as he reached over and took up his plumes and held them ready.
"Not so fast, my child," said she; "you must promise me."
"Oh, my grandmother, I will do just as you tell me," said he.
"Well, step into my basket, very carefully now. As I go down I shall go very prayerfully, depending on the gods to carry so much more than I usually carry. Do you not wink once, my grandson."
"All right; I will keep my eyes shut this time," said he. So he sat down and squeezed his eyes together, and held his plumes tight, and then the old grandmother launched herself forth on her skin wings. After she had struggled a little, she began to sing
"Ha ash tchaa ni,—Ha ash tchaa ni:
Tche pa naa,—thlen-thle.
Thlen! Thlen! Thlen!
Now, just listen to that," said the boy; "my old grandmother is singing one of those tedious prayers; it will take us forever to go down."
Then presently the old Bat Woman, perfectly unconscious of his state of mind, began to sing again
"Thlen thla kia yai na kia."
"There she goes again," said he to himself; "I declare, I must look up; it will drive me wild to sit here all this time and hear my old grandmother try to sing."
Then, after a little while, she commenced again:
"Ha ash tchaa ni,—Ha ash tchaa ni;
Tche pa naa,—thlen-thle.
Thlen! Thlen! Thlen!"
The boy stretched himself up, and said: "Look here, grandmother! I have heard your 'Thlen! Thlen! Thlen!' enough this time. I am going to open my eyes.
"Oh, my grandchild, never think of such a thing." Then she began again to sing:
Ha ash tchaa ni,—Ha ash tchaa ni:
Tche pa naa,—thlen-thle.
Thlen! Thlen! Thlen
She was not near the ground when she finished it the fourth time, and the boy would not stand it any more. Lo! he opened his eyes, and the old grandmother knew it in a moment. Over and over, boy over bat, bat over boy, and the basket between them, they went whirling and pitching down, the old grandmother tugging at her basket and scolding the boy.
"Now, you foolish, disobedient one! I told you what would happen! You see what you have done!" and so on until they fell to the ground. It fairly knocked the breath out of the boy, and when he got tip again he yelled lustily.
The old grandmother picked herself up, stretched herself, and cried out anew: "You wretched, foolish, hard-hearted boy; I never will do anything for you again-never, never, never!"
"I know, my grandmother," said the boy, "but you kept up that 'Thlen! Thlen! Thlen!' so much. What in the world did you want to spend so much time thlening, thlening; and buzzing round in that way for?"
"Ah, me!" said she, "he never did know anything—never will be taught to know anything."
"Now," said she to him, "you might as well come and eat with me. I have been gathering cactus-fruit, and you can eat and then go home." She took him to the place where she had poured out the contents of the basket, but there was scarcely a cactus-berry. There were cedar-berries, cones, sticks, little balls of dirt, coyote-berries, and everything else uneatable.
"Sit down, my grandson, and eat; strengthen yourself after your various adventures and exertions. I feel very weary myself," said she. And she took a nip of one of them; but the boy couldn't exactly bring himself to eat. The truth is, the old woman's eyes were bad, in the same way that bats' eyes are usually bad, and she couldn't tell a cactus-berry from anything else round and rough.
"Well, inasmuch as you won't eat, my grandson," said she, "why, I can't conceive, for these are very good, it seems to me. You had better run along home now, or your mother will be killing herself thinking of you. Now, I have only one direction to give you. You don't deserve any, but I will give you one. See that you pay attention to it. If not, the worst is your own. You have gathered a beautiful store of feathers. Now, be very careful. Those creatures who bore those feathers have gained their lives from the lives of living beings, and therefore their feathers differ from other feathers. Heed what I say, my grandson.
When you come to any place where flowers are blooming,—where the sunflowers make the field yellow,—walk round those flowers if you want to get home with these feathers. And when you come to more flowers, walk round them. If you do not do that, Just as you came you will go back to your home."
"All right, my grandmother," said the boy. So, after bidding her good-by, he trudged away with his bundle of feathers; and when he came to a great plain of sunflowers and other flowers he walked round them; and when he came to another large patch he walked round them, and then another, and so on; but finally he stopped, for it seemed to him that there were nothing but fields of flowers all the way home. He thought he had never seen so many before.
"I declare," said he, "I will not walk round those flowers any more. I will hang on to these feathers, though."
So he took a good hold of them and walked in amongst the flowers. But no sooner had he entered the field than flutter, flutter, flutter, little wings began to fly out from the bundle of feathers, and the bundle began to grow smaller and smaller, until it wholly disappeared. These wings which flew out were the wings of the Sacred Birds of Summerland, made living by the lives that had supported the birds which bore those feathers, and by coming into the environment which they had so loved, the atmosphere which flowers always bring of summer.
Thus it was, my children, in the days of the ancients, and for that reason we have little jay-birds, little sparrows, little finches, little willow-birds, and all the beautiful little birds that bring the summer, and they always hover over flowers.
"My friends" [said the story-teller], "that is the way we live. I am very glad, otherwise I would not have told the story, for it is not exactly right that I should,—I am very glad to demonstrate to you that we also have books; only they are not books with marks in them, but words in our hearts, which have been placed there by our ancients long ago, even so long ago as when the world was new and young, like unripe fruit. And I like you to know these things, because people say that the Zuñis are dark people."
Thus shortens my story.
[1. That is, people in the dark—having no knowledge.]