Charles Frederick Holder.

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heads, walking from the acequias to
their queer grout houses ; Oriental-
looking Mexican villages with their
clusters of adobe houses and the inev-
itable adobe church; and herds of
sheep in charge of solitary herdsmen.
Away in the distance the blue line of
the Sandia mountains rose between us
and the horizon, and at sundown the
slow train pulled into the town of
San Marcial. The conductor said the
train would go no farther, as that was
the end of the division.

San Marcial is a pleasant town to a
leisurely traveler. There is a good
railroad hotel there whose attaches
take an interest in the strangers
within their gates, and whose guests
are usually sociable and companion-
able. There are wide verandas around
the hotel, and the streets of the little
town are lined with shady trees. At
night Mescalero Indians wrap them-
selves in their blankets and lie down
on the ground near the hotel to sleep.
I was sitting on the hotel veranda,
smoking a cigar and watching the big
yellow moon come up over the mesas,
when an old Mescalero, wrapped in a
gaudy Navajo blanket, came up to
the veranda and looked at me curi-
ously. I gave him a cigar and tried
to talk to him. While thus engaged,

a well-dressed Mexican of the belter
class took a seat at my side and said.
4 ' Buenas tardes, Senor ! "

The Mexican was a genial, intelli-
gent man, apparently about thirty-
five years of age. He was anxiotti to
be sociable, and like all Mexican- wu
very polite, but a perpetual sadness
seemed to lurk under his smiles. We
talked for an hour of Mexico, of t he-
Indians, of the Southwest and of the
Garza revolution, until we came to
know each other as well as men often
do after years of acquaintance. When
the hotel guests had retired and we
were sitting alone looking out into
the moonlit night, he asked me if I
would like to hear a strange, true tale
of an adventure he had had. Of
course I wanted to hear it. Many of
the strange tales of the Southwest are
true, and many are false and it is hard
for one to choose between them ; but
the story told me by the Mexican is
here recorded in the man's own words ■

1 ' The Sefior has no doubt read some-
thing of the history of this country
and of the country of Old Mexico,
whose history is much the same, or
was much the same until the present
century. He knows of the traditions
of the olden times that tell that the
first people of this land came down to
earth by way of the mighty mountain
that is now called Pike's Peak — the
mountain in whose sjiadow the Sefior
says he lives. Of course that tale of
the people coming to earth in that wax-
is a fable, but it is true that the first
tribes, and all succeeding tribes who
entered the great valley of Mexico,
came from the North. First came
fierce tribes who knew but little more
than the wild beasts, then wiser tribes
who knew somewhat of agriculture
and working in metals, then other
fierce tribes who fought the other




tribes, and so on until there was
almost ceaseless war in the valley
that was then known as Anahuac. •
In time came the Olmecs, those shad-
owy people whose very history is
known only by the dimmest traditions ;
then the Toltecs, who either faded
away or were amalgamated with suc-
ceeding races ; then came the great
empire of the Montezumas, and then
the Great Conquest, and the sway of
the white-skinned men. The tale I
shall tell you is a tale of the present,
but it also goes back far before the
time of the Conquistadores, or even the
time of the Aztec supremacy. It is a
strange tale, and by many will be
called a lie, but I say to you, Seflor,
that it is a true tale, and it tells almost
all of sorrow or of joy that has been in
my life.

"As you see, I am a Mexican. Of
Mexicans there are many kinds : the
Castilians, the peons, the pure-blooded
Indians. I am a mestizo — a Creole,
you might call it. In my blood are
strains of the purest Castilian Spanish
and also strains of Indian blood.
When the Conquistadores came, many
of them took wives from the native
women. My first male Castilian
ancestor did this, taking his wife from
a small tribe known as the Ulo, of
whom there were not two hundred all
told, and of whose descendants I am
the only one, except the people of
whom I will tell you. In this way
the blood of my ancestors became
mixed, and it was mixed often after
that by marriage. My mother seemed
more Indian than Castilian, for while
she was a devout Catholic, she prac-
tised old Ulo tribal rites in secret.
My father was a wise man for the
place where he lived ; he saw to it
that I was started in the way of being
educated, and then he died. My
mother died soon after my father, and
when she lay on her bed of death she
sent for me and said to me :

" * My son, you may live to be an
honored man among the people of this
country, and you should, for there was
a time when the Ulos, who are your

ancestors, were counted among the
rulers of this great valley, and they
held sway over tribes far more numer-
ous than their own. The old words
that have come down to me from my
mother and from my mother's mother
and from all the women of my line,
tell that in an olden time the tribe of
the Ulo came to this valley from the
North; came to the valley and con-
quered it, although the Ulos were but
a small tribe. They ruled in the val-
ley until the Toltecs came, that great
tribe whose numbers were as the num-
bers of the birds of the air. The Tol-
tecs were conquerors, and as the Ulos
would serve no masters, they gathered
together and sought out a new land
far to the southwest of this. All did
not go, and the ones of the Ulos who
remained in the valley have all faded
from the earth since the time of the
Conquest — all but you and me, and
now you will be the only one. The
Ulos are the chosen people of Those
Above ; they were promised that on
the earth there should always be a
land for them, and that a prophet
should always dwell with them to
keep them faithful to the true creed of
the olden time. The descendants of
the tribe that left the valley are upon
the earth to-day ; I know not where,
but upon the earth I know they are,
for so it was promised. When I was
young, I longed to go forth and seek
out the dwelling-place of this tribe of
my people, but a woman is but a weak
thing; I loved your father, and I
abode with him. But because of my
longing to dwell with my own people
I have always cherished memories of
them ; I have taught you, my only
child, the language of this people,
which language is now forgotten in
the valley of Anahuac. And upon
your arm I have placed the sacred
mark of the Ulo, the writing that
reads :

In this body flows the blood of Ulo /

"'Now, my son, when my body
has been again returned to the earth,



go thou and seek the descendants of
your forefathers ; seek them and learn
truth from them, and by dwelling
among them, be numbered among the
chosen people of the world.'

"Then my mother died, and I was
greatly impressed by what she had
told me. It was true that she had
taught me the language of the Ulo,
and on my arm was tattooing that
read as she had said. I was a young
man, eager for adventure, and I de-
sired greatly to find the dwelling
place of this strange tribe. I went to
the schools, to the heads of govern-
ment departments, to travelers —
everywhere inquiring for a tribe
known as the Ulo. No one knew
anything of such a tribe, but as I
believed the tribe existed I traveled
to the remote parts of Mexico, seeking
it. I did not find anyone, however,
who had even heard of the tribe, and
in time I almost abandoned hope of
ever finding it. My desire to seek
out this people was founded only on a
desire for adventure and not on ac-
count of the belief of my mother ; but
for all that I was very loth to give up
my hope of discovering them.

" After I had ceased to look for the
Ulos, I became engaged as a minor
officer upon a small ship that sailed
from the port of Mazatlan up and down
the west coast of Mexico. On one
cruise we passed a barren coast where
high rock walls rose up sheer at the
water's edge, so steep that it seemed
impossible for any living thing to
scale them. The place had a clfarm
for me on account of its being a locality
destined apparently never to come
under the control of man.

' ' The wall of rocky cliffs ran for
several miles along the coast, and it
chanced that as we were passing it I
had a violent quarrel with my supe-
rior officer. In the heat of anger I
struck him in the face, knocking him
senseless. He was a vindictive man,
and I knew that as soon as we reached
a port he would have me arrested for
mutiny. So I determined to escape,
and some of the common sailors, who

were friends of mine, assisted me. I
took a small boat, rigged it with both
sails and oars and provisioned it,
taking a few belongings, such as a
revolver, photographic camera and a
supply of tobacco, and embarked,
getting safely put off before the officer
could prevent. The ship sailed on
down the coast, and before it went out
of sight I saw the officer I had struck
looking back at me through a glass.
No doubt he was pleased, for it must
have seemed to him that there \
chances that I might never reach a
place where I could land.

"I was very well content in my
small boat. I always loved adventure
and I was happy as I sat in the boat
and smoked, and looked out over the
blue waves of the calm Pacific Ocean.
I felt free from all the cares that I
men in the common walks of life, and
it seemed to me that I would be con-
tent to drift forever, alone on that
beautiful expanse of water that seemed
.to stretch from the world to eternity.

" As I was near the rock cliffs that
had excited my curiosity I detenu ined
to sail as close to them as I could.
As I was sailing along I noticed an
opening in the cliffs, looking like the
mouth of a cave. I sailed to this
opening and was greatly surprised to
find that it was large enough for my
boat to enter. I took the oars and
rowed directly into the mouth of this
opening, and was more surprised to
find that it led under a mass of over-
hanging rock into a perfect little bay,
that was completely shut off from
sight of the ocean. The bay was very
small, containing an area of not more
than forty acres, and the rock walls
rose sheer from it on every side, ex-
tending upward hundreds of feet.

" I moored the little boat to a crag
of rock, and prepared to spend the
night in the bay. The next day I
explored the bay, and discovered the
mouth of a cave or passage that led
directly into the rock on the side of
the bay that was toward the mainland.
I took candles with me to give light,
and set out walking to explore this



passage. It was a passage wide
enough for a carriage to have passed
through, and was about ten feet from
the floor to the roof. Water dripped
from its sides, and stalactites and
stalagmites projected from the rocks.
The passage was straight for a long
distance, when suddenly I left the
straight path and plunged into a per-
fect maze of passages that ran in every
direction. It was not long until I
was completely lost, and I became
greatly frightened. It is not pleasant
for one to think he may have to wan-
der alone in tortuous underground
passages until he dies from starvation.

" Has the Senor a match? Thank
you; I had allowed my cigar to go

" I wandered up and down the
mazes of the winding tunnels for long
hours, probably crossing and recrOBS-
ing my own path numbers of times.
When I was almost exhausted 1 came
to a set of rude stairs made out of
rocks piled one above another. The
stairway seemed somewhat as though
it bad been built by human hands,
and I wondered if some other man.
lost and hopeless like myself, had
builded it in order that the work
might prevent him from becoming in-
sane. I climbed up the stairs and
found that they led to a large plat-
form that lay under a part of the cav-
erns that rose much higher than the
roof of the passages I had been in. A
soft light came into this cavern from
a crevice high above my head, ami
when my eyes had become accus-
tomed to this light I looked around
me, and the sight that met my eyes
was so strange that at first I almost
feared I had lost my reason. In all
parts of the cavern were human fig-
ures, some seated, some reclining,
some lying flat upon the floor, some
standing by rocks. At first I thought
they were the figures of living
humans, as each was fully dressed
and all were in such life-like posi-
tions, but I soon discovered that the
things before me were the bodies of
dead men. I cannot tell vou the feel-

ing of horror that ran over me when
I found myself in that ghastly com-
pany. Every figure seemed perfect,
none seemed wasted or decayed, all
were clothed, and over the face of
each one was a strange white mask
that closely fitted the face and showed
the nose, the mouth, in fact the con-
tour of all the features. The light that
came down through the rift in the
rocks gave a weird effect to the pic-
ture of silent death that was before
me, and the deathly silence that filled
the cave was almost unbearable.

" I tried to tear myself away from
the grim fascination of the ghastly
cavern, but found that it was hard to
leave. Then I went close to the
bodies and examined some of them.
I found them to be clothed in gar-
ments made of buckskin, the buck-
skin having been oiled with some
mineral substance that prevented de-
cay. The bodies were mummified,
each one being as hard as flint, but
every contour and feature was per-
fectly preserved. I tried to tear the
mask from one of the faces, but could
not, as the thing seemed made of iron.
I did succeed, though, in tearing open
a sleeve covering one arm of one of
the bodies, and when the naked arm
came in view I found tatooed upon, it
the same words that were tatooed upon
my own arm when I was a baby:

In this body flows the blood of Ulo /

I looked more closely. There was no
mistake. The letters were the old
letters of the written language of the
Ulo, and the words were the same my
mother had traced in ink in my own

' ■ The writing on »the arm held me
chained with a weird fascination.
These mummies, then, were members
of the lost tribe of Ulo, members of
the same tribe to which my ancestors
had belonged so many centuries ago.
The words of the prophecy came back
to me, ringing in my ears as though
spoken by a living voice. ' The Ulos
are the chosen people, and a prophet



shall always dwell with them to keep
them faithful.' I wondered what they
had thought when their prophecy had
failed, and they had come to die like
reptiles in an underground cavern. I
wondered if the tribe of my ancestors
had all died in this gruesome cave,
and if the dead bodies before me were
all that I should ever find. That
could not be, though, for the bodies
before me were all the bodies of men.
I thought I might find the bodies of
the women in some other cave, might
find them if I did not die too soon. I
tore the sleeve on the arm of another
of the bodies. There was the same
writing as on the first. Then I sat
down on a rock in that dim cave — sat
down as a man from whom all fear
had gone, and I mused for hours upon
the Ulos, upon myself, upon the
chances of fortune, upon life and death.
What, then, is a man ? A weak thing
speeding swiftly from a mysterious
past to a future even more mysterious,
a thing of a few days, a thing that
reels under the weight of many
troubles, a thing that dies and decays
and returns to the dust of the earth,
and is soon utterly forgotten in all
places in the world. The Ulos were
once a great people ; they ruled tribes
whose numbers were multitudes ; they
were so great that every Ulo was called
a chief, and then they went as fugi-
tives to the caves of the mountains ;
went as fugitives and perished even
unto the last man ! They were a for-
gotten race ; their places were filled
with other races, and in time they also
would be forgotten. Such were the
thoughts that came to me in the cav-
ern of the dead.

" I sat there for hours, and then,
almost exhausted from hunger, I
wearily climbed down the stone ladder
and began again my hopeless wander-
ings up and down the winding stone
passages. Just as I was ready to give
up in despair and lie down and die, a
smell of salt water came to my
nostrils, a breath of sea breeze blew
into my face, and then a few steps
brought me out again to the little bay

where my boat was moored. I ate of
the food I had in the boat, and then
lay down on the rocks and slept for
many hours.

u When I escaped from the caverns
I thanked God for my deliverance,
and vowed that no wealth upon the
earth could tempt me to again risk my
life in the mazy passages. But when
I awoke from my long sleep and was
refreshed from my hunger and fatigue,
the mystery of the place took hold
upon me again, and I set about dc\
ing a way to safely explore the a
erns and learn, if I could, something
of the secrets that were hidden in
them. In my boat was a great coil of
common fish line that I had hastily
thrown in while making my hurried
preparations to escape from the ship.
I unwound this line and found that
there was almost two miles of it. I
bound one end of the line securely to
a rock, and taking the coil in my
hands, again entered the underground
passage, allowing the line to unwind
as I walked. In this way I went on
until I came to the end of the line.
and I had found nothing. I retraced
my steps almost back to the mouth of
the cave, and then set out in a differ-
ent passage from the one I had been

"Just as I was coming to the end
of the line again, I found that the
passage was becoming light. It was
merely a glimmer at first, then there
came a soft light that showed the
walls of the caverns, and then a full,
steady light that one might have read
by. Soon the passage widened, and
then I came to a large cave that was
high and light, and that was fitted Up
as a human habitation. A large com h
made of skins and cotton cloths lay
against one side of the cave, a stone
table and seat were in the center, and
various instruments, the uses of which
I did not know, were scattered about.
I discovered that the light came from
the burning of natural gas, that was
blazing behind shields made of ising-
glass. The farther end of this cavern
was closed with a stone wall that



showed that it had been made by
human hands, and a stone door was in
this wall. Upon the walls of the
room I was in were carvings, and
upon looking closely I found some
words written, or carved, in the lan-
guage of the Ulo. I blessed my
mother for teaching me that forgotten
language, for now it might chance
that it would save my life.

■ ' Weary from my long wandering
in the passages I sat down upon the
couch to rest. While sitting there
the stone door in the wall swung open,
and slowly walking toward me came
a figure exactly like one of the petri-
fied mummies I had found in the
burial cavern. I thought it was a
ghost, but I was not frightened, so
used was I becoming to terrible
things. The figure approached me,
the head bent down as though in
thought, and I noticed that the step
was slow and halting like that of an
old man. Presently the man looked
up, and I saw upon his face one of the
strange white masks I had seen upon
the mummies. The mask enveloped
the entire head, the part covering the
back of the head being smooth, and
the part covering the face fitting every
feature perfectly. The effect of the
mask was something ghastly. There
were all the features, the eyes, the
mouth, the nose, but all were of that
same dead- white color.

11 Presently the masked man saw
me and stopped. He did not seem
frightened, as I thought he would be,
but stood and regarded me intently.
Then he walked in front of me, made
a low bow, and said :

1 ' ' My son, from whence came you —
from the sun? ' "

' ' I answered that I came from Mex-
ico, and he said that he knew not that
the land of endless life was called
Mexico. Then I tried to tell him some-
thing of the wonderful country of my
birth, but for some reason I was slow-
in making him understand, and I
soon saw that he regarded me as a
god that had been sent to him from
the land of the sun.

' c ' What came you here to do ? ' he

" ' I came to seek the tribe of the
Ulo,' I replied.

"'I am the king of the Ulo,' re-
plied the masked man — ' the king and
the highest priest of that nation. For
many years have I ruled over them,
given them laws, instructed them in
truth, and have offered up their pray-
ers to the most high gods. For many
years have I dwelt alone in this
cavern, alone except for the sacred
snake of my people. While the other
men of my tribe have taken wives and
have reared children, I have dwelt in
this solitude, praying, meditating and
thinking thoughts of wisdom for my
people. But the time of my death
draws nigh; I feel my blood turn cold
within my veins, and it will not be
long until I must take my place among
the vanished kings in the cavern of
the dead. Do you know of the cavern
of the dead, my son ? '

" I replied that I did, and the king
seemed pleased that I knew of it.
Then the king brought me food, and
a kind of wine made from some plant,
and bade me eat and rest before talk-
ing further.

11 When I had rested and refreshed
myself I talked long with the masked
king, who did not seem surprised that
I spoke the language of the Ulo. I
learned from him that the caverns and
underground passages opened on one
side into the sea, and on the other side
into a valley that w T as surrounded
with high stone cliffs. In these cliffs
the people of the Ulo had cut out their
homes ; there they lived, and in the
valley the}' grew maize and melons
and cotton, and various things to eat.
Beyond this valley, which was called
the Valley of Cultivation, opened an-
other called the Valley of the Beasts,
and in this valley were deer and other
animals hunted for food and skins by
the Ulo. The king told me that
there w r ere 600 people in the tribe. He
told me, also, the secret of the king-
ship. The people of the Ulo believed
that their king was an immortal, and



that it was death to look upon his
face. This belief had its rise in the
fact that the first king who ruled
them in the hidden valleys devised the
white masks which made one face
look like all other faces. He had told
his people that he was an immortal
and would live forever, and when his
time came to die he sent for a relig-
ious youth from among the people,
telling the people the youth was to
be sacrificed to the sun, but he told
the youth he was chosen to rule the
people. Then he made a white mask
for this youth, and the people knew
not the difference, for the youth was
masked and dressed exactly like the
first king, and besides the king went
but little among the people. The
youth grew old, his death grew near,
he chose another youth to succeed
him, made him a white mask, and
again the people knew not that a new
king was ruling them, but thought
that another sacrifice had been made
to the sun. In thiswise innumerable
kings had ruled over the people of
Ulo, yet the people thought it was
one immortal who had always been
their king. And the masjced dead
bodies in the cavern of death were the
bodies of the men who had been kings
of Ulo.

" ' My son,' said the old king to me,
' the time has almost come for me to
lay down my burden of years and take
my place among the silent bodies of
the kings who have gone before me.
The people of Ulo think that but one
king has 'ever ruled them, and it is
well that they think that, but you
who are to be the king must know
the truth. When I w r as a youth I was
devout in the practice of the worship
of the gods of my tribe, so devout that
the king often spoke to me in com-
mendation. Now the Ulo, when they
dwelt in Anahuac, gave human lives
in sacrifice, giving the lives of people
they had captured in the wars. But
in this valley our numbers grew so
few, and there were no barbarians to
war against, that it was only in long
periods that a human life could be

spared even in sacrifice to the gods.
In times that were apart, some-
times fifty years, sometimes seventy, a

youth was chosen from among t la-

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 55 of 120)