Marah Ellis Martin Ryan.

The house of the dawn online

. (page 18 of 26)
Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 18 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

built by southern clans of her own people, but that
dwellings on the open plain were no longer safe for
reason that the roving tribes had grown too strong.
Other things of the strange ruin she told us legends
and traditions heard in the winter nights around the
fires of her people and the massive walls, and its
four stories, surely gave reason to think it built when
the clans were indeed strong and sovereigns in a wide
land. All about it were crumbled walls and sand-filled
ditches where the water had once been led from the
river, and the sight of the vast ruined place of Indio
pueblos impressed Sancha as words could not.

" Why, they were indeed people civilized and of
industry," she said in amaze. " The thickness of the
walls will measure the height of Movi, and that ruined
tower was it for sentinal or priest? "

" I shall use it for the view, to learn if other travelers
are in sight," said Tristan, " and if you, as priestess

He glanced at her robe, and smiled.

Lz!J iE? Ulj LLf\HJ IS Jl_ 1 JFr.rLJ lEi LTLzLl LEzJiHJ LS ulHJ

" I also will go up if the way is safe," she said. " I
wish I might know it also was one of the high places of

I was content to stay below, and content also if her
curiosity took her alone with him as guard, for dear
though she was to me, her moods of discontent and
disdain of him made troublous work for me in camp or
on trail.

With a fallen beam he made a ladder up which she
could walk with help of a reata held by him, and as there
was no roving enemy in sight they took time to investi
gate the old tower, while Movi and I were content to
pick garnets out of an ant hill when her search for
beads proved useless.

And the Indian woman looked at me and laughed
when the voices were heard returning to earth, for
Sancha was in a pleasant mood, and was voicing thanks.

" For without you I should never have found it,"
she said, " and for a certainty the bell proves it a place
of ceremony, and the height of it makes clear it was
their substitute for a mountain in greetings to the
dawn, or study of stars."

" You learn fast," he said, " and I have joy that it
was your hand found their music thing of prayer. Many
have gone through the rooms and never found it."

She carried a little copper bell in which a pebble
tinkled, and it had been hidden in the dust of what
appeared a break or hole in the wall. Movi looked at
it gravely, and said it was a sacred thing, and that the
place in the wall had been built for it when the house
was built it was still the custom.

" That is the second time I have stood in a House of


the Dawn," remarked Sancha, showing the bell to me,
" and this time the little bell is as music in the heart,
for I come down happily."

" Their prayer places perhaps keep a holiness of
spirit despite the pagan blindness," I agreed ; " and if
you can find understanding of it, you will add much of
happiness to your own heart on the trail."

" I think that is true, Juanito, for in each House of
the Dawn I have learned a new thing."

Tristan turned and looked at her, then walked away
where the horses were. I could not think what she
had learned on the mountain except the thing giving
her anger at him, but the trophy of the bell had quelled,
for the time, her mutiny, and I was the last to wish it

Few signs of danger had crossed our path, and the
spirit of holiday trails did at times come between those
two, for, though all their world looked tragic, they were
young in life and heart, and the beauties of the days and
nights were many. All the wild things of bloom were
at their best, and the horses were faring better than
we could have hoped. The water was not good until
we entered higher lands where the pines grew, but we
had few dry camps, and we often traveled by the stars
of morning to earn rest through the hours of greatest

It was in these times of dawn and dusk that we heard
from Movi, and sometimes from Tristan, the Indian
legends of the stars at the edges of day and night. It
was the one theme of which Sancha never tired, even
though she made many words of objection to the pagan
readings of them. And for comparison Tristan would


bring in Greek or Arabian meanings until she con
fessed that the Indian had its own charm when inter
preted by the faithful Movi.

Thus journeying, and thus entertained, we crossed
the wide lands in safety until we reached the great
Desert of Wonderful Color, where a sunrise glow made
all the earth of rose, and a sunset would give a sky of
green and purple and pink amethyst. Nothing like
that had come to us in the south, and the glory of color
was like magic to Sancha. She spoke of jewels, recall
ing all those she had ever seen, and comparing them
with the colors in the sky. In the strange place where
our trail led us past forest trees leveled, and turned to
stone, she looked at Tristan with wide eyes of question.
Many unbelievable things had she seen, but the petri
fied forest seemed a thing of enchantment.

The heat was intense. Many times on the trail the
heads of the horses had to be covered from the storms
of sand. Many times in crossing the higher ranges we
were all but chilled into sickness and fever by the tor
rents of cold rain. Many nights of exhaustion the
Indian woman changed guard with us when danger
came near. Yet we had fared safely withal, and reached
the pass of the petrified forest in good condition, and
the eyes of Movi glowed with gladness as she recog
nized the wonderful landmarks.

" Homolovi is near then all good," she said to
Tristan, and he nodded and looked the horses over
approvingly and then regarded Sancha and me much
as a general who had brought an army through a hard

And hard and long it had been, though no pen could

v o uci v c> v^ Vi, 1 vr^v^j

make record to tell the difficulties lived through. That
I have not the courage to even attempt. After a cer
tain period of exhaustion, or thirst, or daily threatened
dangers have been lived through, no one day stands out
clearly from the rest. We knew the names of neither
the streams we forded nor the hills we crossed, and there
was little to distinguish one day s journey from another.
Of all the trail from the river of the Gila where the
ancient ruin was, to the north where the Painted Desert
blazed its glories of color, and its fantastic forms of
mound or mesa, there was nothing to record except the
fact that the common dangers drew us very close to
each other. I think of that little brown Movi today as
of a loyal, ever cheery, sister, and we emerged from
that long trail with all the smaller vanities and preju
dices burned out of us. Tristan had not changed, for
to his unselfishness there was only one duty service
to us all, but Sancha had grown more meek even as
she grew more self-reliant. Instead of argument or
resentment at new things and pagan ideas, she grew
thoughtful of them until at times she fairly divined the
Indian meanings before they could be explained to her.
Thus almost without our being aware of change in her,
Sancha was one in the Brotherhood of the Desert at
last. To Tristan she gave the respect due a command
ing officer, and in those later days there was no ref
erence to his unholy quest and her loyal intent to defeat
it. She talked to him little, but watched him when he
spoke to others, and as to the best thing to be done on
trail or in camp she had ceased to assert an opinion.
It was as if the very wilderness had tamed Sancha!
Thus we came to the village of Homolovi one eve-


ning of red sunset when the new moon and the evening
star gleamed in silver out of the blaze of the afterglow.
Tristan halted, and let me pass him while he turned
to Sancha.

"At last I have brought you to the first village of
the people of peace," he said, " and we may thank God
in our different ways that it has been in safety."

" The debt is great," she confessed.

"Yet not enough to buy forgiveness?" he asked.

" Forgiveness is only bought by repentance," she
returned, " and I have had no word of that."

" True, neither have you," he said.

Then the herald from a tower of the village wall
called loudly to the people, and out on the terraces
swarmed men and women, and some of them ran out
gladly to greet us when a woman of their own race was
seen to be in our company.

So great was their glad amazement at safe return of
her that they made it like a home coming for all. Their
best of provision was put before us, and around Sancha,
the first white woman they had seen, the women and
children gathered in wondering admiration. They said
" Loloml! " to her, and of her, and by that word ex
pressed all the good and beautiful thoughts they gave

But a more substantial testimony of their good will
was given when one of their priests led in four fresh
horses from the range to exchange for our own animals.
The burro ridden by Movi was especially desired by
them, and to gain it they were willing to either trade or
lend us their best for the trail.

A runner had been sent the seventy miles north to


tell clans of Walpi of the return of Movi to her people,
and for that space we were to go under friendly escort
for the reason that it was the season of their solemn
serpent ceremony to the God of Sun and Growing
Things. At that time the people from the far rancherias
gather at Walpi as the faithful gather at Rome, or fare
forth to Jerusalem.

It may have been the sense of protection we felt in
company of the friendly guard who ran beside our
horses, or it may have been the smiling joy of Movi by
which our days were lightened, but nothing on the
long trail had wakened in our hearts the happiness of
new life in a new and enchanted world, such as came in
the Painted Desert.

" But it is not a desert, it is a garden so vast and so
beautiful that the angels surely gave help in the
planning of it," insisted Sancha. " There are as many
blossoms as stars in the sky, and every shrub carries
some blessing or fragrance."

As we journeyed north it had been a growing wonder
for her to observe the full sweep of stars around Polaris,
but in the great desert of the peaceful people, there was
time to observe and delight in them. On the bank of a
river we had to wait until a sudden flood subsided, and
that night she learned new Indian names for many
stars while Tristan sat silent, smiling at her efforts to
pronounce the difficult words.

Suddenly she turned to him.

" You know so many things of the Desert," she said,
" it may be you could tell me which lamp in the sky
is the light of Virgo."

It was the first mention she had made to remind us


that the letters were a living memory, and Tristan
stared thoughtfully at the skies a moment ere he pointed
to Spica glittering in the south.

"And Alphard?" she added, but at that question
he shook his head, and smiled.

" The great serpent trails across the sky to clear the
way for Virgo," he said ; " already the star which is his
heart is out of sight over the edge of the world the
rest of him is under her feet, hidden in the blue veil."

"Is that what you think?" she asked, "or did you
find it in a book of poets writing? "

" My days, as you see, Excellencia, give me small
space for the reading of poets even if I could come by
them," he said.

She sat in silence a while and then said, " You are
a strange man, and know strange things. I would that
your heart was clear before God of all revenges."

" Few of us but have some human fault," he said.
" Only the angels in heaven can boast perfection."

" You are not not politic, or you would include
ladies," she said ; but I, remembering her moods and
tempers, laughed, and so did she, so that the spirit of
jest and comradeship was between us all as never before.
She went to sleep that night after telling me that all
her fear of the northern deserts was gone, and all her
dread of the red tribes. These people had a laughing
joy of life by which content was won.

Then as I agreed with her, and spread a blanket for
her where Tristan had plucked a bed of sage, she added :

" You are dear and good, Juanito, and I talk to you
as to my conscience, but do you also find this life in
the open a thing to live for? and do you remember once


when we were very little, and I wept to follow the
strolling Zingara who came out of France?"

I remembered, for I had to bribe her with all my small
belongings to be good, and not win me reprimand as a
careless guardian.

" Yes, so it was," she said and laughed, and looked up
at the stars, " and after all, I am strolling over half the
world, as I wished, and sleep under the open sky, and
find it good. Juanito, do you regret Mexico?"

I thought of the ceaseless intrigues, and endless cruel
ties, and then looked over the quiet and peace of the
desert night.

" I have no answer, Sancha. This is to be ever
remembered ; but that life more befitted your name and

" So it did," she agreed, " but why should the life of
a maid be hedged about by weighty dignities of state?
This sky teaches more than I ever learned in school,
Juanito, and if only the letters were with me "

After a little silence, she remembered again my pres
ence, and bade me go and find sleep, and half in mockery
reminded me that I was to give no heed to words of
hers when the stars swung low as they did over the
Painted Desert, for they wove enchantment, and made
music disquieting to simple minded maids!

But if the desert stars touched her with witchery, it
was only preparation for the day when we descended a
mesa trail, and passed fields of growing corn, to see a
gray mesa beyond growing into something more than
a mesa. So suddenly did the change come to us that
Sancha checked her horse with a little cry of wonder
and put out her hand,


It fell on the arm of Tristan, who was watching for
the moment she would realize it was an eagle s nest of
a dwelling-place rising out of the level, and terraced,
roof above roof, against the sky.

" It is a part of the desert enchantment," she said,
"for how could savages build like that?"

" As I told you, Excellencia, these people are not of
savage tribes ; I have hoped that you might know it
some day. They are the people of a great mystery ; sur
rounded on all sides by warlike enemies, they yet hold
their fortresses and their independence."

"And they are your adopted people?" she asked.

" Rather they have been courteous, and I am grate
ful," he answered. " More grateful now than I ever
dreamed I might be."

"Because of me?" she asked, and he nodded his

" Their island of rock above the sand dunes would be
a haven of refuge, if refuge be needed."

" Have we not journeyed through all the lands where
enemies might wait for us? " she questioned, but to my
surprise he had no ready reply. He was staring
upward, where at the edge of the cliff a dark robed fig
ure stood beside the watching, half-nude figures of the
boys and young men.

It was amazing to me to see our companions from
Homolovi run up those heights like squirrels with no
sign of weariness from the desert trail. The training
of their boys from earliest youth is to fit them for
speed. No horse can keep pace with them on a long

But we who rode left the steep path to them while


we wound between the sand dunes, and up the rock
trail where the harvests of the fields were carried. So
gradual was the rise, with the rock wall on one side,
and the sand dunes and clusters of peach trees below,
that we did not know the height we had reached until
suddenly we emerged from the shadow of walls, and
I caught my breath, in amaze as we stood in one of
the wonder paths of the world.

There is no pen can give to another the wonder of
that place of the meeting of the trails at the rock shrine
of Walpi in Tusayan. There are times when a sun
setting will wrap it in flame, and a dawn will lift it into
a mysterious world apart from all one could dream. As
the red sun set in the west there were strange reflected
rays shooting upward from the horizon in the east, and
between them we stood on a high trail, where, on either
side, the cliffs dropped away, leaving great reaches
of the Desert below, in changing colors and shadows so
full of beauty that tears were in the eyes of Sancha,
and her hands clasped over her breast at the wonder and
beauty of it all.

" It is a very benediction," she whispered. " Juanito,
it is as if we stood on a throne of God, the Father. Yet
is it the earth, and the haven of a strange people," then
she turned to Tristan.

" This justifies you in much, senor," she said. " To
starve or freeze, or to burn on desert trail, is slight
enough payment for this you have brought us to. It
is the very gateway of a Place of the Dawn. Are the
others but lesser copies? "

He looked at her, quickly smiling.

" How soon you learn when you let your thought


have freedom," he said. " Yes, all the artificial hills
of sanctuary are in memory of a greater one. The high
places of prayer are not alone in sacred books."

A line of men were coming down with ceremonial
greeting and welcome, and Movi slipped from her horse
and ran eagerly to meet them, for her brother and father
were with them, and they wept in gladness at her

Then they crowded about Tristan, with every sign
of fondness and gratitude, and when he spoke of Sancha,
and pointed to the beads of the man they had honored,
the father of Movi breathed on her hand, and led the
horse of Sancha proudly up the trail to the terraced
dwellings, while we all followed.

At the top of the trail waited the man in the robe;
it was a priest from a near-by settlement, Oriabe, and
his name was Padre Juan de Vallada. At first he had
thought it two brother priests who had arrived, and his
amaze was great when he learned of the dangers we
had passed in the country of the Haquis, and the strange
reason for a lady of De Llorente y Rivera wearing the
robe of a priestly order.

He had been for a year in the province of Tusayan,
with another priest to share the work, and all the
news of the world was dear to him. Letters came from
Santa Fe and from a priest at Acoma. The youths of
barbaric clans were ever eager to serve as couriers
between the tribes, and thus the priests kept in touch
with brethren; so also the young men learned the
world. Padre de Vallada was at Walpi to frown on the
iniquity of their serpent worship, for which his brown
charges were eager in the August moon. He was a


garrulous man, eager to hear words of good Spanish
again, and we learned much as we crossed the stone
floor of that high cliff, and observed the fortress-like
arrangement of all things. In that place a few men
could hold at bay a thousand.

Because these were the days when the pagan priests
fasted in the sanctuary, none of us could see the leading
men of the snake order. Movi could not see even her
own grandfather for the reason that no priest in com
munion with the gods may look upon a woman. It
seemed that Tristan might enter the sanctuary because
he had been taken into the order, but he could discuss
no worldly matter there.

Padre de Vallada looked at him curiously when the
message of invitation came from the priests of the

" Do you wear the sanctified robe of church into dens
of iniquity where the symbol of all evil is worshiped? "
he asked.

" Nay, holy father," answered Tristan. " You have
been ill-informed. It is not the symbol of evil to them,
rather of immortality, since it comes new out of its old
cover each year. But in my visit to the r va I shall wear
no robe."

"You have no fear?"

" I have gone in once before, and it may be I have
made this day s journey on a lucky day," said Tristan.
" Their minds will tell them I have crossed all lands to
keep the fast here where they made me a brother."

" At Santa Fe each priest is ordered to serve at mass
before each harmless pagan ceremony, but that the
hideous ceremony of the snakes be especially forbid-


den," stated Padre de Vallada pointedly, " and it seems
a curious matter that a Christian should join in their

" They have made me brother, and opened the way
for me two summers gone," returned Tristan. " All
was done with the knowledge and blessing of Fray
Fernando. In that way he learned they do no evil;
it was the best way in which to learn. Also it has
won blessings for me with southern tribes, for it is the
most famous order of all these nations."

" Yet opposed to the church? " insisted the priest, but
Tristan told him it was opposed to no order of any
religion; all their thought was centered on prayers for
strength to the Spirit of the Growing Things.

Sancha listened in silence to their words, yet it was
plain to see her distress at any argument with the priest,
for the sight of him had been a great comfort to her
own mind, though I liked little enough the suspicious
regard he gave to all of us.

In a house of Movi s clan, a room was given to Sancha
a room of white walls, and white floor, a roll of
blankets, and great vase of water. Movi and one of her
small sisters slept by the door, and my chosen place
was on the terraced roof beside her portal. Weary
though we were, all were too excited for sleep. The
return of Movi, stolen, and given up for lost, was a
wonderful thing to her people, and to be brought back
by Ivava out of the land of an enemy was of vast im
portance. He had proven himself truly a brother to the
clans of Walpi, and on the word of Movi they accepted
Sancha as a person greatly exalted, since Ivava looked
first of all to her comfort.


After a supper of green corn and the flesh of deer,
Tristan, who was now called Ivava, left us on the ter
race in the purple twilight.

" I would that Fray de Lombarde had made the return
from Awatobi," mused Padre de Vallada looking after
him. " This to me is a strange thing. I have seen no
white men to whom their sanctuaries are open, and it
has a strange look. What Fray Fernando did he
mean? "

" One very holy, and no longer alive," I told him,
and in gossip of other matters he seemed to forget
Tristan. He told me conversions were slow, and he
thought it a serious matter that only half-breeds should
be punished for apostasy, since it was the old men, of
pure Indio blood, who were most rigid in evil prac
tices, and little could be done for converts, even by the
Inquisition, until the old men had died. One most
troublous warrior-priest named Pope had been a thorn
in the flesh of the godly these several years, and had
evil power over many pueblos to the east.

From that he told of the Indians in the turquoise
mines, and their troublesome dislike of work under
ground, for which reason the unruly converts were en
slaved to that task; so, while Sancha was listening
with open ears, my thoughts drifted far, and my mind
was not so easy as I could wish over that matter of
the sanctuary and the snakes and our one friend
down there in brotherly converse!

And then I was brought sharply back to Sancha, who
said, " But that was even more strange than to fare
safely through the Desert. Two white maids in an
open boat saved by Indians do you hear, Juanito? "


I had not, and I asked what questions I might. Fray
de Lombarde had heard it in Santa Fe, and the word
came from the great river Miche Sepi to the east where
the French were ; a half-French trader told of two sis
ters lost on the sea in the south, and guarded safely by
Indians to a hunting camp of the French. The sight
of the maids fitted in with some legend of white-water
spirits of that coast tribe, so they were given food and
raiment, and they arrived at the French and Indian
camp, decked in all feather fineries, but near to death
for the proper food of white people.

No, Padre de Vallada knew nothing except there had
been others, and all died but the two sisters; perhaps
a ship had gone down, he did not know. But the sis
ters were started north along the great river to the
French possessions where they would be welcome to
the colonists, for white maids were rare in the wilder
ness. Padre de Vallada only told of this matter in
evidence of the power of Indian superstition, for the
maids were fair and were regarded as twin gods or

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 18 of 26)