Marah Ellis Martin Ryan.

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It was a silent group, strangely silent.

Movi had wept at our going, and in the house of her
father, Hongovi, there had been no sleep. Her brother
told Padre de Vallada the route we would go, and he
gave us perfunctory blessing, taking his own trail to

We had scarce left the foot of the mesa when I noted
we were going north instead of east. Tristan observed
it, and spoke to Wisti.

" It is so," he said. " It is better you go where no
enemy waits on the trail."

" We make no enemies, for we are friends with all,"
insisted Tristan.

" So says my father in council, and so it is I who
journey by your side for your happiness," said Wisti
briefly, and he bade us not spare our horses the first
day for the first day was a trial.

His father ran beside our horses, and when we
reached high places would ever pause to look back over
the trail. We were riding away from the strange
mesas, and into a land of rolling hills and trees ; flower


carpeted plains and arroyos between. At a curious red
cliff where there were cavelike openings suggesting
windows we halted, and found there some of the
Navajos who had left Walpi before sunset. Wisti
showed gladness at sight of them, as did the older men.

" Now it is over," said Wisti. " Men of Oriabe will
not follow into this land if your trail is with Navajo."

And that was the first I suspected that our comrades
were along to guard us from some of their own tribe!

" It is so," insisted our guide. " They went away
from Walpi, but not to home. They wait for you in
the canon of Motsovi, for they were jealous of the
horses. Their thought was that our tribe should have
these horses and not the Rio Bravo men."

I wondered how much Tristan suspected, but he was
ahead with Sancha, exchanging greeting with the
Navajo. We made a halt at the nearest place of water,
and all ate together, and when it was over, Hongovi,
the father of Movi, smoked, and then spoke.

" When the tornado comes, and levels all standing
things, it gives the warning of thunder and shakes
the earth. I am your friend, and the Dawn and the
Day hear me. Go you back to the south and live. That
is the little, far-off trembling of the air for you as warn
ing. I am your friend."

" I also am friend," said Tristan, " but to the south
I may not go. If the trail is closed to the east, then I
will find my way back to your clan where my friend

" That is good," was the answer. " But my son goes
with you. It is his work. If there is life for you, he
will help you to it. But if death finds you where I say


not to go, then not again may I, your father, smoke
with you on earth."

" That may be so," assented Tristan, " for after the
ride to Santa Fe my trail is covered by a cloud, and I
have no light by which to see."

Sancha looked at him strangely, with something like
fear in her face. It was the first time she had thought
of him as going out of our lives, and my own heart
shook. I had striven with myself against thought of
that which I knew must come.

" There are high places of refuge where the Dawn
may bring you Light," said the old Indio, " for this,
my son goes with you on the trail. But these the
friends you love send in haste back to their homes
that they may live, and remember me Hongovi."

" That I will surely strive to do," promised Tris
tan, and then smiled and glanced at us. " But these,
Hongovi, are very exalted people in their own land;
I but serve them on the way, yet have no rule for them
at the end of the trails."

" Make rules, if they are dear to you. I have spoken,"
said the chief, and then he, with his comrades, bade us
farewell and turned back, and we journeyed on with
Wisti and the Navajo. We had to wait at a village of
theirs by a river while the men sought out a safe cross
ing, for the quicksand made it a place of danger for

So the night was spent there where the curious
hogans, or huts, were built of brushwood and clay, and
had a mean appearance after the high place of Walpi
above the sands.

But the people were tall and finely made, and were


kindly disposed to us. Sancha noted that their infants
were wrapped in the fine inner bark of the hernava
shrub, which was soft as moss and sweetly odorous.
The fragrance of that shrub stays with me strangely
like mingled cedar and rose, and while I saw it many
times on the trail, I only think of it as I saw it first,
where it served as incense for the shrine on that
mesa mysteriously beautiful.

Sancha wore her Indian dress, but her hair was
braided and a wreath of leaves served as shield from
the sun. Wisti talked to us freely now that duty or
ceremony did not seal his lips, and noting the interest
of Sancha in the women and little children, he came to
tell us that there was to be a marriage of the daughter
of one of their men of importance; for that reason had
the relatives hastened back from Walpi, and there
would be a feast.

The little bride for she was very young looked
with shy smiles at Sancha, evidently honored that
strangers from afar were guests. There was a fire,
and a special vessel of food, and there was neither
priest nor other official only the man and the maid,
the robe and the dish, and their relatives around them
in a circle. Over the shoulders of the maid the man
placed the robe, and seated himself in silence beside

I endeavored to make some jest as to the lack of
ceremony, but Sancha rebuked me.

" After all, what matter? " she asked. " Can you not
see that they are fond? Could the words of a bishop
make them more so?"

What I began to say in comment I did not say, for


Tristan had entered silently and stood by the door, and
at her words I saw him for the first time off guard,
and gazing at her with half at least of his heart in
his eyes.

Sancha, looking up, saw him, and what she read there
made her own face change. In like fashion had he
clothed her in the southern desert ! A long instant their
eyes met in strange steadiness, but while his face
looked gray in the light of the hogan fire, hers flamed
red and turned aside.

That shadowy hogan, with its circle of dark pagans,
was a strange place for a revelation of soul. I scarcely
breathed, and all our little world stood still, only the
eyes of those two spoke.

Then the Indian lover took from the side of the
dish some of the food, and offered the dish to the bride.
Her hand took food carefully from the same side, and
together they ate, and later drank from the same cup
in the presence of their respective clans, and the cere
mony ended.

" If the simple form has your approval, you scarce
could improve on that," I ventured, in attempt to lift
the strange chill fallen on all three of us; but Sancha
stated coldly that it was time for sleep, and walked
past me out into the night. There was nothing for me
but to follow, and Tristan was left to make a more
ceremonious withdrawal. We found the bed for
Sancha already prepared, of high piled sage branches
with her monk s robe over it, and she dropped down
there and covered her face with one of the sleeves.

" All my life I should keep this robe to humble my
pride, and remind me of my nakedness," she said


" also to remind me of other things ! Sleep near me,
Juanito, but waste no words on me this night, for
the day has been over long."

The night seemed but an hour of darkness, when
the hand of Tristan was on my shoulder and we woke
to eat grilled deer meat, and maize that was parched.
All were ready for the trail when he waked us.

We forded the river ere the gray dawn had merged
into the yellow dawn of the desert, and the four Navajo
men of Walpi went with us, well armed with knives,
arrows, and steel lances. Already the coming of Span
ish men had improved the war implements of the

These men we could not speak with except by the
help of Wisti, though I had more than a little interest
in them. Often they sang as they rode strange
songs in which sounded all the calls of the wilderness,
and Movi had told us things of their magic which kept
me as keen in desire as had the tales of the ceremony
of snakes.

Tristan only smiled with his usual patience when I
would have asked of their great healing by prayer and
songs, but would not allow me to question.

" Through some especial courtesy they go with us
for our safety, but it is a mystery to me, and the jour
ney requires caution. I dare not take risks as to ques
tion of their religion. But at least I can promise you
one strange trail in their land which inspires to much,
and it may aid you to understand a little of the people,
for their legends are often of it."

More than that he did not say, and when we entered
a canon where water ran, and the wood doves fluttered


ahead of us from the stream, we were glad for the
sake of all, yet gave it not much thought until of a
sudden, huge walls shut us in, and before us was a
great spear of a rock like the monument of a giant.
This was where two ways divided, and as we went on
ward the spell of mystery and beauty lowered every
voice, for we were in the true canon of the Divine Ones
as believed by these people, and no soul could journey
into the heart of the land there and view the habita
tions of the ancients stone walled under roofs of great
rock ledges and fail to feel the spirit of awe breath
ing there. The age of it, and the bigness of it, made
us feel very little and even weak, for the men who had
built the eagle nests of homes under eaves of gray
rock had been strong men and their building had
beauty. The outer walls were white, and the inner
walls of many colors pink of the rose, blue of the
turquoise, yellow of the sun, all these in many tints
were there and strange designs of decoration.

Before one of these Sancha stood with curious re
gard. It was the imprint of a woman s hand dipped
in white earth paint, and impressed on the smooth
brown stone.

" It is the hand of a lady, that," she decided ; " see
the beauty of the fingers, slender as if used only for
fine embroiderings ; yet it would seem as if she had
been a worker in clay."

" Perhaps not so," ventured Tristan. " This was a
kiva wall, a sanctuary. Here are the seats for council,
and there the altar place. All the designs are prayer
symbols, and the mark of the hand may be for a vow



" And long ago? "

" It may be centuries. This is the place so ancient
it is called the home of the gods."

" Centuries ! and the mark of one woman s hand
stands record as if it had been made yesterday!"

" The hand of a woman, though slender, may weigh
heavily, Excellencia," he said, and she looked at him

" I told you it did not please me to be thus called,"
she replied, " but this hand interests me. Then the
women of these enchanted lands made vows as

" And broke them, as today it may be so," he said.
" Their hearts are as our own, except that our life
has given us more cravings and arts than they knew."

" Do we need more? " she asked wistfully. " I never
knew how little ceremony life and happiness needed
until we found this magical land. I wish I might leave
impress of my own hand here in record of that."

"Truly?" I said, for he only looked at her as if
in wonder if his ears had told him aright. She did not
know how much her words had expressed.

" Truly, Juanito. These places bewitch me, so I
think. I want to be of them because I feel the spirit
of them is of beauty. Have we not passed many good
and profitable places for dwelling? And some of to
day s people live in them. But the places of the
ancients, whether walled by their own hands, or by
nature, are the places of most wonder and beauty in
their world. Do you not see it everywhere?"

I had, but not to spell it out like that.

" Their ancient prayers are the same," said Tristan.


" If they came from Persia and were in a book, you
would learn them and repeat them as poems."

" Know you any? " asked Sancha.

He glanced below where the Navajo men were rest
ing, and the horses were feeding on the grass thick and
high at edge of the stream. Wisti was also there.

" I know one invocation to a sky god of theirs, but
this is not a time to repeat it in the hearing of any of
them. Our priests have made them distrust all our
interest in their religion."

" Say it for me while Juanito stands guard," she
begged, and he did so. It was very long, and I never
heard it all again, but I recall the opening words for
the reason that Sancha afterwards chanted them as
we rode, and said they made her think of words from
the Bible read by a padre at the convent.

" Repeat it not to a padre unless you are ready for
a penance," said Tristan " for this prayer is very
pagan, and is joyous in its faith."

O You!

Who dwell

In the House of the Dawn,

In the House of the Evening Twilight,

Where the Dark Mist curtains the doorway

The path to which is the Rainbow!

Sancha stood looking at him in curious wonder as
he began the prayer as Fray Fernando had made trans
lation of it, and when he ended with the joyous

Impervious to pain, I walk!
Feeling light within, I walk!
With beauty before me, I walk.


With beauty above me, I walk.

Happily may the roads all

Find the way of peace,

And the end of the ways in beauty!

Her hands were folded over her breast and her eyes
closed as if to shut out all but the meaning or feeling
of the words. When his voice was silent, she opened
her eyes, and put out her hand to him, and it was the
first time.

" O You who dwell
In the House of the Dawn! "

she said, and tried to laugh, but her voice had a tremble
in it. " I have heard their prayers are beautiful, but
I never knew how they were beautiful until now!
Were you one time an Indian, Kahn Alcatraz? And
are you now born on earth again to teach us beauty? "

He looked at her hand. It lay in his by her own
wish, and he turned towards the wall and spread her
hand there as had been placed that other hand of the
woman of the ancient days.

But over Sancha s he placed his own.

" This of record in the house of many prayers," he
said. " You are a generous comrade, Dona Sancha,
but if the beauty were not in your own heart you would
not perceive it in my poor chanting of their prayer to
heal ills."

"And it does heal?"

" It does heal my own eyes have seen that. Thus
the prayer always ends happily, and with blessings for
every one."


" The things of wonder I am learning ! " she mused.
" I wish I might leave the mark of my hand there."

He picked up a piece of soft stone, and broke it to
a point to which his knife added.

" So slight a wish is easily met. I would that all
others of yours were likewise."

Thus I left them there while he used the soft spear
of stone as a pen, and made for her the outlines of her
hand. The last I heard of their speech they questioned
writing her name within the outlines, but decided
against it, and he gave her an Indian symbol instead
which only she would know, and marked it there. I
found her marking the same symbol in the sands when
we stopped to camp.

" But has it a meaning? " I asked, for to me it looked
not so much.

" It has meanings and many," she answered with
a pride in her new knowledge. " It is the star shining
over Walpi when I made the shrine to my Saint of
the Impossible."

" That star was Venus, and it has a record of its
own aside from Indian symbols," I told her, but she
gave me little heed, and went on smoothing the sand
and marking it, only to smooth it again for another

From the canon of the Divine Ones we emerged
with some difficulties of trail into a land of pifion and
shrubs and nodding blossoms, then through the grate
ful shade of pine forests where antelope nibbled tender
grass in the sheltered places. Birds of many kinds
were seen, and I was told that the blue bird and the
eagle were each prized highly for the feathers used


in symbols of prayer one for its strength, and the
other because it carries the color of the sky depths
and of deep waters.

After the forests, the Navajo men were more cau
tious on the trail, for we passed through lands where
the Apaches ranged, and our party was small to with
stand any important band.

One nameless river we followed eastward towards
its source, and netted fish in its many pools. To our
taste they furnished desirable feasts after the steady
meat foods, dried or fresh, of our desert living, but
not an Indio but Wisti would eat them. The Navajo
men had some religious prejudice against the eating of
fishes a myth of theirs gives some clans brother
hood with water creatures. So they satisfied them
selves with meat, and the wild batata growing in that
land and baked in the ashes of the night fires. We also
ate it with the fish, and there were many wild berries
in canons where water was. Thus we fared well, and
on more variety than in the lands of the Pimaria.
Also the animals we rode were the better of running
water and rich grasses.

In all this journey, Tristan had sought in vain to
learn from Wisti the reason of the warning of Hongovi.
But Wisti confessed that he himself did not know;
also that his heart was troubled about it, for it was
no little thing. He was sure of that by the orders
given him, but the orders he dare not tell. And finally,
on his own account, he begged that Tristan act on the
bidding of Hongovi, and linger not at all in either
Sante Fe, or north of the great lava beds.

"Is it for me alone there is a danger?" asked Tris-



tan with the thought of the long route he had come
north to avoid traders, and the shorter route of the
east by which messenger of either the Holy Office or
the State might have borne word in advance.

But it was plain that Wisti knew naught of special
trouble for Tristan; he stated that none of the younger
men knew : it was a thing in the hearts of the old men,
and it might be that one of them had a vision. Wisti
thought that must be so, and visions are very sacred

Then came the day when a thing of importance was
met on the trail, a spring where there were tracks of
sheep many sheep, and one lone burro plainly we
had reached the edge of a Spanish range where some
lone herder moved up and down the land with his

The Navajo looked with sharp eyes over all the
ground, and affirmed this, then said they would go
back to their clans, for we would now be safe with
our own people.

Wisti urged them to continue to the villages of the
Jemez and there was considerable argument concern
ing the matter. It seemed that the Jemez and Navajo
had twice fought together to overthrow the white men
and failed, and after that they drew apart and the
Jemez men were suspected of stealing Navajo girls
and selling them as slaves to the Spanish.

Sancha was affronted, yet curious as to the purchase
of Indian maids by the Christians, and was very cer
tain the padres had no knowledge of the traffic. But
Wisti told her that when a young Spaniard married,
it was a custom to present at least one slave girl to


his bride, and if the Spaniard could not steal one, he
had to buy her. It was a common matter in the
settlements, and young men who wished to marry
sometimes banded together and went on a hunt for
women as gifts to their promised brides.

It was at the breakfast time these things were talked
of, and the Navajo said they would go beside us one
more day. Tristan did no persuading, but was con
tent to have them. He felt safe now as to Sancha,
for in Jemez he was known, and as we rode along to
gether he told me he had painted for them some of the
god beings they had described to Don Fernando. They
deemed painting great magic, and had shown him
special friendship. For this reason he felt that, if need
be, he could secure us a safe guard in case he should
part from our trail ere reaching Santa Fe. I did not
welcome that prospect, so made no mention of it to
Sancha. She had grown very quiet after the sheep
trail, and the evidence that at last, after living through
the impossible things, she was again on the border land
of her own people.

And when the shadows began to lengthen that day
we saw on a far hillside the moving mass of wool
bearers spread like a creeping blanket over the green,
and a shepherd dog gave warning to the herder that
strangers were abroad.

The herder was a Jemez Indio in camp by a spring,
and part of a freshly killed sheep hung to a tree limb.
The man looked at us, startled and uneasy, and asked
Wisti if the Navajo men were after women. Even
when told no, he continued to give us careful regard
not free from suspicion.


But he was generous of both meat and water, and
cuts were broiling on the coals before the saddles were
off, and after he had been assured that Sancha had
come the incredible trail, and that we were her guard,
he opened his mouth, and told the thing of his fear.

He was all alone, and had his sheep to guard, and
on no account, and for nothing, could he leave them,
and he did not want that the Navajo men should hold
him to blame, but the facts were as follows :

The sheep had been killed at this place because other
company had been with him. He would not give
names, but it was three Castilian men, and they had
come from the south and had captured two girls. The
girls were Navajo, and he thought they would camp
early, for they had traveled fast and their horses were
wet. At first sight he thought we were on their trail.
His own tribe had been blamed often for the stealing
of Navajo women when it was indeed the white men
who took them, and he thought this was not a time for
neighbor tribes to be enemies to each other because of
acts of the white men.

Wisti watched him with sharp eyes like black beads
when he said this.

" This is a true thing," he said " also my father
who is Hangovi of Walpi tells me this is the time when
the tribes should be friends and brothers."

" Your father is wise," said the shepherd, " for it is
the time."

And the two men who were of different tribes, and
unknown to each other, exchanged looks of import, and
said no more.

The Navajo men talked apart with each other, and


then decided. The horses were tired, but those of the
white men were in no better condition according to
the shepherd. Their plan was to ride down the thieves,
kill the men and take the women.

" But if the women can be bargained for without
battle, would that not be the better way? " asked

They agreed it would be the safer way, for the
Spanish had firing pieces yet they doubted any bar
gain. Navajo girls were much desired. Also to bar
gain would give time for the raiders to plan escape.

" If we are friends let me do a brother s part in this,"
said Tristan. " I will demand the girls as your right.
If they are not given, my own arms will be for your
service this because you have been faithful in spirit
to poor wayfarers who can make no other return."

" The Divine Ones have at times come to earth as
poor wayfarers," was the reply they made, " and men
who have helped them fell heir to blessings. We will
do as you say. You are our friend."

Sancha was troubled over it all, for the wise and
lawful and Christian thing was of course to carry the
tale to Santa Fe where the church or the governor
would decide for justice, and the women would be sent
home safely to their clans.

"With whom would they be sent?" asked Tristan
but of course she could not say.

" The only safe guides are these men with us," he
said, " even if they were sent from the town, which
is not a thing to hope for they would be sold or traded
to pueblos on the trail, and would never see their own
people again."


" But with you to speak for them?"

" I, as I told you, am but a brother of the Desert, a
poor wayfarer, and my word of little import with dig
nitaries," he made reply. " We like little enough to
plan for troubles while you are of our care, but if
speech fail, then the women must be taken by force of
arms. We are enough."

Meat was cooked while we ate, and was then
wrapped in leaves and lashed well to our saddles that
we need not halt for food on the way. The shepherd
told us the best trail, and the springs, and passes of

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Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 21 of 26)