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the hills, and we rode on in the long shadows of the
late day.

" I know now how it was when you took the trail to
rescue me," said Sancha riding beside Tristan. But he
looked at her with the wonderful smile in his eyes.

" No, Dona Sancha, you do not know," he said, and
she did not argue, but rode on beside him into the
rose and gold and azure lights of the highland sky.

The rose and gold was cloaked in the blue mists of
twilight, and the stars came out, and still we rode on.
Wisti was far ahead on the trail leaving signs for us
to follow, halting at times until we came near, and
using every caution that we not ride close on the
quarry, and startle them ere their camp was made.

And at the last, when the night was late, and all
well wearied, Wisti stood in our path, and pointed
far down where a glimmer of light shone.

" They have reached the camp of a Jemez hunter
who goes for the sacred eagles," he stated. " He has a
cage with the young eaglets, and the fire is his fire, there
the three men have stopped, and the girls are there."


" Then it means one more native man to help against
the raiders," I ventured, but Tristan was not so sure.

" Slavery is sanctioned in high places if it is prop
erly cloaked and named," he said. " It is called bring
ing in converts for the glory of God, and the pueblos
have it drilled into them as a just affair. Thus there
is no telling where the eagle catcher may stand in a

We left our horses and crept forward. Sancha still
wore the Indian garb, but Tristan unstrapped her robe
and gave it to me to carry. The way was steep and
movement slow, with every caution used against the
starting of rolling stone down the canon wall. And
it was Tristan who led Sancha by the hand through
the dark of the Indian trail.

The glint of fire was on a plateau where the forest
hid it as we reached the level, but Wisti never wav
ered in direction, and led us between the pines until
we reached a thick scrub where young growth made a
jungle. We could hear voices there, yet see no one.

There were no words among us. Tristan on the
way had used all needed speech. Now he put the robe
about Sancha and put her hand in mine, and we all
moved forward quietly until we could hear the words,
good Spanish words from well-content rangers and
the first name spoken clearly was that of Marco de
Ordono !

Sancha gripped my hand, and I know Tristan laid
his hand on her shoulder for silence.

" Let Governor Otermin give him lieutenant s rank
for his pretty face and his name ! " said one man. " All
that favor would fail to get him in on a hunt again


with me! He took the girl who by right belonged to
Roberto here, and for that reason we have to make
another, and a more distant raid, before Roberto s
favorita will go to the priest with him."

" O, Dolores would go with me," said Roberto with
a certain pride, " but who wants his wife to have not
even one woman to start the home with? But I owe
Ordofio for that trick. The girl had beauty."

" For that reason was Ordono s claim made," said
the first speaker, and laughed. " He has a trained eye
of his own. They tell that the girl he left in the Pima
land was also a beauty and white."

" True, but no one has dared tell the Don Antonio
of it. White women are all too scarce, and even Oter-
min might have frowned on that."

" He did not frown on him when he bore back the
Navajo girl I should have had," grumbled Roberto,
" also De Ordono had no need of serving woman, as
there was no marriage day set for him."

" I thought the girl was Jemez that pretty Marta,"
said the third man, " she is slender as a red lily, and
worth more money than a mere drudge."

" She had a Navajo mother. It is the mixed blood
gives the better grace," stated Roberto. " These two
we have here will give good service to the house, .and
no fine gentleman of rank will come our way to covet

There was laughter at this, so we could guess the
captives were not too well favored. They had ended
their supper, and began to speak of who should stand
first guard of the night, when Tristan said very



There was a movement, and then a voice.

"Who speaks?"

" A Castilian," answered Tristan, and walked through
the tassels of the young pine until he stood beyond
its close knit, though narrow, barrier.

" Life of my soul ! " said the one called Roberto,
" you suggest the devil rather than a padre bobbing up
from the earth in this hell of a canon. Whence come

"From Hopi land."

" It is a strange way of meeting," said the other
voice, " and strangers in New Granada are mysteri
ous to all. Will you favor us with your name, Sefior

" My name is Kahn Alcatraz, and my business you
will not approve, though I come in all honesty to save
your lives, and it may be, your souls."

The hand of Sancha gripped mine in breathless ten
sion, for it was a weird time there in the thick pines
where the odor enveloped us as a veil, and we stood,
hearing words, yet having sight of no one ; only the
firelight flared on branches of trees high above.

There was silence for a space after his words, and
then a man laughed.

" Surely, padre, always are you after souls and lives,
but it is a curious place to seek them. We are all safe
Christians here, unless it be this catcher of eaglets,
yet he has been civil enough."

" It is the trappers of other eaglets with whom I
came to deal," said Tristan. " The tribesmen of these
maids are here to guard them back to their clans."


"By all the saints!"

" Senor," said Tristan. " I have evidence, Juan ! "

At that I let go of Sancha, and went through the
jungle into the light.

" This, Senors, is Senor Don Juan Rivera, and is
nephew to the Reverend Fray Payo, late Viceroy of
Mexico, and of power in both church and state. The
reports of the capture of women for barter have not
been made special record of in this province, but after
today it may be done, if Don Juan here has a mind
for it. This is our side, the Spanish side. But the
Indio side of the question is a different matter. Unless
you go home at once, and leave these girls and the
horses on which you brought them here, you will never
go to Santa Fe alive."

"You threaten us?"

" No, I only tell you. I will call my interpreter and
he can bring two of the Navajo warriors to show you
that men are here for these women. Wisti ! "

Afterwards Sancha confessed she sank to the ground
in terror at the going of Wisti. She had never known
how close he seemed to us until he spoke to the Navajo,
and they followed me into the circle of light.

And a grim trio it was who faced those wonder
struck raiders, the Navajo men seemed to loom more
tall, and Wisti stepped forward lightly as a cat, and
smiling. There was something curious in that smile.
The Hopi have disdain of anger for any reason what
ever, as it is evidence of lack of control, but to myself
I thought I would rather face an angry man than
the smiling devil he betrayed himself.

" I bring only two, Senor. If the women are given


back, I bring no more than two. They have no Cas-
tilian words. I speak for them."

At sight of the Navajo, the eagle catcher, a man not
old, but with gray in his hair, stood up beside his eagle
cage, and spoke a few quick words; one of the Navajo
nodded his head, and the eagle catcher, with his lance
and axe, and bow, stepped across the little circle of
light and stood beside them, and the two crouching
Navajo women turned from one to the other with

" You see, Senors," said Tristan, " thus it will be
on the trail. Each Indio will stand with these men,
and I can not say the word to save you after you
move out of the light of this fire. Also it will not
be long I can save you even here. Look in the faces
of these men and see."

He could well say that, for they were like bronze
animals, still and poised to spring, four of them.
Roberto tried bravado.

" I see, but they have none but savage arms, while
we Castilians with you and Senor Rivera to aid "

" Yes," agreed Tristan, " but Senor Rivera and I have
another task. We may not aid you."

" What is your task that you would not aid a Chris
tian against savage murderers?"

There was a moment of pause, as Tristan looked at
me, and it was I who spoke.

" We are a part of the body guard of a lady of rank,
Senors, the Marquesa de Llorente y Rivera and niece
of the former archbishop and viceroy of Mexico. I
think, Senors, you will agree it is the right time to give
up the captives, and not risk the word her Excellency


may carry to Governor Antonio Otermin of New

The men stared at us, and then looked foolishly at
each other.

" If it is a game, it is a good one," said one of the
men, " but it will take more than a priest s robe, and
some titles to make us believe that, and no offense
to you either! Since there are six of you in sight, to
our three, and the devil only knows how many more
around us ! it is wisdom to let the women go. But
for myself, I have a fancy to see this exalted lady who
comes through these hills of the wilderness. It would
be worth the price of two red women if true ! "

I looked at Tristan for some sign of wisdom, but
ere either of us spoke, I heard the quick stepping of
Sancha, heedless now of the noise she made. The three
incredulous stared at that wall of green as if demons
were using it as a nest of iniquity for their undoing,
and when I saw them lift their hats and sweep the
ground, I knew without turning my head, that she
emerged into the light.

" My cousin, Don Juan, and Sefior Alcatraz are in
the right of this, Senors," she said very bravely. " I
claim these women, and if you have complaint, I beg
that you make it to Governor Otermin of Santa Fe.
For the advice given you by Senor Alcatraz, I will take
responsibility. There has been no desire to threaten
only it is fair to show you the thing to happen if
you refuse. We are only three white persons among
our Indian friends. To control them might prove a
task beyond us."

" Excellencia," said Roberto promptly, " you need


give no command twice, and if you care to add to your
white guard, I am at your service."

" My thanks, but I have no orders. Senor Kahn
Alcatraz gives all commands, and it well that you re
member you would have died somewhere between these
canon walls tomorrow, but for his word tonight."

" Little danger we will forget," stated Roberto rue
fully. " It seems the devil himself is against my wed
ding day! Come, Ysidro, what must be, must! The
cards fall not our way, instead of winning girls, we
lose horses. Small use in striving to wed and lead
a virtuous life."

Even Sancha smiled at his idea of virtue, though she
was neither glad nor gay at the bloodless victory. It
seemed a matter of fate that Roberto should have lost
the first girl through Marco, and the next one by Sancha.
And we knew that the idle comment on him made by
his comrades had sunk deep.

But she made no sign, and stood there, a serene pic
ture in the firelight, while the captives were unbound,
and the horses were separated for their use. I had
become so used to Sancha in the robe, or the Indian
dress, that my sense was dull as to how she must
appear to others, but the regard of the men was so
open, and so amazed that one could but note it. They
made no comment, but her words of authority scarce
fitted her Indian garb.

The Navajo men talked with the women, who smiled
and were very gay in their own manner, but the eagle
catcher stood apart listening to all saying nothing.
His gaze followed Tristan and Sancha in a curious,
watchful way.


I asked Wisti what it was that made the bond with
the Navajo, and was told the eagle catcher had a Navajo
wife, also that he could understand Castilian a little,
and that the name given him by the priest was Manuel.

There was no time lost in starting the raiders on the
trail. Tristan told them it was better not to trust
the temper of the Indians it would be a surety for
safety to seek other sleeping place. So they took them
selves off, with Wisti and one Navajo to see that they
made no halt on that side of the range, and Manuel,
the catcher of eagles for prayer plumes to his gods,
stood guard while we dropped quickly asleep from utter

When I wakened there was a cheery bustle about the
camp. The Navajo women had brought water from
the canon deeps, also berries in baskets of bark; meat
we had, and there was fair show for an appetizing
breakfast, but I was the only white person in sight
to partake of it.

The sun was at the edge of the eastern world, and
there was flecked gold and rose over the far black line
of the pine forest. Wisti still slept, and beside him
the Navajo who had, with him, trailed the women-
hunters well on their way.

He wakened as I spoke, and asked a Navajo where
the master of the camp had gone, and the lady who
was their friend.

It was then I noted that Manuel also was out of sight.
He had stood the guard alone and called no one until
the dawn, at which time the lady had wakened, and
had spoken with him.

The Navajo said the morning star was still in sight


at that time, and that their speech had been earnest,
and he thought, was of ancient prayer places in the
hills, for Manuel had pointed upward and used words
of ancient things. Then the man who was master
awoke, and together the three had gone qiuckly into
the forest as the great star began to fade in the dawn.
That was all he knew, but Manuel was much their
friend, for the daughter of Manuel had been stolen by
woman-hunters of some tribe, and he was in search
wherever he found himself. Both Wisti and the Navajo
had been questioned by him.

While we talked, and all happily lent a hand at
the simple breakfast, we heard them coming through
the pines, and Sancha appeared, wreathed like a god
dess of dawn with pink roses, found, dewy and fra
grant, near the trail.

" And, oh Juanito ! " she breathed as in ecstasy,
" to think I have been shown the wonder place of all
our many wonders, yet may not tell it to you! It is a
vow, an Indian vow, see my hand ! " and she held out
her palm. It was white as with powdered lime upon
it. " Only to save a life dare we take that trail again,
for it is, above all, sacred. It is a true House of the
Dawn, Juanito, and we made the vow of secrets as the
sun came out of the dawn to watch ! The sacred eagles
nest there above a wonderful sanctuary, and we are
given these as sign that we have the right of the

She showed me an eagle feather marked on one side
by the stripping of its fringe in four places. There was
a certain individual token in the marking. I noted
that Tristan also carried one, but not in special display.


" Is there any other gift or honor left to bestow upon
you by these desert folk whom you enchant?" I
grumbled. " How am I to be a proper guardian for
your Excellency if you steal out to secret meeting
places while I get my sleep ? "

She only laughed, and patted my cheek, and promised
she would put me under her wing when she fled to that
sanctuary of the dawn place for refuge.

Then she ate her share of breakfast heartily, and
confided to me that the secret adventure was a joy
to her because of the eagles. That first wonderful
place of the terraces in the south gave its own memories
of a greatness, yet the wings of the vultures there op
pressed her. The place of the shrine at Walpi lifted
the soul because it was an unbelievable nature place.
But the temple where the roses grew was the work of
ancient man, and truly great, and the most sacred bird
of strength held guard over it that it be kept inviolate.

" When we have left the desert life far behind, I
may tell you of it, Juanito," she promised, " but not
between these ranges. The honor was shown me, I
truly believe, because of these beads I wear, and Man
uel seems to know of some virtues of your friend, Kahn
Alcatraz; thus the two of us were asked to leave
record there on the temple wall. But he is more
modest than I he does not boast, nor flaunt his whit
ened hand."

Tristan heard her raillery, and his eyes were never
long from her direction, yet he was very silent, and I
thought, had a look most anxious.

But he was brief in all arrangements for the divid
ing of the trails, and the Navajo women gladly climbed


on the backs of the horses, and regarded Sancha as
more than mortal that she had come, white from out
the Desert, and helped to give them freedom. One
offered her a narrow obsidian knife, and the other a
pendant of turquoise.

" It is good that you take them," said Wisti. " It
is the proving that you have come out of the Desert
with friends in three tribes of people. If days come
when you need friends, it is good to have a sign to
send. These gifts are as the eagle feather, and it is
a pledge."

Then he touched the turquoise in the rosary she

" This also," he said. " Each man who has given
a bead knows or his clan knows. See how it has
made easy your way ! "

The Navajo men asked Wisti to make clear to " the
chief " their names and their clans, and if again he
crossed their lands, he must send word to them.

Then they made their farewells, and went back up
the trail through the forest, while we went down and
outward on the great plateau of a land that is like no

The catcher of eagles went before us, and was of
much help. He was a man of few words, and would
walk hour after hour beside Wisti and no speech be
tween them, for that is the Indio way. And Tristan
grew almost as silent and watched their faces, strangely
alert. He left Sancha to my care, and gave much time
to the men.

When I asked if he had doubt or fear of the new
man, he shook his head.


" I have had no doubt of any since we left the Oriabe
men behind in Hopi land," he said ; " not even of the
three Spaniards whose names we do not know. But
strange things are on this trail. I came over the land
once with a man they thought next to God, yet these
things did not happen. Do you not see that each
tribe is giving a pledge, or sign, or symbol, by which
we may call on friends in need? There was nothing
like this before. It is not doubt far from it! It is
their jealous care of us by which I am made anxious."

" Think you it could be word from Mexico your
escape, reward or "

" No, it is no thing of church or state. It is an
Indio matter, and so great a thing that it touches
three tribes wide apart from each other. The white
men know nothing of it ; all is peace in the province,
else men would not be abroad to trap women and
plan weddings ; such pastimes belong to peaceful days.
I have met nothing with so much of mystery in it, for
I truly believe that Wisti does not know yet his
father in Walpi does know! Also I think Manuel of
the eagles knows, and he tells me he is going with you
to Santa Fe."

" Why say it in that way? Do you not go also? "

" Juanito, comrade," he said with gentleness. " Do
you not know there must be a parting of the trails?
This is not to be said before your cousin, but I can
help her to nothing in New Granada. There she will
find people of her rank to make all smooth for her.
You alone must stand as her guardian, and Kahn Alca-
traz will be only a name of a desert guide for whom
no one is accountable." Then, when he saw the pro-




test in my face, he added, " Think back, Juanito, re
member what you have seen of Inquisition work in
Mexico, and know it is stronger here. My stay in
Santa Fe will be only long enough to find one man,
and after that it is not to be hoped we will meet again.
I am, even now, a dangerous person for her to know,
she will learn this in time ; but neither of us can tell
her. I came to you out of one desert, and I will dis
appear in another wilderness; beyond that you must
know nothing of me. Never you remember hidden
things, Juanito."

" But where in all this land "I began in won
der, but he stopped me.

" Compared with what we have crossed, it is but
a summer s day travel east to the great river Miche Sepi
leading north to the colonies of France," he said. " If
need be, I could live hidden with these tribes where
neither priest nor soldier could ever find me. But where
those women in a boat could go, I surely could go, and
there are yet great lands to discover."

" You say nothing these late days of Marco," I ven
tured, " and I wonder "

" It wastes time," he said. " Nothing has changed
as to him. She will grieve for her pride a little while,
and then wed with some governor or viceroy, and re
member the desert days as a long dream. Be very, very
patient with her, Juanito."

I knew I should surely need patience and courage,
and several other helpful attributes if he dropped out
of our lives and left me alone to her questions, and my
heart grew faint within me on that part of the trail.

Then we reached Jemez, and spent the night in the


house of Manuel. His Navajo wife had a few words
of Spanish, and showed every kindness to Sancha.

Tristan left us to rest, and disappeared somewhere
with Manuel in one of their sanctuaries ; no doubt the
one where he had so easily secured rank or place by
painting their gods as they had dreamed them. It left
Sancha and me free to roam, but she confessed herself
oppressed by the regard of these people they gave
no such sunny welcome as had the people of Walpi.
There was a somber note in the life, and Sancha wished
for a priest who could tell us of these people who gave
us food, but no smiles. Padre Morador of the mission,
was absent, visiting some men brought home crippled
from the turquoise mine where twenty men had been
crushed to death by the caving of walls.

Wisti learned this and told us very gravely, adding,
as he pointed to the turquoise of Sancha " I am telling
them you wear it from Navajo, and Pima, and Hopi,
not from men made slaves by the Castilian god."

This death of the enslaved miners made explanation
of the dark looks given to white strangers, but Manuel s
wife was kind, and noting the worn foot-gear of Sancha,
she brought out maiden boots, almost new, and asked
Wisti to offer them.

Wisti looked at them, and then at her own feet. For
whom had they been made?

" Manuel he make for Marta," said the wife,
then Sancha came in, and gave thanks when the boots
were offered, looking at her own oft mended ones rue

" But I think I must keep these always," she said
" they are my record of the Desert."


And no one but I seemed to note the name of the
girl for whom they had been made, and I wondered not
so much then that Manuel meant to journey with us
the rest of the way. Those hunters of women had
given hint to the trail of the lost daughter for whom
he asked of each tribe he met. And he had sat silent
beside them at the camp fire in the pines while they
told of her slender build, her Navajo mother, her name,
and her owner; silent had he sat with no pretense of
knowing Spanish that was the Indio!


FROM Jemez I remember less of the way than any
other, for that land is a land of bleached canons
and forgotten cities. Rifts in blackened rock
showed where fires yet burned deep in the earth,
and in other places ancient lava cut the leather of
shoes and the feet of horses. After we left the high
forests, and the Jemez valley, each turn in the trail
towards the river showed deeper scars of monstrous
cleavage it was the rock ribs of a world bleached
white in the sun.

Sancha murmured prayers in some of the danger
places, and bade me do likewise.

" For it is a place where terrible forces have left
record," she said, " and where things of terror might

My mind was full enough of shadows for the future,
since I could not count on Tristan after the passing
of the Rio Bravo del Norte. I knew that when all
dangers were over for us, he would go out of our
lives, and I rode with him ever in sight, though at
times tears blurred my vision, for he had been salvation
to us, and I was only a boy.

We passed a village ere the river was reached, but
Tristan advised against camping there. Several of the



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Online LibraryMarah Ellis Martin RyanThe house of the dawn → online text (page 22 of 26)