AMONG the folk-stories of the Pueblos which show at once that they are not of such antiquity as the rest, is this. It is plain that the story is post-Spanish--that it has been invented within the last three hundred and fifty years. That seems to us a long time to go back in the history of America, but to the Pueblos it is a trifling dot on the long line of their antiquity.
The following tale is an amusing instance of the fashion in which some of the myth-makers have mixed things. It is an Indian fairy tale, but with a Christian moral--which was learned from the noble and effective Spanish missionaries who toiled here.
Once upon a time, in a pueblo south of Isleta,--one of its old colonies known as P'ah-que-tóo-ai, the Rainbow Town, but deserted long ago,--there were two Indians who were great friends. They started in life with equal prospects, married young, and settled in the same town. But though friends, their natures were very different. One was a good man in his heart, and the other was bad. The good man always observed Sunday, but the other
worked every day. The good man had better luck than the bad; and the latter became jealous. At last he said: "Friend, tell me, why is it that you always make more success than I?"
"Perhaps," answered Good, "because I keep Sunday, but work hard all the other days of the week, while you work every day."
Time went on, and both the friends accumulated considerable wealth in servants, stock, and ornaments. The good man let his servants rest on Sunday, but the bad made his work every day, and did not even give them time to smoke. Good prospered most, and had more servants, more stock, and more ornaments than Bad, who grew more jealous daily. At last Bad said to Good: "Friend, you say that you have good luck because you keep Sunday, but I'll bet I am right in not keeping it."
"No," replied Good; "I'll bet I am right, and that Sunday ought to be kept."
"Then I will bet all my stock against all your stock, and all my lands against your lands, and everything we have except our wives. To-morrow, be ready about breakfast-time, and we will go out into the public road and ask the first three men we meet which of us is right. And whichever gets the voice of the majority, he shall be the winner, and shall take all that is of the other."
Good agreed,--for an Indian cannot back out of a challenge,--and so the next morning the two friends took the public road. In a little while they met a man, and said to him: "Friend, we want your voice. Which of us is right, the one who
observes Sunday and lets his peons rest then, or he who does not?"
Now it happened that this person was not a man, but an old devil who was taking a walk in human form; and he promptly answered: "Without doubt he is right who does not keep Sunday," and went his road.
"Aha!" said Bad to Good. "You see I got the first voice."
They started on again and soon met another man, to whom they asked the same. But it was the same old devil, and he gave them the same answer.
"Aha!" said Bad. "Now I have the second voice, you see."
Presently they met a third man, and asked him the same, and he answered the same; for it was the same old devil in another body.
"Aha!" said Bad, "I am the winner! Get down from that burro, and let me have her and her colt, for now all that was yours is mine, as we agreed."
Good got down from the burro with tears in his eyes, for he was thinking of his wife, and said:
"Now, friend, having gained all, you are going back to our home; but I shall not. Tell my wife that I am going to the next pueblo to seek work, and that I will not be back until I have earned as much as I have lost in this bet, or more; but tell her not to be sad."
Then they shook hands and parted, Bad riding home full of joy, and Good trudging off through the sand toward Isleta, which was the largest and wealthiest pueblo of the tribe. On the road night
overtook him, and seeing an abandoned house in a field, he hastened to it for shelter from the cold of night. A portion of the roof still remained, with the fogon (corner fireplace) and chimney, and he began to brush a place to lie down. Now it happened that this house was the place where all the devils of that country used to meet at night; and before Good went to sleep he heard noises of the devils coming. He was very much frightened, and to hide himself climbed up into the chimney and stood upon its crosspiece.
In a moment the devils began to arrive singly or in pairs; and at last came the old devil--the very one who had played the trick on Good. He called the meeting to order, and asked them what they had been doing. A young devil arose and said:
"The next pueblo is the largest and wealthiest of this nation. For three weeks now, all its people, and all the people along that river, have been working at the spring from which the river comes, but have not been able to undo me. Three weeks ago I came to that spring and thought how nice it would be to stop up the spring, and how the people would swear if their gods did not send rain. So I stuck a big stone in the spring and stopped all the water; and ever since, the water will not come out, and the people work in vain, and they are dying of thirst, and all their stock. Now they will either forsake their gods and serve us, or die like the animals, thinking nothing of their past or future."
"Good!" said the old devil, rubbing his hands. "You have done well! But tell me--is there no way to open the spring?"
"There is only one way," said the young devil, "and one man could do that--but they will never think of it. If a man took a long stick, shaped like a sword, and went and stood on top of the stone, and struck it with the full length of the stick first east and west, and then north and south, the water would come out so hard that the stone would be thrown out upon the banks and the spring could never be stopped again."
"Is that the only way?" said the old devil. "You have done very well, for they certainly will never think to do that. Now for the next."
Then another young devil arose and reported this:
"I, too, have done something. In the pueblo across the mountain I have the daughter of the wealthiest man sick in bed, and she will never get well. All the medicine-men have tried in vain to cure her. She, too, will be ours."
"Good!" said the old devil. "But is there no way in which any one may cure her?"
"Yes, there is one way, but they never will think of that. If a person should carry her to the door just as the sun is rising, and hold her so that its very first rays would touch the top of her head, she would be well at once, and never could be made sick again."
"You are right," said the old devil, "they will never think of that. You have done well."
Just then a rooster crowed, and the old devil cried, "You have a road!"--which means, "an adjournment is in order." All the devils hurried away; and when they were gone, poor Good crawled down from the chimney half dead with fright, and hurried on toward Isleta. When he
got there he found the people in great trouble, for their crops were withering and their cattle dying for want of water.
"I see," thought Good to himself, "that these devils told the truth about one thing, and so perhaps they did about all. I will try to undo them, even if I fail." Going to the Cacique he asked what they would give him if he would open the spring. The Cacique told the principales, and they held a junta, and decided to let the stranger name his own price.
"Well," said he, "I will do this if you will give me half the value of the whole village."
They agreed, and asked how many men he would need to help him, and when he would begin.
"I need no men. Lend me only a hard stick the length of my outstretched arms, and a horse."
These were given him, and he went to the spring alone. Leaping upon the stone he struck it with the full length of the stick east and west, and then north and south, and sprang nimbly to the bank. At that very instant the water rushed out harder than it had ever done. All the people and cattle along the river came to the banks and drank and revived. They began to irrigate their fields again, and the dying crops grew green. 1 When Good got back to the pueblo, half of all the grain and money
and dresses and ornaments were piled up in a huge pile waiting for him, and half the horses and cattle and sheep were waiting in big herds. It was so that he had to hire a great many men to help him home with his wealth, which was more than any one person ever had before. He appointed a mayordomo to take charge of this caravan, and to meet him at a certain point on the way home. He himself, taking a horse, rode away at once to the other pueblo, where the rich man's daughter was sick. Arriving at nightfall, he stopped at the house of an old woman. While he ate, she told him how sad was all the village; for the girl who had been so kind to all was dying.
"But," said he "I can cure her."
"In-dah," said the crone; "for all the medicine-men have tried vainly, and how shall you?"
"But I can," he insisted; and at last the old woman went to the rich man, and said there was a stranger at her house who was sure he could cure the girl.
The rico said: "Go and tell him to come here quickly," and the old woman did so. When Good came, the rich man said: "Are you he who says he can cure my daughter?"
"I am the one."
"For how much will you cure her? What will you give?"
"Half of all I have, which is much."
"It is well. To-morrow be ready, for I will come just before the sun."
In the blue of the morning Good came and waked the girl, and carried her to the door. In a
moment came the sun, and its first ray fell upon her bent head. In an instant she was perfectly well, and stronger and prettier than ever.
That very day her father gladly divided all his wealth into two equal shares, and gave half to Good, who again had to hire many cow-boys and men with carretas to help him transport all this. At the appointed spot he found his mayordomo; and putting all the stock together, with many herders, and all the wagons full of corn and dresses and ornaments and money together, started homeward, sending ahead a messenger on a beautiful horse to apprise his wife.
When the jealous Bad saw this fine horse going to the house of his friend, he ran over to see what it meant; and while he was still there, Good arrived with all his wealth. Filled with envy, Bad asked him where he had got all this; and Good told the whole story.
"Well," said Bad, "I will go there too, and perhaps I will hear something." So off he rode on the burro he had won from Good, till he came to the deserted house, and climbed up in the chimney.
Soon the devils met, and the two young ones told their chief that the spring had been opened and the girl cured, and that neither could ever be bewitched again.
"Somebody must have listened to us last night," said the old devil, greatly troubled. "Search the house." In a little while they found the jealous friend in the chimney, and supposing him to be the one who had undone them, without mercy puffed him to the place where devils live.
166:1 Here, as in several other stories in this volume, is a touch of the and character of the Southwest. The country is always so dry that irrigation is necessary in farming, and in very bad years the streams have not water even for that. The Rio Grande itself frequently disappears in September between certain points in its course in sandy New Mexico; and within ten miles below Isleta I have seen its bed bone-dry. Ignorance of this fact has caused serious blunders on the part of historians unfamiliar with the country of which they wrote.