ANOTHER folk-story told by the Quères colony in Isleta also relates to Acoma, perched upon the great round cliff in its far, fair valley.
Among the folk-lore heroes of whom every Quères lad has heard is Ees-tée-ah Muts, the Arrow Boy. He was a great hunter and did many remarkable things, but there was once a time when all his courage and strength were of no avail, when but for the help of a little squirrel he would have perished miserably.
On reaching manhood Ees-tée-ah Muts married the daughter of the Kot-chin (chief). She was a very beautiful girl and her hunter-husband was very fond of her. But, alas! she was secretly a witch and every night when Ees-tée-ah Muts was asleep she used to fly away to the mountains, where the witches held their uncanny meetings. You must know that these witches have dreadful appetites, and that there is nothing in the world of which they are so fond as boiled baby.
Ees-tée-ah Muts, who was a very good man, had no suspicion that his wife was guilty of such
practices, and she was very careful to keep him in ignorance of it.
One day, when the witch-wife was planning to go to a meeting, she stole a fat young baby and put it to cook in a great olla (earthen jar) in the dark inner room. But before night she found she must go for water, and as the strange stone reservoir at Acoma is a laborious half-mile from the houses, she would be gone some time. So, as she departed with a bright-painted tinaja upon her head, she charged her husband on no account to enter the inner room.
When she was gone Ees-tée-ah Muts began to ponder what she had said, and he feared that all was not well. He went to the inner room and looked around, and when he found the baby cooking he was grieved, as any good husband would be, for then he knew that his wife was a witch. But when his wife returned with water, he said not a word, keeping only a sharp lookout to see what would come.
Very early that night Ees-tée-ah Muts pretended to go to sleep, but he was really very wide awake. His wife was quiet, but he could feel that she was watching him. Presently a cat came sneaking into the room and whispered to the witch-wife:
"Why do you not come to the meeting, for we await you?"
"Wait me yet a little," she whispered, "until the man is sound asleep."
The cat crept away, and Ees-tée-ah Muts kept very still. By and by an owl came in and bade the woman hurry. And at last, thinking her husband
asleep, the witch-wife rose noiselessly and went out. As soon as she was gone, Ees-tée-ah Muts got up and followed her at a distance, for it was a night of the full moon.
The witch-wife walked a long way till she came to the foot of the Black Mesa, where was a great dark hole with a rainbow in its mouth. As she passed under the rainbow she turned herself into a cat and disappeared within the cave. Ees-tée-ah Muts crept softly up and peered in. He saw a great firelit room full of witches in the shapes of ravens and vultures, wolves and other animals of ill omen. They were gathered about their feast and were enjoying themselves greatly, eating and dancing and singing and planning evil to mankind.
For a long time Ees-tée-ah Muts watched them, but at last one caught sight of his face peering in at the hole.
"Bring him in!" shouted the chief witch, and many of them rushed out and surrounded him and dragged him into the cave.
"Now," said the chief witch, who was very angry, "we have caught you as a spy and we ought to kill you. But if you will save your life and be one of us, go home and bring me the hearts of your mother and sister, and I will teach you all our ways, so that you shall be a mighty wizard."
Ees-tée-ah Muts hurried home to Acoma and killed two sheep; for he knew, as every Indian knows, that it was useless to try to escape from the witches. Taking the hearts of the sheep, he quickly returned to the chief witch, to whom he gave them. But when the chief witch pricked the hearts with a sharp stick they swelled themselves
out like a frog. Then he knew that he had been deceived, and was very angry, but pretending not to care he ordered Ees-tée-ah Muts to go home, which the frightened hunter was very glad to do.
But next morning when Ees-tée-ah Muts awoke he was not in his own home at all, but lying on a tiny shelf far up a dizzy cliff To jump was certain death, for it was a thousand feet to the ground; and climb he could not, for the smooth rock rose a thousand feet above his head. Then he knew that he had been bewitched by the chief of those that have the evil road, and that he must die. He could hardly move without falling from the narrow shelf, and there he lay with bitter thoughts until the sun was high overhead.
At last a young Squirrel came running along the ledge, and, seeing him, ran back to its mother, crying:
"Nana! Nana! Here is a dead man lying on our ledge!"
"No, he is not dead," said the Squirrel-mother when she had looked, "but I think he is very hungry. Here, take this acorn-cup and carry him some corn-meal and water."
The young Squirrel brought the acorn-cup full of wet corn-meal, but Ees-tée-ah Muts would not take it, for he thought:
"Pah! What is so little when I am fainting for food?"
But the Squirrel-mother, knowing what was in his heart, said:
"Not so, Sau-kée-ne [friend]. It looks to be little, but there will be more than enough. Eat and be strong."
Still doubting, Ees-tée-ah Muts took the cup and ate of the blue corn-meal until he could eat no longer, and yet the acorn-cup was not empty. Then the young Squirrel took the cup and brought it full of water, and though he was very thirsty he could not drain it.
"Now, friend," said the Squirrel- mother, when he was refreshed by his meal, "you cannot yet get down from here, where the witches put you; but wait, for I am the one that will help you."
She went to her store-room and brought out a pine-cone, which she dropped over the great cliff Ees-tée-ah Muts lay on the narrow ledge as patiently as he could, sleeping sometimes and sometimes thinking of his strange plight. Next morning he could see a stout young pine-tree growing at the bottom of the cliff, where he was very sure there had been no tree at all the day before. Before night it was a large tree, and the second morning it was twice as tall. The young Squirrel brought him. meal and water in the acorn-cup twice a day, and now he began to be confident that he would escape.
By the evening of the fourth day the magic pine towered far above his head, and it was so close to the cliff that he could touch it from his shelf
"Now, Friend Man," said the Squirrel-mother, "follow me!" and she leaped lightly into the tree. Ees-tée-ah Muts seized a branch and swung over into the tree, and letting himself down from bough to bough, at last reached the ground in safety.
The Squirrel-mother came with him to the ground, and he thanked her for her kindness.
"But now I must go back to my home," she said. "Take these seeds of the pine-tree and these piñon-nuts which I have brought for you, and be very careful of them. When you get home, give your wife the pine-seeds, but you must eat the piñons. So now, good-by," and off she went up the tree.
When Ees-tée-ah Muts had come to Acoma and climbed the dizzy stone ladder and stood in the adobe town, he was very much surprised. For the four days of his absence had really been four years, and the people looked strange. All had given him up for dead, and his witch-wife had married another man, but still lived in the same house, which was hers. 1 When Ees-tée-ah Muts entered she seemed very glad to see him, and pretended to know nothing of what had befallen him. He said nothing about it, but talked pleasantly while he munched the piñon-nuts, giving her the pine-seeds to eat. Her new husband made a bed for Ees-tée-ah Muts, and in the morning very early the two men went away together on a hunt.
That afternoon the mother of the witch-wife went to visit her daughter, but when she came near the house she stopped in terror, for far up through the roof grew a great pine-tree, whose furry arms came out at doors and windows. That was the end of the witch-wife, for the magic seed had sprouted in her stomach, and she was turned into a great, sad Pine that swayed above her home, and moaned and sobbed forever, as all her Pine-children do to this day.
199:1 It is one of the fundamental customs of the Pueblos that the house and its general contents belong to the wife; the fields and other outside property to the husband.