THE people of the Water clan dwelt at the western end of the cliffs which border the Tyuonyi on the north. They occupied some twenty caves scooped out along the base of the rock, and an upper tier of a dozen more, separated from the lower by a thickness of rock averaging not over three feet. This group of cave-dwellings--and vestiges thereof are still visible at this day--lay in a re-entering angle formed by the cliffs, which overhang in such a manner as to form a sheltered nook open to the south. Ascent to their base is quite steep, and great heaps of débris cover the slope. The gorge is narrow, a dense thicket interspersed with pine-trees lines the course of the brook, and the declivity forming the southern border of the Rito approaches the bottom in rocky steps, traversed laterally by ledges overgrown with scrubby vegetation.
Vestiges of former occupancy are still scattered about the caves. Some of these furnish a clew to the manner in which the dwellings were formed by scraping and burrowing. Splinters of obsidian and of basalt--sharp fragments, resembling clumsy chisels or knives--served to dig an oblong hole in the soft pumice or tufa of the cliff. After this narrow cavity had penetrated a depth of one or two feet, the artisan began to enlarge it inside, until a room was formed for which the tunnelled entrance served as a doorway. The room, or cell, was gradually finished in a quadrangular or polygonal shape, with a ceiling high enough to
permit a person of average size to stand erect. Not unfrequently side rooms were excavated connecting with the first by low apertures, to pass through which it was necessary to stoop, or even to creep on all fours. These passages were too low for doorways, too short to deserve the name of tunnels. Into the front apartment light and air were admitted through the entrance, and sometimes through small window-like apertures. The side cells were utterly dark except where excavated parallel to the face of the rock, when sometimes another entrance was opened to the front, sometimes an air-hole only admitted light and air.
If on the afternoon of the day when Shyuote had his perilous adventure with the young people of the Corn clan, we had been able to peep into the third one of the ground-floor caves, counting from the west end of the group inhabited by the Water people, we should have found the apartment empty; that is, as far as human occupancy was concerned. But not deserted; for while its owner was not there, ample signs of his presence only a short time before could be detected everywhere. In the fireplace wood was smouldering, and a faint smoke rising from this found egress through a crude chimney. This was built over the hearth, with two vertical side slabs of pumice supporting a perforated square flag, over which a primitive flue, made of rubble cemented by mud, led to a circular opening in the front wall of the cave. In a corner stood the frame for the grinding-slabs, or metates, and in it the three plates of lava on which the Indian crushes and pulverizes his maize were placed in the convenient slanting position. Not only the prismatic crushing-pins, but freshly ground meal also, lay in the stone casings of the primitive mill, and on these the plates themselves. Deerskins and cotton wraps were rolled in a bundle in another corner. Others hung on a line made of rawhide and stretched across one end of the room, fastened
to wooden pins driven into the soft rock. On the floor--to which a thick coating of mud, washed with blood and smoothed, gave a black, glossy appearance--there were beside, here a few stone axes with handles, there some black sooty pots, painted bowls, and finally the inevitable water-urn with wide body and narrow top, decorated in the usual style with geometrical and symbolical figures painted in red and black on whitish ground. The walls of the cave were burnished with burnt gypsum; the ceiling was covered by a thick coat of soot; and a band of yellow ochre, like wainscoting, ran along the base of the sides.
The owner of this troglodytic home, however, is not to be seen; but in a side chamber, which communicates with this apartment through one of the dark and low passages just described, a rustling sound is heard, as of some one rummaging about in darkness. After a while a woman's bead peeps through the passage into the outer room, and little by little the whole body emerges, forcing itself through the narrow opening. She rises and stands erect in front of the hearth, and the sunbeam which still enters the apartment by the round hole above the fireplace strikes her features full and enables us to scan them. The woman into whose dwelling we have pryed, and who stands now in the dim chamber as sole occupant and owner, is Shotaye, Tyope's former wife, and the friend who has given Say Koitza such ill advice.
If Shotaye be a witch, she certainly is far from displaying the hag-like appearance often attributed to the female sorcerer. There is even something decidedly fascinating about her. Shotaye, although near the forties, is for an Indian woman undoubtedly good-looking. No wonder some other women of the tribe are afraid of her. She is tall and well rounded, and her chest is of that fulness that develops at an early age in the women of the Pueblos. [paragraph continues]
Her face is even pretty,--her lips are pouting and sensual, the nose small and shaped like a short, pointed beak, the cheek-bones high, while the chin indicates remarkable determination. Magnificent black hair streams down her back. It is as full as a wave, as lustrous as polished obsidian.
Her dress consists of a buckskin wrap without girdle, embroidered at the lower end with multi-coloured porcupine-quills. Bracelets of white shells, a necklace of feldspar crystals and turquoises, and strings of yellow cotton threads around her ankles complete the costume. Such is the woman who has played and still plays an ominous part in the history of Okoya's mother, and in the history of the people at the Rito de los Frijoles. Now that we have seen her home and her person, let us proceed with the tale of her doings on the afternoon to which the close of the preceding chapter has been devoted.
Shotaye had been rummaging about in the inner cell of her rocky house in search of some medicinal plant, for that cell was her storeroom, laboratory, and workshop. But as the room was without light at all, she had entered it with a lighted stick in her hand; and just as she had begun her search the flame had died out. So after a vain attempt by groping in darkness, she crawled back to the exterior apartment and knelt down in front of the hearth to fan the coals with her breath and thus obtain another torch for her explorations. At that moment the deerskin robe closing the entrance to her grotto was timidly lifted, and a feeble voice called the usual greeting. "Opona," replied Shotaye, turning toward the doorway. A lithe figure crept into the cave. When near the fireplace it stood still, enabling the mistress of the dwelling to recognize the features of Say, her friend and now fully recovered patient.
But how different was Say's appearance from what it
was when Shotaye a few days ago saw her last? How changed,--how thin and wan her cheeks, how sunken her eyes, how sallow and sickly her complexion! Her face seemed to bear the seal of approaching death, for the eyes stared expressionless, the mouth twitched without speaking. But one thought seized Shotaye, that her friend must be ill, very, very ill,--that the old disease had returned in full force and had clutched her anew with perhaps irresistible power. Anxiously she rose to her feet, and scanned the face of the invalid.
"What ails you, my sister," she inquired tenderly. "Has disease come on you again? Speak, sa uishe, speak to me that I may know."
Her visitor only shook her head and glanced about as if seeking a place to rest herself. The medicine-woman gathered hurriedly a few robes, folded them so as to make a cushion near the hearth, and then gently urged Say to sit down on this soft and easy seat. She yielded, and then remained motionless, her glassy eyes staring vacantly at the floor.
"Sister," Shotaye reiterated, "sister, what ails you? Speak, and I will do all I can for you." But the other merely shook her head and began to shiver. Shotaye noticed the wristbands of red leather on her arms, and it startled her. She asked eagerly,--
"Why do you wear in trouble the colour that should make our hearts glad? What has happened to you that causes you to seek relief for your distress?" The tone of her voice sounded no longer like entreaty; it was an anxious, nay stem, command. Okoya's mother raised her eyes with an expression of intense misery; she threw toward her questioner a look imploring relief and protection, and finally gasped,--
"They know everything!" Then her head dropped on
her knees, she grasped her hair, covered her face and chest with it, and broke out in convulsive sobs.
"They know everything!" Shotaye repeated, "Who know everything?" Suddenly the truth seemed to flash upon her mind.
"What, the Koshare?" she cried in terror.
Convulsive sobs and groans were the only reply to her exclamation. They amply confirmed her worst apprehensions. "The Koshare know all." Unconsciously the cave-dweller uttered these words while staring into the remnant of gleaming coals on the hearth; then she became silent. Neither could Say Koitza utter a word; only from time to time her spasmodic sobs broke the stillness of the room. The bright disk which the light from the outside painted on the wall opposite was fading little by little, a sign of approaching sunset.
Shotaye's features displayed few signs of the terror which her friend's disclosures had produced. Soon her face betokened that fear could not retain its hold long on her resolute mind, that intense reflection had superseded dismay. She turned to her visitor and asked,--
"Tell me, sister, how you came to know that the Delight Makers are acquainted with your doings? Tell me, and do not weep." And as Say remained silent and immovable she crouched beside her, removed her hair gently from her face, then raised her head and placed it so as to rest on her bosom. Then she looked deep into the eyes of the poor woman. They were glassy and almost lifeless. While thus gazing intently at Say, Shotaye's features changed and became sad and dejected.
It was for a moment only. Soon the expression of hopelessness vanished and the lines of her face became resolute, hard, and determined. Surprise had yielded to reflection, reflection to pity and remorse. Now remorse in turn gave
way to determination. Shotaye felt that she, much rather than her friend, was lost, irretrievably lost; but her energetic nature demanded that she should see the situation clearly. Although the spasmodic hints of Say, her broken words, spoke enough, she wanted more. Her mind craved the full truth., however terrible it might prove.
Say Koitza had slowly recovered from her stupor. She became quieter and quieter. In the arms of her resolute and sympathizing friend consciousness returned; she sobbed no more, and from time to time would raise her eyes with a look that besought pity, mercy, and assistance. The medicine-woman eagerly watched these changes and repeated her previous query.
"How do you know that the Koshare are aware of it?"
"Sa nashtio, told me," moaned the poor woman.
Shotaye sighed. This was bad news indeed. She muttered,--
"This is bad, very bad. If the maseua knows it, then the tapop will not be long without notice."
"The tapop knows nothing," breathed Say.
"But how can the maseua have been informed without the knowledge of the other?" Shotaye asked with surprise.
"He is my father," replied Say, and wept aloud. "He is my father, and yet"--she started to rise and grasped her hair with both hands, screaming--"he has to kill me with his own hands!"
So loud and piercing was her shriek that Shotaye was seized with sudden fright. Rising quickly, she ran to the doorway and peeped outside to see if the scream had attracted attention. But there appeared to be nobody about, except a few children who were playing and romping in front of the caves and whose cries had drowned the shriek. Reassured she returned to Say, who was lying with her face
on the floor, tearing her hair and uttering low convulsive groans. Shotaye grew frightened, and brought water in a gourd. She moistened her forehead and hands with the liquid, rubbed her face, and thus finally brought her back to some composure. After drinking some water Say sat on the robes again, shivering and gasping. Her mind seemed entirely gone, the expression of her features was akin to idiocy. The room had grown darker, night was approaching.
As soon as she appeared to be quiet, Shotaye felt tempted to resume her questionings. But she bethought herself of the late hour, and of the suspicion which might arise in case Say Koitza should not be home in time. Still, she must ask some questions; her positive mind required some additional knowledge which must be gained ere she could afford to let her visitor return home. Shotaye returned to the entrance, looked stealthily outside, and listened. Dusk had set in, and the bottom of the gorge was wrapped in twilight. The shrubbery along the brook appeared dim and pale, the lofty pines looked like black monuments. On the southern declivity all detail had vanished, but the top of the southern mesa glistened yet like a golden seam. In the recess formed by the angle of the cliffs which contained her home, the usual bustle of the evening hours prevailed; and laughter, merry and boisterous, issued from a cave opposite that where Shotaye, concealed by folds of the half-lifted curtain, stood watching with eye and ear. In those caves fronting hers dwelt the family of Zashue, Say's husband. Thence sounded the merriment, and the woman recognized familiar voices. Surely enough Hayoue was there; and there could be no mistake, that clear good-natured laugh was from Zashue himself. Shotaye dropped the curtain and turned back considerably relieved. If Zashue was at his mother's and brother's
home, she reasoned, he would not return to the big house that night; and since he was so gay, so merry, it was not likely that he knew anything of the terrible accusation against his wife and her. If that were the case there was no immediate danger, since all the Koshare were not informed of the matter. Returning to the hearth she poked the embers, placed on them another stick of pitchy wood, and fanned it with her breath until the flames burst forth, lively and bright. Until then Say had remained motionless in her seat. She had taken no notice of her friend's movements; but when the wood flamed and a warm glow began to spread over the apartment, she started like one whose dreams are suddenly disturbed and began to speak.
"I must go," she exclaimed anxiously. "I must go home. I must cook for Zashue! He is looking for me! I must go," and she attempted to rise.
Shotaye tried to quell her sudden apprehension, but she kept on with growing excitement,--
"I must! Let me go! Let me go! For he is looking for me."
"He is not," assured the other. "Be quiet. He is yonder with his people in the cave. There he sits and there he will stay till late."
A sudden tremor seized the body of Say. Her hands shook like aspen leaves. "Is he there?" she gasped. "Then he is coming after me. Is he not a Koshare?" Her eyes glistened with that peculiar glare which betokens aberration of the mind.
Any ordinary Indian woman would have concluded from the appearance and utterances of Say that she was hopelessly insane, and would either have resorted to incantations or left her in terror. Shotaye, although very much frightened, did not think of desertion, but only of relief. [paragraph continues]
With keen self-possession she said in a decided and convincing tone,--
"Fear nothing, sa tao; he will not come, for he knows nothing."
"Nothing?" inquired Say, looking at her with the shy and sly glance of a doubting maniac.
"Nothing at all!" Shotaye exclaimed, firmly. She had recovered her ascendency. She directed her glance, commanding and convincing, straight at the wavering gaze of the excited woman, whose look became dim and finally meek. Shotaye took advantage of the change.
"Zashue knows nothing at all," she asserted, "and that is very, very good; for it gives us hope."
"But if they tell him!" and the anxious look came back to her face.
"Let them tell, if they choose," defiantly exclaimed the other; "afterward we shall see."
Say shook her head in doubt.
"But how did the Koshare come to know about it?" Shotaye again pressed the main question.
"I do not know," sighed Say; and she again stared into the fire, and her face quivered suspiciously. The cave-dweller quickly interjected,--
"What do the Delight Makers really know about us?"
"They know--they know that I spoke to the dark-coloured corn."
"Is that all?"
"No--yes--no. They know more." She spoke with greater vivacity, and in a natural tone of voice; "they know about the owl's feathers, too." A deep sigh followed this reply, and tears came to her eyes. Say was herself again.
Shotaye also heaved a deep sigh of relief. Her friend's mind was restored, and she had gained the much-desired
information. But it would have been dangerous to proceed further in this conversation, lest the cloud which had threatened Say's mental powers should return and settle permanently. So, after a short silence, she turned to her friend, and said in a positive tone,--
"Sister, go home now and rest easy. Nothing is lost as yet. Go home, be quiet, and attend to your work as usual. I shall be on the watch."
"But the Koshare!" Say anxiously exclaimed.
"Leave them to me," the other answered; and so powerful was her influence on the timid mind of her visitor, so unbounded the confidence which the latter had in her abilities and her faithfulness, that Say rose without a word, and like an obedient child, covering her head with one comer of her wrap, went out and meekly strolled home. It was night, and nobody noticed her. Okoya was already at the estufa; Shyuote and the little girl were asleep. Say lay down beside her sleeping children and soon sank into a heavy slumber. Her body, weak from over-strain, compelled a rest which the mind might have denied to her.
In her dark chamber in the rock, Shotaye sat alone before the fire on the hearth. It began to flame lustily, for the woman fed it well. She wanted the glow, first in order to cook her food, next in order to brighten the room; for with the dark and tangled subject on her mind, she felt the need of light and warmth as her companions in musing. When the flames rustled and crackled, Shotaye squatted down in front of them, folded her arms around her knees, and began to think.
She felt far from being as reassured about the outlook as she had pretended to be when she sent Say Koitza home with soothing and comforting words. But the preservation of her friend's mental powers was an imperative necessity. Had Say been permitted to fall a prey to her momentary
excitement, everything would have been lost for Shotaye. Had Say's mind given way permanently, the cause of that calamity would have been attributed to her, and she would have been charged with her friend's insanity in addition to the charge of witchcraft already being formulated.
These thoughts, however, came to her now in the stillness of the night and by the fireside. So long as her poor friend was with her she had acted almost instinctively, with the quick grasp of an active intellect and under the good impulses of compassion and attachment. Now that she was alone the time had come to ponder, and Shotaye weighed in her mind the liabilities and assets of her situation. She began to calculate the probabilities for and against.
It was not difficult for her to escape; but this was only possible when attempted alone. With Say Koitza flight was next to impossible. Beside, it appeared very unlikely to her that the woman would flee from her children.
As for Shotaye, the case was different; she might leave her cave and her scanty effects at any time, provided she knew where to go. This was not so easy to determine. The Navajos, or Dinne, haunted the country around the Tyuonyi; and in case she fell in with one or more of their number, it became a matter of life or death. The Moshome, or enemies of her tribe, might take a fancy to the woman and spare her; but they might feel wicked and kill her. Death appeared, after all, not such a terrible misfortune; for under present circumstances what else could she expect at the Rito but a horrible and atrocious death? But Shotaye was intent upon living, not so much for the sake of life itself--although it had many sensual charms for her--as out of a spirit of combativeness resulting from her resolute character, as well as from the constant struggles which she had undergone during the time of her separation from her husband. She felt inclined to live, if possible. in
spite of her enemies. To endure the lot of a captive among the Navajos was repulsive to her instincts; she hated to be a drudge. Admitting that she succeeded in eluding those enemies, whither was she to direct her flight? That there were village communities similar to her own at a remote distance was known to her; but she was aware of only one in which she might be received, and that belonged to the Tehuas, of whom she knew that a branch dwelt in the mountains west of the river, inhabiting caves somewhere in the rocks at one day's journey, more or less, from the Rito. Between these Tehuas and the Queres of the Tyuonyi there was occasional intercourse, and a fairly beaten trail led from one place to the other; but this intercourse was so much interrupted by hostilities, and the Navajos rendered the trail so insecure beside, that she had never paid much attention to it. Still, there was no doubt in her mind that if she reached the habitations of the Tehuas, above where the pueblo of Santa Clara now stands, a hospitable reception would be extended to her. But could she leave Say alone to her dismal fate?
After all, death was not such a fearful thing, so long as no torture preceded or accompanied it. Death must come to her once, at all events, and then what of it? There need be no care for the hereafter, according to her creed. The Pueblo Indian knows of no atonement after dying; all sins, all crimes, are punished during this life. When the soul is released from the thralls of this body and its surrounding nature, it goes to Shipapu, at the bottom of the lagune, where there is eternal dancing and feasting, and where everything goes on as here upon earth, but with less pain, care, anguish, and danger. Why therefore shun death? Shotaye was in what we should call a philosophic mood.
Such careless philosophy may temporarily ease the mind, since it stifles for a moment the pangs of apprehension and
dread. But with the temporary relief which Shotaye felt, the demands of physical nature grew more apparent. in other words she felt hungry, and the more so as, being now almost resolved to suffer death with resignation, it was imperative to live, and consequently to eat, until Death should knock at her door. She poured a good portion of the now boiling stew into a smaller bowl and began to fish out the morsels with her fingers, while between times she drank of the broth. The warm food comforted her, gave her strength, and aroused her vital powers, which arduous thinking had almost put to sleep.
She placed the pot with the stew in a comer and sat down again, leaning against the wall. No sleepiness affected her. There was too much to think of as yet. Her thoughts returned to the absorbing subject of the day, and with these thoughts, random at first, a pale, wan figure rose before her inner eye,--a form well, only too well, known to her; that of Say Koitza. She saw that figure as she had seen it not long ago,--crouching before that very fire in bitterest despair, bewailing her own lot, lamenting her imminent untimely death, and yet without one single word of reproach for her who had beguiled her into doing what now might result in the destruction of both. Was not that thin, trembling woman her victim? Was she not the one who had led Say astray? The Indian knows not what conscience is, but he feels it all the same; and Shotaye, ignorant of the nature of remorse, nevertheless grew sad.
Indeed she it was who had beguiled the poor frail creature,--she it was who had caused her to perform an act which, however immaterial in fact, still entailed punishment of the severest kind according to Indian notions and creed. She was the real culprit, not Say,--poor, innocent, weak-minded Say. Shotaye felt that she had done wrong, and that she alone deserved to suffer. But would her
punishment save the other? Hardly, according to Indian ideas. Therefore, while it dawned upon her that by accusing herself boldly and publicly she might perhaps ward off the blow from the head of her meek and gentle accomplice, that thought was quickly stifled by the other, that it was impracticable. Again a voice within her spoke boldly, Save yourself regardless of the other.
Yet she discarded that advice. She could not forsake her victim. For in addition to the legitimate motives of sympathy, another and stronger reason prevailed,--the dread of the very powers whom she thought to have invoked in Say's behalf, and to whose dark realm she fancied that she would be fettered and still faster riveted by committing an action which she regarded as worse than all her other deeds. Dismissing every thought of self she resolved to remain true to Say, happen what might. Shotaye had almost become--
"part of the power that still
Produceth good, whilst ever scheming ill."
She believed that death stood plainly at her door. Nevertheless she hated to die. The philosophy of careless, frivolous resignation could not satisfy her strong vitality, still less her stronger feelings of hatred against her enemies. She felt that there might be a bare possibility of saving her companion; and the wish to save herself at the same time, and in the very teeth as it were of the Koshare, grew stronger and stronger. It waxed to an intense longing for life and revenge? But what was to be done? There was the riddle, and to solve it she thought and thought. Shotaye became oblivious of all around her, completely absorbed in her musings.
It thus escaped her notice that the curtain over the doorway had been cautiously lifted several times, and that a human face had peered into the apartment. She even failed
to hear the shuffling step of two men who stealthily entered the room. Only when they stood quite near her did the woman start and look up. Both men broke out into roaring laughter at her surprise. Shotaye grew angry.
"Why do you come in so unceremoniously," she cried. "Why do you sneak in here like a Moshome, or like a prairie wolf after carrion? Cannot you speak, you bear?" she scolded without rising.
Her anger increased the merriment of the intruders. One of them threw himself down by her side, forced his head into her lap, attempting to stroke her cheeks. She pushed him from her, and recognized in him the gallant Zashue, Say Koitza's husband. He grasped both her hands. This she allowed; but continued scolding.
"Go away, you hare, let me alone." He again reached toward her face, but she avoided him. "Go home to your woman; I have no use for you."
The men laughed and laughed; and the other one knelt down before her, looking straight into her face with immoderate merriment. Then she became seriously angry.
"What do you want here," she cried; and when the first one attempted to encircle her waist she pushed him from her with such force that he fell aside. Then she rose to her feet and Zashue followed.
"Be not angry, sister," he said good-naturedly, rubbing his sore shoulder; "we mean you no harm."
"Go home and be good to your woman."
"Later on I will," he continued, "but first we want to see you."
"And talk to you," said Hayoue, for he was Zashue's companion; "afterward I shall go." He emphasized the "I" and grinned.
"Yes, you are likely to go home," she exclaimed. "To Mitsha you will go, not to your mother's dwelling."
"Mitsha is a good girl," replied the young man, "but I never go to see her."
His brother meanwhile attempted to approach the woman again, but she forbade it.
"Go away, Zashue, I tell you for the last time." Her speech and manner of action were very positive.
"Why do you drive us away?" he said in a tone of good-natured disappointment.
"I do not drive you away," replied Shotaye. "You may stay here a while. But then both of you must leave me." Her eyes nevertheless gazed at the two handsome forms with evident pleasure, but soon another thought arose.
"Sit down," she added quietly, as she grasped after the stew-pot, placed it on the fire, and sat down so that she was in the shadow, whereas she could plainly see the features of both men. The visitors had squatted also; they feared to arouse the woman's anger, and the surprise they had planned had failed.
Hayoue spoke up first,--
"You are good, sanaya, you give us food."
"Indeed," she remonstrated, "when I am not willing to do as you want, you call me mother and make an old woman of me." She looked at the young man, smiling, and winked at him.
"You are not very young after all," he teased; "you might easily be my mother."
"What! I your mother? The mother of such an elk? You have one mother already, and if you need another, go to Mitsha's mother." With these words she fixed her gaze on the youth searchingly and inquiringly. As her face was in the shadow Hayoue could not well notice its expression. But he said again, and very emphatically,--
"I tell you once more, koitza, that I will not have any
thing to do with the girl; she is all right, but--"he stopped and shrugged his shoulders. Zashue interjected,--
"Why not? Tyope would then be your nashtio."
"For that very reason I do not want his daughter," Hayoue exclaimed, looking straight at his brother. He was in earnest about this matter, and whenever Hayoue grew serious it was best not to tease him too much.
Shotaye had treasured every word, noticed every look and gesture. Of course she, as Tyope's former wife, took care not to take part in the conversation as far as Tyope was concerned.
Zashue turned to her with the query,--
"Samām, have you any feathers?"
Shotaye was startled; what might be the import of this suspicious inquiry? Did he know about her affair and come only as a spy? She withheld her answer for a moment, just time enough for reflection. It was better to seem unconcerned, so she replied quietly,--
"If you have hawk's feathers, will you give me some?"
The mention of hawk's feathers reassured Shotaye. At the same time it indicated to her a prospective trade, and the woman had always an eye to business. So she placed both elbows on her knees, looked straight at Zashue, and inquired,--
"What will you give me for them?"
Nothing," replied Zashue, with a laugh.
"Promise her the next owl that you may find," Hayoue taunted.
"Be still, you crow," scolded Shotaye, with well-feigned indignation; "you need owl's eyes that you may sneak about in the dark after the girls. There is not a single maiden safe when you are at the Tyuonyi."
"And no man is safe from you." retorted the young man.
"You are safe, at any rate."
"When you call me a turkey-buzzard you say the truth," he answered, "else I would not have come to you."
Shotaye understood the venomous allusion and was going to retort, but bethought herself in time and only said in a contemptuous tone,--
"Why should I quarrel with you, uak." Then turning to Zashue and changing the subject,--
"How many feathers do you want, and what will you give me for them?"
"Four, but they must be long ones."
"What will you give me for them?"
"Let me see the feathers." With this he rose.
Without replying Shotaye poured out two little bowls of broth, placed them before her visitors, said "eat," took a lighted stick from the hearth, and crawled into the dark passage leading to her magazine. Soon she was heard to rummage about in that apartment, and a faint glow illuminated the low tunnel.
While the woman was busy searching for the feathers, the two men partook of the food she had set before them sparingly, as it was a mere matter of etiquette. But while eating they exchanged sly glances and winks, like bad boys bent upon some mischief. At last, as Shotaye did not return, Zashue stealthily arose, removed one of the heavy grinding-plates from its frame, and placed it across the mouth of the gangway. Then he stretched himself at full length on the floor with his back leaning against the slab. Hayoue watched him and chuckled.
The light of the torch shone through the space which the slab could not cover; the mistress of the cave was coming back, Very soon however the light disappeared and all grew silent. The firebrand had been extinguished; the woman was inside. but kept perfectly still, giving no signs
of impatience or disappointment. The mischievous men looked at each other in astonishment; they had not expected that.
They waited and waited. Nothing stirred in the inner room; it grew late and later. Hayoue had intended to make other calls, and Zashue also became impatient to go. So he called into the dark passage,--
"Shotaye." No reply.
All was as silent as the grave. They sat in expectation for a while; then he again shouted,--
"Shotaye samām,! Come out!"
Nothing was heard. He noisily removed the grinding-slab from the entrance and cried,--
"Shotaye, we must go. Bring the feathers."
"Let me alone and go," sounded the dull reply at last.
"Give me the feathers first," Zashue demanded.
"Come and get them yourself," replied the voice inside.
This was rather an awkward invitation, for both men, like almost everybody else at the Rito, were afraid of the medicine-woman's private room.
"Do bring them," Zashue begged.
"Go! I will not come out any more," growled the voice within.
"Shotaye, sister, bring me the feathers. I will give you a fine deerskin for them," implored the husband of Say.
"What do you want them for?"
"For the dance."
"You lie! There is no dance now."
Anxiously and eagerly Zashue cried,--
"There will certainly be a dance. Three days hence we wall dance the ayash tyucotz!"
And Hayoue, who until then had quietly enjoyed the dialogue, now interjected emphatically,--
"Certainly, sanaya, in three days."
"What will you give me if I bring them?" came the dull query again from within.
"Go! I will keep my feathers."
"I will give you two turquoises."
"Give me four," demanded the cave-dweller.
"It is too much," cried both men at once.
No reply followed. Shotaye remained silent. The trade was broken off. Still the younger brother felt disinclined to give up. He went to the mouth of the passage and said aloud,--
"If you give us the feathers you shall have two green stones and one deerskin."
"Is it true; do both of you promise it?" asked the woman, after a while.
"Yes! yes!" cried both men together.
"Then put the things near the hearth and sit down," she commanded.
"We have them not with us."
"Go and get them."
"We cannot to-night."
"Then I will keep my feathers until you bring what you have promised;" and with these words Shotaye crept smiling out of the passage and planted herself before the discomfited men.
"Go home, now, children," she said. "I am tired. I am sleepy."
They attempted to beg, they pleaded and implored; but she was firm. All they finally obtained was her promise to deliver the feathers on the next day, provided the price agreed upon was paid. With this the two men had to be
satisfied, and their exit was as crestfallen and disappointed as their entrance had been mischievous and buoyant.
They had been completely outwitted and foiled by the wily woman. Nevertheless, they never thought for a moment of obtaining by force what she so positively refused. It would have been easy for the two strong men to overpower her; but both were afraid of the supernatural powers attributed to Shotaye. For the same reason they were anxious to obtain the feathers. An object coming from her and having been in her possession was suspected of having acquired thereby virtues which it did not possess before. But these virtues were thought to be beneficial only as long as the object was obtained from her in a legitimate way, and with her own free will and kind consent. In the opposite case, the bad will of the woman went with the feathers, and was thought to work harm to their new owner. It was easy to taunt or to tease Shotaye, but to arouse her anger appeared a dangerous undertaking; and as for harming her person, none but the shamans would have attempted it.
After her guests' departure Shotaye felt wide awake. She had dismissed them, not in order to go to rest, but in order to be once more alone with her thoughts. For during the bantering conversation with the brothers, she had learned several important facts that changed materially her plans. In order to ponder carefully over the different aspect of matters, she poked the fire again and sat down by the hearth in the same position as before the interruption, and mused.
In the first place, it had become clear to her that Zashue was utterly ignorant of the accusation against his wife.
Next, she was convinced that Hayoue was far from being Tyope's friend; on the contrary, he seemed to dislike him thoroughly. Hayoue was known to be very outspoken in
matters of sympathy and antipathy, and if he were not fond of Tyope, the latter certainly had come to feel it in sonic way or other. Then, for she knew Tyope well, he doubtless hated Hayoue cordially, and would have shown his enmity in the dark, underhand way peculiar to himself. If Hayoue, on the other hand, was not favourably inclined toward Tyope, it was quite certain that he, being Cuirana, nursed feelings of dislike toward the Koshare in general. Any accusation, therefore, which the Delight Makers would bring against Say Koitza was sure to meet at first with decided incredulity on the part of the young man, and this incredulity might possibly be converted, through adroit management, into active opposition.
But the most valuable piece of news she had heard from the intruders was that three days hence a solemn dance, the ayash tyucotz, was to be performed at the Rito. These ceremonies, which are always of a religious nature, are proposed generally by the principal shamans to the civil chiefs,--in council or privately,--either on the strength of some presage or dream, or as a public necessity. The proposal agreed to, as it usually is, the time is set; but no publication is made either of the performance or of the hour until the day on which it is to occur or the evening previous. But the matter is talked about at home, in the circle of friends, and thus it gradually becomes known to everybody as a public secret, and everybody has time to prepare for it. Shotaye mixed very little with the people at the Rito; she hardly ever went to see any one, and such as came to see her had other matters to talk about. It was no surprise to her to learn that an important dance was near at hand; but it was a source of much gratification nevertheless. For until the dance was over nothing could or would be undertaken against Say and herself. After the performance,
it was equally sure that several days would elapse ere the council could meet in full, as the religious heads of the tribe had yet to go through ceremonies of a private nature. At all events, it proved to her that there was no immediate danger, and that she still had time before her. With time, so the resolute and wary woman reasoned, there was hope.
Thus musing and speculating, she sat for a long while. The fire went out, but she did not notice it. At last she arose, unfolded several robes and mantles, which she easily found in the dark, and spread them out on the floor for her couch. Shotaye could go to sleep; for at last she saw, or thought she saw, her way clearly. She had fully determined upon her plan of action.