AFTER twenty-one long and it may be tedious chapters, no apology is required for a short one in conclusion. I cannot take leave of the reader, however, without having made in his company a brief excursion through a portion of New Mexico in the direction of the Rito de los Frijoles, though not quite so far.
We start from Santa Fé, that "corner in the east" above which the Tano village stood many centuries ago. We proceed to the Rio Grande valley, to the little settlement called Peña Blanca, and to the Queres village, or Pueblo of Cochiti. There you will hear the language that was once spoken on the Rito; you will see the Indians with characteristic sidelocks, with collars of turquoises and shell beads, but in modem coats and trousers, in moccasins and in New England boots and shoes. Still they are at heart nearly the same Indians we found them in this story. I could introduce you to Hayoue, to Zashue, to Okoya, and the rest. If we strike the time well, you may witness the Koshare at their pranks, and in their full, very unprepossessing ceremonial toggery. At Cochiti we take a guide, possibly Hayoue, and proceed northward in the direction of the Rito.
For a number of hours we have to follow the base of the huge potreros, crossing narrow ravines, ascending steep but not long slopes, until at about noon we stand on the
brink of a gorge so deep that it may be termed a chasm. We look down to a narrow bottom and groves of cottonwood trees. To the north, the chasm is walled in by towering rocks; the Rio Grande flows through one comer; and on its opposite bank arise cliffs of trap lava and basalt, black and threatening, while the rocks on the west side are bright red, yellow, and white. The trail to the Rito goes down into this abyss and climbs up on the other side through clefts and along steep slopes. But we are not going to follow this trail. We turn to the left, and with the dizzy chasm of Cañon del Alamo to our right, proceed westward on one of the narrow tongues which, as the reader may remember, descend toward the Rio Grande from the high western mountains, and which are called in New Mexico potreros. The one on which we are travelling, or rather the plateau, or mesa, that constitutes its surface, is called Potrero de las Vacas.
For about two hours we wander through a thin forest, From time to time the trail approaches the brink of the rocky chasm of the Cañon del Alamo, near enough to have its echo return to us every word we may shout down into its depths. Suddenly the timber grows sparse and we behold an open space on a gentle rise before us. It is a bare, bleak spot, perhaps a quarter of a mile long, and occupying the entire width of the mesa, which here is not much broader. Beyond, the timber begins again, and in the centre of the opening we see the fairly preserved ruins of an abandoned Indian pueblo.
There are still in places three stories visible. The walls are of evenly broken parallelopipeds of very friable pumice-stone, and the village forms the usual quadrangles. In the centre is a large square; and no fewer than six, depressions indicate that the Pueblos had at one time as many as six circular subterranean estufas. In the ruins of the dwellings
over four hundred cells are still well defined, so that the population of this communal village must formerly have reached as high as one thousand souls. Over and through the ruins are scattered the usual vestiges of primitive arts and industry,--pottery fragments and arrow-heads. Seldom do we meet with a stone hammer, whereas grinding-slabs and grinders are frequent, though for the most part scattered and broken.
The spot is well selected for an abode of sedentary Indians. An extensive view opens toward the east, north, and south. We see in the east the mountains above Santa Fé, in the south the ranges at whose foot lie the ruins of Hishi. In the north the high plateaus above the Rito shut out a glimpse of the Puye, but a whitish streak in that direction indicates the top line of the northern cliffs that overhang the Rito de los Frijoles. Right and left of the village, not more than a hundred yards from each side, begin the rugged declivities of the sides of the potrero. If we want to go farther we can proceed to the west only, and there we soon get into timber again.
A few steps within that timber, and we have before us a strange sight. A wall of rudely piled stone slabs planted upright, flags laid upon them crosswise, and smaller fragments piled against and between them, form a pentagonal enclosure which at first sight reminds us of a diminutive Stonehenge. There is an entrance to it from the southeast,--an open corridor flanked by similar parapets. The enclosing wall is not more than three feet high, and we easily peep into the interior.
Inside there are two statues carved out of the living rock Although much disfigured to-day they still show a plain resemblance to the figures of two crouching panthers or pumas They are life size; and the animals seem to lie there with their heads to the east, their tails extended along the ground. [paragraph continues]
As we stand and gaze, our Indian goes up to the statues and furtively anoints their heads with red ochre, muttering a prayer between his teeth.
What may be the signification of this statuary? Do you remember the great dance at the Rito, and the painting on the wall of the estufa where the Koshare Naua sat and held communication with Those Above? Do you recollect that among these paintings there was one of a panther and another of a bear? The relation of the bear and panther of the estufa to the picture of the sun-father is here that of the two stone panthers to the sun himself. Their faces are turned to the east, whence rises the sun, in which dwells the father of all mankind, and the moon, which their mother inhabits. As in the estufa on the Rito, so in the outside world, the pictures of stone express a prayer to the higher powers, and here daily the people of the village were wont to make offerings and say their prayers.
We are therefore on sacred ground in this crumbling enclosure. But who knows that we are not on magic ground also? We might make an experiment; and though our Indian guide is not one of the great shamans, he might help us in an attempt at innocent jugglery.
Let us suffer ourselves to be blindfolded, and then turn around three times from left to right while our friend recites some cabalistic formula, incomprehensible of course to us.
One, two, three! The bandage is removed. What can we see?
Nothing strange at first. Surrounding nature is the same as before. The same extensive view, the same snow-clad ranges in the far east, the same silent, frowning rocks, the same dark pines around us. But in the north, over the yellowish band that denotes the cliffs of the Rito, we notice a slight bluish haze.
A change has taken place in our immediate vicinity. The stone panthers and the stone enclosure have vanished, and the ground is bare, like all the ground in the neighbourhood. Looking beyond we see that a transformation has also taken place on the spot where stood the ruin. The crumbling walls and heaps of rubbish are gone, and in their place newly built foundations are emerging from the ground; heaps of stone, partly broken, are scattered about; and where a moment ago we were the only living souls, now Indians--village Indians like our guide, only somewhat more primitive--move to and fro, busily engaged.
Some of them are breaking the stones into convenient sizes, for the friable pumice breaks in parallelopipeds without effort. The women are laying these in mortar made of the soil from the mesa, common adobe. We are witnessing the beginning of the construction of a small village. Farther down, on the edge of the timber, smoke arises; there the builders of this new pueblo dwell in huts while their house of stone is growing to completion. It is the month of May, and only the nights are cool.
These builders we easily recognize. They are the fugitives from the Rito, the little band whom the Tanos of Hishi have kindly received and charitably supported until a few months since, when they allowed them to go and build a new home. They came hither led on by Hayoue, who is now their maseua; for each tribe, however small, must have one. Okoya is with him, and Mitsha, now Okoya's wife, comes up from the bottom with the water-urn on her head, as on the day when we first saw her on the Rito de los Frijoles.
And now we have, though in a trance, seen the further fate of those whose sad career has filled the pages of this story. We may be blindfolded again, turned about right to left; and when the bandage is taken from our eyes the landscape is
as before, silent and grand. The ruins are in position again; the panthers of stone with their mutilated heads lie within the enclosure; an eagle soars on high; and our Indian points to it, smiles, and whispers,--
"Look! see! the Shiuana are good!"