In the days of the ancients, our ancestors lived in the Village of the Yellow Rocks, also in the Salt City, also in the Village of the Winds, and also in the Village of the White Flowering Herbs, and also in the Village of Odd Waters.
When in fact all these now broken-down villages were inhabited by our ancients, there lived in the Village of the Yellow Rocks a very beautiful maiden, the daughter of the high priest.
Although a woman, she was wonderfully endowed by birth with the magic knowledge of the hunt and with the knowledge of all the animals who contribute to the sustenance of man,--game animals. And, although a woman, she was also somewhat bad in her disposition, and selfish, in that, possessing this knowledge above all other men and women, she concluded she would have all these animals-the deer, antelope, rabbits--to herself.
So, through her wonderful knowledge of their habits and language, she communicated with them and charmed them, and on the top of the mountain--where you will see to this day the ancient figures of the deer cut in the rock--she built a huge corral, and gathered one after another all the deer and antelope and other wild animals of that great country. And the hunters of these villages hunted in vain; they trailed the deer and the antelope, but they lost their trails and always came home with nothing save the weapons they took with them.
But this maiden, whenever she wished for deer, would go to her corral and kill whatever animal she wanted; so she and her family always had plenty of meat, while others were without it; always had plenty of buckskins with which to make moccasins and apparel, while others were every day wearing out their old supply and never able to replenish it. Now, this girl was surpassingly beautiful, and was looked upon by many a young man as the flower of his heart and the one on whom he would ultimately concentrate his thoughts for life. Amongst these young men, the first to manifest his feelings was a youth from the Village of the Winds.
One day he said to his old people: "I am going courting."
And they observed that he made up a bundle of various precious things for women's dress and ornamentation--necklaces, snow-white buckskin moccasins and leggings, and embroidered skirts and mantles--and, taking his bundle on his shoulders, he started off for the Village of the Yellow Rocks.
When he reached the village he knew the home of the maiden by the beauty of the house. Among other houses it was alone of its kind. Attached to the ladder was the cross-piece carved as it is in these days, but depending from it was a fringe of black hair
(not scalp-locks) with which they still ornament certain houses when they have sacred ceremonies; and among this fringe were hung hot low stalactites from a sacred cave on the Colorado Chiquito, which sounded, when the wind blew them together, like little bells.
This fringe was full of them, so that when a stranger came to this important chief-priest's house he no sooner touched the ladder-rung at the foot than the bells tinkled, and they knew some one was coming.
As he placed his foot on the lowermost rung of the ladder, chi-la-li sang the bells at the top.
Said the people within: "Some one is coming."
Step after step he went up, and still the bells made music at the top, and as he stepped over on the roof, thud, thud, his footsteps sounded as he walked along; and when he reached the door, those within said: "Thou comest?" And he replied: "I come. Draw me in"; by which expression he meant that he had brought with him a present to the family. Whenever a man has a bundle to hand down, it is the place of the woman to take it; and that is called "drawing a man in," though she only takes his bundle and he follows. In this case he said "Draw me in," and the maiden came to the top of the ladder and took the bundle and dropped it on the floor. They knew by the appearance of the bundle what the object of the visit was.
The old man was sitting by the fireplace,--it was night-time,--and as the stranger entered, said, "Thou hast come?"
The young man answered: "Yes."
Said the old man: "It is not customary for a stranger to visit the house of a stranger without saying something of what may be in his thoughts."
"It is quite true," said the youth; "I come thinking of this maiden, your daughter. It has occurred to me that I might happily and without fear rest my thoughts and hopes on her; therefore I come."
The daughter brought forth food for the young man and bade him eat. He reached forth his hand and partook of the food. She sat down and took a mouthful or two, whereby they knew she was favorably disposed. She was favorably disposed to all appearance, but not in reality. When he had finished eating, she said: "As you like, my father. You are my father." She answered to her own thoughts: "Yes, you have often reproached me for not treating with more gentleness those who come courting me."
Finally said the father: "I give ye my blessing and sacred speech, my children. I will adopt thee as my child."
"My children," said the father, after a while, when he had smoked a little, "the stranger, now a son, has come a long distance and must be weary."
So the maiden led him to an upper chamber, and said: "Rest here; you are not yet my husband. I would try you in the morning. Get up early, when the deer are most plentiful, and go forth and slay me a fine one, and then indeed shall we rest our hopes and thoughts on each other for life."
"It is well," said the youth; and he retired to sleep, and in the morning arose early. The maiden gave into his hands the food for the day; he caught up his bows and arrows and went forth into the forests and mountains, seeking for the deer. He found a superb track and followed it until it suddenly disappeared, and though he worked hard and followed it over and over again, he could find nothing.
While the young man was out hunting and following the tracks for nothing, the young girl went out, so as to be quite sure that none of her deer should get out; and what did she do? She went into the river and followed it against the current, through the water beyond the village and where the marked rocks stand, up the cañon to the place where her deer were gathered. They were all there, peaceful and contented. But there were no tracks of the girl; no one could follow where she went.
The young man hunted and hunted, and at night-time, all tired out and hungry, took his way back to the home of the maiden. She was there.
"Ha!" said she, "what good fortune today?"
And the young man with his face dragged down and his eyes not bright, answered: "I found no game today."
"Well," said the girl, "it is too bad; but under the circumstances we cannot rest our thoughts and hopes on each other for life."
"No, I suppose not," said the young man.
"Here is your bundle," said the girl. She raised it very carefully and handed it to him. He took it over his shoulder, and after all his weary work went on his way home. The very next day a young man named Hálona, when he heard of this, said: "Ha! ha! What a fool he was! He didn't take her enough presents; he didn't please her. I am said to be a very pleasant fellow" (he was a very conceited young man); "I will take her a bundle that will make things all right."
So he put into a bundle everything that a woman could reasonably want,--for he was a wealthy young man, and his bundle was very heavy,--put on his best dress, and with fine paint on his face started for the home of the maiden. Finally, his foot touched the lowermost rung of the ladder; the stalactites went jingling above as he mounted, and thud went his bundle as he dropped it on the roof.
"Somebody has come," said the people below. "Listen to that!"
The maiden shrugged her shoulders and said: "Thou comest?"
"Yes," answered the young man; "draw me in."
So she reached up and pulled the huge bundle down into the room, placing it on the floor, and the young man followed it down.
Said the old man, who was sitting by the fire, for it was night: "Thou comest. Not thinking of nothing doth one stranger come to the house of another. What may be thy thoughts?" The young man looked at the maiden and said to himself: "What a magnificent creature she is! She will be my wife, no fear that she will not." Then said he aloud: "I came, thinking of your daughter. I would rest my hopes and thoughts on her."
"It is well," said the old man. "It is the custom of our people and of all people, that they may possess dignity, that they may be the heads of households; therefore, young men and maidens marry and establish themselves in certain houses. I have no objection. What dost thou think, my daughter?"
"I have no objection," said the daughter.
"Ah, what did I tell you?" said the youth to himself, and ate with a great deal of satisfaction the meal placed before him.
The father laid out the corn-husks and tobacco, and they had a smoke; then he said to his daughter: "The stranger who is now my son has come a long way, and should not be kept sitting up so long."
As the daughter led him to another room, he thought: "What a gentle creature she is! How softly she steps up the ladder."
When the door was reached, she said: "Here we will say good-night." "What is the matter?" he asked.
Said she: "I would like to know of my husband this much, that he is a good hunter; that I may have plenty of food all my days, and plenty of buckskins for my clothing. Therefore I must ask that in the morning you go forth and hunt the deer, or bring home an antelope for me."
The young man quickly recovered himself, and said: "It is well," and lay himself down to rest.
So the next morning he went out, and there was the maiden at the top of the house watching him. He couldn't wait for daylight; he wanted the Sun, his father, to rise before his time, and when the Sun did rise he jumped out of bed, tied his quiver to his belt, took his bow in his hand, and, with a little luncheon the maiden had prepared for him, started off.
As he went down the river he saw the maiden was watching him from the top of the house; so he started forward and ran until he was out of sight, to show how fine a runner he was and how good a hunter; because he was reputed to be a very strong and active
young man. He hunted and hunted, but did not find any deer, nor even any tracks. Meanwhile, the maiden went up the stream as before and kept watch of the corral; and he fared as the other young man had fared. At night he came home, not quite so downcast as the other had been, because he was a young man of more self-reliance. She asked, as she met him: "Haven't you got any deer today?"
He answered: "No."
She said: "I am sorry, but under the circumstances I don't see how we can become husband and wife."
So he carried his bundle home.
The next day there was a young man in the City of Salt who heard of this,--not all of it, but he heard that day after day young men were going to the home of this maiden to court her, and she turned them all away. He said: "I dare say they didn't take enough with them." So he made up two bundles and went to the home of the maiden, and he said to himself: "This time it will be all right."
When he arrived, much the same conversation was gone through as before with the other young men, and the girl said, when she lighted him to the door of his room: "My young friend, if you will find a deer for me tomorrow I will become your wife and rest my hope only on you."
"Mercy on me!" thought the young man to himself, "I have always been called a poor hunter. What shall I do?"
The next morning he tried, but with the same results.
Now, this girl was keeping the deer and antelope and other animals so long closed up in the corral that the people in all the villages round about were ready to die of hunger for meat. Still, for her own gratification she would keep these animals shut up.
The young man came back at evening, and she asked him if he had found a deer for her. "No," said he, "I could not even find the trail of one."
"Well," she said, "I am sorry, for your bundles are heavy."
He took them up and went home with them.
Finally, this matter became so much talked about that the two small gods on the top of Thunder Mountain, who lived with their grandmother where our sacrificial altar now stands, said: "There is something wrong here; we will go and court this maiden." Now, these gods were extremely ugly in appearance when they chose to be--mere pigmies who never grew to man's stature. They were always boys in appearance, and their grandmother was always crusty with them; but they concluded one night that they would go the next day to woo this maiden.
Said one to the other: "Suppose we go and try our luck with her." Said he: "When I look at you, you are very handsome."
Said the other to him: "When I look at you, you are extremely handsome."
They were the ugliest beings in human form, but in reality were among the most magnificent of men, having power to take any form they chose.
Said the elder one: "Grandmother, you know how much talk there is about this maiden in the Village of the Yellow Rocks. We have decided to go and court her."
"You miserable, dirty, ugly little wretches! The idea of your going to court this maiden when she has refused the finest young men in the land!"
"Well, we will go," said he.
"1 don't want you to go," replied she. "Your names will be in the mouths of everybody; you will be laughed and jeered at."
"We will go," said they. And, without paying the slightest attention to their grandmother, they made up their bundle--a very miserable bundle it was; the younger brother put in little rocks and a sticks and bits of buckskins and all sorts of worthless things--and they started off.
"What are you carrying this bundle for?" asked Áhaiyúta, the elder brother. "I am taking it as a present to the maiden," said Mátsailéma, the younger one. "She doesn't want any such trash as that," said the other. "They have taken very valuable presents to her before; we have nothing to take equal to what has been carried to her by others."
They decided to throw the bundle away altogether, and started out with absolutely nothing but their bows and arrows.
As they proceeded they began to kill wood-rats, and continued until they had slaughtered a large number and had a long string of them held up by their tails. "There!" exclaimed the younger brother.
"There is a fine present for the girl." They knew perfectly well how things were, and were looking out for the interests of their children in the villages round about.
"Oh, my younger brother!" said the elder. "These will not be acceptable to the girl at all; she would not have them in the house!"
"Oh, yes, she would," said the younger; "we will take them along as a present to her." So they went on, and it was hardly noon when they arrived with their strings of rats at the white cliffs on the southern side of the cañon opposite the village where the maiden
lived. "Here, let us sit down in the shade of this cliff," said the elder brother, "for it is not proper to go courting until evening."
"Oh, no," said the younger, "let us go along now. I am in a hurry! I am in a hurry!" "You are a fool!" said the elder brother; "you should not think of going courting before evening. Stay here patiently."
So they sat down in the shade of the cliff. But the younger kept jumping up and running out to see how the sun was all the afternoon, and he would go and smooth out his string of rats from time to time, and then go and look at the sun again. Finally, when the sun was almost set, he called out: "Now, come on!"
"Wait until it is wholly dark," said the other. "You never did have any patience, sense, or dignity about you."
"Why not go now?" asked the younger.
So they kept quarrelling, but the elder brother's wish prevailed until it was nearly dark, when they went on.
The elder brother began to get very bashful as they approached the village. "I wonder which house it is," said he.
"The one with the tallest ladder in front of it, of course," said the other.
Then the elder brother said in a low voice: "Now, do behave yourself; be dignified." "All right!" replied the younger.
When they got to the ladder, the elder one said in a whisper: "I don't want to go up here; I don't want to go courting; let's go back."
"Go along up," said the younger.
"Keep still; be quiet said the elder one; "be dignified!"
They went up the ladder very carefully, so that there was not a tinkle from the bells. The elder brother hesitated, while the younger one went on to the top, and over the edge of the house.
"Now!" cried he.
"Keep still!" whispered the other; and he gave the ladder a little shake as he went, and the bells tinkled at the top.
The people downstairs said: "Who in the world is coming now?"
When they were both on the roof, the elder brother said: "You go down first." "I will do nothing of the kind," said the other, you are the elder."
The people downstairs called out: "Who comes there?"
"See what you have done, you simpleton!" said the elder brother. Then with a great deal of dignity he walked down the ladder. The younger one came tumbling down, carrying his string of rats.
"Throw it out, you fool; they don't want rats!" said the elder one.
"Yes, they do," replied the other. "The girl will want these; maybe she will marry us on account of them!"
The elder brother was terribly disturbed, but the other brought his rats in and laid them in the middle of the floor.
The father looked up, and said: "You come?"
"Yes," answered the two odd ones.
"Sit down," said the old man. So they sat down, and food was placed before them. "It seems," said the father, "that ye have met with luck today in hunting," as he cast his eyes on the string of rats.
"Yes," said the Two.
So the old priest went and got some prayer-meal, and, turning the faces of the rats toward the east, said a short prayer.
"What did I tell you?" said the younger brother they like the presents we have brought. just see!"
Presently the old man said: "It is not customary for strangers to come to a house without something in mind."
"Quite so," said the younger brother.
"Yes, my father," said the elder one; "we have come thinking of your daughter. We understand that she has been wooed by various young men, and it has occurred to us that they did not bring the right kind of presents."
"So we brought these," said the younger brother.
"It is well," said the old man. "It is the custom for maidens and youths to marry. It rests with my daughter."
So he referred the matter to his daughter, and she said: "As you think, my father. Which one?"
"Oh, take us both!" said the younger brother.
This was rather embarrassing to the maiden, but she knew she had a safe retreat. So when the father admonished her that it was time to lead the two young men up into the room where the others had been placed, she told them the same story. They said, "It is well."
They lay down, but instead of sleeping spent most of the night in speculating as to the future.
"What a magnificent wife we will have," said one to the other.
"Don't talk so loud; every one will hear you; you will be covered with shame!"
After a while they went to sleep; but were awake early the next morning. The younger brother began to talk to the elder one, who said: "Keep quiet; the people are not awake; don't disturb them!"
The younger one said: "The sun is rising."
"Keep quiet," said the other, "and when they are awake they will give us some luncheon to take with us."
But the younger one jumped up and went rushing about the house, calling out: "The sun is rising; Get up!"
The luncheon was provided, and when they started off the maiden went out on the house-top and asked them which direction they would take.
Said they: "We will go over to the south and will get a deer before long, although we are very small and may not meet with very good luck."
So they descended the ladder, and the maiden said to herself: "Ugly, miserable little wretches; I will teach them to come courting me in this way!"
The brothers went off to the cliffs, and, while pretending to be hunting, they ran back through the thickets near the house and waited to see what the maiden would do. Pretty soon she came out. They watched her and saw that she went down the valley and presently ran into the river, leaving no trail behind, and took her course up the stream. They ran on ahead, and long before she had ascended the river found the path leading out of it up the mountain. Following this path, they carne to the corral, and, looking over it, they saw thousands of deer, mountain-sheep, antelope, and other animals wandering around in the enclosure.
"Ha! here is the place!" the younger brother exclaimed. "Let us go at them now!
"Keep quiet! Be patient! Wait till the maiden comes," said the elder one. "If we should happen to kill one of these deer before she comes, perhaps she has some magic power
or knowledge by which she would deprive us of the fruits of our efforts."
"No, let us kill one now," said the other. But the elder one kept him curbed until the maiden was climbing the cliff, when he could restrain him no longer, and the youth pulled out his bow and let fly an arrow at the largest deer. One arrow, and the deer fell to the ground, and when the maiden appeared on the spot the deer was lying dead not far away.
The brothers said: "You come, do you? And here we are!"
She looked at them, and her heart went down and became as heavy as a stone, and she did not answer.
"I say, you come!" said the younger brother. "You come, do you?"
She said, "Yes." Then said she to herself: "Well, I suppose I shall have to submit, as I made the arrangement myself." Then she looked up and said: "I see you have killed a deer."
"Yes, we killed one; didn't have any difficulty at all," said the younger brother. "Come, and help us skin him; we are so little and hungry and tired we can't do it. Come on." So the girl went slowly forward, and in a dejected way helped them skin the deer. Then they began to shoot more deer, and attempted to drag them out; but the men were so small they could not do it, and the girl had to help them. Then they cut up the meat and made it into bundles. She made a large one for herself, and they made two little ones for themselves.
"Now," said they, wiping their brows, "we have done a good day's work, haven't we?" and they looked at the maiden with twinkling eyes.
"Yes," said she; "you are great hunters."
"Shall we go toward home?" asked the younger brother of the maiden. "It would be a shame for you to take such a bundle as that. I will take it for you."
"You little conceited wretch!" cried the elder brother. "Haven't I tried to restrain you?--and now you are going to bury yourself under a bundle of meat!"
No," said the younger brother, "I can carry it." So they propped the great bundle of meat against a tree. The elder brother called on the maiden to help him; the younger one stooped down and received it on his back. They had no sooner let go of it than it fell on the ground and completely flattened the little man out.
"Mercy! mercy! I am dying; help me out of here!" cried he. So they managed to roll the: thing off, and he got up and rubbed his back, complaining bitterly (he was only making believe), and said: "I shall have to take my little bundle."
So he shouldered his little bundle, and the maiden took the large one; but before she started she turned to the animals and said, "Oh, my children! these many days, throwing the warm light of your favor upon me, you have rested contented to remain away from the sight of men. Now, hereafter you shall go forth whithersoever you will, that the earth may be covered with your offspring, and men may once more have of your flesh to eat and of your pelts to wear." And away went. the antelope, the deer, the mountain-sheep, the elk, and the buffalo over all the land.
Then the young Gods of War turned to the maiden and said: "Now, shall we go home?" "Yes," said she.
"Well, I will take the lead," said the younger brother.
"Get behind where you belong," said the other;
I will precede the party." So the elder brother went first, the maiden came next, and the younger brother followed behind, with his little bag of meat.
So they went home, and the maiden placed the meat to dry in the upper rooms of the house.
While she was doing this, it was yet early in the day. The two brothers were sitting together, and whispering: "And what will she say for herself now?" "I don't see what she can say for herself."
"Of course, nothing can she say for herself."
And when the meat was all packed away in the house and the sun had set, they sat by themselves talking this over: "What can she say for herself?" "Nothing whatever; nothing remains to be done."
"That is quite so," said they, as they went in to the evening meal and sat with the family to eat it.
Finally the maiden said: "With all your hunting and the labors of the day, you must be very weary. Where you slept last night you will find a resting-place. Go and rest yourselves. I cannot consent to marry you, because you have not yet shown yourselves capable of taking care of and dressing the buckskins, as well as of killing deer and antelope and such animals. For a long time buckskins have been accumulating in the upper room. I have no brothers to soften and scrape them; therefore, if you Two will take the hair off from all my buckskins tomorrow before sunset, and scrape the underside so that they will be thin and soft, I will consent to be the wife of one of you, or both." And they said: "Oh mercy, it is too bad!"
"We can never do it," said the younger brother.
"I don't suppose we can; but we can try," said the elder.
So they lay down.
"Let us take things in time," said the elder one, after he had thought of it. And they jumped up and called to the maiden: "Where are those buckskins?" "They are in the upper room," said she.
She showed them the way to the upper room. It was packed to the rafters with buckskins. They began to make big bales of these and then took them down to the river. When they got them all down there they said: "How in the world can we scrape so many skins? There are more here than we can clean in a year."
"I will tell you what," said the younger brother; "we will stow away some in the crevices of the rocks, and get rid of them in that way."
"Always hasty, always hasty," said the elder. "Do you suppose that woman put those skins away without counting every one of them? We can't do that."
They spread them out in the water that they might soak all night, and built a little dam so they would not float away. While they were thus engaged they heard some one talking, so they pricked up their ears to listen.
Now, the hill that stands by the side across from the Village of the Yellow Rocks was, and still is, a favorite home of the Field-mice. They are very prolific, and have to provide great bundles of wool for their families. But in the days of the ancients they were terrible gamblers and were all the time betting away their nests, and the young Mice being perfectly bare, with no wool on them at all, died of cold. And still they kept on betting, making little figures of nests and betting these away against the time when they should have more. It was these Mice which the two gods overheard.
Said the younger brother: "Listen to that! Who is talking?"
"Some one is betting. Let us go nearer."
They went across the river and listened, and heard the tiny little voices calling out and shouting.
"Let us go in," said the younger brother. And he placed his foot in the hole and descended, followed by the other. They found there an enormous village of Field-mice in human form, their clothes, in the shape of Mice, hanging over the sides of the house. Some had their clothing all off down to their waists, and were betting as hard as they could and talking with one another.
As soon as the two brothers entered, they said: "Who comes?" The Two answered: "We come."
"Come in, come in," cried the Mice,--they were not very polite. "Sit down and have a
game. We have not anything to bet just now, but if you trust us we will bet with you." "What had you in mind in coming?" said an old Field-mouse with a broken tail. They answered that they had come because they heard voices. Then they told their story. "What is this you have to do?" asked the Mice.
"To clean all the hair off those pelts tomorrow."
The Mice looked around at one another; their eyes fairly sparkled and burned.
"Now, then, we will help you if you will promise us something," said they; "but we want your solemn promise."
"What is that?" asked the brothers.
"That you will give us all the hair."
"Oh, yes," said the brothers; "we will be glad to get rid of it."
"All right," said they; "where are the skins?"
Then they all began to pour out of the place, and they were so numerous that it was like water, when the rain is falling hard, running over a rock.
When they had all run out the two War-gods drew the skins on the bank, and the Fieldmice went to nibbling the hair and cleaning off the underside. They made up little bundles of the flesh from the skins for their food, and great parcels of the hair. Finally they said: "May we have them all?"
"No," said the brothers, "we must have eight reserved, four for each, so that we will be hard at work all day tomorrow."
"Well," said the Mice, "we can't consent to leaving even so many, unless you promise that you will gather up all the hair and put it somewhere so that we can get it."
The Two promised that, and said: "Be sure to leave eight skins, will you? and we will go to bed and rest ourselves."
"All right, all right!" responded the Field-mice. So the brothers climbed up the hill to the town, and up the ladder, and slept in their room.
The next morning the girl said: "Now, remember, you will have to clean every skin and make it soft and white."
So they went down to the river and started to work. The girl had said to them that at midday she would go down and see how they were getting along. They were at work
nearly all the forenoon on the skins. While the elder brother shaved the hair off, the younger one scraped them thin and softened them.
When the maiden came at noon, she said: "How are you getting along?" "We have finished four and are at work on the fifth."
"Remember," said she, "you must finish all of them today or I shall have to send you home."
So they worked away until a little before the sun set, when she appeared again. They had just finished the last. The Field-mice had carefully dressed all the others (they did it better than the men), and there they lay spread out on the sands like a great field of something growing, only white.
When the maiden came down she was perfectly overcome; she looked and looked and counted and recounted. She found them all there. Then she got a long pole and fished in the water, but there were none.
Said she: "Yes, you shall be my husbands; I shall have to submit."
She went home with them, and for a long time they all lived together, the woman with her two husbands. They managed to get along very comfortably, and the two brothers didn't quarrel any more than they had done before.
Finally, there were born little twin boys, exactly like their fathers, who were also twins, although one was called the elder and the other the younger.
After a time the younger brother said: "Now, let us go home to our grandmother. People always go home to their own houses and take their families with them."
"No," said the elder one. "you must remember that we have been only pretending to be human beings. It would not do to take the maiden home with us."
"Yes," said the other; "I want her to go with us. Our grandmother kept making fun of us; called us little, miserable, wretched creatures. I want to show her that we amount to something!"
The elder brother could not get the younger one to leave the wife behind, and like a dutiful wife she said: "I will go with you." They made up their bundles and started out. It was a very hot day, and when they had climbed nearly to the top of Thunder Mountain, the younger brother said: "Ahem! I am tired. Let us sit down and rest."
"It will not do," said the elder brother. "You know very well it will not do to sit down; our father, the Sun, has forbidden that we should be among mortals. It will not do."
"Oh, yes, it will; we must sit down here," said the younger brother; and again his wish prevailed and they sat down.
At midday the Sun stood still in the sky, and looked down and saw this beautiful woman, and by the power of his withdrawing rays quickly snatched her from them while they were sitting there talking, she carrying her little children.
The brothers looked around and said: "Where is our wife?"
"Ah, there she is," cried the younger; "I will shoot her."
"Shoot your wife!" cried the elder brother.
No, let her go! Serves you right!"
"No," said the younger, "I will shoot her!" He looked up and drew his arrow, and as his aim was absolutely unerring, swish went the arrow directly to her, and she was killed. The power of life by which the Sun was drawing her up was gone, the thread was cut, and she fell over and over and struck the earth.
The two little children were so very small, and their bones so soft, that the fall did not hurt them much. They fell on the soft bank, and rolled and rolled down the hill, and the younger brother ran forward and caught them up in his arms, crying: "Oh, my little children!" and brought them to the elder brother, who said: "Now, what can be done with these little babies, with no mother, no food?"
"We will take them home to grandmother," said the younger brother.
"Your grandmother cannot take care of these babies," said the elder brother.
"Yes, she can, of course," said the younger brother. "Come on, come on! I didn't want to lose my wife and children, too; I thought I must still have the children; that is the reason why I shot her."
So one of them took one of the children, and the other one took the other, and they carried them up to the top of Thunder Mountain.
"Now, then," said the elder brother, "we went off to marry; we come home with no wife and two little children and with nothing to feed them."
"Oh, grandmother!" called out the younger brother.
The old woman hadn't heard them for many a day, for many a month, even for years. She looked out and said: "My grandchildren are coming," and she called to them: "I am so glad you have come!"
"Here, see what we have," said the younger brother. "Here are your grandchildren. Come and take them!"
"Oh, you miserable boy, you are always doing something foolish; where is your wife?" asked the grandmother.
"Oh, I shot her!" was the response.
"Why did you do that?"
"I didn't want my father, the Sun, to take them away with my wife. I knew you would not care anything about my wife, but I knew you would be very fond of the grandchildren. Here they are."
But she wouldn't look at all. So the younger brother drew his face down, and taking the poor little children in his arms said: "You unnatural grandmother, you! Here are two nice little grandchildren for you!"
She said: "How shall I feed them? or what shall I do with them?"
He replied: "Oh, take care of them, take care of them!"
She took a good look at them, and became a true grandmother. She ran and clasped the little ones, crying out: "Let me take you away from these miserable children of mine!" She made some beds of sand for them, as Zuñi mothers do today, got some soft skins for them to lie on, and fed them with a kind of milk made of corn toasted and ground and mixed with water; so that they gradually enlarged and grew up to be nice children. Thus it was in the days of the ancients, and has been told to us in these days, that even the most cruel and heartless of the gods do these things. Even they took these helpless children to their grandmother, and she succored them and brought them up to the time of reason. Therefore it is the duty of those who find helpless babies or children, inasmuch as they are not so cruel and terrible as were the Gods of War,--not nearly,--surely it is their duty to take those children and succor and bring them up to the time of reason, when they can care for themselves. That is why our people, when children have been abandoned, provide and care for them as if they were their own. Thus long is my story.
The Maiden of the Yellow Rocks
A Zuni Legend
Frank Hamilton Cushing, Zuni Folk Tales, 1901