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The Story of the Indians
"Run, Cleeta, run, the waves will catch you." Cleeta scudded away, her naked little body shining like polished mahogany. She was fleet of foot, but the incoming breakers from the bosom of the great Pacific ran faster still; and the little Indian girl was caught in its foaming water, rolled over and over, and cast upon the sandy beach, half choked, yet laughing with the fun of it.
"Foolish Cleeta, you might have been drowned; that was a big wave. What made you go out so far?" said Gesnip, the elder sister.
"I found such a lot of mussels, great big ones, I wish I could go back and get them," said the little one, looking anxiously at the water.
"The waves are coming in higher and higher and it is growing late," said Gesnip; "besides, I have more mussels already than you and I can well carry. The boys have gone toward the river mouth for clams. They will be sure to go home the other way."
Cleeta ran to the basket and looked in.
"I should think there were too many for us to carry," she said, as she tried with all her strength to lift it by the carry straps. "What will you do with them; throw some back into the water?"
"No, I don't like to do that," answered her sister, frowning, "for it has been so long since we have had any. The wind and the waves have been too high for us to gather any. Look, Cleeta, look; what are those out on the water? I do believe they are boats."
"No," said the little girl; "I see what you mean, but boats never go out so far as that."
"Not tule boats," said Gesnip, "but big thick one made out of trees; that is the kind they have at Santa Catalina, the island where uncle lives. It has been a long time since he came to see us, not since you were four years old, but mother is always looking for him."
The children gazed earnestly seaward at a fleet of canoes which were making for the shore. "Do you think it is uncle?" asked Cleeta.
"Yes," replied her sister, uncertainly, "I think it may be." Then, as the sunlight struck full on the boats "Yes, yes, I am sure of it, for one is red, and no on else has a boat of that color; all others are brown."
"Mother said he would bring abalone when he came," cried Cleeta, dancing from one foot to the other; "and she said they are better than mussels or anything else for soup."
"He will bring fish," said Gesnip, "big shining fish with yellow tails."
"Mother said he would bring big blue ones with hard little seams down their sides," said Cleeta.
Meantime the boats drew nearer. They were of logs hollowed out until they were fairly light, but still seeming too clumsy for safe seagoing craft. In each were several men. One sat in the stern and steered, the others knelt in pairs, each man helping propel the boat by means of a stick some four feet long, more like a pole than a paddle, which he worked with great energy over the gunwale.
"I am afraid of them," said Cleeta, drawing close to her sister. "They do not look like the people I have seen. Their faces are the color of the kah-hoom mother weaves in her baskets. There are only three like us, and they all have such strange clothes."
"Do not be afraid," said Gesnip. "I see uncle; he is one of the dark ones like ourselves. The island people have yellow skins."
The time was the year 1540, and the people, the Californians of that day. The men in the boat were mostly from the island of Santa Catalina, and were fairer, with more regular features, than the inhabitants of the mainland, who in southern California were a short, thick-set race, with thick lips, dark brown skin, coarse black hair, and eyes small and shining like jet-black beads. They were poorly clothed in winter; in summer a loin cloth was often all that the men wore, while the children went naked a large part of the year.
With wonderful skill the badly shaped boats were guided safely over the breakers until their bows touched the sand. Then the men leaped out and, half wading, half swimming, pulled them from the water and ran them up on the beach.
The little girls drew near and stood quietly by, waiting to be spoken to. Presently the leading man, who was short, dark, and handsomely dressed in a suit of sealskin ornamented with abalone shell, turned to them.
"Who are these little people?" he asked, in a kind voice.
"We are the children of Cuchuma and Macana," replied Gesnip, working her toes in and out of the soft sand, too shy to look her uncle in the face.
"Children of my sister, Sholoc is glad to see you," said the chief, laying his hand gently on Cleeta's head. "Your mother, is she well?"
"She is well and looking for you these many moons," said Gesnip.
The men at once began unloading the boats. The children watched the process with great interest, Abalone in their shells, a dainty prized then as well as now, fish, yellowtail and bonito, filled to the brim the large baskets which the men slung to their backs, carrying them by means of a strap over the forehead. On their heads they placed ollas, or water jars, of serpentine from quarries which may be seen in Santa Catalina to-day, the marks of the tools of workmen of, that time still in the rocks.
There were also strings of bits of abalone shell which had been punctured and then polished, and these Sholoc hung around his neck.
"Uncle," exclaimed Gesnip, touching one of these strings, "how much money! You have grown rich at Santa Catalina. What will you buy?"
"Buy me a wife, perhaps," was the reply. "I will give two strings for a good wife. Do you know any worth so much?"
"No," said the girl, stoutly. "I don't know any worth two whole strings of abalone. You can get a good wife for much less."
The men, who had succeeded in loading the contents of the boats on their heads and backs, now marched away, in single file, crossing the heavy sand dunes slowly, then mounting the range of foothills beyond. The children followed. Gesnip had her basket bound to her head by a strap round her forehead; but, though her uncle had taken out part of the contents, it was a heavy load for the child.
As they neared the top of the hill, Sholoc, who was ahead, lifted his hand and motioned them to stop.
"Hush," he said softly, "elk." Swiftly the men slipped off their loads and with bows in hand each one crept flat on his belly over the hill crest. Gesnip and Cleeta peeped through the high grass. Below them was a wide plain, dotted with clumps of bushes, and scattered over it they could see a great herd of elk, whose broad, shining antlers waved above the grass and bushes upon which they were feeding.
"Are those elk too?" asked Cleeta, presently, pointing toward the foothills at their left.
"No," replied her sister, "I think those are antelope. I like to see them run. How funny their tails shake. But watch the men; they are going to shoot."
As she spoke, four of the hunters, who had crept well up toward the game, rose to their feet, holding their bows horizontally, not perpendicularly. These weapons, which were made of cedar wood, were about four feet in length, painted at the ends black or dark blue, the middle, which was almost two inches broad, being wrapped with elk sinew. The strings also were of sinew. The quiver which each man carried at his side was made from the skin of a wild cat or of a coyote. A great hunter like Sholoc might make his quiver from the tails of lions he had killed. Projecting from the quiver were the bright-feathered ends of the arrows, which were of reed and were two or three feet long, with points of bone, flint, or obsidian.
The hunters, knowing how hard it was to kill large game, had chosen their arrows carefully, taking those that had obsidian points. Almost at the same moment they let fly their shafts. Three elk leaped into the air. One tumbled over in a somersault which broke one of its antlers, and then lay dead, shot through the heart by Sholoc. Another took a few leaps, but a second arrow brought it to its knees. Then it sank slowly over upon its side; but it struck so fiercely at the hunter who ran up to kill it with his horn knife that he drew back and shot it again.
"Where is the third elk?" asked Cleeta, looking around.
"Over there," said Gesnip, pointing across the plain.
"Then they have lost it," said the child, with disappointment.
"No, I think not. It is wounded. I saw the blood on its side," said the sister. "See, one of the men is following it, and it is half a mile behind the herd. I am sure he will get it."
"This has been a lucky day," said Gesnip. "So much food. Our stomachs will not ache with hunger for a long time."
"That is because mother wove a game basket to Chinigchinich so he would send food," said Cleeta.
By the time the party had traveled two miles, Gesnip, with her load, and Cleeta, whose bare brown legs were growing very tired, lagged behind.
"O dear," said the elder sister, "we shall surely be too late to go into camp with uncle." Just then a whoop sounded behind them, and a boy of thirteen, dressed in a rabbit-skin shirt, carrying a bow in his hand, came panting up to them.
"Payuchi," said Gesnip, eagerly, "carry my basket for me and I will tell you some good news."
"No," replied Payuchi, shaking his head, "it is a girl's place to carry the basket."
"Just this little way, and it is such good news" urged Gesnip. "It will, make your heart glad."
"Very well, then, tell it quickly," said the boy, changing the basket of mussels to his own broad back.
"Sholoc has come from Santa Catalina with baskets of abalone and fish, and with ollas all speckled, and strings of money. He is near the top of the grade now. Upon hearing the good news the lad darted away at a great pace, his sisters following as fast as they could. Sholoc and his party had stopped to rearrange their loads, so the children overtook them at the head of the trail leading to their home.
Below them was a valley dotted with live oaks, and along the banks of the stream that ran through it was a thick growth of alders, sycamores, and willows. At the foot of the trail, near the water, was a cluster of what looked like low, round straw stacks. No straw stacks were they, however, but houses, the only kind of homes known in southern California at that time.
It was the Indian settlement where Gesnip, Cleeta, and Payuchi lived, and of which their father, Cuchuma, was chief. The jacals, or wigwams, were made of long willow boughs, driven into the ground closely in a circle, the ends bent over and tied together with deer sinews. They were covered with a thatching of grass that, when dry, made them look like straw stacks.
Sholoc stepped to the-edge of the bluff and gave a long, quavering cry which could be heard far in the still evening air. Instantly out of the group of jacals came a crowd of men and boys, who gave answering cries.
"I am glad they have a fire," said Cleeta, as she saw the big blaze in the middle of the settlement, "I am so cold."
"Take my hand and let's run," said Gesnip, and partly running and partly sliding, they followed the men of the party, who, notwithstanding their heavy loads, were trotting down the steep trail.
They were met at the foot of the grade by a crowd which surrounded them, all chattering at once. Sholoc told of the elk, and a number of men started off on the run to bring in the big game. As the visitors entered camp, Macana, a kind-faced woman, better dressed than most of her tribe, came forward. She placed her hand on Sholoc's shoulder, her face lighting up with love and happiness.
"You are welcome, brother," she said.
"The sight of you is good to my eyes, sister," an answered Sholoc. That was all the greeting, although the two loved each other well. Macana took the basket from Payuchi's back.
"Come," she called to Gesnip, "and help me wash the mussels." Then, as she saw the younger girl shivering as she crouched over the fire, "Cleeta, you need not be cold any longer; your rabbit skin dress is done. Go into the jacal and put it on." Cleeta obeyed with dancing eyes.
Gesnip followed her mother to the stream.
"Take this," said Macana, handing her an openwork net or bag, "and hold it while I empty in some of the mussels. Now lift them up and down in the water to wash out the sand. That will do; put them into this basket, and I will give you some more."
Meantime some of the women had taken a dozen or more fish from Sholoc's baskets, and removing their entrails with bone knives, wrapped them in many thicknesses of damp grass and laid them in the hot ashes and coals to bake.
When the mussels were all cleaned, Macana emptied them into a large basket half filled with water, and threw in a little acorn meal and a handful of herbs. Then, using two green sticks for tongs, she drew out from among the coals some smooth gray stones which had become very hot. Brushing these off with a bunch of tules, she lifted them by means of a green stick having a loop in the end which fitted round the stones, flinging them one by one into the basket in which were the mussels and water. Immediately the water, heated by the stones, began to boil, and when the soup was ready, she set the basket down beside her own jacal and called her children to her. Payuchi, Gesnip, Cleeta, and their little four-year-old brother, Nakin, gathered about the basket, helping themselves with abalone shells, the small holes of which their mother had plugged with wood.
"Isn't father going to have some first?" asked Payuchi, before they began the meal.
"Not this time; he will eat with Sholoc and the men when the fish are ready," replied his mother.
"This is good soup," said Gesnip. "I am glad I worked hard before the water came up. But, Payuchi, didn't you and Nopal get any clams?"
"Yes," said her brother, making a face; he had dipped down where the stones were hottest and the soup thickest, and had taken a mouthful that burned him. "Yes, we got some clams, more than I could carry; but Nopal was running races with the other boys and would not come, so I left him to bring them. He will lose his fish dinner if he doesn't hurry."
"Mother," said Cleeta, "may we stay up to the fish bake?"
"No," answered her mother. "You and Nakin must go to bed, but I will save some for your breakfast. You are tired, Cleeta."
"Yes, I am tired," said the little girl, leaning her head against her mother's shoulder, "but I am warm in my rabbit-skin dress. We all have warm dresses now. Please tell me a good-night story," she begged. "We have been good and brought in much food."
"Yes, tell us how the hawk and coyote made the sun," said Gesnip.
"Very well," said the mother, "only you must be quite still."
"It was in the beginning of all things, and a bowl of darkness, blacker than the pitch lining of our water basket, covered the earth. Man, when he would go abroad, fell against man, against trees, against wild animals, even against Lollah, the bear, who would, in turn, hug the unhappy one to death. Birds flying in the air came together and fell struggling to the earth. All was confusion."
"Once the hawk, by chance, flew in the face of the coyote. Instead of fighting about it as naughty children might, they, like people of good manners, apologized many times. Then they talked over the unhappy state of things and determined to remedy the evil. The coyote first gathered a great heap of dried tules, rolled them together into a ball, and gave them to the hawk, with some pieces of flint. The hawk, taking them in his talons, flew straight up into the sky, where he struck fire with his flints, lit the ball of reeds, and left it there whirling along with a bright yellow light, as it continues to whirl to-day; for it, children, is our sun, ruler of the day."
"The hawk next flew back for another ball to rule the night, but the coyote had no tule gathered, and the hawk hurried him so that some damp stems were mixed in. The hawk flew with this ball into the sky and set it afire but because of the green tules it burned with only a dim light; and this, children, is our moon, ruler of the night."
"That is a fine story," said Payuchi. "I am glad I did not live when there was no light."
"Tell us how the coyote danced with the star," said Gesnip.
"No," replied the mother, "another time we shall see. Now I shall sing to coax sleep to tired eyes, and the little ones will go to bed." And this was what she sang: "Pah-high-nui-veve, veve, veve, shumeh, veve, veve, veve, shumeh, Pah-high-nui-veve," and so on, repeating these words over and over until Cleeta and Nakin were sound asleep. Then she laid them on their tule mats, which were spread on the floor of the jacal, where baby Nahal, close wrapped in his cocoon-shaped cradle, had been a long time sleeping.
"Mother," said Gesnip, coming into the jacal, "they have brought in the elk. Don't you want something from them?"
"Yes," replied Macana, "I will go and see about it. I want one of the skins to make your father a warm hunting dress."
The Indians who had gone after the elk had skinned and cut them up where they lay, as they were so large that the burden had to be distributed among a number of carriers. Macana found Sholoc busy portioning out parts of the elk. As he had a fine seal-skin suit himself, he gladly gave her the skin of the deer which he had shot.
"Isn't that a big one?" said Payuchi. "It will make father a fine hunting suit, it is so thick." Gesnip was loaded down with some of the best cuts of the meat to take to her father's jacal. Cuchuma himself began removing the tendons from the legs, to cure for bowstrings, and to wrap a new bow he was going to make.
"Here, Nopal," said Sholoc to his oldest nephew, a lad of fifteen, "I will give you a piece of the antler and you can grind it down and make yourself a hunting knife. It is time you ceased to play and became a hunter. I had killed much game when I was your age."
"Will you give me some of the brains that I may finish tanning a deerskin? I have been waiting to finish it until I could get some brains, but it has been a long time since any one has brought in big game," said Macana.
"Yes," answered Sholoc, "you shall have them. Payuchi, hand me my elk-horn ax so that I can split open the head, and you can take the brains to the jacal." Soon not a piece of meat, a bit of skin, tendon, or bone, was left. All was put to use by these people of the forest. And now the feast was ready. The women had roasted many pieces of elk's meat over the coals. The fish had been taken from under the hot ashes, the half burned grass removed from around them, and the fish broken into pieces and put in flat baskets shaped like platters. There were also pieces of elk meat and cakes of acorn meal baked on hot stones.
As was the custom with the Indians, the men were served first. Payuchi watched anxiously as his father and the other men took large helpings from the baskets.
"Do you think there will be enough for us to have any?" he asked Gesnip. "I am so hungry and they are eating so much. If I were a man, I should remember about the women and children."
"No; you wouldn't if you were a man; men never do," answered Gesnip. "But you need not worry, there is plenty. Mother said there would be some left for breakfast."
"Wait for that till I get through," said Payuchi, laughing. After all had eaten a hearty meal, more than for many weeks they had been able to have at any one time, the tired women each gathered her children together and took them to her own jacal, leaving the men sitting around the camp fire. Payuchi, who tumbled to sleep as soon as his head touched his sleeping mat, was wakened by some one pulling his rabbit-skin coat, which he wore nights as well as days.
"Payuchi," said a voice, "wake up."
"I have not been asleep," answered the boy, stoutly, as he rubbed his eyes to get them open. "What do you want, Nopal?" for he saw his brother speaking to him.
"Hush, do not waken mother," said Nopal, speaking very softly. "I know that the men will make an offering to Chinigchinich. I am going to watch them. We are old enough, at least I am. Do you want to come?"
A star shone in at the top of the jacal, and Payuchi gazed up at it, blinking, while he pulled his thoughts together.
"They will punish us if they find us out," said he at length.
"But we won't let them find us out, stupid one," replied his brother, impatiently.
"What if Chinigchinich should be angry with us? He does not like to have children in the ceremony of the offering," said Payuchi.
"I will give him my humming-bird skin, and you shall give him your mountain quail head; then he will be pleased with us," answered Nopal.
"All right," said the boy; "I do not like very well to part with that quail head, but perhaps it is a good thing to do."
Creeping softly from the jacal, the boys crouched in the shade of a willow bush and watched the men by the camp fire.
"They are standing up. They are just going," said Payuchi, "and every one has something in his hand. Father has two bows; I wonder why."
"I think he is going to make an offering of the new bow to Chinigchinich," answered Nopal. "I thought he was going to keep it and give me his old one," he added, with some disappointment.
"What are they offering for?" asked the young brother.
"For rain," said Nopal. "See, they are going now." In single file the men walked swiftly away, stepping so softly that not a twig cracked.
After a little the boys followed, slipping from bush to bush that they might not be discovered. They had walked about a mile, when they came to thicker woods with bigger trees and saw a light ahead of them. Nopal laid his hand on his brother to stop him. Peeping through a scrub-oak bush, they looked down into a little glade arched over with great live oaks. In the middle of the opening they saw, by the light of a low fire, a small cone-shaped hut. Beside it stood a gigantic figure painted and adorned with shells, feathers, rattlesnake skins, and necklaces of bone.
"Come back," whispered Payuchi, his teeth chattering with fear. "It is Chinigchinich himself; he will see us, and we shall die."
"No," answered Nopal, "it is only Nihie, the medicine man. He looks so tall because of his headdress. It is made of framework of dried tules covered with feathers and fish bladders. I saw it one day in his jacal, and it is as tall as I am. That jacal beside him is the vanquech [temple], and I think there is something awful there. You see if there isn't. Hush, now! Squat down. Here they come."
In a procession the men came into the opening, and, stalking solemnly by, each cast down at the door of the temple an offering of some object which he prized. Cuchuma gave a bone knife which he greatly valued, and a handsome new bow. Sholoc gave a speckled green stone olla from Santa Catalina and a small string of money; but these were chiefs' offerings. The other gifts were simpler - shells, acorn meal, baskets, birds' skins, but always something for which the owner cared.
At last the medicine man, satisfied with the things offered which became his own when the ceremony was over, stooped and drew forth the sacred emblem from the temple. It was not even an idol, only a fetich composed of a sack made from the skin of a coyote, the head carefully preserved and stuffed, while the body was dressed smooth of hair and adorned with hanging shells and tufts of birds' feathers. A bundle of arrows protruded from the open mouth, giving it a fierce appearance. While Nihie held it up, the men circled round once again, this time more rapidly, and as they passed the medicine man, each gave a spring into the air, shooting an arrow upward with all his force. When the last man had disappeared under the trees, Nihie replaced the skin in the temple, put out the fire, and, singing a kind of chant, he led the men back to their jacals. The boys stood up. Payuchi shivered and drew a long breath.
"We must get away now; Nihie will be back soon to get the offerings," said Nopal.
"But first we must offer our gifts, or Chinigchinich will be angry," said Payuchi.
"Come on, then," said the brother; so, stealing softly down the hillside, the boys cast their offerings on the pile in front of the hut and ran away, taking a roundabout path home, that they might not meet the medicine man returning.
"We must hurry to get in the jacal before father," said Nopal, suddenly. "I didn't think of that. Run, Payuchi, run faster." But they were in time after all, and were stretched out on their mats some minutes before their father and Sholoc came in.
Macana's first duty in the morning was to attend to the baby, whose wide-open black eyes gave the only sign that it was awake. She unfastened it from the basket and unwrapped it, rubbing the little body over with its morning bath of grease until the firm skin shone as if varnished. When it had nursed and was comfortable, she put the little one back in its cradle basket, which she leaned up against the side of the hut, where the little prisoner might see all that was going on.
Instead of the usual breakfast of acorn meal mush, the children had a plentiful meal of fish which their mother had saved from the feast of the night before.
"I didn't think any one could catch so many fish as uncle brought last night," said Cleeta, as she helped herself to a piece of yellowtail.
"Yes, they do, though," said Payuchi. "Last night, after supper, uncle told the men some fine stories. I think he has been in places which none of our people have ever seen.
"He told us that once he journeyed many moons toward the land of snow and ice until he came to the country of the Klamath tribe, where he stayed a long time. He said that when they fish they drive posts made of young trees into the bottom of the river and then weave willow boughs in and out until there is a wall of posts and boughs clear across the stream. Then the big red fish come up from the great water into the river. They come, uncle said, so many no one can count them, and the ones behind push against those in front until they are all crowded against the wall, and then the Klamath men catch them with spears and nets until there is food enough for all, and many fish to dry."
"I should like to see that. What else did he tell you?" asked Gesnip.
"He said he visited one place where the great salt water comes into the land and is so big it takes many days to journey round it. Here the people eat fish, clams, and mussels instead of acorns and roots. On the shore they have their feasting ground where they go to eat and dance and tell big stories, and; sometimes to make an offering. So many people go there, uncle said, that the shells they have left make a hill, a hill just of shells that is many steps high. From the top of it one may look over the water, which is so long no eye can see the end of it."
"What else did you hear?" asked Gesnip.
"Nothing more, for mother called me," replied her brother. "I should like to hear more of those stories, though."
"Mother," asked Gesnip, as she finished her breakfast, "when am I to begin to braid mats for the new jacal?"
"Soon," replied Macana. "This morning you and Payuchi must gather the tule. Have a large pile when I come home." So saying, the mother strapped the baby on her back and, accompanied by the younger children, went out with other women of the tribe to gather the white acorns from the oaks on the highlands pear the mountains.
The December wind, from the snow-capped peaks, chilled and cut with its icy breath their scantily clothed bodies, but for hours they worked picking up the scattered nuts. The labors of an Indian mother ceased only while she slept.
"Come, Payuchi," said Gesnip, "let us go down to the river and get tules."
"All right," replied the boy, readily. "Sholoc is going down too. He is going to show the men how to make log canoes like his instead of the tule canoes our people use. But I like the tule canoes, because I can use my feet for paddles." When they reached the river, which was really a lagoon or arm of the sea, the children stopped to watch the men at work. A large log, washed down from the mountains by some flood, lay on the bank. It was good hard wood, and the children saw that it was smoking in three places.
"This is going to make two canoes, but neither one will be so big, as uncle's," said Payuchi.
"How can it make two canoes if they burn it up?" asked his sister.
"You are stupid, Gesnip," said her brother. "Don't you see they are burning it to separate it into two parts? Then they will burn each log into the shape of a boat, finishing it up with axes of bone or horn. Uncle told me how they did it."
"Why have they put the green bark on the top of the log?"
"I think it is to keep it from burning along the edge; don't you see? And then there are wider pieces to protect it at the ends. See how they watch the fire and beat it out in one place and then in another."
"Why does it burn so fast?" asked Gesnip.
"Because they have daubed it with pitch. Can't you smell it?" said the boy, sniffing.
"Yes, I can smell it," replied his sister. "But come now and help me gather tules. Father is going to burn down our house and build a new one for winter, and I must make a tule rug for each one of you for beds in the new home. It will take a great many tule stems."
"It is cold to wade," said Payuchi, stepping into the water at the edge of the river.
"Yes," answered Gesnip, "I don't like to gather tules in winter."
The children pulled up the long rough stems one by one until they had a large pile.
"I think we have enough," said Payuchi, after they had been working about two hours.
"Yes, I think so too," said his sister. "My back aches, my hands are sore, and my feet are so cold." Payuchi brought some wild grapevine with which he tied the tule into two bundles, fastening the larger upon his sister's back; for with his people the women and girls were the burden bearers, and a grown Indian would not do any work that his wife could possibly do for him.
After they had traveled a little way on the homeward path, Gesnip stopped.
"Don't go so fast, Payuchi," she begged. "This bundle is so large it nearly tumbles me over."
"Just hurry a little until we get to the foot of the hill yonder where Nopal and the other big boys are playing, and you can rest while I watch the game," answered her brother. Gesnip struggled on, bending under the weight and size of her awkward burden until, with a sigh of relief, she seated herself on a stone to rest while Payuchi, throwing his bundle on the ground, stood up to watch the boys.
"See, Nopal is It," he said. Nopal, coming forward, stooped low and rolled a hoop along the ground, which the boys had pounded smooth and hard for the game.
As the hoop rolled another boy stepped forward and tried to throw a stick through it, but failed. Then all the players pointed their fingers at him and grunted in scorn. Again Nopal rolled the hoop, and this time the boy threw through the ring, and all the boys, and Payuchi too, gave whoops of delight.
The children watched the game until Gesnip said that they must go on, for their mother would be home and want them. When they returned, Macana was warming herself by the fire where the men were sitting.
"See our tule; is it not a great deal?" asked the children, showing their bundles.
"Yes, but not enough," replied their mother. "You will have to go out another day."
The women, who had been working all the morning gathering acorns, now squatted near the fire and began grinding up the nuts which had been already dried.
"Gesnip," called her mother, "bring me the grinding stones." The girl went to the jacal and brought two stones, one a heavy bowlder with a hollow in its top, which had been made partly by stone axes, but more by use; the other stone fitted into this hollow.
"Now bring me the basket of roasted grasshoppers," said the mother. Taking a handful of grasshoppers, Macana put them into the hollow in the larger stone, and with the smaller stone rubbed them to a coarse powder. This powder she put into a small basket which Gesnip brought her.
"I am glad we caught the grasshoppers. They taste better than acorn meal mush," said Payuchi.
"How many grasshoppers there are in the fall," said Gesnip, "and so many rabbits, too."
"We had such a good time at the rabbit drive," said Payuchi.
And such a big feast afterwards, nearly as good as last night," said Gesnip.
"Tell me about the rabbit drive," said Cleeta, squatting down beside the children in front of the fire.
It was in the big wash up the river toward the mountains," began Payuchi. "You have seen the rabbits running to hide in a bunch of grass and cactus when you go with mother to the mountains for acorns, haven't you?"
Cleeta nodded. "Not this winter, though. We saw only two to-day," she said.
That is because of the drive," said her brother. "It was in the afternoon, with the wind blowing from the ocean, and all the men who could shoot best with bow and arrow, or throw the spear well, stood on the other side of the wash."
"Father was there," said Cleeta.
"Yes, and many others," said Payuchi. "Then some of the men and all of us boys got green branches of trees and came down on this side of the wash. Nopal started the fire. It burned along in the grass slowly at first, and when it came too near the jacals on one side or the woods on the other, we would beat it out with the branches, but soon it ran before the wind into the cactus and bunch grass. The rabbits were frightened out and ran from the fire as fast as they could, and in a few minutes they were right at the feet of father and the other hunters. They killed forty before the smoke made them run too."
"My dress was made of their skin," said the little girl, smoothing her gown lovingly. "It keeps me so warm."
"Did the fire burn long?" asked Gesnip.
"No, we beat it out, or it would have gone up the wash into the live oaks; then we boys should have been well punished for our carelessness."
Here their mother called to them.
"Payuchi," she said, "put away this basket of grasshopper meal. And, Gesnip, go to the jacal and find me the coils for basket weaving."
"What shall I bring?" asked Gesnip.
"The large bundle of chippa that is soaking in a basket, and the big coil of yellow kah-hoom and the little one of black tsuwish which are hanging up, and bring me my needle and bone awl."
"Do you want the coil of millay?"
"No, I shall need no red to-day."
Squatted on the ground, where she could feel the warmth of the fire on her back, but where the heat could not dry her basket materials, Macana began her work. Taking a dripping chippa, or willow bough, from the basket where it had been soaking, she dried it on leaves and wound it tightly in a close coil the size of her thumbnail, then spatted it together until it seemed no longer a cord, but a solid piece of wood. Thus she made the base of her basket; then, threading her needle, which was but a horny cactus stem set in a head of hardened pitch, she stitched in and out over the upper and under the lower layer, drawing her thread firmly each time. The thread was the creamy, satin-like kah-hoom. Round and round she coiled the chippa, the butt of one piece overlapping the tip of another, while with her needle she covered all with the smoothly drawn kah-hoom. After a time she laid the kah-hoom aside for a stitch or two of the black root of the tule, called tsuwish.
The children had watched the starting of the basket, then had begun a game of match, with white and black pebbles. After a time Gesnip, looking up from her play, exclaimed, as she saw the black diamond pattern the weaver was making: -
"Mother, why are you weaving a rattlesnake basket?"
"I am making it to please Chinigchinich that he may smile upon me and guard you, children, and Cuchuma from the bite of the rattlesnake. There are so many of them here this year, and I fear for you."
"Thank you, mother," said Gesnip. "If Titas's mother had made a black diamond basket, maybe the snake would not have bitten her."
"I think Chinigchinich does smile upon you," said Payuchi, "for when we were so hungry in the month of roots [October] you wove him the hunting basket with the pattern of deer's antlers, trimmed with quail feathers, and see how much food we have had: first the rabbits, then the grasshoppers, and now the fish and elk."
"While you work tell us how the first baby basket was made," begged Cleeta. The mother nodded; and as she wound and pressed closely the moist chippa, and the cactus needle flew in and out with the creamy kah-hoom or the black tsuwish, she told the story.
"When the mother of all made the basket for the first man child, she used a rainbow for the wood of the back of the basket, with stars woven in each side, and straight lightning down the middle in front. Sunbeams shining on a far-away rain storm formed the fringe in front, where we use strips of buckskin, and the carry straps were brightest sunbeams."
"Mother, you left out that the baby was wrapped in a soft purple cloud from the mountains," said Cleeta.
"Yes, in a purple cloud of evening, wrapped so he could not move leg or arm, but would grow straight and beautiful," said the mother.
For a long while the children watched in silence the patient fingers at their work; then Gesnip asked, "Is it true, mother, that when you were a little child your father and mother and many of your tribe died of hunger?"
"It is true," replied Macana, sadly, "but who told you?"
"Old Cotopacnic, but I thought it was one of his dreams. Why were you all so hungry?" asked the girl.
"Because the rain failed for three seasons. After a time there was no grass, no acorns, the rabbits and deer died or wandered away, the streams dried up so there were no fish, the ground became so dry that there were no more grubs or worms of any kind, no grasshoppers. There was nothing to eat but roots. Nearly all our tribe died, and many other people, too."
"How did you live?" asked Payuchi.
"My aunt had married a chief whose home was in a rich valley in the mountains where it is always green. She came down to see my mother, and when she found how hard it was to get food for us all, she took me by the hand and tumbled Sholoc who was smaller than little Nakin, into her great seed basket and took us off to the mountains until times should grow better; but the rains did not come until it was too late. I stayed with her until I married your father. Sholoc became a great hunter, then chief of the people of Santa Catalina, where he became a great fisherman also."
The children looked grave.
"Do you think such bad seasons can ever come again?" asked Gesnip.
"Who can tell?" replied the mother, with a sigh. "Last year was very bad and there is little rain yet this year. That is why the men offered gifts to Chinigchinich last night."
"Nobody must take me away from you to keep me from being hungry," said gentle Cleeta, hiding her face in her mother's lap.
"If I were Chinigchinich," said Payuchi, "I would not let so many people die, just because they needed a little more rain. I would not be that kind of a god."
"Hush, my child," said the mother, sternly. "He will hear and punish you. If it is our fate, we must bend to it."