The Happy Island
A LONG time ago there was a beautiful island close by the place in the east where the sun rises. The sea was all around it, and at noonday the sun in the sky seemed to slant just above it. Being near the equator and in a tropic clime the winds were soft and warm and full of the odor of sweet flowers. Sometimes the sea was smooth and clear as glass and then the goldfish and sea mosses floated near the surface and glittered in the sunlight.
At night the moon came out big and round like a silver ball and the stars shone very clear because there was no smoke nor fog in the air. In the moonlight the queer little flying fish would jump up out of the water and dart forth and back in the funniest way as if they were playing some kind of game. Their tiny wet wings glistened like silver gauze, and, when everything else was still, made a peculiar whirring sound by all flapping at once.
The beach was strewn with quantities of conch and abalone shells, also other species of all shapes and sizes and they were as dainty in color as it is possible to imagine. The children of the Happy Island often held the larger ones to their ears to listen to the murmurs and complaints of the insects and other forms of life living inside them. This was only a fancy, but many sea shells do have a soft musical cadence if we care to hear it. Some poets believe that they were the first musical instruments, and that the inhabitants of the sea send messages ashore in this manner.
The ferns grew almost as tall as the trees and there were hundreds of birds skimming through the air, or flitting through the branches singing and chattering and having a very happy time. They were not afraid because no one threw stones at them or tried to frighten them. Everybody was glad to see them put up their little bills and ruffle up their throats in singing, or else spread out their wings and splash water all over their backs while they stood on a pebble or twig taking a morning bath. The people said that when the birds were twittering and chirping they were talking to each other. When they were singing they were telling God how thankful they were for the warm sunshine and plenty to eat.
There was a wonderful city in the center of the island named the City of the Golden Gates because it was surrounded by a high wall of very thick stones, with a great number of gates of gold through which the animals and people passed in and out. Here lived the Old Man of the Sea, as the king was called, and his son was a beautiful youth known as the Golden Hearted because he was so gentle and kind. He was a swift runner and could shoot well with a bow and arrow and was strong enough to wrestle with a big man, but he preferred to make gold ornaments and vessels for his father and was often permitted to go into the king's treasure house to watch the workmen polish the precious gems which they found in great abundance by digging into the mountains near the city.
The people knew all about white and black pearls and how to get them from the bed of the ocean. In full sight of the island was a large reef of pink and white coral and the young prince went there many times to see the curious little insects building their graceful, airy houses over some rock hidden by the water. He sometimes imagined that he heard the mermaids calling to him. What he really did hear was the wind dashing the waves in and out of the coral chambers as if it were determined to wash them away. The reef was an excellent place to fish, and the Golden Hearted and his companions had many a fine day's sport there while the divers were searching for the pearl oysters. He fished with a drag-net made by himself, and he could let it out and haul it in again like a regular sailor. He never killed any of the fish, and the divers would not give him the pearls they found because they were compelled to kill the oysters to get them, and this they said made the pearls unlucky and was the reason why they are round and shining like tear drops. The miners brought him all the emeralds they could find, because this was the happiness-bringing stone. Its color is like the soft grass in the springtime, and they wanted him to be always young and have everything his heart desired.
The royal gardens were his special care and in them he was allowed to cultivate any kind of tree or plant or grain. Then from them he must learn the names and habits of the trees producing the best wood for building houses, what plants were good to heal the sick, and all about the grains useful for food either for man or animals. Every flower that had a perfume grew in a separate part of the garden, and those shedding their fragrance at night only were in a bed by themselves. He was required to know the difference between single and double species and why there is such a difference in the same family of plants.
Honey bees, big-winged butterflies, crickets and beetles hid in the flowers or flew above them, and these all taught a lesson to the young prince who had no other books. The honey bee was an industrious little fellow continually building a piece of comb or else filling it with honey. The butterfly, on the other hand, did not work at all but changed from an ugly grub into a caterpillar and finally into a gorgeous butterfly with spotted wings and bright eyes. The king told his son that the butterfly was like a soul—the immortal part of ourselves—and he wished him to be as busy as the bee, and to do no more harm to other creatures than does the pretty butterfly.
The cricket was a cheerful, merry chap, usually singing at the top of his voice, and the beetle tried to push all of the dirt out of the garden. If he found anything he did not like he would roll and tumble with it, even if it were much bigger than himself. This amused the Golden Hearted very much, and when he grew tired of his own occupations he would run out into the garden and watch the beetles.
One day he went into the splendid throne-room where his father was giving audience to some wise old men who were foretelling what was going to happen to the king and the people of the Happy Island. They urged the king to send some member of his household to the strange land over the sea, toward the setting sun, where the people were in barbarism.
The Golden Hearted was much interested and thought here was an opportunity to do some good for the weak and helpless. Springing forward he said:
"Dear father, let me go. I am able to sail the seas and am willing to devote my life to teaching these poor people how to live like brothers."
The king felt proud of the young prince, but he loved him so dearly that it was hard to let him go, and also hard to refuse such a noble, manly request.
"Do you know, my son, this will entail a great deal of hardship and self-denial?" he asked.
"Yes, father, but God intends us to earn all the good things in life; He will not give them to us for nothing. That is His good law, which makes us healthy, happy and wise—three of the most precious possessions in the world."
"Go, my Golden Heart, and may God bless and keep you always," said the king. "Take a green-throated humming-bird for your guide, and when you find the land, journey on until you come to a place where a cactus grows at the base of a rock and there is a golden eagle soaring in the air above it. Halt there and found a city, and name it in honor of the sun."
Then all the wise men begged to go with him, and for days after there were great preparations made for the departure of the king's son. At daybreak one morning he set sail in a snake-skin boat, and all the inhabitants came with the king to throw flowers and emeralds into the sea because they wished to show respect to the Golden Hearted. It was their method of blessing him and wishing him good luck. The whole shore line, as far as he could see, was lighted up by bonfires where the people burned resin and perfume to commemorate his going.
At the water's edge stood the old sea king with his long white hair and beard blowing in the wind. By his side was a cream-white horse with three plumes in the top of its bridle reins and a square, red blanket edged with deep fringe on its back. Crowns and moons and stars of gold and silver were scattered over the blanket to show that the horse belonged to the royal prince. Back of the king was a long line of young warrior priests mounted on white horses, with red blankets, and carrying reversed spears in their hands. They bowed their heads when the poor old father leaned over on the horse's neck and cried as if his heart would break as the boat with his only son in it pushed off from the shore. Snatching a torch from the hand of an attendant, the Golden Hearted waved it on high. Fire with them was a symbol of wisdom, and when the king saw it, he answered the signal by waving a torch, and the warrior priests flashed their spears in the bright sunlight, and the people sent up a deafening shout.
This meant that they were willing to sacrifice their future king for the good of a strange race of men who needed a teacher to show them how to cultivate the land and how to build cities and live civilized. The people of the Happy Island would not send a common man for a teacher. No, indeed; they gave the best they had—their dearly loved prince with the golden heart—to help their less fortunate neighbors. And he gave up all luxury and comfort because he would rather be useful, than live in ease as a king. The name of the island was Atlantis, and the new country was our own—America.
Zamna, the Eye of the Sun
HO THERE! Who comes to us in a canoe?" cried the people in the strange land when the Golden Hearted and the wise men arrived from the Happy Island. Many of the natives ran away and others hid in the bushes because they were afraid they were going to be killed. None of them were ever so badly frightened in their lives, and none had ever seen white men before.
"Do you come to fight us? Are you warriors?" they asked.
"I am your friend, not your foe," answered the young prince kindly, and holding a white flag high over his head. "To be a warrior is to have been in many battles, and I never marched a day under the banner of the king, my father. I come wholly in peace."
"He is only a lad. Surely we need not fear him," said the people coming back to crowd around him on shore and to examine his boat and clothes with much curiosity. "Why, then, are you here?" they finally asked.
"I am sent by my father to teach you the Good Law."
"We already know how to shoot an arrow through the heart of an eagle. We have taken many captives in battle, and are a scourge to our enemies," they answered proudly. They were still suspicious of their visitors.
"You crush a worm without mercy, never thinking it has the same right to live as you have, and that in itself it is more wonderful than all these things," said the Golden Hearted, reprovingly.
The natives were greatly astonished. Never had they heard any one speak like this, and they could not imagine what sort of young man he was. If he did not like the chase, and was not a warrior, and did not believe in killing things, they could not understand him at all.
"What do you mean by the Good Law? What is it anyhow?"
"It is to be gentle and kind to all creatures, and to treat your neighbor as if he were your brother. You must be just to the plant, to the bull, to the horse and to the dog. The earth too has a right to be cultivated. Neglect it, and it will curse you; fertilize it, and it will show gratitude in a thousand ways. May your fields bring forth all that is good to eat, and may your countless villages abound with prosperity."
The Golden Hearted was so modest and sincere in speech and so well mannered that they were pleased with him, and were beginning to feel quite friendly. The wise men also said many nice things to them and did all they could to make the situation pleasant.
To show appreciation and to welcome the young prince, the natives gave him a handful of fireflies, because light with them was a symbol of order, peace and virtue. This was a delicate, pretty compliment and so delighted the Golden Hearted that he scattered them all over his head. When they lit in his soft, wavy, yellow hair, their bulging eyes and gauzy wings sparkled like diamonds and they did not try to fly away because he sang to them:
"Firefly, firefly! bright little thing, Light me to bed and my song I will sing. Give me your light as you fly o'er my head That I may merrily go to my bed. Give me your light o'er the grass as you creep That I may joyfully go to my sleep. Come little firefly, come little beast, Come and I'll make you tomorrow a feast; Come, little candle, that flies as I sing, Bright little fairy bug—Night's little king. Come, and I'll dance as you guide me along, Come, and I'll pay you, my bug, with a song."
Each fly has four spots, one back of each eye and under each wing which it can make as bright as candle light when it chooses. Its body is about an inch and a half long.
When the prince put the fireflies in his hair, the natives present touched the ground with their right hands and placed them over their hearts in token of respect. He, in turn, gave them the white flag he carried because it was an emblem of peace, friendship, happiness and prosperity, as well as purity and holiness, and he intended to bring them all of these things.
"What is your wish?" asked the natives of each of the wise men.
"We desire to bathe in the warm surf of these shores and then to make a thank offering for our safe arrival and your kindly greeting," they answered.
Criers with shrill trumpets and drums ran up and down the beach to call in the fishing boats.
"The men wearing skirts are coming into the sea," they shouted, and the Golden Hearted and his followers looked at each other with a smile when they heard what the criers said. The natives wore only breech clouts and feather and shell ornaments, much like the Indians of today. Never before had they seen men wearing long white robes, beards and high-crowned hats without rims, and having a square black cloth hanging over the shoulders in the back like a veil.
"Is there something else needed to make you more content and comfortable?" asked the criers when the fishermen had all come ashore.
"We need wood and stones to build an altar for our sacrifice," replied the Golden Hearted.
While the newcomers were splashing in the surf, the porters brought arms full of wood, and stones large and small and piled them near the boat and waited to see what the visitors would do with them.
"Why do you wear skirts like women?" they next inquired, as the bathers were putting on their robes after a long swim.
"Because we work for humanity," said the young prince. "No man is really great who has not developed a woman's tenderness in his heart, and that our fellows may know that we have this quality, we wear skirts and robes."
This is why in our day the king and priest and judge wear long gowns. The king rules men, women and children alike; the judge administers the law for all of them, and the minister prays for the good as well as the bad. For this reason we should respect their robes when we see them.
The natives did not know the name of the young prince but when they saw him take a piece of mica and hold it over a bit of cotton until the sun set it on fire, they exclaimed "Zamna!" meaning "Eye of the Sun," and this was what they called him while he lived in that country. The wise men had placed some copal on top of the altar they had made of wood and stone and it was not long before the cotton and copal began to burn. As it did so, the Golden Hearted pointed with his finger to a ray of the midday sun. First he and his followers held their arms high overhead, then they sat in a squatting position and recited all the incidents of their journey. Finally they all prostrated themselves on the ground and returned thanks for their safety and good health. Rising to their feet, the wise men began to chant with bared heads and faces turned toward the east.
The natives thought this a very strange performance and debated among themselves whether it could be part of the Good Law they were soon to learn.
"Do you come to destroy our old faiths, and to bring us a new god?" they asked as the wood on the altar burned low and the chanting ceased.
"To attack any form of worship is like fighting darkness with a stick. The only way to overcome the blackness of night dwelling in men's hearts is to kindle a light—and the light of the world is love," responded the Golden Hearted as he slipped his arm through that of the native who had asked him the question. "I did not come to quarrel with you. I want you to think of me as a brother ready and willing to serve you always. In my father's kingdom, the man who serves faithfully in any capacity is the one most honored. Take this cross to the chief of your village and say to him that He who is the Dew of Heaven, Lord of the Dawn, and of the Four Winds, sends his only son with a message of peace and good will to all his people. Show him the red hand painted in the center and tell him that it is not meant to convey strength, power and mastery, but that it is raised thus as an act of supplication."
As the swiftest courier in the group was girding a red sash tightly around his waist making ready for a quick run, the fishermen came up from their huts and invited the travelers to come and share their humble noonday meal. The Golden Hearted was glad to accept the extended hospitality, not because he had no provisions of his own, but because he valued their good opinion and was ready to do whatever he thought would please them.
They were a gentle, kindly folk, these simple fishermen. Not only were they industrious, but they were polite and reverential to their superiors and as happy as a lot of children when they found the strange prince under their roof. In all the after years they would have been willing to die for him.
The wise men of his company were so strict in their habits that they refused to eat the flesh of any animal, and their simple meal was soon finished. But while every one else was at the table they performed a sacred dance in a pompous and solemn style, circling around the Golden Hearted who sat by himself. They had green palms in their hands and every once in a while they would bow to the prince. In a peculiar sing-song way they chanted a long poem telling about the history of the Happy Island.
Imagine how funny they must have looked whirling round and round with their long robes, black veils and wide sleeves filled with the wind. They kept on their high hats and with their long beards and hair flying in every direction, it was no wonder that the fishermen and other people laughed and thought it was some kind of game. The dancers were not at all offended, and when the natives asked if they knew how to play ball, they answered good naturedly:
"No, but we would like very much to learn."
"Come out here into the alley and we will teach you. By and by you may give us lessons in many things, but we are going to give you the first one."
Then they all laughed, and so did the young prince and the wise old men.
The alley where they played ball was one hundred feet long and had smooth, white-washed walls about twelve feet high in the center, but lower at each end where there was a rectangular nook for the players to rest. The walls were quite thick at the base but tapered toward the top which was finished with battlements and turrets.
Before the game began, the oldest player among them threw the small, solid, India-rubber ball four times around the alley muttering some words to himself all the time. The owner of the ground made the old man a trifling present, and then the game began in good earnest.
The rule was to hit the ball only with the knee, elbow or shoulder, not with the hands nor feet. The wise men with their long gowns and veils had a hard time keeping up with the native players, who wore very little clothing and were quick and sure footed. Two on each side played at a time, and the great point was to send the ball against the opposite wall or else over it as often as possible without allowing it to touch the ground. There were two referees; one being the Golden Hearted and the other, the oldest player.
Everybody shouted and laughed at the clumsy playing of the wise men who tried ever so hard to imitate the things they saw the others doing. It was a great effort for them and they panted and blowed as they ran. Very often they tumbled heels over head by stepping on their skirts in front. Then they would all go down together in a heap, one on top of the other, and the referees would have much to do before they could get them all straightened out again. It was jolly good fun, but required considerable time and patience even for an expert player to send the ball over the wall with either his elbow, knee or shoulder.
In the center of the wall on each side was a huge stone carved with images, having a hole in the center barely big enough for the ball to go through. Whoever was skilful enough to make a drive through one of them, not only won the game for his side, but was entitled to the cloaks of all those present. Of course, this was a very difficult feat to accomplish and made quite a hero of the man who succeeded, so every player tried for the honor.
This day the young native who first hailed the Golden Hearted when he landed, by a lucky toss of the elbow sent the ball flying through the hole on the wise men's side. In a moment the spectators scrambled down from their seats and ran away as fast as they could go. The wise men stood looking after them in wide-eyed astonishment, and before they had time to get out of the alley the victor stripped them of their veils and then their tall hats looked like a piece of stove pipe with a cover over one end of it.
The Golden Hearted insisted that each man should give back whatever he had won in a bet on the game, and for each loss of this kind he gave both winner and loser a present, and promised to teach their sons and daughters how to weave cloth having figures in it. In such a way he taught them how to count, and to this day they have no other method of reproducing a pattern perfectly. Each stitch must be counted and only a certain number of each color put in, and all this must be carried in the head. The weavers are not allowed to write it down.
At nightfall the runners came in breathless with haste to say that the chief of the village was sending a councilor and official guide to welcome and escort the strange white men to his dwelling. But the Golden Hearted was not in a hurry to leave the fishermen and common people with whom he had spent the day, except for a short visit. When he returned he taught them how to make sun-dried bricks with which to build houses, also to shape the round water jars of brown pottery and how to ornament them and the gourds they drank from. The wise men assisted him in all this, and in time, the natives not only built comfortable houses for themselves but learned how to fashion many pretty designs of cornices and wall decorations out of stucco which they tinted many colors.
The first thing he did when he went to the village was to make the chief king, and then he ordered some of the wise men who were architects and engineers to lay out a splendid city and help the natives to build it. Before he came there were nothing but trails from one part of the country to the other and the simple tradesmen did not know how to exchange their wares. The Golden Hearted became the patron of the builders and traders and lived many years with the people of Aztlan.
While in that country, he occupied himself with the building of a sacred temple dedicated to those who served the Good Law. It had four beautiful halls facing the four cardinal points of the compass. That on the east was the Hall of Gold and its walls were almost covered with plates of the precious metal having delicately-chased pictures over its shining surface. To the west was the Hall of Emeralds and Turquoises where many gems were studded into the plaster. The south hall was finished in silver while the northern hall was made of jasper stuck with colored shells in curious patterns. In each room there was a tapestry of yellow, blue, white and red feather mosaic that was as fine as a painting and in some cases perfectly represented men and animals. In front of the main entrance for many years stood a winged lion cut out of granite holding an image of the Golden Hearted in his mouth.
The name of the city was Mayapan and the king who had been merely a village chief was the celebrated Cocomes of the olden times.
Votan, the People's Heart
ONE evening the Golden Hearted saw a ball of fire rise in the East just about where the Happy Island was located, and it followed the course of the sun. Then he knew it was time for him to take some of the wise men and go into a new place, so he lay awake long into the night and thought how best to begin to get ready. He knew the people loved him very much, but he remembered his oath to his father, the king, and though he was sad at heart, he determined to leave the next day but one. He had not yet spoken to anybody about his intention, but it must have been right else it would not have happened that a whole lot more wise men came to the city that very day.
"Now," he said to himself, "I can leave these wise men to help the poor natives, and I will take seven of their families with me."
Seeing that it was daybreak and the sun about to rise, the Golden Hearted sprang out of bed and hastily washing his face and hands, threw the window wide open and lifting his arms high overhead said:
"Hail! Beauty of the Day! Homage to thee who riseth above the horizon. I come near to thee. Thou openest the gates of another day. Great Illuminator out of the golden, place thyself as a protector behind me. Guide and keep me safe on the journey that I am about to undertake."
Then he dressed himself as quickly as possible and went out to find the wise men and tell them what he was going to do. They were willing to go with him, but King Cocomes was greatly disappointed, though he felt more contented when the Golden Hearted promised to come back again.
"Quiet thy heart, great king, and trust in my love," was what the young prince said to him.
The travelers had to pass through the country of the Quinames who were a very wild people. They went about naked with long matted hair hanging over their shoulders, and they ate raw meat, fruits and herbs. They knew nothing about cooking, but could make pulque, a kind of beer, out of maguey plant, a cousin of the cactus family. On this they often got very drunk. Then they were fierce and quarrelsome. At all times these people were proud of their strength and cunning in battle and in hunting the ferocious beasts roaming over the hills and plains. The Quinames were really a dreadful set of men, but the Golden Hearted was not afraid of them. He heard all kinds of stories about their cruelty and savage ways of living, but he went quietly among them and parceled out the land and showed them how to cultivate it. The Quinames lived entirely by hunting and fishing and had no houses. When one place did not suit them any longer, they moved to another, and would never have learned how to live civilized except for the coming of the prince and the wise men.
And what a terrible journey it was! It was in a tropic country where there was so much warm rain that everything grew rank and luxuriant. For whole days the Golden Hearted marched in the shadow of ferns as big as trees and the ground was covered with briers and nettles. Sometimes he had to go around muddy swamps or right through bushes filled with snakes. Then, too, he had to swim across wide rivers and climb steep, rocky mountains. In the tangled leaves and vines hundreds of parrots screamed and screeched at them, while on all sides the monkeys threw sticks from the branches of the trees. Gnats and other poisonous insects stung his hands and face.
He traveled like this many days. Whenever he went into camp, the Golden Hearted would invite the Quinames to dine with him in order that he might teach them how to eat cooked food out of dishes. They could not understand the use of cups and basins, because they drank out of cocoa-nut shells and had never seen a napkin or tablecloth. They had always been in the habit of taking the food in their fingers and pulling it apart, and were not very nice about keeping their hands clean either.
Of course, all this was very disagreeable to the Golden Hearted, but he was as patient and kind as possible and those fierce Quinames would not have harmed a hair in his head. When they asked him where he was going he always answered, "To seek my brothers, the Culebra, of whom thou shalt know more by and by."
"And from where comest thou?"
"From the mountain of Little Descent, and where I tarry, there will I build Nachan, the city of Serpents."
The ignorant barbarians did not know that the word serpent meant wisdom in the language of the Happy Island, but the wise men were much pleased because they knew that this city was to be a great seat of learning and that they would have charge of the temples and schools when it was completed.
"Who art thou and thy followers?" was often asked of them on the way.
"We are Chanes and the sons of Chanes," but this did not mean anything to the savages either, because they did not know that "Chane" was the name of the wise men in their own country.
One day a culprit was brought before the Golden Hearted accused of stealing a curious looking stick with yellow grains fastened all around it. The Quinames said it was good food and they pulled off its green wrappings and held it before the fire until it was browned and then ate it. The Golden Hearted and the wise men had never seen this plant before and were very much interested in their discovery. But they did not think it well to say so.
"Dost thou say this man is a thief?" asked the Golden Hearted.
"Yes, yes; we knew where the bush grew, but we were waiting until it should be more yellow before giving it to thee," said the captors.
"I will prove thee," said the Golden Hearted to the accused. He took a piece of finely-polished black stone from his breast pocket and held it up before the prisoner saying, "Look into its shining face and beholding thine own image, swear by the Heart of Heaven to speak the truth."
The poor savage nearly died of fright when he saw himself because he thought it was an omen of instant death. He quaked and trembled and his eyes were as big and round as walnuts.
"From whence came this goodly seed?" asked the Golden Hearted kindly.
"From the edge of the wood where a silver band of water rots an old tree," answered the man, still pallid with fear.
"Take thy share, and leave me what thy accusers intended for me."
The prisoner stared at him stupidly for a moment then his better nature spoke and he took only one grain, and would have fled into the jungle if the Golden Hearted had not caught him by the mantle.
"Look again into the mirror of truth."
This time the savage was not so afraid and he gazed curiously at the stone for some time. Its surface was perfectly blank.
"Tell me what thou seest?"
"Nothing but its own dark face speaks to the eye of thy servant," responded the accused.
"Then know, my brothers," said the Golden Hearted turning to the astonished Quinames, "this man is innocent and must go free."
"Thou art welcome to my life," exclaimed the accused joyfully; "thou hast saved it and it is thine to command."
"Use it to perfect the growth of this strange seed so that thy fellows and all grain-eating creatures may profit by thy labors."
The grain found in this manner is known to the people of that country to-day as maize. We call it Indian corn.
When the wise men heard about it, they begged the Golden Hearted to let them build a white house where any one accused of crime would be safe until the judges could decide whether they were guilty or not. The prince thought it was a very good plan and said:
"I will put the black stone in it and will make a law that no man shall be called guilty if the surface of the stone does not change when he is made to look into it. And to commemorate our safe passage through this wild country, I will order several white houses built, and each one shall be called Refuges Against Fear."
In those days no one seemed to think it was wrong to kill a person who was said to be a thief or had done anything his neighbors did not like, so it was very necessary for the Golden Hearted to teach them to be just to each other. He told the Quinames that they must be sure about a thing before they acted harshly, and he cautioned them to be careful about believing or repeating unkind remarks they heard. It was quite a long time before the Quinames would even try to do this, but finally they helped to build the houses and were honorable enough not to harm any one once inside the walls. Many a useful life was saved in this manner, but sometimes a poor refugee was overtaken and beaten to death with clubs before reaching the house.
Because the Golden Hearted succeeded in persuading the warlike Quinames to live peaceably with their neighbors and to treat each other well, he was called in that and many other countries, Votan, The People's Heart, to distinguish him from the Heart of Heaven which was their name for God. His was truly a great work because it was done without a selfish motive and for no reward except the good of his fellow men.
Lord of the Sacred Tunkel
NO one living can tell how many years ago it was that the Golden Hearted built Nachan, the city of wise men, nor how many years it took to do the work, but it has always been said to be a very beautiful place. Anyhow, it was after he left the Quinames, and it was in a country very much more civilized.
The Golden Hearted had many happy days there.
Even if he was a grown man and a great prince, he was very fond of children and one day he visited the Temple of the Sun where the pupils from school were having a holiday. They all had on their best clothes, and their faces and hands were clean, but they were shouting, and singing and playing games, very much like the boys and girls we know. They felt sure that the Golden Hearted was their good friend and when they saw him coming they ran out into the courtyard and crowded around him as thick as flies.
"A story! a story!" they said; "Please, good Prince, tell us a story."
"What shall it be about?" asked the Golden Hearted with a pleasant smile.
"Something very perfect and beautiful," they said.
"Let me think what we have in the world that is both perfect and beautiful. Which would you prefer, something man has made, or that God has made?"
The children were very much puzzled to know which to choose. They tried hard to think what man had made that was without any faults and could not be imitated or improved, either in appearance or quality, but they were not satisfied with anything. Then they began to think about the trees, the flowers, the precious stones, the sky and the sea, and were getting more and more confused all the time when the Golden Hearted laughed and said:
"I will tell you what we will do. We will send for the wise men and ask them to choose."
The wise men thought it was great fun, so they hurried as fast as they could and were quite out of breath when they got near enough to speak to the Golden Hearted.
"Tell me something you know in the world that is both perfect and beautiful," he said to the wise man who had charge of the Temple of the Sun, and was first to arrive.
"The great, blazing, glorious sun," he replied.
"None but God could have made it, and we adore it and sacrifice to it because it is the mask behind which God hides His ever-smiling face."
Many of the children shaded their eyes with their hands and took a quick look at the sun overhead, and thought that was a good answer.
"What do you know in the world that is both perfect and beautiful?" asked the prince of the next comer, who was a man wise in the art of working metals. He had not heard the first answer, but, without stopping a minute to think, said:
"Gold; because it is like the substance of the sun and cannot be made by putting any metals together nor by any mixture of chemicals."
The Golden Hearted knew that was a correct answer but he wanted the children to be satisfied, and he was not sure that all of them understood it.
"Do you know that way down in the earth gold is created, and yet it is shining and bright and yellow like the light of the sun? This accounts for its beauty, and it is perfect because it is absolutely pure in itself."
The next man that came along was wise, but he looked like a farmer.
"What have you seen in your life that cannot be improved or made prettier?"
"Wheat," was his quick reply, "because it is not a blend of any of the grains or grasses but grows out of the ground perfect. It is beautiful in every phase of its life whether it waves in the wind like a sea of emeralds or ripens into great sheaves of gold, or its plump grains tempt you to satisfy hunger. It is the best friend man has, and it would be very hard for him to live without it."
That was such a sensible answer, that the children all clapped their hands with delight because they knew at once that it was correct. Just then the Golden Hearted looked up and saw one of his best perfumers in the group of wise men.
"Will you give us an answer to this question?" he asked.
"I should differ from all the others"—began the man.
"Never mind, tell us what in your line is the most perfect and beautiful thing you know."
"A jasmine blossom," replied the perfumer, "because its delicate odor cannot be imitated no matter what combination of oils or extracts we make. I cannot say that of any other flower in the world."
The children could have answered that question themselves if they had only thought quickly enough. They were quite familiar with the dainty little white flowers and tender vine of the jasmine as well as its sweet smell, because it grew wild in their country.
While the perfumer was talking, the Golden Hearted picked up a shining pebble near his feet.
"Now, children," he said, "in this small rough stone I find something perfect and beautiful. It is an opal, the only one of the precious gems I do not know how to counterfeit. Join hands, as many of you as can, and dance around me while I sing you a song about the birth of the opal."
One of the wise men gave him a Sacred Tunkel, a kind of guitar which he brought from the Temple of the Sun, and this was what he sang:
The Birth of the Opal
A dew drop came with a spark of flame
He had caught from the sun's last rays
To a violet's breast, where he lay at rest
Till the hours brought back the day.
The rose looked down with a blush and a frown
But she smiled all at once to view
Her own bright form with its coloring warm
Reflected back by the dew.
Then the stranger took a stolen look
At the sky so soft and blue,
And a leaflet green with its silver sheen
Was seen by the idler too.
A cold north wind, as he thus reclined,
Of a sudden raged around,
And a maiden fair, who was walking there
Next morning an opal found.
Some of the pupils were inclined to think that the singing of the Golden Hearted was the most perfect and beautiful they had ever heard and they all liked to listen to the low plaintive notes of the Tunkel. Those that could not take part in the dance gathered around their teachers and asked:
"What shall we do to honor the good prince and show him how much we appreciate his efforts to amuse and please us?"
"Ask him to allow you to answer your own question," they said, "and then tell him something about your feathered friends. Have you forgotten the hermit of the woods with its rainbow plumes three feet long and its gay scarlet breast?"
The name of this bird is the Quetzal, and it lives on the high mountain tops all alone and is only about the size of a pigeon.
When the Golden Hearted finished singing and the dancers were all standing still, a bright-faced boy approached and said, "We have an answer to our own question, good prince."
"Say on, my little man, I am listening to you."
"It is the Quetzal, the rarest bird in the world, and the most perfect and beautiful of all feathered creatures. With its brilliant luster plumes I crown you Lord of the Sacred Tunkel, as a reward for your sweet singing. May the children of every land know and love you as we do."
The Golden Hearted was much surprised and pleased with his new crown and ever after wore the feathers of the Quetzal in his head dress. So long as he remained in Nachan, he was called the Lord of the Sacred Tunkel because he could play so well upon this queerly-shaped guitar.
The Stars' Ball
IT was not so very long after the children had crowned him Lord of the Sacred Tunkel until the Golden Hearted planned to have them all with him again. He made up his mind to spend his lifetime teaching because he thought that was the most useful thing he could do, but he was determined to make the lessons for the children as pleasant as possible. He and the wise men taught the older people how to divide the days into weeks, months and years, and how to make a calendar, and all about the sun and the moon and the stars, but this was too hard for the children. So he decided to take them up on the roof of the Temple of the Sun in the moonlight and tell them some simple pretty story about the sky at night.
In that country, the houses were built with flat roofs covered with red tiles, and there was either a ladder or a winding staircase from the ground, so it was not much trouble to get up on the roof. In fact, many of the dwellings had beautiful potted plants up there, and it was really a pleasant place to go of a warm summer evening. This night there was not a breath of air, and the children did not need anything on their heads nor any wraps. Only around the lower edges of the sky were there clouds and these were soft and white like big piles of cotton. The whole heavens looked like a bright blue veil thickly sprinkled with diamonds. It was very still and quiet and there were so many flowers in bloom that the very atmosphere was fragrant with them. In the mill pond close by the frogs croaked, and around the eaves of the houses the crickets and katydids were singing an evening hymn.
It was just a lovely night to go out and nearly every one was in the street. The doors and windows were wide open, and the people went about bareheaded and laughed and chatted to their heart's content.
"The goodness of this perfect night be upon my little friends," said the prince, when he came up on the roof of the Temple and found a lot of children he knew. "I have invited you to witness the stars' ball to-night, but before we begin, I must introduce you to the most prominent ones."
Then he pointed out the milky way with its millions of stars that looked like little pin heads in a band of light because they were so far away. Below the handle of the big dipper, and off to one side was the north star. Jupiter with his broad dark bands and tiny moons was there, and so was Saturn with his three rings. Over in another place was Mars twinkling and batting his eyes as if he wanted to fight something. The Dog Star was still lower down and quite by himself.
"I will first make you acquainted with the big-faced, silver moon," said the prince. "She is sailing along as if she were in a great hurry, but there will be time enough for you to see the man up there if you look sharp about it."
The children knew there was not a surely man in the moon so they all laughed and clapped their hands and then threw kisses at the beautiful queen of the night.
"I cannot show you Mercury, the messenger of the sun, because he is such a sleepy head he has already gone to bed. He never stays up long after the sun goes down, but he is an industrious little fellow and often gets up first in the morning."
The children thought that was a very funny way to speak of a star, but they saw the prince was in a good humor and they enjoyed listening to what he said.
"Venus is our evening star," he continued, pointing to the brightest object in the western sky, "and she is winking and smiling at us. Look closely now, and see if you can find her."
When all the children had seen her, the Golden Hearted turned to another part of the heavens and said, "Here is old Father Time, who frowns and scowls, and finally grinds the life out of our bodies." He was speaking about Saturn because it rolls and tumbles one way while its three rings whirl around the other way, and all the people in olden times believed that the stars could give good or bad luck and could make our lives long or short. There were a number of this kind of fortune tellers among the wise men, so of course the prince knew what they thought about the stars. The children understood it too, and when he pointed out Saturn, they said to each other in a whisper, "It is the death star; let us hope it will not shine upon us nor upon those we love."
"If we have need to fear the Master of Time, we have every reason to love the broad-belted planet with its sturdy little companions. It has been rightly named 'The Beneficent,'" said the prince—indicating the position of Jupiter among the stars. "Its children pop in and out behind it as if they were playing hide and seek."
For ages people thought that Jupiter gave them good luck and made them wise, tender and kind. This is why the children said, "The big, white, shining star has a heart like our prince."
Mars is the nearest planet to us, and he sputters and fumes as if he really had as bad a temper as these people credited him with. All the wars and troubles they had came from him, they said, and the children did not care to look at him very long. He gives out a beautiful red light, while Jupiter is bluish white, and the Dog Star has all colors like the rainbow.
"Now," said the prince, "I will show you the most important group in the sky. It is the Pleiades, directly over our heads at this time. There are seven of these sisters, and the pale, dim one is the center of the whole system of stars because all the rest of them circle around her."
Then he explained to them how each star and planet, as well as the earth, turns over and over of its own accord, besides going around the sun in a very wide circle. All the stars are wonderful tumblers and they spin around just like tops, and this whirling motion was what made the prince say that they were having a ball. When they twinkled and sparkled, he said they were dancing.
As soon as he sat down, one of the children got the Sacred Tunkel, and then some took hold of his hands, others held on to his mantle and still others put their arms around his neck and begged him to sing for them. He did not wish to refuse them, but he did not know any song suitable for the occasion so he made this up as he went along:
Oh! the stars one and all
They had a great ball
One night way up in the sky;
They invited the earth
To join in their mirth
But it feared to go up so high.
No fiddler had they
Their music to play,
And the stars were afraid 'twould fail;
But the man in the moon
He whistled a tune
And the comet kept time with his tail.
They danced and they danced,
And they pranced and they pranced,
Till the moon said 'twas all he desired,
For his lips were so sore
He could whistle no more,
And the comet began to get tired.
So they faded away
In the dim light of day
The moon and the stars from the ball.
But, sad to relate,
Next night they were late,
And came near not shining at all.
The National Book
BECAUSE it is possible for persons to do both good and evil in their lives, and to think good and bad thoughts, the wise men and the Golden Hearted studied how to keep these ideas before the people all the time. In those days, the natives of that country had no books and no way of writing and it was necessary to select some familiar object to represent the meaning of many things. Whatever is used for such a purpose, is called a symbol.
The hippopotamus, the crocodile and the tapir are to this day said to be symbols of humanity because they have two natures. They can live in the water or on the land, and search for food either in the day or night time. Of the three animals, the wise men selected the tapir because it is a shy, inoffensive creature, not much larger than a sheep and lives on green grasses and herbs. During the day it sleeps quietly in the water or on the bank of a stream and at night comes on land to get food. When its coat is dry, it is of a dark brown color, but when wet, it is black and shining. A tapir looks very much like a fat donkey except that its ears are not so long and its nose not quite so stumpy. At Nachan the wise men raised great herds of them as an example and illustration of our good and bad self.
The Golden Hearted realized that he must do more than found a large city and teach the children, so he had a Dark House built away under ground where he could store treasures and all the records of his journey. This was a secret passageway, and in its halls and labyrinths he had quantities of statuary and pottery put for safe keeping. While this was being done, he wrote a book called in his language "The Popol Vuh" but we would say it is a national book because it tells all about the beginning of the world and is divided into four parts. It is a most singular story, and has been translated so we can read it for ourselves. It is said to be the oldest book in America, and the Golden Hearted kept an order of wise men in the Dark House underground to guard it from one generation to another.
The Popul Vuh
This is the beginning of the history of things which came to pass long ago; of the division of the earth, the property of all; its origin and its foundation, as well as the narrative of our life in the land of shadows, and of how we saw the light. It is the first book written in the olden times, but its view is hidden from him who sees and thinks.
Behold the first word and the first discourse. There was as yet no man, nor any animal, nor bird, nor fish, nor crawfish, nor any pit, nor any ravine, nor green herb, nor any tree.
Nothing was but the firmament.
The face of the earth had not yet appeared—only the peaceful sea and all the space of heaven. There was nothing yet joined together, nothing that clung to anything else; nothing that balanced itself, that made the least rustling, that made a sound in the heaven. There was nothing that stood up; nothing but silence and darkness and night time.
Alone were those that engender, those that give being; they were upon the waters like a growing light. They consulted together and meditated; they mingled their words and their opinions.
"Earth!" they said, and on the instant it was formed; like a cloud of fog was its beginning.
Then the mountains rose over the water like great lobsters. In an instant the mountains and plains were visible and the cypress and the pine trees appeared.
The Heart of Heaven cried out and said:
"Blessed be thy coming. Our work and our labor has accomplished its end."
The earth and its vegetation having appeared, it was peopled with the various forms of animal life. And the makers said to the animals, "Speak now our name. Honor Him who begets and Him who gives being. Speak, call on us, salute us."
But the animals could not answer. They could only cluck and croak, each murmuring after its kind in a different manner.
This displeased the creators, and they said to the animals:
"Inasmuch as ye cannot praise us, neither call upon our names, your flesh shall be humiliated. It shall be broken with teeth. Ye shall be killed and eaten."
The first man was made of clay, but he was watery, had no strength and could not turn his head. His face looked one way all the time. He was given a language, but he had no intelligence, so he was consumed in water.
"Let us make an intelligent being who shall adore and invoke us," said the Thunderbolt and the Lightning Flash.
It was decided that a man should be made of wood and a woman of a kind of pith. They were made but the result was in no wise satisfactory. They moved about perfectly well it is true; they increased and multiplied and peopled the world with little wooden manikins like themselves, but the heart and intelligence were wanting. They had no memory of their Maker; they lived like the beasts and forgot the Heart of Heaven. They had neither blood nor substance, nor moisture nor fat. Their cheeks were shriveled; their feet and hands dried up.
Then was the Heart of Heaven very wroth, and he sent ruin and destruction upon these ingrates. He rained upon them night and day with a thick resin and the earth was all dark.
The men went mad with terror. They tried to mount up on the roofs, but the houses fell with them. They tried to climb the trees, but the trees shook them from their branches. They tried to hide in the caves and dens of the earth, but these closed against them.
Then their heads were cut off, and their bones broken and bruised, and their eyes picked out by the birds, and their flesh eaten by wild beasts.
Thus were they all devoted to chastisement and destruction save only a few who were preserved as memorials of the wooden men. These now exist in the forests as little apes.
In the night the gods counseled together again. "Of what shall we make man?" they said.
Then the Creator made four perfect men out of white and yellow corn. The name of the first one was The Tiger With the Sweet Smile, the second one was called The Tiger of the Night, the third one was The Distinguished Name, and the fourth was The Tiger of the Moon. They had neither father nor mother, but their coming into existence was a miracle wrought by the special intervention of Him who is pre-eminently the Creator.
At last were there found men worthy of their origin and their destiny. Verily the gods looked on beings who could see with their eyes and handle with their hands and understand with their hearts. Grand of countenance and broad of limb, the four sires of our race stood up under the white rays of the morning star.
Their great, clear eyes swept rapidly over all. They saw the woods, the rocks, the lakes and the sea; the mountains and the valleys, and they gazed up into heaven not knowing what they had come so far to do. Their hearts were filled with love, obedience and fear. Lifting up their eyes, they returned thanks saying:
"Hail! O Creator, Thou that lovest and understandest us! We offer up our thanks. We have been created—abandon us not, forsake us not! Give us descendants and a posterity as long as the light endures. Give us to walk always in an open wood in a path without snares; to lead quiet lives free of all reproach."
But the Gods were not wholly pleased with this thing. Heaven, they thought, had overshot its mark. These men were too perfect; knew, understood and saw too much.
"What shall we do with man now?" they said. "This that we see is not good. Let us contract man's sight so he may see only a little of the surface of the earth and be content."
Thereupon, the Heart of Heaven breathed a cloud over the pupils of the eyes of the men, and a veil came over each eye as when one breathes on the face of a mirror. Thus was the globe of the eye darkened, nor was that which was far off clear to it any more.
Then they fell asleep and when they woke up, the gods had brought each one of them a wife. They lived tranquilly together for a long time waiting for the rising of the sun, because they had nothing but the morning star for a light.
But no sun came, and the four men and their families grew uneasy.
"We have no one to watch over us, no one to guard our symbols," they said. So they all set out for the Seven Caves.
Poor wanderers. They had a cruel way to go, many forests to penetrate, many high mountains to climb, and a long passage to make through the sea. Much hail and cold rain fell on their heads, and when their fires all went out they suffered from hunger as well as cold.
At last they came to a mountain and here they rested. While there they were told that the sun was coming very soon. Then they shook their incense pans and danced for very gladness. As the sun commenced to advance, the animals, great and small, were filled with delight. They raised themselves to the surface of the waters, they fluttered in the ravines, and gathering at the edge of the mountains, turned their heads together toward that part from which the sun came.
The lion and the tiger roared, and the first bird that sang was the Quetzal. All the animals were beside themselves at the sight. The eagle and the kite beat their wings, and the men prostrated themselves on the ground.
The sun and the moon and the stars were all established. Yet was not the sun the same as now. His heat wanted force, and he was but as a reflection in a mirror. Nevertheless he dried up and warmed the surface of the earth and answered many good ends.
There was another wonder when the sun rose. The tribal gods who had punished these poor people so were turned into stone. And so were all the mammoth lions, tigers, vipers, and other fierce and dangerous animals.
Manco-Capac, the Powerful One
IT is time for us to go away from this place," said the wise men to the Golden Hearted one day when they were finishing the Dark House, where they were going to leave the National Book.
"Why do you think so?" asked the prince, laying down an axe made of copper and tin which he was sharpening for one of the workmen.
"Because we have yet to find the spot where the gold wedge your father, the king, gave you will sink into the earth of its own accord."
"That is to be in the Place of Gold, and among the Children of the Sun."
"Yes; and we are not far from the country known as the "Four Quarters of the World" where they live. We must go to them at once, and there we will build Cuzco, and make it the navel or center of all their possessions. Under the name of Manco-Capac, the powerful one, you will be the first Inca or ruler, and your banner will be a rainbow, to show that you serve the Children of the Sun."
The Golden Hearted did not wish to become a ruler but he did not see how he could refuse obedience to the faithful old wise men, so he said:
"I will go with you and do as you say, but tell me how you intend to build this wonderful city of Cuzco?"
"You must not feel that we compel you to go," said the wise men, looking ready to cry, because they thought the young prince was not pleased with them. "It was your father's command, and our promise to him."
"I know that," said the prince impatiently, "but how are you going to make Cuzco the center of everything?"
"By building the streets on the four points of the compass, and by connecting it with royal roadways to the four corners of the kingdom. We shall have no trouble doing so, for our reports say that the natives are mild and gentle, and that there are stones in that country as broad and long as a room."
When he and the wise men started to make the journey over the mountains, they put all of their belongings on the backs of the llamas—a kind of little camel not much larger than a sheep and which is used in that country to-day for pack animals, instead of burros or mules. They put the load on the llama's back without any girt or pack saddle, and its long, bushy wool holds all the things in place. It has a sharp-pointed, horny toe like a hook, which it fastens in the steep rocks, and then it can climb over rough places without much trouble. When a llama gets angry he does not spit like an ordinary camel, but lies down like a stubborn mule. No matter what you do to him, he will not budge an inch, and then the load has to be taken off, and he must be coaxed and fed before he will go any farther.
One day the wise men and the Golden Hearted came to a wide rocky chasm in the side of the mountain hundreds of feet deep, having a swift-running river at the bottom. There were so many sharp rocks sticking up and the water dashed over them so fast that it was all in a white foam, and nothing could have swam across it. The native servants and workmen did not know what to do.
"How are we to cross this deep canyon?" they asked.
"We will help you make a suspension bridge," said the wise men.
"But we have no tools"—they began.
"You have your two hands and some copper axes and that is sufficient."
"We can fell trees and bring stones, but there are not enough to span such a dangerous place," they said, still doubtful about the outcome.
"Take your axes and cut all the maguey you can find," said the wise men. "Bring it here and pile it up; then we will tell you what next to do."
The wise men and the Golden Hearted made some heavy clubs out of the hard wood they found growing near by. With these in a short time they beat the maguey until its fibers fell apart in coarse strands, which the sun dried. Then they helped the natives braid it into heavy, thick ropes. When they got enough of these made, they wove them together into a stout cable chain, long enough to stretch across the river.
"What shall we do with the ends?" asked the natives. "We cannot tie them to a tree."
"Certainly not, but you can gather big and little stones for us," answered the wise men.
With these they built immense buttresses on the bank of the river, wide at the bottom and narrow at the top so they would not tumble down nor slip into the waters. Of course they had to leave holes in the sides to fasten the cables into. It took several strands to make the bridge wide enough, and even then the natives were afraid they would fall into the water.
"We need a railing at each side," they said.
"Very well; make one out of the ropes," said the wise men. When this was done the natives were still unwilling to try to go across.
"We cannot take a single step. Our feet get tangled in the meshes of the cable."
"Overcome this by making some rough boards and laying them all the way over."
It was indeed a novel suspension bridge, for when the planks were put onto the cable it sagged in the middle and swayed forth and back in the wind like a swing. Imagine how frightened the natives must have been at first, but in that mountainous country they never build any other kind of bridges and they use them now all of the time.
"In this open stretch of valley and plain we will plant sweet-smelling trees and shrubs by the roadside so that travelers may be refreshed by the shade and enjoy the perfume, and we will also teach the Children of the Sun to build tambos or post houses," said the Golden Hearted, when once they were over the mountains. This they did at every point where they stopped to rest, and at each one they left a band of chasquis, or runners in charge. The word chasqui means "one who makes an exchange," and these men and boys not only carried the news like our postmen and messengers, but they traded news with each other and with every one else they met. Before allowing any of the runners to go out the Golden Hearted said: "I will make you keepers of the Quippos, or knotted cords. The red ones mean war, or other bad news, while the white ones are for peace and prosperity. In the springtime if the crops are good, you must carry bands of green cords. If you wish to spread the reports of gold and silver use that kind of quippo, so that the people seeing you far off may know the import of your message. Count them always by tens and twenties, and use diligence and care to be accurate and quick in your calculations."
This was a queer kind of arithmetic but it was astonishing how soon the boys learned it. In after years there were bands of strolling singers and poets who went about the country, and they used the quippos to recall the things they wanted to remember, such as the brave deeds of their ancestors and the names of their heroes. So long as the inhabitants of this country were called Children of the Sun, they had no other books and they trained young men to be experts in reading them. The language of the Quippos is said to be very correct and elegant.
The first thing the Golden Hearted did when he arrived at the end of his journey was to divide the land into three parts—one for the sun, one for the king and one for the people. Then he appointed beautiful young girls to be Virgins of the Sun and placed them in charge of elderly women, who taught them how to spin and weave the fine hair of the vicuna into hangings for the Place of Gold which the wise men had already commenced to build. The girls knew how to embroider beautifully, and it was a part of their duty to keep the sacred fires always burning on the altar. The Golden Hearted lighted the fire himself, and it was kept burning night and day for hundreds of years. In the Houses of the Virgins no man, not even the king, could go, and if any one ever did, the people not only killed him but tore down his house. When they did anything of this kind they called it "sowing the ground with stones," and ever afterward his family and friends wore mourning on account of the terrible disgrace.
The Place of Gold was a temple in the center of Cuzco so named because the gold wedge sunk immediately into the ground when it was tried, and the wise men said it was appropriate because "gold was the tears wept by the sun." It is said that no building in the world was ever more beautiful than this wonderful temple. The wise men and the Golden Hearted did the best work they knew how, and there was plenty of gold and precious stones in the mountains, so they could use as much as they liked. In front of the eastern entrance was a huge sunburst made like a human face, with rays of light starting out in every direction. Each ray was thickly set with emeralds, and when the sun rose in the morning, the reflection of the shining gold and the sparkle of the emeralds lighted up the whole temple. Besides this they had burnished plates and cornices and vases and animals and flowers of gold all around the walls, and the water urns and incense pans were also of the bright yellow metal.
"We will celebrate a great festival of Rami; the renewal time, when the sun is coaxing the earth back to fertility; when the buds and leaves are putting forth, and the birds are beginning to nest," said the Golden Hearted, as soon as the temple was completed.
"Show the Children of the Sun that we honor the soil by turning the first sod yourself," said the wise men, when told about the coming celebration.
"I will," said the prince, who was now called Manco-Capac, and was the ruler of the kingdom, "and the Virgins of the Sun shall drop the seeds. Let every one come in holiday clothes and with songs and dancing and feasting we will commemorate the day."
The next morning all the people came together to watch the sun rise. The Virgins were dressed in white with wreaths of flowers on their heads and every one wore ornaments and jewels and was as blithe and gay as if he were going to a picnic.
Just as the sun peeped up over the edge of the horizon and smiled "good morning" to them, the Golden Hearted poured a libation on the ground from a golden goblet, and the people all shouted "Haille! Haille!" meaning triumph. The prince, the wise men and everybody faced the risen sun with bared heads and bowed three times. Then the prince said:
"Many think that the Sun is the Maker of all things. But he who makes should abide by what he has done. Now many things happen when the sun is absent; therefore he cannot be the universal creator. And that he is alive at all is doubtful for his trips do not tire him. Were he a living thing he would grow weary like ourselves. Were he free he would visit other parts of the heavens. He is a tethered beast who makes a daily round under the eye of the Master. He is like an arrow which must go whither it is sent; not whither it wishes. I tell you that he, our father and master, the Sun, must have a lord more powerful than himself who constrains him to his daily circuit without pause or rest."
The Golden Hearted spoke like this because he did not wish the Children of the Sun to believe it was really their father or God either.
All the assemblage took off their sandals and went into the Place of Gold and prayed; then came out to the court yard and offered up sacrifice of perfumes, fruits and flowers. When this was done they hurried to the fields and after the Golden Hearted turned the first sod every one else began to work. They had no plows, and those who did not break the ground with a dull saber, dropped seeds all day long. As the sun went down they laid aside their toil, and marched home shouting and singing, because now they were going to have a feast, with bonfires and dancing as late into the night as they wished.
Bochica and the Zipa
IN the Cinnamon country not far from Cuzco lived the Muscas, a rich and powerful nation who were less civilized than the Children of the Sun and were so quarrelsome that they constantly disputed among themselves. Finally the Zipa, or king, died and then there was great danger of war breaking out between the different factions as to who should be the new ruler.
At last the oldest son of the dead Zipa came to Cuzco to ask the Golden Hearted to decide who should inherit the kingdom.
"This is a matter of grave moment," said he, "and I must warn you that my time of ruling the Children of the Sun is near an end. Soon must I go to build the temple of Guatavita, the Good Life, and then must I leave this part of the world for another clime where much work awaits me."
"Come to us and build the temple of Good Life, and I promise you that both I and my brave Muscas shall be the guardians of your teachings. You shall be a demi-god among us."
"I have no wish to be anything more than an elder brother to you and your people," replied the Golden Hearted. "I am come from my home to serve humanity and must go with you if you need me—not because you wish to honor me."
The son of the Zipa then offered him many presents of gold, rich cloth, and precious stones, but the Golden Hearted refused to accept any of them. Finally the young man said:
"I am greatly disappointed, good prince, and have only this piece of bark and a strange kind of fruit to offer you. The bark is royal in my country because it cures the hated fever and is worthy your best confidence. As to the fruit, taste it for yourself."
To his surprise the Golden Hearted and the wise men were much pleased with the bark which we know to-day as Peruvian and from which quinine is made, and the pineapple tastes as sweet to us as it did to the Golden Hearted.
The son of the Zipa and his nobles conducted the wise men and the Golden Hearted over one elevated table-land after another until they came to one of the highest lakes in the world, where people can live, and its name is Gautavita.
"These terraced mountain sides show that your example has been well profited by the Children of the Sun," said the son of the Zipa, as they trudged along the royal roadway leading from Cuzco to the cinnamon country. "The instruction of the wise men in building canals and aqueducts has turned this into a garden spot even though nature intended it to be barren."
The Golden Hearted thought this would be a good opportunity to let his new friend know that he did not approve of war, and that the adherents of the Good Law, must not fight among themselves, so he said gently:
"All that you see before you is the working out of a fixed principle. Universal kindness is the secret of our success. Treat the earth gently and with consideration and she blesses you seven fold. Dig into her bosom and she yields her choicest treasures, and the beasts and birds respond to your affectionate touch. The heart of the man is the same, my friend. The obedience and allegiance of your subjects must come from the heart. If when I go among them they tell me they wish you to be their Zipa then will I go to your opponent and persuade him to relinquish his claim in your favor."
"And if he does not consent—"
"Then must you yield to him peaceably. I will not allow any blood shed on either side."
The son of the Zipa knew by the firm tone of the Golden Hearted that he meant what he said and his face turned a bright red, because he thought his own selfish purpose was known to his guest. Down in his heart he was planning to go into the capital city with a grand flourish and pretend that the Children of the Sun had sent their ruler and wise men to help him capture the throne. Now he knew very well he would not dare do anything of the kind.
"But you do not know my people, good prince," he said. "They will never obey a Zipa they do not fear."
"I am not familiar with the faces of your subjects, but I know the heart of all mankind, and whether he be white or black, young or old, the child of fortune or the opposite, he is amenable to the law of love. Win his affection and he will serve you as faithfully and obediently as a dog."
"I am afraid my turbulent warriors would not respect such a policy," replied the son of the Zipa, shaking his head.
"Remember in dealing with either man or animal that fear degrades while love ennobles."
By this time they were coming in sight of the calm peaceful waters of the lake stretched out like a sheet of glass before them.
"Water," said the Golden Hearted, "is like a pure mind—limpid and clear. It permits us to look into its depths for hidden treasures, or to see our own image reflected back from its surface. Let your heart and mind be such a mirror, and trust your people to make the right selection."
With this he laid his hand upon the shoulder of his young companion and as their eyes met, the son of the Zipa felt certain that he had a loyal and disinterested friend who would help him in the right way.
The next morning the prince and the wise men called the nobles and warriors together, and listened patiently to all they had to say for and against the two candidates. As he came into the audience chamber the strange one scowled and frowned at the visitors, but to his surprise the Golden Hearted took his hand and said:
"We have made a long, wearisome journey, my brother, in order to serve your own and your state's best interest. Speak freely that we may be able to judge fairly between the two."
"There is nothing to tell that my warriors do not already know," was the curt reply. "I am able to crush opposition and to command respect and obedience. I do not need your assistance, sir."
For a moment there was a look of pain on the face of the Golden Hearted. Then he said gently:
"You, more than any one else need help, because you are unable to govern yourself much less a rich and prosperous nation."
When it became known that the representatives of the Children of the Sun would not compel the people to accept a Zipa they did not like, they came out of their houses where they had been hidden all day for fear of violence, and marched up and down the streets playing on shell trumpets, gongs and kettle drums, and shouting the name of the oldest son of the Zipa who was in due time crowned as the rightful heir to the throne.
His first official act was to pierce the upper part of the ear of his subjects and put in gold wheels of fine filigree work, as large around as an orange. As he did so he said to each one:
"Swear by Him who gives and sustains life in the Universe, that you will faithfully keep the Good Law brought to us from the sea, by Bochica, our deliverer."
This was the name the Zipa gave the Golden Hearted, and as each man passed by him he gave them a little cake made of corn meal, and continued:
"To-morrow our good friends leave us for many days to come, but Bochica will return again, and to show him that we will do his bidding willingly let us take balsas or rafts with sails and go out on the lake where he may see the intent of our minds reflected in the water. Put wreaths of many colored flowers on the balsas, and carry with you gold and emeralds which we will cast into the lake in token of our pledge to him."
For hundreds of years afterwards, the Mucas and their descendants kept this holiday as an anniversary of the departure of the prince and the wise men. They knew that he was called the Golden Hearted in the Happy Island, and every year they selected a young priest from the temple of Gautavita, to impersonate him. After his bath the priest smeared himself all over with a fragrant oil, and then his attendants blew gold dust through reeds onto his body until he looked like a solid statue. They put him in the center of the flower-laden raft, and with chants and hymns rowed out on the lake and threw emeralds and gold dust into it. The young men wore white shirts with a red cross on the breast, and tied a red sash around their waists. On their heads were crowns of flowers and evergreen leaves to show that their virtues would continue as long as they lived, and that they were followers of the teachings of the Golden Hearted. They were always hoping and praying for his return.
We shall hear more of this ceremony and what came of it when we read the story of the Gilded Man.
Song of Hiawatha
YE who love the haunts of nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the forest
Love the wind among the branches,
And the rain-shower and the snow-storm
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine trees,
And the thunder in the mountains
Whose innumerable echoes
Flap like eagles in their eyries;
Listen to these wild traditions,
To this song of Hiawatha!
Ye who love a nation's legends,
Love the ballads of a people,
That like voices from a far off
Call to us to pause and listen,
Speak in tones so plain and child-like,
Scarcely can the ear distinguish
Whether they are sung or spoken—
Listen to this Indian Legend,
To this song of Hiawatha!
Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in the darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened
Listen to this simple story
To this song of Hiawatha!
Ye, who sometimes in your rambles
Through the green lanes of the country,
Where the tangled barbary bushes
Hang their tufts of crimson berries
Over stone walls gray with mosses,
Pause by some neglected grave-yard
For a while to muse, and ponder
On a half-effaced inscription,
Written with little skill of song-craft,
Homely phrases, but each letter
Full of hope and yet of heart-break,
Full of all the tender pathos
Of the Here and the Hereafter—
Stay and read this rude inscription,
Read this song of Hiawatha!
—Henry W. Longfellow.
Michabo, the Great White Hare
UNLESS you know what river was called the "Father of Waters" it will be a secret as to where the Golden Hearted and the wise men went when they took leave of the Zipa. There are many quaint stories told about this river, and also about the queer mounds and earthworks built by a strange race of men who lived ages ago in that part of our country. Their descendants are not very civilized and seem to have forgotten much that their ancestors knew although they have some very pretty ideas. For instance, they imagine that they hear voices in the growing branches and whispering leaves of the trees, and they see little vanishing men in the cliffs everywhere. They say that the Great Spirit makes the Indian summer by puffing smoke out of his cheeks, from his great peace pipe.
Before the Golden Hearted came they built a medicine lodge—a kind of temple facing the sunrise, in a place called the "Moon of Leaves." When it was finished, Wunzh, a youth of noble character and tender heart, summoned the spirits of the four quarters of the world and the day maker to come to his fire and disclose the hidden things of the distance and future.
No one can tell why they named the Golden Hearted, "Michabo, the Great White Hare," unless it was because he came in the time of the year represented in their calendar by a rabbit. They kept a record of the seasons by crude pictures drawn on the inside bark of trees, and with them the months were called moons.
No one blames them for saying the wise men were jossakeeds or prophets, because they really did look peculiar in their long robes, beards and tall black hats, especially to men who had on buffalo robes and feather head dresses.
Wunzh and his tribe received the Golden Hearted with solemn faces and much respect when they heard that he came from the Four Quarters of the World, which we know was the land of the Inca, very far south.
"Welcome, great white chief," they said, "come and sit by our council fire. Our hearts have long been weary waiting for you."
When they were all seated Wunzh handed the Golden Hearted a peace pipe shaped like a tomahawk filled with tobacco and already lighted. Not a word was spoken until every one present had taken three whiffs out of the pipe. Then the Golden Hearted said:
"I come to speak for my brothers, the fish, the animals, the creeping things and the feathered messengers of the air. I often listen to their complaints and they charge you with slaying them for food when the grains and fruits would serve you better."
"We are not disdainful of the grapes and berries concealed in our forests," replied Wunzh, "but we have no grain save rice and this must be carried on our backs for many days. Our snows and chill winds kill the plant before its seeds appear."
"Whatever the reason may be you will never do any real good in the world until you learn how to fast days at a time and can live without eating so much flesh. Even your vaunted skill with bow and arrow is not genuine. I am a better shot."
The wise men were alarmed for a moment fearing that Wunzh would be angry and that his followers would be offended also. Besides they had never heard the Golden Hearted speak boastfully before, and they were puzzled to know what would happen next.
"I am willing to try the bow with my friend," said Wunzh, with a flash of the eye and a toss of the head, which showed that he was vain and had an uncertain temper.
"When will it suit you to make the contest," quietly asked the Golden Hearted, as he arose and turned to leave the council fire.
"To-morrow's sun," answered Wunzh, haughtily, "and when it is so high," indicating a space in the sky that would make it quite early in the morning.
"Let it take place in the large square surrounded by your lodges," said the Golden Hearted, carelessly as he walked toward the one assigned for his use.
To the wise men he said:
"Leave me for a little time, I wish to be alone."
They wondered what he could mean by such language and such actions. It was evident that he did not intend to make any explanation to them, so they could only wait to see what the outcome would be.
Once inside the tent the Golden Hearted began to work on a plaited disc of straw. As soon as it was finished, he drew rings of red, blue, black and white all around the big yellow center, and was propping it up to dry when Wunzh appeared at the door of the lodge.
"I have come to show you the center pole where you may hang up the target, and we will then step off the distance between the different shooting stations," he said. "The rule requires each of us to speed two dozen arrows from the nearest point, twice that many from the middle ground, and seventy-two from the outside post."
While in the Happy Island, the prince had learned all about the use of the bow and arrow, but this was the first time he had an opportunity to show his skill, and the wise men were anxious that he should not fail, because they knew that the friends of Wunzh would not have much respect for him if he did. They could not understand how he could be so smiling and unconcerned.
The fame of Wunzh as a bowman was known far and wide and the descendants of the Mound Builders were certain he would win. At daybreak the next morning there was a solid line of warriors around the ring where the trial was to be made, and they were as motionless and stolid looking as if they had been carved out of wood. No one could tell by their faces what they were thinking and they would not have turned their heads for anything. Some of them made a kind of music on a tom-tom or Indian drum and Wunzh and the Golden Hearted marched in step like soldiers, and smiled and bowed to everybody as they came into the ring. The Golden Hearted knew all the time that he was the doubtful one, and just for a moment he glanced at the anxious faces of the wise men. Though not sure in their hearts they nodded encouragingly and before he had touched a bow every eye in the crowd was upon him.
The keepers of the bows and arrows were very fair minded, and were careful to see there were no knots or gnarls or cracks in the waxy brown hunting bow made of straight grained mulberry wood. The one to be used was six feet long and its tips were of polished elk horn, and there was a buckskin handhold in the center. The hickory arrows were as smooth as glass with very sharp saw-teeth edges on the flint heads. Around the notch end there were three vanes of eagle feathers.
The descendants of the Mound Builders were courteous enough to give their guest the first shot. As the Golden Hearted pulled a buckskin shield over his right hand he looked up at the wise men, and his eyes said:
"Trust me! I shall not fail."
Then he stooped quickly and raised the bow from the ground and placed it against his knee cap to get a good purchase. With an upward body movement he drew the long bow as far as he could, faced the painted disc target and let fly. Like the arrow that sped so swiftly that it caught fire as it flew, this one sang through the air and imbedded itself in the blue ring where it rocked and shook violently.
"The Great White Hare has won five points!" shouted the tally keepers in the Judge's corner.
"What skill!" said one pointing to the still quivering arrow. "What strength!" said another, while the wise men began to feel very proud indeed.
It was such hard work that the face of Golden Hearted was flushed but he shut his teeth together hard, and was determined to make a still better effort.
His second shot sent the arrow into the red ring nearly opposite the blue, and this scored him seven points.
"There is fine aiming!" said the judges to each other, while the other people leaned over in their seats and watched intently.
There was just a shadow of a smile on the lips of the Golden Hearted, as he made ready for the final shot from the first station.
"Ping!" and the third arrow fairly whistled as it hit the exact center of the yellow spot.
Instantly the whole crowd were on their feet, all talking at once and making so much noise that the tally keepers could not be heard.
"Five—seven—nine are the points; twenty-one for final score," they shouted.
The Golden Hearted flung down his bow and stepped to one side to make room for Wunzh. He stood wiping the perspiration off his forehead and was pleased because he saw that every one felt kindly toward him.
"Now the jossakeeds will learn how to shoot!" exclaimed the men who had backed Wunzh.
"He will never equal the first score," said others who were skillful with a bow and arrow themselves and knew how hard it was to make such fine shots.
Wunzh sent his first arrow with a vim and energy that showed he had been in constant practice, but all three of his darts sped feebly and barely indented the black ring.
"The jossakeeds hold the first station," announced the judges. "Move on to the next one."
Now came the real test of skill, and every man was interested because they all made use of the bow and arrow, in hunting and in war, and had no other kind of weapon except a knife. Hundreds of the spectators left their seats and crowded around the contestants.
The heavy hunting bow was laid aside now and one made of elastic but tough yew was substituted. The arrows had finely-pointed obsidian heads, matched and smooth but sharp as a needle.
The Golden Hearted was careful to see that the yew was properly seasoned and when satisfied, he placed the arrow on the left side of the bow with its notch set on the string. He drew the string back to just below the chin, aimed over the arrow tip and let fly.
The spectators were quick to see that his aim, draw, finish and loose was perfect even in speeding the arrows so fast they could scarcely be seen. When shooting three at a time he drove all of them into the yellow center within a quarter of an inch of each other!
The friends of Wunzh shouted and screamed:
"It is not fair! He uses too many arrows. Give us justice!" until the judges were compelled to order the warriors to drive the crowd back again with the points of their spears.
In the noise, confusion and excitement every one forgot the birds perched on a cross bar at the top of the pole supporting the target. There was a blue jay, a raven, a white dove and a green parrot. Each had a string attached to one leg. Now of course they remembered and crowded around to hear what the judges would say.
"Will the prince of the jossakeeds take a shot at the birds before being crowned with the Yew wreath of valor?"
As soon as the Golden Hearted could make himself heard he said:
"I am willing to comply with your request, but I hope I shall not hurt any of the birds."
"The parrot shall cry your aim, and must remain unharmed. You may kill the blue or the black bird, but you must release the peaceful dove uninjured. Will you remember these conditions?"
The Golden Hearted came within range and waited for a favorable opportunity. By a sudden jerk of the cord coming down the side of the pole the cross bar was set to whirling rapidly and this frightened the birds until they tried to fly away. The parrot was chained fast and to make the aim more difficult, the other birds were fastened by strings of different lengths. The marksman must free each one of them and then hit it before it could escape. The first liberated was the blue jay. The Golden Hearted cut the cord neatly and wounded the bird while it was still rising. The arrow fell near the base of the pole bringing the right wing with it.
This won him the wreath, and he now turned to the wise men for a signal. They could demand the last three shots. Would they do it? He inclined his head toward them as one of the number picked up a black flag and waved it. There was an answering shout and a cheer, and the Golden Hearted prepared to shoot again. This time he aimed at the raven and cut the string near the pole. Its weight caused the captive to fly in an oblique line downward for a moment. Quick as a flash the second arrow sped and the raven fell to the ground pierced through the heart! Without looking to see what had happened the Golden Hearted shot at the dove and as it flew up in a circle everybody saw that it was unharmed.
Then they fought and struggled with each other for the privilege of carrying the victor off the grounds, but the Golden Hearted escaped through a side door and ran away as fast as he could. He did not wish to speak to any one nor have them see how unhappy he felt. He really was heartbroken because he had killed the raven.
The Birth of Corn
WUNZH was greatly disturbed and downcast over his defeat because he thought the Great Spirit had sent the Golden Hearted in answer to his supplications, and he now felt certain that he was in disfavor. He lay awake all night thinking what he could do to win a token of good will from the Great Spirit. He knew better than to ask anything for himself, but begged and implored that it should be something for the benefit of his tribe.
"Michabo says I eat too much flesh, and that I must learn to fast before any good will come to me," he said over and over to himself. "He shall see that I know how to obey even if my arrows do go wide of the mark." There was a great lump in his throat and to tell the truth there were a few tears trickling down his cheeks, but he brushed them away quickly as he rose to his feet and shook out the buffalo robes which had answered for his bed.
"I will go to a secret place in the forest and build me a lodge, and there I will stay and fast until the Great Spirit grants my wish."
He told no one of his intention and was gone several days before he was missed at the council fires where the wise men were instructing the medicine men in the use of a wampum belt made of different colored beads. The colors were the same as the Quippos and the counting with them was done in the same manner. While the women were weaving a very handsome wampum belt to be used as a council brand of authority, the wise men helped build a Long House in the center of the confederation of tribes to put it in. Then they ordered four other Long Houses built on the north, east, south and west corners of the country, so that the runners would have some place to stay when they started with the wampum belt to let the outside tribes know the will of the council.
The Golden Hearted did not seem to take any interest in this work at all, but went among the people playing all kinds of pranks. Sometimes he frightened them nearly to death, and then again he would set them into roars of laughter by the funny things he did. He invented so many tricks and was so full of mischief that every one was on the lookout and attributed all the happenings they could not account for in any other way to him whether he did them or not.
"What has become of Wunzh? Has anybody seen him?" began to be constant queries, and his family looked very sad indeed. The Golden Hearted knew where he was and that he was fasting, so he waited until nightfall and then dressed himself in rich garments of green and yellow shading into light and dark tints. Putting on his crown with the long green Quetzal plumes he slipped off into the woods to find Wunzh. Approaching the lodge he said:
"I am sent to you, my friend, by that Great Spirit who made all things in the sky and on the earth. He has seen and known your motives in the fasting. He sees that it is from a kind and benevolent wish to do good to your people and to procure a benefit for them and not for strength in war or the praise of warriors. I come to show you how to do your kindred good, but you must rise and wrestle with me."
Wunzh knew that he was weak from fasting, but felt his courage rising in his heart, and he got up immediately determined to die rather than fail.
He instantly clinched with the Golden Hearted and wrestled with him until nearly exhausted.
"My friend, this is enough for to-day. I will come again to try you to-morrow at the same hour."
The Golden Hearted came dressed in the same fashion and wrestled with Wunzh for three successive evenings. Each day the faster's strength grew less and less, but he was more determined than ever.
"To-morrow will be your last trial. Be strong, my friend, for this is the only way you can overcome me and obtain the boon you seek."
The next day the poor youth exerted his utmost power and after awhile the Golden Hearted ceased wrestling.
"I am conquered," he said, and went into the lodge and began to teach Wunzh. "You have wrestled manfully and have fasted seven days. Now you must strip off my clothing and throw me down. Clean the earth of roots and reeds; make it soft and bury these garments here. When you have done this be careful never to let the grass grow over the spot. Once a month cover it with fresh earth. If you follow these instructions you will do great good to your fellow creatures."
In the morning the father of Wunzh came with some slight refreshments, saying:
"My son, you have fasted long enough. If the Great Spirit intends to favor you he will do it now. It is seven days since you tasted food and you must not sacrifice your health. That the Master of Life does not require of you."
"Wait, father, until the sun goes down. I have a particular reason for extending my fast until that hour."
"Very well," said the father, kindly. "I will wait until you feel inclined to eat."
Even though he was hungry the young man felt strangely renewed and strengthened and when it was night he was ready to wrestle with the Golden Hearted again. When he thought he had killed the prince he took off his garments and plumes and buried them as he had been told to do. Afterwards he returned to his father's lodge and partook sparingly of food, but he never for a moment forgot the new-made grave.
Because he was so full of pranks and tricks, the descendants of the Mound Builders saw something mysterious and strange in everything the Golden Hearted did, and when he built a boat to go down the great river in, they said it was a magic canoe and expected almost anything to happen. However before he and the wise men went away, they made him the father and guardian of their nation, and they have considered him as such ever since.
Weeks went by and the summer was drawing to a close when Wunzh returned after a long absence in hunting. Going to his father he invited him to come to the quiet lonesome spot where he had fasted so long. There in a circle freed from weeds stood a tall graceful plant with bright colored silken hair surmounted by nodding plumes, luxuriant green leaves and clusters of golden grain on each side.
"It is my friend, and the friend of all mankind. It is Mondamin, the spirit of corn. We need no longer rely on hunting alone for so long as this gift is cherished and taken care of the ground itself will give us a living. See, my father," said Wunzh, pulling off an ear, "this is what I fasted for. This is why Michabo put me through so many trials. But the Great Spirit has listened to my voice and sent us something new. Our people need no longer depend upon the chase and the water for food."
Then he told his father how he had wrestled with the Golden Hearted, and how he had torn off his garments.
"He said I was to treat the ear in the same manner, and when it was stripped I must hold it to the fire until the outer skin becomes brown while all the milk is retained in the grain."
The whole family of Wunzh joined in a feast on the roasted ears, and were very grateful for such a rich blessing. And this is the way the Indians say corn came into the world.
We learned its use from them, and also to hold the old-fashioned husking bees where all the young people got together and pulled off the husks after the ripe ears of corn had been gathered into the barn. It was always great fun, especially when they found red ears, but let us see what the Indians used to say about it:
Then Nokomis, the old woman,
Spake and said to Minnehaha:
"'Tis the moon when leaves are falling
All the wild rice has been gathered
And the maize is ripe and ready;
Let us gather in the harvest,
Let us wrestle with Mondamin,
Strip him of his plumes and tassels,
Of his garments green and yellow."
And the merry Laughing Water
Went rejoicing from the wigwam,
With Nokomis old and wrinkled,
And they called the women round them,
Called the young men and the maidens,
To the harvest of the cornfields,
To the husking of the maize ear.
On the border of the forest,
Underneath the fragrant pine-trees,
Sat the old man and the warriors
Smoking in the pleasant shadow
In uninterrupted silence
Looked they at the gamesome labor
Of the young men and the women;
Listened to their noisy talking,
To their laughter and their singing
Heard them chattering like the magpies,
Heard them laughing like the blue-jays,
Heard them singing like the robins.
And whene'er some lucky maiden
Found a red ear in the husking
Found a maize-ear red as blood is,
"Nuska!" cried they all together,
"Nuska! you shall have a sweetheart,
You shall have a handsome husband!"
"Ugh!" the old men all responded
From their seats behind the pine-trees.
And whene'er a youth or maiden
Found a crooked ear in husking,
Found a maize-ear in the husking
Blighted, mildewed or misshapen,
Then they laughed and sang together,
Crept and limped about the cornfields,
Mimicked in their gait and gestures
Some old man bent almost double,
Singing singly or together
Till the cornfields rang with laughter,
"Ugh!" the old men all responded,
From their seats behind the pine-trees.
The Indians have many pretty stories about the birth of corn. When the two little slender green leaves come up through the ground they say that it is the long green plumes of the crown buried by Wunzh and when it is ready for harvest they think the green and gold of the leaves and grain are the rest of the garments turned into a plant. They say that if you stand near a cornfield in the moonlight you can hear Mondamin, the corn spirit, murmuring and complaining of the way we treat him to the wind, the stars, and the little insects hidden in the glossy leaves and silken tassels.
The Wrathy Chieftain
AFTER sailing down the great river for many days the Golden Hearted and the wise men came into a trackless waste with no means of finding their way out except by watching where the sun rose and shooting an arrow ahead of them. This was very slow work and they all grew quite discouraged over it.
"It is altogether too bad that for fear of getting lost we must halt each time and speed another arrow before we overtake the last one," said the Golden Hearted one day when they were nearly worn out with the heat and dust of a country not much better than a desert. "I have a feeling," he continued, "that we will not be well treated by the people we find here. I do so wish we might come to the cactus and the rock with a serpent at its base where my father commanded me to found a city in honor of the sun."
"We are going in the right direction," answered the wise men, "but the end of our search is not yet."
"And much as my heart yearns for the Happy Island I will not return to my father until all his wishes have been fulfilled."
Through the murky gray clouds the stars did not make much light, and there was only a thin crescent moon, which gave a sense of utter loneliness to the Golden Hearted when he went to bed that night. The coyotes all around him howled and that made it worse, but he finally fell asleep. By and by he was awakened by a cold, wet nose touching his hand, and when he raised up on his elbow to see what it was, there stood a coyote. They are not very dangerous animals but they are sneaking and treacherous. Now we know that the Golden Hearted was gentle and kind to all creatures, and the coyote must have known it too, for it rubbed its head on his hand and did not seem in the least afraid.
"Come, my good fellow, let us be friends," said the Golden Hearted. "I will not hurt you, and you can guide me to my brethren. I have never seen their faces, but wish very much to find them."
The coyote wrinkled up his nose and made a funny little sneezing sound as if he were talking, and he wagged his tail as friendly as a dog. Maybe he did not understand what was said to him, but anyhow he felt safe enough to lie down close to his new friend and go sound asleep. When the wise men saw him the next morning, they said:
"It is a good omen and means that we shall soon come to a stopping place where strange events will happen."
This put the Golden Hearted into a better humor because he felt less doubtful and discouraged and he was much interested in the antics of the sagacious little companion that trudged by his side all day long. The coyote was enterprising enough to kill as many birds as it needed for food, without going far out of the way and was not a whit of trouble to anybody. There was not a tree nor a shrub to hide the nakedness of the dusty plains, nor was it possible to rest with any comfort until after the sun went down.
All of a sudden the coyote stopped short, pricked up its ears and listened intently.
"Yelp! yelp! yelp!" was what the Golden Hearted heard, and it sounded as if there were hundreds of young puppies everywhere. Looking closely he discovered little heaps of earth with a smooth-headed animal sitting on all fours beside it and yelping a protest to being disturbed. They were right in the midst of a village of prairie dogs, which are about the size of a jack-rabbit, but not nearly so destructive.
"Come and see what I have found," called out the Golden Hearted to the wise men who were coming up behind him. At the sound of his voice the prairie dogs gave a quick, short yelp, their heels twinkled in the air for a second, and they fairly turned a somersault diving into their holes. By the time the wise men were ready to look there was not a whisker of an inhabitant to be seen.
"What is it?" they said, "Where! we do not see anything."
"Watch these fresh piles of dirt, and you will see something come out of them," said the Golden Hearted.
"Yes;" said one, "there are some rattlesnakes."
"And here are some owls," said another. "Is it possible that you have never seen these creatures before?" and the wise men laughed at the Golden Hearted and thought they had a good joke on him.
"Let us keep quiet for a while. I tell you there is something else in those burrows besides snakes and owls," he insisted seriously.
Not hearing any more noise, one after another of the little prairie dogs put its head up out of the hole, and then stole forth cautiously to talk the matter over with its next door neighbor. There were regular beaten pathways or lanes from one burrow to another and they were evidently on very friendly footing with each other.
"These are indeed curious little animals," said the wise men, now much interested. "They not only live in communities, but keep the peace with their brothers, the snake and the owl. There is certainly no greater source of knowledge than the book of nature. Here God puts before us the thing He wishes us to learn."
At the very first words of the wise men the prairie dogs scampered back into their holes; and before they showed themselves again a party of husbandmen came along on their way to a harvest field which they said was a day's journey ahead.
"Why do you linger in this desert?" they asked of the Golden Hearted. "There are habitations farther on where the earth is watered."
"We are seeking those who need our assistance and must only tarry where we are welcome," he answered.
"Then come to our commune. We have no one to show us how to heal the sick nor to coax fertility out of this barren soil," they said. "If you will go, we will remain for the night and lead the way."
So it was arranged and to everybody's comfort and joy it began to rain shortly after and then the air was much more cool and pleasant.
The little prairie dogs were not so well pleased with this arrangement. They stuck their noses up into the moist air and whined and yelped half of the night. There can be no doubt that they were holding an indignation meeting, and were having a noisy and windy debate. May be they were comparing notes about the tall hats and veils of the wise men, or they may not have thought their long beards becoming. Or who shall say that they were not in their own peculiar fashion devising plans for safety, and to vindicate their offended dignity? They may have objected seriously to having strange men intruding upon their privacy, and it must not be considered a reflection on their courage because they scampered out of sight at the sound of a human voice. It was quite enough to frighten inoffensive little animals like these.
It is said that Katzimo, the enchanted Mesa, was the first stopping-place of the Golden Hearted, and it is certain that the wise men taught the husbandmen in that part of the world how to make irrigating ditches and canals all through their inhospitable country, because there are many remains of these waterways still to be seen. Some say, too, that these people got the idea of living in pueblos or villages from studying the habits of the prairie dogs and to this day the coyote is thought to be a good friend by the descendants of these ancient husbandmen.
"The hunters are angry with you for teaching the tillers of the soil how to make the land fertile without making it easier for the men of the chase to get food for themselves and families," said an old woman to the Golden Hearted, one day as he stood watching her make a water jar of clay. She would not have spoken had he not shown her how to make a pretty design and also how to ornament it differently from anything she had seen before.
"I am willing to teach them to weave blankets and baskets," he replied. "The Good Law spares the life of every creature and forbids our eating its flesh for food. The hunters should give up the chase and fighting."
"They say that only women should do these things," said the old pottery maker, "and they disdain to carry the rocks and mud to make our dwellings."
"In this they are wrong," said the Golden Hearted, kindly, as he turned to greet some of the wise men. "We must hasten our task for already is discontent showing itself among the tribes," he said to them.
"We must kindle the sacred fires and build the temple at once," they said. "We have heard murmurings and complaints of late and know your words are true."
As soon as possible they began the work of construction of what is now known as the Casa Grande long since in ruins, of which we shall hear more in the story of the Kingdom of Quivera. The wise men kindled and guarded the sacred fires, and when leaving appointed warriors to take turns in watching them.
"You must serve for two successive days and live during that time without food, drink or sleep," they said, and that mandate has been kept to this day. In the meantime the Golden Hearted busied himself with teaching them the use of herbs and plants for medicine and had them go into estufas or sweat houses when they were ill or wished to purify themselves of a sin or fault.
Tradition says that the hunters lured the Golden Hearted away from his comrades and tried to kill him, and that they threw the wise men over the edge of the cliff, but it has been so long ago that no one can remember what it was they did that wounded and hurt him. One day he planted a tree upside down and calling all the people about him said:
"Many, many years from now a strange nation will oppress you, and there will be no more rain. I charge you to guard the sacred fires well until the tree I have planted falls. Then I will come back and bring a white race that will overcome your enemies. After that the rain will fall, and the earth will be fertile again."
The simple, frugal husbandmen and weavers are still looking for his return and they believe he will descend from the sky by the columns of smoke they guard. It has been so long ago that they think he lives in the sun now, and build their houses with an opening to the east which is never closed.
"We do this that he may find a welcome when he comes," they say.
Once every fifty years they put out all the sacred fires and go up on the high mountain tops just before dawn, and wail and mourn and break pottery, imploring the shining orb to bring back him
"Who dwelt up in the yellow sun
And sorrowing for man's despair
Slid by his trailing yellow hair
To earth to rule, by love and bring
The blessedness of peace."
The Plumed Serpent, Quetzalcoatl
FAR as the eye could reach stretched the beautiful valley of Anahuac, where the air was sweet with the breath of flowers, and the earth seemed to melt perfectly into the sky.
"Oh! that mine eyes should see the splendor of this vision," said Mexi, the oldest of the wise men and the most learned, clasping his hands in rapture. "Oh! that I have been spared to see the fruition of thy will, great king and brother. Now may I go hence in peace."
As he ceased speaking he tottered and would have fallen had not one of the tamanes or porters, seated on mats under the shade of a giant oak, hastily risen, and caught him as his head fell forward on his bosom.
"The elements have undone thee," cried the Golden Hearted, kneeling hurriedly by his side and supporting the drooping head on his knee. "Thou art sadly in need of rest," he continued, alarmed at the pallor overspreading Mexi's finely wrinkled face.
The old man pushed the thin white locks of hair off his forehead, let the mantle slip back from his throat, and seemed to breathe easier.
"I am come to my final rest," he replied with a feeble smile. "It is not given me to enter the promised land."
The tawny, broad-shouldered, half-clad tamanes, laid down the thin cakes of ground corn they were eating and came near to the stricken old man, while the other wise men took off their hats and listened with bowed heads to what their comrade and leader said. They had stopped to rest and refresh themselves with food under the cool inviting shade of the trees where they could listen to the murmur of waterfalls, and feast, the eyes on the landscape surrounding them.
"There!" said Mexi, attracted by the buzzing of tiny wings, "is the green-throated humming-bird thou wert to follow as thy guide to the spot where a city is to be built in honor of the sun."
The Golden Hearted held up his hand with the forefinger extended and in a moment the little humming-bird lighted on it and looked at him curiously, as though obeying the will of some one. He did not touch it nor attempt to move for a few moments. Then he said:
"Little brother, spend the remainder of thy days with me. I need thee sorely, and have long waited for thy guidance."
In the meantime the wise men had given Mexi a cup of chocolate, not in a thin liquid like we know it, but thick like a cold custard, and with whipped goat's cream on top.
"Thou art kind," he said growing weaker and more faint all the time, "to try to prolong a life already spent." Turning his eyes toward the Golden Hearted he continued: "Lying next my heart thou wilt find a bundle of mystery. Carry it without opening until the time of thy departure from this strange land is at hand. Open then and thou wilt find directions for thy special work."
He did not speak again and when they tried to rouse him there was a smile of infinite peace on his face, but nothing save the lifeless body was before them. The gentle, sweet spirit of the old man had gone back to God.
"We will neither weep nor mourn for him," said the wise men to the Golden Hearted. "It would not be his wish, and we will show our love by obeying him."
And so they left him sleeping in a dell of ferns and mosses, in sight of Anahuac, the land by the side of water, as its name indicates, and continued their journey southward.
On the way the wise men found a little creature, looking like a black currant with neither head, legs nor tail, so far as they could see. It is fat and dark and round, but if you squeeze him his blood is a brighter color than currant juice, and much more valuable because we get cochineal red of one, and currant jelly from the other. It was in the valley of Anahuac that the cochineal bug was first found, and it lives on the leaves of the prickly pear, or tuna cactus—the common kind with leaves shaped like a ham, and covered with long sharp needles.
The young cochineal bugs are so stupid that they must be tied on the leaves of the prickly pear to keep them from falling off and starving. In this way, too, they keep dry and warm in winter, but as soon as they are grown they are ruthlessly shaken to death and dried in the sun. Then the queer, shriveled dead bugs are put up in bags and sold.
"In the hot lands far to the south, the woods are full of rare orchids and other gems of the flower kingdom," said the Golden Hearted one day after a search for plants by the wayside, "but the vanilla bean is the only one fit for food. It will be well worth our while to study this strange branch of husbandry as soon as possible."
It was a long time before they came to a place near the seashore where a number of women were picking the ripe pods from vanilla vines which overran the trees and shrubs completely. The younger women had on bright-colored petticoats and gay scarfs over their long black hair, and they were storing the bean pods in wide-mouthed baskets strapped across their foreheads.
"What next do you do with these pods?" he asked of a young girl passing him with a full basket.
"We carefully assort them and then plunge the packages into hot water, before laying them out on mats to drain. For a week the beans are exposed to the heat of the sun, laid between woolen blankets. After this we pack them in ollas and keep them warm so as to promote fermentation while drying. This makes them soft, pliable, free from moisture, and of a dark chocolate color thickly frosted with needle-like crystals of acid."
And to this day if you buy vanilla beans they come in packages wrapped in silver foil, and have a delicious odor.
The bean is from six to nine inches long, and must be ground fine before it can be used in making the chocolate we are all so fond of, but it is dried and packed in the same manner as that described to the Golden Hearted.
It was not many days after leaving the wooded plains, that the travelers came in sight of four beautiful lakes with the frowning cliffs of Chapultepec outlined against the sky. Always on the alert for a sign the wise men said to each other in awe-stricken whispers:
"We must be near the place."
"Do you not see the rock with the flowering cactus!"
"And an eagle circling in the air with a serpent in its claws!"
"Oh! thou seen and unseen powers! search our hearts that thou mayst know all our gratitude," cried the Golden Hearted, falling on his knees and then prostrating himself on the ground, as did all the wise men.
"I am Guatamo," said a voice, and when the Golden Hearted looked up, a man old as Mexi stood blessing him. "Rise and receive word from thy father, the king from whom I am come. Fear me not; these hands have guided thy baby footsteps. Now must thou lend ear to my counsel."
The Golden Hearted was overjoyed to see some one from his father's court, and also glad to know that his wanderings in search of the place to honor the sun was over.
"This is not a promising outlook," said Guatamo, "but in the parchment scroll thou wilt find ample instructions to drain and render this a garden spot of exceeding loveliness. Hasten thy task since thy father is no longer living, and thy native land longs to see thee again."
Acting upon this advice the Golden Hearted and the wise men set to work at once to build the city, and to teach the willing natives to cultivate the land, and to make handsome mosaics out of the bright-colored feathers of the birds found in the forests in such numbers. Of course the birds were not killed to get their feathers, but in the royal gardens there were thousands of them kept during the moulting season, and then the feathers were picked up and assorted for use. Not only could they make perfect representations of birds and animals with them, but whole landscape scenes, including mountains, sea and sky. When finished it was necessary to touch them to know that feathers instead of paint had been used.
"The Nahuas have come from Aztlan, the white country, and must be obeyed," was the word carried from one tribe to the other by the runners, and the wise men could only smile when they heard themselves called Nahuas, or wizards. The simple natives thought them capable of performing miracles because they were wise in the arts and knew how to heal the sick. The name of the Golden Hearted became Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent in their language, but we must remember that he wore the Quetzal plumes in his head-dress, the same as a king wears a gold and jeweled crown, and that a serpent in many of the languages of the ancient people meant a very wise man. In English we would say that the Golden Hearted was the wise king, which was not only true but a very simple name for him. The wonderful city he built was called Tenochtitlan, which signified "in honor of the sun," as his father had commanded him to do, and on the spot where it stood is the City of Mexico to-day. We shall hear very interesting things about the teocalli, or temple he built in Tenochtitlan, when we come to the story of "Montezuma and the Paba," for this is one of the most famous places in the new world, and no one can afford to be ignorant of its traditions and history.
Cholula, the Sacred City
IT was in the Tonituah, or great sun age, that the wise men and the Golden Hearted built the Memento for Generations, on the plains of Puebla. It is not so high, but is twice as long as any other pyramid in the world, and is truncated, that is to say, it has four terraces which are reached by long circular staircases. On top there is an acre of ground on which once stood a wonderful teocalli or temple, built by the wise men, and dedicated to the Golden Hearted. Each generation added something to the beauties of the Sacred City, Cholula, which sprang up near the pyramid, and for all time it will be one of the most wonderful things ever done by primitive men, who did not have our kind of implements to work with.
The Golden Hearted lived in Cholula twenty years, and during that time he taught so many men how to make fine filigree work in gold and silver that there were whole streets filled with them, and the ornaments they made were famous for delicacy of design and finish.
There was also a mountain of outcry, where the laws enacted by him were proclaimed by runners, but it is difficult to say whether this was Orizaba, with her conical snow-capped head far to the east, or whether it was huge Popocatepetl, or his twin sister who stood like colossal sentinels to guard the enchanted regions.
"It is necessary to construct a calendar stone, so that the people will know when to hold festivals, and what ceremonies to perform," said the son of Guatamo to the Golden Hearted, one day while the long line of men were passing bricks by hand from the lower to the upper terrace of the pyramid which they were trying to finish.
"I have been thinking about it," he replied, "and have decided to ask a certain old woman, and her husband, to help select the signs."
"Be sure to make them plain to the people and appropriate to the subject," said the son of Guatamo, who had now become the chief adviser of the Golden Hearted. All of the wise men were still called Nahuas, or wizards, and the Golden Hearted was their plumed serpent, or wise king.
In the evening of that day, the Golden Hearted approached the hut of a famous soothsayer and story-teller—the old woman he wished to consult about the calendar. Standing in front of the door of the hut he said:
"A humble applicant claims thy assistance in a matter of great import to thy fellows now and for all time. Wilt thou kindly hear me?"
"Since it is always for thy brothers and never for thyself thou art constrained to invoke aid, I am honored by thy confidence," she said. "I have long been expecting thee."
"Then thou knowest that I wish to invent a calendar which can be cut in enduring stone?" he asked, considerably surprised that she should already know his thoughts.
"Yes," she said, "and so well do I understand thy wishes and needs that I have the first sign ready for thee." Motioning him to follow her into an inner room, she showed him a water-snake she had painted on a piece of parchment, and continued:
"Make it the sign of the serpent, the symbol of wisdom, since thou art come to teach brotherhood to all our tribes."
A queer hunchbacked old man sat huddled up in a corner looking over a set of parchment leaves lying on a table before him, and muttering to himself in a low tone.
"My husband must make the next selection," said the old crone, going up to him and taking a paper out of his hands. "He makes it two cones," she continued, examining the design closely.
"Now it is my turn to choose," said the Golden Hearted, "and I will select the three houses from this pile, and make that the third sign."
They took turns about until twelve signs were chosen, then the Golden Hearted said:
"I will make the last design myself, but not until my time of departure is at hand."
"Before going, do not forget to inscribe the face of the pyramid, and also to explain its import fully," said the story-teller as the Golden Hearted was leaving her hut.
"Thou art better able than I am to tell the hidden significance of that wonderful pile," he answered.
"But it is thy duty; shirk it not," she said with decision.
Not long afterward he called all the workmen and their families together and said:
"There has now come a time in my life when I must live in seclusion away from the thoughts and occupations of my associates. But before going up on top of the pyramid to live alone until the altars in its temples are ready to receive the sacred fire, I will tell you why we have tarried so long and made such a wonderful structure. It is really a pillar of the Cosmos, or world, and is a center of fire which is the essence of all life."
The name pyramid means a place of fire or a volcano, and the Goddess Pele, of the native Hawaiians, is the spirit of the volcano.
"A pyramid," continued the Golden Hearted, "is the ideal form of the principle of stability because it cannot be destroyed. An earthquake will not shake it down, nor can it be set on fire. Being so big at the bottom and so heavy it is secure from floods of water, nor can the wind possibly blow it over. Neither time nor the elements will have any influence on this cunningly constructed pile, and for this reason it is like a noble character, which no adverse circumstance ever changes."
Approaching the front of the pyramid, he pulled down a cloth hanging over the inscription cut in symbols on the face of a huge piece of granite.
BEFORE THE LIGHT WAS OBSCURED THIS MEMENTO FOR GENERATIONS WAS BUILT BY SERPENT KINGS. THEY WERE SCATTERED OVER THE EARTH TO CARRY TRUTH AND WISDOM. THEY WILL COME AGAIN TO RECEIVE THE TREASURES HIDDEN IN MY BOWELS. THEN ALL MEN WILL SPEAK AND HEAR THE GREAT IMPERISHABLE TRUTH.
The next morning the Golden Hearted called his little band of wise men around him and said:
"In the Bundle of Wonderful Things given me by Guatamo, I find my father's final command. It imposes seclusion upon me in this spot. The temple requires a central spire and I shall build and cover it with pure gold. Go thou to the valley and make thy life apart from me. I love thee well, and shall miss thee sadly, but I have need to be alone."
"What wilt thou have us do?" asked the son of Guatamo.
"Go thou amongst thy fellows and teach them the arts of peace. Show them how to coax fertility anew out of the soil, and strengthen civil power until I call thee."
It was several months before the spire was finished, and then it required several days to make a llama of beaten silver as an emblem of suffering innocence to put on the altar. The llama seated upon the back of an eagle was rescuing a rabbit from the fangs of a rattlesnake.
"This quaint symbol shall represent the unequal conflict between the good and bad things in life, but the llama compelling the serpent to give up its prey means that good shall finally triumph," said the Golden Hearted, to himself, as he put the offering in place on the altar.
"I have only a few days more in this beautiful spot, then must I return to good King Cocomos, my life-long friend and follower. Well indeed has he kept his promise to me, and not only are his subjects blessed with all the arts of civilization, but they are a shining example to other less favored races. I must offer a fitting sacrifice," he continued, "on this newly erected altar before I go."
There were eight altars in the temple on top of the pyramid, and at sunset on the last day of his stay, the Golden Hearted placed the llama on the one facing the east. At the same time the son of Guatamo headed a procession of wise men at the base of the pyramid, who slowly climbed to the top. They performed sacrifice on each terrace as they ascended, and did not reach the temple until midnight.
The Golden Hearted was alone in the great dark structure intently watching the constellation of the Pleiades directly overhead. As Alcyone, the dim star in the center of the group, approached the zenith, he sprang forward with a glad cry and vigorously swinging a copper hammer made the sparks fly from a piece of flint. The son of venerable Guatamo held the bit of cotton over it and carefully nursed the fire into a blaze. As the light streamed up toward the heavens shouts of joy and triumph burst forth:
"Once more the children of men receive a direct ray from the spiritual sun! Awake! awake! and hear the glad tidings!"
Runners with torches lighted at the blazing beacon sped in every direction carrying the cheering element to all parts of the country. Long before sunrise it was brightening the altars and hearthstones in every house. The Golden Hearted prayed before the eastern altar, and then took an affectionate farewell of the young priest of the Order of Quetzalcoatl left in charge, but before descending, he gazed long at the matchless scenery below. Soft spring verdure lay on all sides, and he drew courage and inspiration from that fact. At the foot of the pyramid he said:
"Be of good cheer. A long era of peace and prosperity is for thee and thine. Let this knowledge be thy secret refuge lest thou be tempted to depart from the way. Grieve not for me, in the fullness of time I will come again."
Then he set out for the Kingdom of Tlapalla, accompanied by four youths of noble birth. At the water's edge he took leave of them saying:
"Guard well the temple and the sacred fires, for when I come again, I will bring disciples with me who shall possess and rule the land."
When the four youths returned to Cholula and told all their master had said to them, the people divided their province into four principalities and gave the government to the four young nobles. Ever after, four of the descendants of these youths continued to rule as priests of the Order of Quetzalcoatl in the sacred city until the Spaniards came, which we will know all about when we read the story of "El Dorado, the Golden."
One of the first things done by the noble youths when they became rulers was to make a statue of the Golden Hearted in a reclining position, because they said that he had gone to sleep in the bosom of the sun. When the wind blew they said he was sweeping the roads, and that he was the god of fertility. Not any place else in the new world was there so much reverence and respect paid to a statue as to this one of the Golden Hearted which was for ages kept in the temple he built on the top of the pyramid. For hundreds of miles around people came to do reverence to it, and even if it did have a black face, the ancient Aztecs always called him their "Fair God." And to this day the calendar stone and many other wonderful things in Mexico are said to have been made by him.
Tulla, the Hiding Nook of the Snake
NO doubt you remember that the wise men built a Dark House in Nachan to hold the National Book, and such other treasures as the Golden Hearted did not wish to carry with him. And you also remember that he left a number of wise men in charge, and that he promised to return. The great pyramid at Cholula was not all finished, but it was far enough along so he could leave the son of Guatamo to go on with the work while he paid a visit to his old friends in Nachan.
When he arrived there, he found a splendid city having whole houses of silver, others of turquoise, some of white and red shells and some of rich feathers. Cotton grew there in all colors, so it was not necessary to dye it, and the people were rich and prosperous. A great and mighty king ruled them, but he finally grew jealous because the people seemed to think that all their good fortune came from obeying the commands given them by the Golden Hearted when he visited them as a mere youth.
They did everything in their power to honor the good prince. When he promulgated a new law, they ran to the mountain tops and proclaimed it in a loud voice, and then the swift-footed couriers dashed through the country with lighted torches and repeated it to every one they met. One day a young man came to him and said:
"Good prince, be on your guard. The king no longer loves you."
"Why do you say this to me?" asked the Golden Hearted.
"Because I know he plots to injure you. He is angry because you are helping the wise men build Tulla. He calls it the Hiding Nook of the Snake to show contempt for you."
"Again I ask why do you say such things to me?" There was so much reproach in the tones of the voice of the Golden Hearted that the young man hung his head and stammered:
"Forgive me, but I wanted you to know there is danger for you here, and I am ready to serve you faithfully."
The Golden Hearted made no reply, but taking a thoroughly-dried cactus needle from a shelf, stuck it through his ears and was beginning to pierce his tongue when the young man sprang forward and caught his hand.
"Why, good prince," he cried in a startled voice, "do you maltreat your poor ears and tongue? It is I who have spoken evil, not you."
"But I listened, and that is an offense against the Good Law. Do you think I will not punish myself for disobedience?"
"Oh," said the young man, with tears streaming down his face, "the sight of blood makes my heart ache, and I, too, will be punished." And with that he stuck cactus needles through his ears and tongue.
"My friend," said the Golden Hearted, "I thank you for your kind thought of me, but I must beautify Tulla even if it does displease the king, and he is right in calling it the Hiding Nook of the Snake, because it will be a treasure-house of the wisdom inherited from the philosophers and wise men of your race. You should always bear in mind that a serpent is a symbol of wisdom, and not a thing to despise. The king compliments me, even though he knows it not."
The young man went out of the room with the thorns still sticking in his ears, and when he spat blood, his companions said:
"Why does your mouth bleed?" and he answered:
"Because I have been speaking evil of some one."
"Open your mouth and let us see," they said.
"It is only needful to examine the tongue. I have pierced it with the sharp needle of the cactus."
"Who gave you leave to do such a thing?"
"No one," he answered, "but when the Good Prince inflicted that penalty on himself for merely hearing what I said, I could do no less than follow his example."
"And we will do likewise," they said, and in after years, every devotee of the teachings of the Golden Hearted punished himself in this manner for evil speaking or listening to others saying unkind things of a fellow creature.
Of course we know that the king really was jealous of the Golden Hearted, and was determined that he should not stay long in Tulla, which bade fair to rival his own city with which it was connected by the secret passageway containing the Dark House. During the years of his absence, the wise men left in Nachan had been at work on this wonderful city, and it was very beautiful indeed, even before the Golden Hearted saw it at all. When he came the inhabitants received him with great rejoicing, and then the king of Nachan began to be afraid that he would have too great a following.
The king had no excuse to fight the Golden Hearted, because he always put his fingers in his ears when they talked of war in his presence, and under no circumstances would he have been made king himself. He only wanted to teach and help the people in a peaceable and kind way.
The king knew all this, but he was uneasy and wanted the Golden Hearted to go away. So he hired a native wizard to play a cunning trick upon the Golden Hearted. Disguising himself as one of the wise men, the wizard went to his house and said to his servant:
"I wish to see and speak to your master."
"Go away, old man, you cannot see the prince for he is sick. You will annoy him and cause him heaviness."
"But I must see him," persisted the pretended old man.
"Wait a moment and I will ask him," said the servant, and he went and told the Golden Hearted that a strange old man was determined to see him.
"Let him come in," said the sick man.
Tottering up to the bedside as if he were very feeble, the intruder said with well-feigned sympathy:
"How are you, my lord? Here is a medicine I have brought for you."
"You are welcome; I have been expecting you for many days," and the Golden Hearted held out his hand in a friendly manner.
"How is your body, and how is your health?" again asked the visitor, seating himself by the bedside.
"I am exceedingly sick. All my body is in pain, and I cannot move my hands nor my feet."
"The medicine I have is good and wholesome. If you will drink it you will be healed and eased at heart." As he said this, the wizard held up a small silver cup and put a white powder in it. "Drink this and you will then have in mind the toils and fatigues of death, and of your departure."
"Where have I to go?" cried his listener in surprise.
"To Tlapalla (which was their name for the Happy Island), where The Old Man of the Sea is waiting for you. He has much to tell you, and when you return you will be young and handsome. Indeed you will be a mere boy again." Seeing that the Golden Hearted merely stared at him, he said: "Sir, drink this medicine."
But the sick man did not wish to do so.
"Drink, my lord, or you will be sorry for it hereafter," urged the wizard.
"No, no; I will not drink it."
"At least rub some on your brow and taste a sip." So the Golden Hearted drank a little to try it, saying:
"What is this? It seems to be a thing very good and savory. Already I feel myself healed. I am well."
"Drink some more, my lord, since it is good. The more you drink, the better you will feel."
The sick man swallowed considerable more and then he was drunk. It was not medicine at all that the wizard gave him, but a white wine made from the maguey plant and the powder he put in it was to make the Golden Hearted believe that he must go away.
For days after he was very sad and wept continuously, but he began to get ready to leave Tulla. No matter what was said to dissuade him, he could never get rid of the idea that he must take all of his followers and go as quickly as possible.
The wise men, seeing that he was determined, gathered up all the picture writings they had made as a record of their journeys, and putting them into an ark, carried it swung on a pole with them. Before leaving, they called the people together and said:
"Know that the Golden Hearted commands you to remain here in these lands of which he makes you master and gives you possession. He goes to the place whence he and we came, but he will return to visit you when it shall be time for the world to come to an end. You must await him in these lands, possessing them and all contained in them since for this purpose came we hither. Remain, therefore, for we go with the Golden Hearted."
The Departure of the Golden Hearted
THE poisoned wine worked in the brain of the Golden Hearted and caused him to do many singular things. For instance he burned all the beautiful houses built for him by the wise men and ordered much of his treasure to be buried in the mountains and ravines. When he left Tulla, he took all the bright-plumaged singing birds with him, and would only allow nineteen of the wise men to go with him.
Two of these knew all about fishing, and two knew about farming, and one was a weather prophet who studied the clouds and winds, and could foretell storms, while all the rest were priests who kindled the sacred fires and taught the people the Good Law.
As soon as the King of Tulla found he was leaving, he took an army and followed after him, laying the country waste and taking captive as many of the people as he could find.
"Good prince, why do you not let us make war upon your and our enemy?" the warriors often asked him, but he always put his fingers in his ears and replied sadly:
"You do not understand the Good Law, my friend. The only way to overcome hate is with love. It is fully time for me to return to Tlapalla."
He traveled on until he came to a place where there was a great tree, high and very thick. Here he sat down to rest.
"Bring me a mirror," he said to his servant, and when he saw his face reflected in it, he cried out:
"Take it away. I am already old." Then the wise men knew that the drug in the wine was making him mad again and they did not try to hinder him when he began throwing stones at the tree.
"I will make these stones stick into your bark until you look like a porcupine and the wind cannot blow them out," he said, and for a long, long time, the tree was pointed out to travelers as being enchanted, because the god of wind had hurled his wrathful breath upon it. From all accounts the tree was full of sharp rocks from top to bottom and must have looked very queer indeed.
The flute players tried to divert his attention as they marched along the wood, but he was very weary and finally sat down to rest on a stone by the roadside.
"O, Thou of infinite mercy and compassion, dry the hot tears that flood and burn my face," he said brokenly as he looked toward Tulla. People now say that his tears marked and ate into the stone, and that the print of his hands is still to be found on it.
After he had reached a very wide river and had commanded his followers to help build a bridge across it, he was met by some men who tried to stop him.
"Where are you going?" they asked, "and why do you leave your city? To whose care will you commend it, and who will do penance in it?" The Golden Hearted answered them firmly:
"You can in no wise hinder me, for I must go."
"But where are you going?" they insisted.
"To Tlapalla," he answered.
"For what purpose are you going?"
"The sun calls me," he said.
"Go then," they replied, "but leave behind all the mechanical arts, the melting of silver, the working of precious stones and of masonry, picture writing, feather work and other crafts." And then they would have robbed him, but he threw all his rich jewels into a fountain. Among his tormentors was the pretended old wizard who tried to induce him to drink more wine.
"No, I can not drink it. I can not even taste it again," he said, and that night in his sleep he turned his head from side to side and tore his hair with his hands.
The next morning in passing between a volcano and the snowy mountain tops, all his servants being hunchbacked, died of cold, and he had no way to get down the steep mountain side except to slide in a squatting position with his feet close together.
In one place he stopped and built a square stone court for ball play, and taught the people how to play the game. Now it is said that he drew a line through the center of the court, and that made the deep gash in the mountains still to be seen.
In another place he threw a dart at a tree and pierced it in such a manner that it looked like a cross, and after that a cross was called "The Tree of Our Life," in memory of this event. Some say that he built houses with certain underground passageways where he hid picture writing and records of his teachings, and just before arriving at the water's edge, he set up and balanced a great stone so that it could be moved with one's little finger, but a whole multitude could not displace it.
No doubt you remember the village chief where the Golden Hearted went when he first arrived from the Happy Island, and also that he sent this chief a cross with a hand in the center. Now that he was going home again, the Golden Hearted thought he would visit the chief and see how he and his people were progressing.
Imagine his surprise in finding that they had dedicated a temple to him, and that in the middle of the square tower was a terra cotta statue of himself dressed as a warrior holding an arrow in his hand, and because the statue was hollow they thought it was an oracle. His name in their language was Cukulcan, but the common people called him "The Working Hand," and had great respect for a huge stone cross erected in the turreted courtyard in front of the temple, which had a big red hand in the center.
When the Golden Hearted went among the people, he found that they remembered everything he had told them, and that on the anniversary of his coming great crowds of people came on a pilgrimage to the oracle statue in the temple. It did no good for him to tell them that he was simply an elder brother and teacher come to give them aid in a simple, kindly way. They believed he was sent by God, and for ages after the people made pilgrimages to this shrine, and held it in very great esteem.
Realizing that it was time for him to go down to the sea coast among the fishermen he had first seen, he went to the temple service one morning, and after praying before the altar, picked up a sacred Tunkel and sang them a prophetic song of farewell:
"Ye men of Itza hearken to the tidings
Listen to the forecast of this cycle's end,
Four have been the ages of the world's progressing
Now the fourth is ending and its end is near,
A mighty lord is coming, see you give him honor,
A potent lord approaches to whom all must bow
I, the prophet, warn you, keep in mind my boding,
Men of Itza mark it, and await your lord."
"Waste not your time in idle repining," he said in farewell, "I go for purification, but will surely come again."
He only spent time enough on the seashore to build and provision a balsa, or boat with sails, and then he said "good bye" to the fisherfolk, and sailed away toward the east with a few of the wise men for companions. Just before he stepped into the boat he turned to the wise men, who were to remain and said:
"It wrings my heart to part from you, but there is need for you to stay here in order to complete the tasks already begun." As he embraced and kissed each one on the cheek he named their special duty, and had no fear that his orders would not be fully carried out.
"You must go to the son of Guatamo, and tell him my work is finished."
To another he said:
"You must go about and teach in my stead. I will come again, but at another time."
It was difficult for him to persuade the fisherman not to accompany him.
"Have no fear. Mine is a staunch bark capable of riding the storm and stress of the angry sea. Farewell, beloved, I will return to you, when the time and seasons are propitious."
The people on shore turned again and again to throw kisses to him, while the fishermen in their little boats put out to sea with him, and strained their vision to catch a last glimpse of his flower-laden balsa.
The wise men and priests in the temples where-ever he had been, began at once to guard the sacred fires and to watch and pray for his safe return. Lest they should forget his sayings they engraved them on stone, and taught them to the people so that his name was a household word for generations. His was the only civilization known in the Americas before the advent of the white men.
El Dorado, the Golden
WE have read somewhere that "in 1492 Columbus sailed the waters blue," and we know that the big Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 was to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America, but no one can possibly tell how long it was after the Golden Hearted sailed away, until Columbus came.
And nobody knows where the Golden Hearted went.
He said he was going to Tlapalla, which we know meant the Happy Island, but no one can find it any more, and there are traditions which say that the island, with all its inhabitants, sank in the ocean. This may be why the Golden Hearted never came back again. Of course the wise men and the primitive people in the Americas believed that he would return because he said he would, and they watched and waited all the long years from one generation to another. Many times bright and promising young men, just out of the universities, or fresh from victories on the battle fields, would take the vows of a priest, and give up all their hopes and ambitions to serve in the temples erected in honor of the Golden Hearted. They did not know anything more about him than we do, but they had faith in him.
"All the good we know comes from him, and when he returns all wrongs will be righted and every heart made to rejoice. He will give us everything we wish for."
Several times during the year whole nations would fast and do severe penance to induce him to come quickly. Not one of them could be made to believe that he was dead.
"No, no," they said, "he is asleep in the bosom of the sun. He will surely come again; he promised us he would."
Then they would get the idea that he was offended, and the kings would order great sacrifice to be made to appease him. In some places I am sorry to say they offered the quivering, bleeding hearts of human beings by the hundreds, but still he did not come. In other places they remembered his gentleness and only laid fruit, flowers and perfumes on the sacred fire altars which they still kept burning. There were many places where they carefully preserved his sayings by cutting them in sign language on the stones of the temples, and every child was taught to imitate his virtues and follow his example.
For several years before Columbus arrived the priests and wise men had been prophesying that the Golden Hearted was soon to return, that the sun was bringing him back, accompanied by companions like himself, who would rule over them. Not even the great-great-grandfathers of the men then living had seen the Golden Hearted, so they did not know how he looked, but their traditions said that he was a bearded white man, and we shall see by and by what a curious mistake this led them to make about the first white men who came to them after the discovery of America.
Before we can understand how such things could happen, we must remember that the people in Europe did not know there was an America, and that many of them had very queer ideas about the shape of the earth. Some said it was four-cornered and square like a dry goods box, and others thought it was round and flat like a plate, surrounded by water which finally changed into vapor and mist, and that whoever ventured far out into the misty clouds fell through and went—heaven knows where!
In the quaint old Italian city of Genoa was born a little boy named Christopher Columbus, who was to change all this, and be the innocent cause of much suffering to the descendants of the races who had been visited by the Golden Hearted. When a mere lad at school, he was greatly interested in boats, and he not only studied geography and history, but read all the books of travel he could find, and dreamed night and day of a great long voyage he was going to make on the ocean some time. He did not waste his time fishing and playing on the beach like other boys, but picked up the chips that washed ashore and examined them very carefully, because he believed that if there was an unknown land some where in the west, that the waves would bring something ashore from there. He was really quite an old man before he found anything, but one day he picked up some strange chips at Cadiz that had been cut by hand, and then he knew he was right.
Sailors always do have wonderful tales to tell about the sea, and in those days they were so superstitious that they were sure that there were huge monsters living in the distant waters just waiting to eat up any sailor foolish enough to venture near them. There was not one of them willing to listen to Columbus, when he tried to explain that the earth is round like an orange, and that we live on the outside of it. He said to them repeatedly:
"If we sail west steadily, we shall in time arrive back at the place from which we started." Finally, not only the sailors, but the people in the streets pointed their fingers at him and said:
"There goes the crazy old man, who thinks the world is as round as an apple."
The more he talked and reasoned and argued and even drew maps to prove that he was right, the more everybody shook their heads and called him crazy.
Columbus was about to give up in despair because he was very poor, and there seemed to be no way by which he could demonstrate that his theory of the shape of the earth was correct.
And now comes a curious coincidence.
He was a very devout Christian, and felt certain that the inhabitants of this strange country in the west had never heard of our God nor of his beloved son Jesus, and his heart was fired with zeal to reach these poor heathens and tell them the story of the Christ.
About this time some influential friend secured an audience for him with the King of Portugal, but it did no good to tell his story to the rich monarch, who was neither of a scientific nor a religious turn of mind, and he might as well have talked to the wind. Utterly discouraged Columbus decided to go to Spain, which is a near neighbor of Portugal, and see if he could not induce the famous King Ferdinand and Isabella, the queen, to give him boats to make his longed-for voyage. The queen especially was very pious and was much interested in Columbus' story about the heathens, but the ministers of her court laughed at Columbus and said:
"It is a foolish dream which can never be carried out."
Almost heart-broken Columbus silently turned his back on the Spanish capital and walked a long way to a seaport called Palos, where there was a queer old convent in which strangers were made welcome by the kind monks living in it. Knocking upon the gate, he said to the porter:
"Will you please give me a bit of bread and a drink of water."
Fortunately, the prior, a learned man and an intimate friend of Queen Isabella came along, and was quick to see that Columbus was no common beggar. He invited him in, and after listening quietly and thoughtfully to his visitor's plan of crossing the ocean to convert the heathen to Christianity, he borrowed a mule and rode miles across the country to the castle where the Queen was staying and persuaded her to help Columbus.
"It is your duty," he said. "God has given you riches and many blessings that you may assist your fellow men, and these strange people know nothing of our God, and they need teachers to help them find the right way of living."
Queen Isabella was so impressed with what he said that she immediately petitioned the Royal Treasurer to give Columbus money to make his voyage of discovery.
"Your majesty, there is no money to spare," was the polite answer of the Treasurer, who, like all the rest of the court, thought Columbus was a visionary dreamer if not crazy.
"Very well," she said. "I will pawn my crown jewels," and she did. This was a most noble and courageous act on her part, for a queen in those days was scarcely considered dignified or respectable without splendid crown jewels to wear on public occasions, but she was bent upon sending the gospel of Christ to the heathen in America. Does it not seem strange that the Golden Hearted and the Queen of Spain should be credited with the same desire to help the people of the Americas, and that they lived hundreds of years apart and could never have known of each other, and that one incident is a fact of history and the other only a legend?
But as soon as Columbus secured the money another difficulty arose. No sailor could be found who would risk his life on an unknown sea with such a crazy old man. Finally Queen Isabella had to promise liberty and full pardon to the convicts in the prisons before Columbus could get any one to go with him. It was a terrible thing for him but he had a brave heart, and the monks from the convent at Palos sent some of their number with him to teach the natives.
On and on, the three caravels, the Santa Maria, the Pinta and Nina, sailed without finding land, until their provisions were getting low and the crews of convicts were about to mutiny and kill Columbus. In order to keep them quiet he told them wonderful stories of the riches of this land they were trying to find.
"You can have all the gold, and silver, and precious gems you can carry," he promised them. In an instant you could see the cunning and greed in their wicked faces. They did not care whether the earth was round or flat, nor what became of the natives, if they only had gold, and then they would gather around Columbus and question him closely about the size of the nuggets and precious stones. Of course he could only guess at it, but he knew that to save his life he must say something, so he replied:
"I firmly believe that there are immense pieces of solid gold to be found there, and that it is abundant."
Some thought they would find it in lumps as big as a house, and they all expected to pick up hands full of gems just anywhere. Columbus had strained his eyes looking for the land until he was nearly blind, but one night he imagined he saw a glimmer of light ahead. Where there was light there must be land, he thought. So he called one of the sailors to him and asked him what he saw.
"A light! a light!" cried the sailor joyfully. But it was not until nearly two o'clock in the morning that the commander of one of the other boats started the cry:
"Land! Land ahead!"
You can imagine what excitement there was on all the caravels, and how thankful Columbus was. The padres gathered around him, and as he sprang ashore, he dropped on his knees and stooped and kissed the ground. Even the sailors forgot about the gold while he and the padres prayed and thanked God for giving mankind a new world.
Immediately the flag of Spain was planted and the land claimed for King Ferdinand and Isabella, but wonderful indeed were the things surrounding them. Men and women of a bronze color crowded around them and offered them strange, but delicious fruits and flowers and brought them food and water. In his first letter to Queen Isabella, Columbus said of them:
"There is not in all the world a better people nor a better land. Their converse is ever sweet and gentle, and is accompanied by a smile. They truly love their neighbor as themselves."
Finding them docile and kind the padres set about teaching them, and the simple natives were very willing listeners. It was quite a long time before they could understand each other well, but the padres told the story of the Christ the first time they held a service, which was on a Sunday. Remembering the precepts of the Golden Hearted, the faces of the natives lighted up understandingly when they heard the words of Jesus which bade them be loving and kind to each other, and they nodded their heads and exclaimed:
"El Dorado! El Dorado!"
At least that is what the ignorant convict sailors thought they said. The words "El Dorado" in Spanish, which was their mother tongue, meant "The Golden," or "The Gilded One." We know they were eager and greedy to find gold and that they had been told to help themselves freely to all they could get, so they immediately began to question the simple natives.
"Yes, yes; we have plenty of gold," the natives said, in surprise, because they did not value it at all, except for ornaments, and they ran to fetch some for their visitors. When they saw how glad it made the sailors, they were happy and content as a lot of children, and they not only brought all they had, but told where there was plenty more to be found.
"Bimini, the Fountain of Youth"
WHEN Columbus sailed back to Spain and told the story of his wonderful discoveries the people did not believe him at first, but when he showed them the gold and silver ornaments, and the strange red men, they were so amazed that they forgot even to ask questions.
The news was so startling that it simply took their breath away and they stared at each other stupidly. Then they said in awe-stricken whispers:
"How can such things be? Is the world coming to an end? Are we going to die? Or are we crazy? Maybe our ears and eyes are fooling us."
But Columbus only smiled and said:
"My friends, you see I was right. The earth is round, and I have not only found India with its untold riches, but I have brought some of its people home with me."
And that is why today we call the red men Indians. Columbus did not know that he had discovered a new continent, so it was natural for him to speak of the natives as Indians. And I am sure you will pity him when I tell you that he died without ever knowing the difference.
All Europe was in a fever of excitement over his voyage, and it was not long before he fitted out other vessels and sailed across the ocean again to find the northwest passage which he believed would shorten the route to India. Rich men, and learned ones, were ready to go with him, and the sailors expected to find gold and precious stones scattered all over the ground. Every word that the convicts told them about El Dorado they thought meant gold, and the wildest and most exaggerated stories were soon in everybody's mouth.
The padres, too, were enthusiastic over the prospect of converting the heathen, but nobody took the trouble to find out what the Indians believed about God. Every one misunderstood the meaning of El Dorado and never dreamed that there had been such a teacher as the Golden Hearted, or that the Indians already knew how to be brotherly and kind.
Even the most learned men in those days were ready to accept the existence of a mythical city called Cathay as true.
They thought it was situated somewhere between the island of Newfoundland and Florida, where they expected to find the spice groves. Another story very common in Europe said that there was among the beautiful summer isles of the west, one that conferred immortality and was spoken of as the Island of Perpetual Youth. Among those whose imagination was fired by this romance was a brave knight named Ponce de Leon, who was Columbus' companion on his second voyage. He did not care for the gold of the new world, for he was already rich, but he was old, and he wanted to renew his youth. King Ferdinand commissioned him Governor of Porto Rico, but he soon tired of it, and was determined to discover the magic spring.
"For what reason should I stay here and lord it over these half-naked savages," he said to his relatives and friends when they tried to dissuade him from undertaking such a perilous search. "Let us go where we can bathe in those enchanted waters and be young once more. I need it and so will you before very long."
"But how do you know there is such a place?" they asked.
"By hearing the full particulars of an old Indian who went there and washed himself and drank from the spring until he was restored to youth and vigor. Let us go and be like him."
To find this new marvel he set sail with three brigantines, and the adventurers with him floated over the summer sea, as men bent upon pleasure, and to whom time was long and burdened with no serious duties. They sailed from island to island touching here and there as fancy led them. They sought the safest and pleasantest coves, where the shades were deepest in the noonday sun, and the waters coolest; where the fruits were the sweetest, the Indians most friendly and their women the loveliest. At last they came to an inlet which led invitingly up among wooded banks and flowering valleys. Here the old knight said:
"Let us disembark and strike inland. My heart tells me that we have found the Fountain of Youth."
"Nonsense," said his younger kinsman, "our way lies by water."
"Then leave me here with my men," he replied, and after an angry discussion five men, long past middle age, and who had come with him from Spain, were left on shore. The first thing they did was to climb to the top of a hill and set up a cross which they had brought with them. As soon as it was in place they all removed their helmets and prayed before it. One of the men said to him:
"The ground is pawed up as if cattle ranged here, and this path has been trod by human feet."
"You are right," said Ponce de Leon, "lead the way and we will follow."
Taking the path they met about fifty Indian bowmen, who seemed to their startled vision like a whole company of giants, but, who proved to be of a very friendly disposition.
The grizzled old knights were anxious to inquire about the fabled Fountain, so they gave the Indians strings of gay-colored beads, and some little bells. In return they received an arrow, as a token of good will. After a long parley the bowmen turned back to their huts. "We will bring you food in the morning," they said, and at daybreak they appeared again bringing plenty of fish, roots and fruits. When they saw that the men were chilly from the cold night air, they said to each other:
"Let us carry our brothers to our homes where they can get warm."
"But they will suffer on the way," said the chief. "Go before us and build big fires and we will stop at each one to rest our weary arms."
The Spanish knights did not know what to make of this kind of treatment, but they offered no resistance when the stalwart warriors took them on their backs and started through the woods. The Indians carried them very carefully, and at last set them down before the doors of their huts where the women brought them food and drink.
"I wonder what they intend to do with us," said the knights among themselves. On hearing this remark Ponce de Leon replied:
"It is just possible that they will offer us as a sacrifice, for it is quite plain that they think we are supernatural beings."
"Let us get away from them as quickly as we can," they said, fearing that something terrible would happen.
"Before we go we must try to find out about the magic spring we are seeking," replied Ponce de Leon, unwilling to give up his project. It required considerable time and patience to make the Indians comprehend what he wanted, but they stoutly maintained that they knew nothing about it.
"These redskins are cunning rascals, and will not tell us where to find the Fountain of Youth," said Ponce de Leon, in explanation, after his fruitless talk with them, "but God giving us strength we will find it yet."
So they went slowly and carefully over the whole country, stopping at each spring to take off their clothes and jump into it, then they would drink as much of the water as they could, and sit down and wait to see if it would make them young again. As they went farther away from the coast the Indians became more and more friendly, because they thought the white men had come from Heaven.
"We must bring them food, build houses for them and bear all their burdens," they said among themselves. Some went out on the hills and killed deer with their bows and arrows, while others killed rabbits by going in a big wide circuit and then gradually closing in on the game. When near enough they knocked the rabbit on the head with a wooden club as it ran by them.
"Breathe upon and bless our food," they said to the knights, after giving them all they wanted for themselves, "so that we may feel sure in our hearts that you are pleased with us."
At first only the men made these requests, but finally the women brought wild fruits and berries, which they wanted the visitors to see and touch before they would eat. All this was very troublesome to the knights, but if they refused or acted as if they were offended, the poor Indians were terrified, and falling on their faces would cry out:
"We shall die unless we have the favor of our good and wise white brothers."
Farther on, the people did not venture to come out in the paths and gather round them as the first had done, but stayed meekly in their houses, sitting with their faces turned to the wall, and with all their property heaped up in the middle of the floor.
"We could easily plunder and rob these simple folk," said Ponce de Leon, "but I charge you on your honor as knights to take nothing you do not pay for."
In spite of this the natives loaded them with valuable skins and other presents, and were eager and willing to show all the springs and creeks in their neighborhood.
"They pretend to know nothing of the miraculous gifts of the Fountain of Youth, but their own splendid endurance of heat and cold, and the fatigues of travel show how perpetually young and active they are. If their bodies were pierced through with arrows they would soon recover. They are trying to mislead us and conceal the source of their strength, but we will soon find it," the Spanish knights said, and Ponce de Leon, their leader, heartily agreed with them.
Never in the world had there been such a strange journey undertaken by gray and careworn men. On and on they went searching in the heart of the woods for a fountain where they could renew their youth. Yellow jasmine trailed in festoons above their heads; wild roses grew at their feet; the air was sweet with the odor of pine, while long gray moss hung from the branches of the live-oaks.
Finally they came to a spring which widened into a natural basin and bubbled up in such a cool, delicious manner, that Ponce de Leon plunged into it with joy. Coming up on the bank to dress himself, he exclaimed:
"It is enough. I have bathed in the Fountain of Youth. See, I am young again."
His companions hastened to try it, and they too said the same.
"Hurrah! hurrah! the Fountain of Youth has been found! Let us make haste to tell the world of your discovery."
But they were mistaken and had not counted on what the Indians would do about it. When they found that the white men wanted a boat to go down the river they were eager to get it for them, but when they understood that they were going away, they wept bitterly, and tried every way to persuade them to stay.
"No, we will not remain. This is Florida, the land of flowers, and we are looking for Bimini, the Fountain of Youth," said Ponce de Leon, firmly. "Your people have misled us continually. Bimini is an island and we are going to search until we find it."
"And if you succeed will you return to us," asked an Indian chief eagerly. "You have the secret of life and death in your hands, and have already saved my wife and child. Stay and we will serve you faithfully."
"Oh! my brothers, stay with us!" begged and implored the Indians. Some of them clung to the garments of the knights, and others were dragged out of the boat by the determined natives. Finally Ponce de Leon, grown tired of useless parley, said angrily:
"I am old and weary and must soon die if I do not find the waters which will renew my youth and vigor. Your thickets and swamps are filled with alligators and poisonous water snakes; the very air is laden with deadly fevers, and never again will I return to it."
As the canoe started down the river the Indians wrung their hands and wailed loudly:
"Come back! come back!" But Ponce de Leon stood up in the boat and shook his head, and made them understand by signs that he would not do as they wished. This made them all the more frantic and one of the warriors, snatching up a poisoned arrow, sped it with deadly aim. It went through the thigh of the gallant old knight where he stood, and it was not long until death ended his search for the Fountain of Youth. Since then no one has ever tried to locate this wonder-working fountain, but philosophers say that it is in our own hearts and that we find it when we realize that the soul never dies, and is perpetually young because of its immortality.
Montezuma and the Paba
COLUMBUS died poor and in prison because nobody was interested in his effort to find a northwest passage to India, or cared whether the earth was round or flat. They wanted gold, and the stories of El Dorado told by the ignorant sailors had more influence on the people than anything Columbus said or did.
"I have merely opened the gates for others to enter," he exclaimed bitterly, when he found himself thwarted in all his plans, but there is more honor accorded his memory than to any of the others who came after him, and made immense fortunes.
The same year that Queen Isabella died, a young man, but nineteen years old, named Hernando Cortez, sailed from Spain for Cuba. Already there was quite a Spanish settlement on the island, and when the Governor offered him a large tract of land with Indian slaves to cultivate it, he answered angrily:
"I came to get gold, not to till the soil like a peasant."
He expected to find untold wealth locked up in the unexplored regions of the new world, and had no patience with any of the slower methods of gaining riches. Instead of working he meant to fight for what he wanted and we shall find when we know more about him that he broke his word to his king, the governor of Cuba, to his wife, to his soldiers, and to every friend who served him. Yet he was born a gentleman, handsome and well mannered, but a greedy love of gold rendered him brutal and treacherous to a degree.
In his company were gallant knights of chivalry, servile retainers of the king, soldiers of fortune, and bearded friars, who left behind them country, home, family, friends and sweethearts, to seek El Dorado, which to them meant simply gold. When we study the history of the United States we shall be surprised to find men like them in full armor of steel, with lance, shield and helmet, mounted on prancing steeds, caparisoned in gay colors, glittering through the untracked wilderness of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and even as far west as Arizona, always in search of El Dorado. And in every case their greed for gold led to such bloodshed and violence, that it makes the heart ache to think about it.
Not many years after Cortez landed in Cuba, the Governor sent for him and said:
"I have at last secured permission from the king to explore the continent lying to the west, and I desire you to take ships and soldiers and have command of the expedition."
Something in Cortez' manner excited the suspicion of the Governor, but he said nothing until he was ready to sail. Then he withdrew the commission, and ordered Cortez to remain in Cuba. Instead of obeying he stole away in the night, and did not land until he came to the coast of Mexico, close to the point from which the Golden Hearted had sailed. His men were afraid to venture far from shore, but he painted glowing pictures of the gold they were to find, and said:
"I hold out to you a glorious prize, but it is only to be won by incessant toil."
Then holding up a black velvet standard with a red cross in the center, surrounded by flames of blue and white, he continued:
"Comrades, let us follow the cross, and under this sign if we have faith, we shall conquer."
The padres with them, who had come to minister to the spiritual welfare of the cavaliers and soldiers, urged them to go forward, saying:
"We are in honor bound to carry the gospel to these poor, ignorant heathens, and God has given you the privilege of helping in this work."
The Indians were friendly and when asked for gold, answered:
"We on the sea coast have little, but in Tenochtitlan there is a rich and powerful king named Montezuma, who has much gold and other treasures."
Around them were parched and sandy plains, but on the march they soon came to "the land of bread," as the Tlascallan country was called, and here they heard of Cholula, the sacred city. When they came in sight of it they exclaimed:
"It is the promised land!" and were amazed at the splendor of the city, as well as the surrounding country, where there were fields of maize, vanilla, indigo, sugar cane, flowering cacao groves, and banana trees in profusion. The streets of Cholula were filled with a concourse of priests whom Cortez mistook for beggars. They were holding a religious festival in honor of Quetzalcoatl, which was their name for the Golden Hearted, who had now become the Fair God of tradition. Long had they been expecting him to return to Cholula, and because Cortez had a fair complexion, and was accompanied by other white men they thought the Golden Hearted had come at last. The people lined the streets and roadways and not only wore garlands of flowers on their heads, but tossed bouquets to the soldiers, while the priests met them with music and swung incense up and down the cleanly-swept streets they passed through.
"What is the will of Quetzalcoatl?" they asked eagerly of Cortez.
"Do you come from Tlapalla?" they inquired of his followers.
"No," they were answered, "but we have a disease of the heart which only gold can cure."
Then the simple natives brought all the gold-dust and little trinkets they could find and gave to their visitors. Cortez thanked them, but said:
"This is not enough. We must have very much more."
"Then you would better ask our friend and ally, the great king, Montezuma. He has immense stores of it."
"Where is this great king, and this city of Tenochtitlan?"
"Farther to the west," they answered.
Shortly after this an embassy of nobles from the court of Montezuma appeared with rich presents and an invitation to Cortez to visit the king. None of them had ever seen a white man before, and they did not for a moment doubt that Cortez was the Golden Hearted, returned to claim his own, and they were very anxious to please him. Touching his brass helmet one of them said timidly:
"It is very like that worn by Quetzalcoatl, and I would like our king, Montezuma, to see it."
"Certainly," responded Cortez, "but bring it back filled with gold." And they did. No one knows just why, but something made Cortez suspect the gentle natives of treachery, and one morning at daybreak he fell upon them in the market place, and slew thousands of people, and then set fire to the city. His rude soldiers went up on the pyramid and threw down the statue of the Golden Hearted, and erected a cross in its place. History says that the Aztecs had long been offering the hearts of human beings in sacrifice to the Golden Hearted in Cholula, while in Tenochtitlan they had set up an image of a terrible war god, and were worshiping that more than the gentle, inoffensive Golden Hearted. It was this disobedience which made Montezuma fear that he was returning to take vengeance.
One morning early the king went to see the Paba, who had charge of the sacred fires on the altars built by the Golden Hearted himself. The chamber in the temple was square, with the ceiling covered by a lattice work of shining white and yellow metal which, at the intersections, was carved to represent flowers set with jewels. All around the walls were sculptured pictures of men. As the king approached the Paba said:
"The gloomy clouds hanging overhead are not darker than is the mood of Quetzalcoatl, but to the poor Paba the voice of the king is ever welcome."
"Why should the mood of Quetzalcoatl be dark? A new teocalli holds his image, and they say he is happy and that he comes from the place of sunrise with a canoe filled with blessings."
"Do you remember, O king! that in some of the underground chambers of this temple, besides vast stores of wealth, there are prophecies to be read?"
"I remember it well," said Montezuma.
"Give me leave, and I will show you the writing from Quetzalcoatl himself."
Groping their way through the great underground cavern, but dimly lighted, the Paba said:
"Son of a king, is your heart strong? The writing begins here and continues around the wall."
"Read it," said Montezuma.
"The first is here on the north and represents the ancient king on the march. You see him in the midst of warriors who are dancing in honor of his victories. Here we have the whole story of our race."
"This was before the coming of Quetzalcoatl and is of the remote past," said Montezuma, with a frown.
"On the southern wall, opposite," replied the Paba, "is what you seek. Observe the king stands on a rock, and a priest points out to him an eagle on a cactus holding a serpent in its claws. Beside it the king reclines on a couch. Our city has been founded."
Montezuma said not a word, but turned to another panel.
"Look well to this, O king! There is Quetzalcoatl before an altar offering a sacrifice of fruit and flowers. His hands are free from blood!"
Montezuma's face was deadly pale, because he knew that many orders of priests in his kingdom sacrificed human beings by cutting out their hearts, and he was afraid that the coming of the strange white men was on account of this forbidden practice.
"See! Oh majesty! the fair god is departing from our beloved Tenochtitlan. Saddest of all days was that for us."
"Show me a prophecy if you would have me believe that this was written by Quetzalcoatl. I would know something of the future."
"Be wise, oh my master! Let the future alone; it is sown with sorrows for all you love."
"Until I wrong the gods why should I fear them? Have done, Paba. I, too, am a priest," said Montezuma, earnestly.
"I, his true servant, tell you never again to look for smile from Tlapalla. I will show you from Quetzalcoatl himself, that the end of your empire is at hand. Every breeze from the east is filled with woe for you and yours. The writing is on the wall. Look again and closely."
"I see nothing," cried the king.
"All that you have heard about the return of Quetzalcoatl is true. He is coming to end the days of the Aztecs forever."
"Forever! It cannot be. Read the next panel."
"There is no other, this is the last," answered the Paba sadly.
Montezuma turned quickly to the north wall, but found it without a single mark. Here indeed was the end.
That night the Aztec king could neither eat nor sleep. The prophecy was with him all the time. When the morning came he called for his canoe. From the battlements of Chapultepec, the palace and tomb of his fathers, he would see the sun rise. If Quetzalcoatl was angered and meant to wreak vengeance, he naturally supposed the sun, his dwelling place, would give some warning.
In all the heavens around there was not a fleck when suddenly a cloud of smoke rushed upward, and across the pathway of the sun, so that when it crept over the mountain range, it looked like a ball of blood! Montezuma drew the hood over his face quickly, and his head dropped on his breast.
The Paba had spoken the truth. Quetzalcoatl was coming! and next evening a runner sped hotly over the causeway and up the street, stopping at the gate of the royal palace. He was taken before the king and shortly after the news went flying over Tenochtitlan, that Quetzalcoatl had arrived in his huge water-house with wings, and filled with thunder and lightning! for that was what the Aztecs called the ships and cannon brought by Cortez.
When Montezuma heard of the terrible massacre in Cholula, he called a council of wise old men and said:
"Of what use is it, uncles? The gods are against us and resistance is of no avail. I mourn most for the women and children, and the old and infirm who are too feeble to fight or fly. For myself and the brave men around me, we must bare our breasts to the storm and meet it as we may."
As Cortez neared Tenochtitlan he was met by so many chiefs and nobles under Montezuma, that it took them an hour to pass before him, and make their salutation which they did by touching the ground with the right hand and then carrying it to the forehead. The four nobles carrying Montezuma on their shoulders, were preceded by three officers of state bearing gold wands in their hands to show that they came in peace. The royal palanquin, or chair, in which Montezuma was seated, blazed with gold, jewels and gaudy feather-work, while the nobles carrying it were barefooted. They walked with slow measured steps and kept their eyes bent on the ground. Finally the train of warriors and nobles halted, and Montezuma came forward to meet Cortez.
Imagine what their feelings must have been as they looked at each other! Montezuma thought he was welcoming back the gentle, kind Quetzalcoatl, whom we know as the Golden Hearted, while Cortez knew he had found more gold and riches than he ever dreamed existed anywhere.
The poor misled Aztec king approached the Spanish adventurer and putting an exquisitely wrought gold collar around his neck said:
"This was my father's palace but it belongs to you and your brethren. Rest here after your fatigues and in a little while I will visit you again."
When he went out of the palace he sent slaves to wait upon them, and he gave each one new clothes, and a splendid feast. When they had finished eating, the rude soldiers searched all through the palace for hidden wealth, and finding the treasure house of the king proceeded to help themselves. When Montezuma heard of it he said:
"They are welcome to the gold and silver and other articles, if they will but spare the things belonging to the gods."
In the palace grounds where they were quartered they found an aviary filled with beautiful singing birds; a menagerie full of strange animals, and snakes; ten big tanks stocked with water-fowl and fish; fountains playing everywhere, and wonderful floating gardens on the lakes, while all around them lay a city filled with temples, market places, and handsome houses.
True to his promise Montezuma returned shortly and in speaking to Cortez said:
"I have been expecting you for many days. The wonderful deeds attributed to you, your complexion and the quarter from whence you come show me that you are Quetzalcoatl. You and your brethren shall share all things with me," and with tears in his eyes he gave them as many costly presents as they could carry. The padres and soldiers were constantly asked:
"Do you come from Tlapalla?" while Montezuma did everything he could to please Cortez.
One day he went to the king's palace and after accepting the usual presents of gold and silver, Montezuma offered him one of his daughters for a wife. Cortez declined, and seeing that the courtyard was partly filled with his trusted men, he approached Montezuma abruptly and said:
"You have treated me treacherously, and have allowed one of my officers to be killed on the sea coast."
Montezuma turned very pale. No one else in his kingdom would have dared speak to him in such an insulting manner, and besides that he knew nothing of the death of the officer before. In reality the officer had been murdered while torturing the poor natives to make them give him more gold.
"I demand that you send for the chief and all the notable men in his council that I may punish him for the death of my comrade," said Cortez, trying to pick a quarrel with the king.
"Very well," said Montezuma, kindly. "I will have them brought as you desire."
"I believe in your promise, but you must come to my quarters as hostage until the thing is done."
Poor Montezuma thinking it was a command of God did not dare refuse, and in a short time afterward the chief and his council were brought before him. He turned them over to Cortez for punishment, and they were burned to death in the public square, where Montezuma could see them from his window. Cortez had the poor creatures tortured to make them accuse Montezuma of telling them to commit the murder, so that he would have an excuse for what he intended to do to the king. Pretending to believe the confessions, he went before the king and ordered two common Spanish soldiers to put him in irons. Poor Montezuma moaned and groaned like his heart would break, while his faithful attendants, weeping bitterly tried to put their mantles under the irons so they would not touch his flesh.
Cortez now demanded that he abdicate his power, and pay tribute to Spain, so he compelled the king to assemble all his chiefs, which he did saying to them:
"You are acquainted with the traditions which say that the good Quetzalcoatl is to return and rule over us. That time has come and we must obey our new masters. You have been faithful vassals of mine, and I expect you to show me this last act of obedience by acknowledging the great king across the water as your lord also." The tears streamed down his face, and his haughty chiefs were very sad at heart, but they were loyal as well as brave men, and they answered:
"Your will is our law, and if you think the king of the strangers is the ancient lord of our country we are willing to acknowledge him as such."
As soon as this was done the grasping Spaniards compelled Montezuma to send throughout his kingdom for all the gold, silver, precious stones and feather-work that could be found, in the name of the king of Spain, but when they got it they divided it among themselves, and then quarreled fiercely over who should have the greater part.
Here indeed was their fabled El Dorado!
There was but one more humiliation awaiting Montezuma, and that was to have his own people revile him. The Spaniards had been so brutal and cruel in their dealings with the Aztecs that some of them began to doubt whether they could have come from Tlapalla, and whether Cortez was the Golden Hearted. Knowing this Cortez induced Montezuma to dress himself in his royal robes, and appear on the stone parapet of the palace where he was confined, to quiet the mob and induce them to go about their work peaceably. Cortez was beginning to fear for his own safety, but the populace were not to be tricked by him. They did not believe it was Montezuma before them, and hurling a stone at the royal palanquin accidentally hit the unhappy king on the forehead. The blow was not sufficient to kill him, but he took to his bed and refused to eat until he finally died. History says of him that "his great heart was burst in twain by the sorrows that oppressed his high courage." Certain it is that he could not live when he found that both his God and his people despised him. It has never been known what became of his body, for a terrible war followed his death.
Today we call his country and city Mexico.
The Child of the Sun
NONE of us have forgotten about the Children of the Sun, and the city of Cuzco founded by the Golden Hearted, or of his ruling over them as Manco-Capac, the powerful one. He went into their country which we call Peru before he had ever seen Mexico, but the Spaniards came to the ancient city of Tenochtitlan before they knew anything about Cuzco. It was not long after the death of Montezuma until the Spaniards heard about the riches of the Children of the Sun, and they were determined to find that country.
The Aztecs did not help them any because they no longer looked upon them as sent from Heaven but as ruthless destroyers borne along on the backs of fierce animals swift as the wind, and carrying weapons in their hands that scattered death and destruction everywhere. The Aztecs learned to hate the Spaniards bitterly, and when we came to study their history we shall know why. Even their own historians do not pretend to deny that they fell upon the poor Aztecs sword in hand and robbed them of all the treasures they had, besides taking their lands away from them.
Some say that Francisco Pizarro was a cousin of Hernando Cortez who conquered the Aztecs, but all agree that he was an ignorant swineherd, who could neither read nor write, and whose parents were not respectable. While he was not actually a convict he belonged to the low class, and the men going with him to search for the new El Dorado among the Children of the Sun, were really no better. Cortez had some hidalgoes, cavalliers and knights with him because men of good family often came to the Americas on the first voyages after Columbus, but Pizarro collected a band of cut-throat adventurers who were just as greedy and ignorant as he was. All the exploring they did was simply to search for gold, and they did not care what methods they used to get it. The simple natives with their naked defenseless bodies, and bows and arrows were no match for men covered with steel armor, mounted on horseback and armed with guns and cannon. Balboa had already found the Pacific Ocean, and Pizarro knew that the Children of the Sun lived in that direction, so he rigged out a vessel and sailed along the coast trying to find them. At the first place he landed the natives said to him:
"Why do you not stay at home and till your own land instead of roaming about to rob others who have never harmed you?"
But the savages wore some heavy gold ornaments, and Pizarro asked eagerly:
"Have you more of this?"
"Yes, we have a little more," they said, and as they were weighing some of the metal their chief struck the scales with his fist, scattering the nuggets all over the floor.
"If this is what you prize so much that you are willing to risk your lives to attain it, I can tell you of a land where they eat and drink out of vessels of gold, and where there are great quantities to be had for the asking."
"Where is this rich country?"
"It is ten days journey toward the south and is ruled by the Child of the Sun."
The Spaniards were nearly mad with joy because now they said:
"All our fond dreams are about to be realized." They were in such a good humor that they gave the natives some glass beads and some live chickens. When they turned the rooster loose, he crowed, and then the simple natives clapped their hands in glee, and asked:
"What is it saying?"
It sounded as if the rooster said:
"How do you do, sir!" which the natives thought was very funny indeed. Then they wanted to know what the cannon said. One of the men set up a target and fired at it shivering the board into fine splinters. The loud noise, the flash of smoke and powder, frightened the poor natives nearly to death. Some of them fell flat on their faces, and others ran into the woods as fast as they could go, screaming:
"Our good Manco-Capac is coming back to us angry."
That night the old men huddled the terrified people together and said to them:
"Do you remember when the comet flamed through the sky; when the earthquake shook the land, and there was a rainbow around the moon?"
"I well remember," said one of the old men, "that a thunderbolt fell on one of the Incas' royal palaces setting it on fire, and I saw an eagle chased by several hawks hovering in the air over Cuzco. Our king saw it too, and while he looked at it the eagle fell dead at his feet."
"It is no use to resist these strangers," said an envoy from the Inca, who had arrived in time to hear the last statement. "Seven years ago when the father of our king died, he called his son to his bedside and told him that white and bearded strangers were coming to overturn the Empire. And as you know, our great oracle has foretold the return of Manco-Capac at the close of the twelfth dynasty of the Incas. That day is at hand, so do not quarrel with the strangers."
No one showed a disposition to disobey him, and in a short time he stood before Pizarro saying:
"I bring you greetings from the Inca, Child of the Sun, who rules this land. He wishes me to ask why you come, and from what country."
"Our home is far across the sea," responded Pizarro, "and we serve a rich and powerful prince who has heard of the Child of the Sun, and sends us to pay our respects to him."
This was not the truth for the King of Spain knew nothing whatever of Pizarro's wicked intentions, nor did he know about Cortez either until long after poor Montezuma was dead and his country laid waste. But when men turn out to be wholesale robbers they do not care whether they tell the truth or not.
"Our Inca is at his favorite baths and wishes to know when you will arrive, so that he may provide suitable refreshments for you."
"We will come at once," said Pizarro.
"It would be better to wait a few days," said the king's messenger. "Our Inca is keeping a sacred fast, and we cannot disturb him until it is finished." The Spaniards had no respect for the king's wishes or his privacy, so they made ready to follow the messenger. While they were dividing the presents of llamas, sheep and gold goblets among themselves some of the soldiers said:
"This dog of a king may have thousands of followers. What can a handful of men like we are, do against so many? Suppose they should try to fight us?"
Pizarro happened to overhear them and replied:
"Let every one of you take heart, and go forward like a good soldier. God ever protects his own, and will humble the pride of the heathen and bring him to a knowledge of the true faith—the great end and object of this conquest."
It was the first time he had spoken of conquest, but the soldiers remembered the complete success of Cortez in Mexico and only needed to be told that the natives were to be Christianized to make them certain that the home authorities would not interfere with them, so they shouted:
"Lead on! wherever you think best we will follow with good will."
The few padres in the company were sincere in their wish to teach the natives and so was the King of Spain, but neither of them could control the actions of such men as Pizarro and his adventurers, now ready to pounce down on the mild and inoffensive people like a band of hungry wolves. When they got up on the top of the mountain and looked down, the landscape had the appearance of a huge checker-board cut into squares by canals and evergreen hedges. A wide river rolled through the meadows, like a narrow silver ribbon, while across the valley were the famous hot baths with steam and vapor rising from them in the clear air. Along the slope of the hills a white cloud of tents covered the ground for several miles, where the Child of the Sun, and his court were encamped.
Pizarro with banners streaming and the sparkle of armor glittering in the sun, galloped into the city with blare of trumpets and lances fixed. The Inca was in a camp near by, but the rude Spaniards broke in upon his fast, and a brother of Pizarro almost rode him down with his horse. Giving the bridle a sudden jerk he brought the horse to his haunches, so close to the Inca, that the horse snorted with fear, but the brave king did not move a muscle, although he had never seen a white man in armor nor a horse before in his life. Seeing that he could not frighten him Pizarro's brother said haughtily:
"What is your royal will? My brother desires that you visit him."
Without raising his eyes from the ground where he had kept them as a mark of respect to his visitor, the Inca smiled and said:
"Tell your captain, that I am keeping a fast, which will end tomorrow morning. I will then visit him with my chieftains. In the meantime let him occupy the public buildings on the square till I come, when I will order what is to be done."
Turning to his attendants he continued:
"Give our brothers food and drink, and have their quarters made ready for them."
That night Pizarro put all his cannon in place and boldly planned to take the Inca prisoner in his own pleasure garden. He ordered his soldiers to hide in the plaza, and wait until the Inca arrived. As soon as he was in the great square they were suddenly to spring out and put the natives to the sword, and capture their king.
It was late in the day before the Inca got all his court in splendid array, and then he sent word to Pizarro that he was coming in state.
"I am much pleased to hear it," said Pizarro. "Let your king come anyway he will; he shall be received as a friend and brother. Let him sup with us and sleep in our quarters tonight."
When once in motion the Inca's retinue had on so many gold ornaments that they blazed like the sun. Some wore showy stuffs in white and red with gold and silver embroidery, while others were dressed in white and carried silver maces in their hands. The Inca wore the royal borla, or crown on his head, with the Quetzal feathers in the back and the long red fringes across the forehead. Over him was a canopy representing a rainbow, to show that he was a Child of the Sun, and a follower of Manco-Capac, who we know was the Golden Hearted. He was seated on a gold throne which was placed in a litter and carried by four noble youths, in gorgeous liveries. Around his neck was a splendid gold necklace set with large emeralds. Looking around and not seeing any one the Inca asked in surprise:
"Where are the strangers?"
At this moment a padre came forward and demanded that he give up his power and become a subject of Spain. He also told the king that he must become a convert to Christianity. The eyes of the Inca flashed fire as he replied:
"I will be no man's tributary. Your prince may be great; I do not doubt it when I see that he has sent his subjects so far across the waters. I am willing to hold him as a brother. As for my faith, I will not change it. My God still lives in the heavens and looks down on his children. By what authority do you make such demands upon me?"
The padre handed the Inca a bible but as the thought of the insult offered came over him, the Inca threw it to the ground and said angrily:
"Tell your comrades that they shall give me an account of their doings in my country. I will not go from here until they have made me full satisfaction for the wrongs they have committed."
A soldier turned to Pizarro and said:
"Do you not see that while we stand here wasting our breath in talking to this dog full of obstinate pride that the fields are filling with Indians. Let us set on at once."
Pizarro saw that the hour had come, and waving a white scarf which was the appointed signal he and his soldiers sprang into the square, shouting the old war cry of Cortez:
"Santiago! and at them!"
The poor natives in their holiday dress and fine jewelry were wholly unarmed, because they were coming to make a visit, and had no way to defend themselves. When they tried to escape they found they were hemmed in on all sides by the stone buildings facing the plaza, and nobody knows how many thousands of them were killed. They were stunned by the roar of the cannon, choked by the smoke, trampled under the horses' feet, and their naked bodies hacked to pieces with swords.
The Spaniards seemed bent upon killing the Inca, but his loyal subjects caught hold of the horses' bridles and saddle blankets, and even the legs of their riders to prevent them from hitting the Inca. Some offered their own bodies to the lances—anything to save the king who was stunned and bewildered. As the men who were carrying him were killed, the litter lurched to one side and he fell to the ground. Instantly the imperial borla, or crown, was snatched from his head; his hands were securely tied, and he was hustled, a prisoner, into a building nearby. Then the soldiery robbed and pillaged as much as they pleased, even carrying off the plate from the Inca's table.
Realizing that it was gold that the Spaniards wanted, the Inca began at once to try to buy his freedom.
"I will cover the floor of this room with gold if you will release me," he said, to Pizarro. Seeing that the soldiers smiled at this, he added:
"I will fill the room full, as high as I can reach," standing on tip-toe and stretching his arm against the wall. Pizarro agreed to accept that amount of gold, but demanded double that amount of silver, and would only allow the Inca two months' time to collect it in. The Spaniards kept close watch over him, and as soon as the amount was all paid in, Pizarro accused the unhappy captive of trying to stir up an insurrection. The Inca was surprised and indignant; saying:
"You have me in your power. Is not my life at your disposal? What better security have you for my fidelity? It is very far to my capital at Cuzco, but that you may be satisfied that I am proceeding in good faith, send some of your own people there."
The Spaniards sacked and pillaged Cuzco when they got there, taking seven hundred plates of gold from the walls of the temple dedicated to the Golden Hearted. Besides this, there were heavy cornices of gold, fountains, birds, fruit, vegetables, tables, statues, slabs, basins and panels of pure gold; which, when melted down made millions of dollars.
Never before did anybody in the wide world pay such a ransom. But Pizarro had no intention of setting the Inca free. Pretending to be very suspicious, he suddenly appeared before the Inca, and said:
"What new treason is this you are meditating against me? Me, who has been so brotherly and kind to you?"
"Why do you mock me," replied the Inca. "Am I not a captive in your hands? How could I conceive such a design as you speak of when I would be the first victim? You little know my people, if you think they would attempt such a thing against my will."
Pizarro was determined to get rid of him, so he trumped up twelve charges against him, and, after a mock trial, sentenced the helpless Inca to be burned at the stake.
When told of his fate, the poor king said to Pizarro, with tears streaming down his face:
"What have I, or my children done, that I should die like this? And from your hands—you who have received only benefit and kindness from me and my people."
The doom of the Inca was sounded by trumpet in the same square he had innocently entered to visit his strange white brother, and two hours after sunset he was led out by torch-light and burned to death.
To make sure that there was no danger of an uprising in the distant parts of the country, Pizarro sent an officer to finish collecting the ransom and find out the actual condition. While he was gone Pizarro had the Inca executed. When the officer returned, he said:
"I have met with nothing but kindness on the way. There has never been any attempt at an uprising."
And this was the truth.
The Gilded Man
THERE were none willing to say "God forgive him," is what history tells us of the end of Pizarro, whose throat was cut by some of the men he quarreled with over the treasures they had taken from the Children of the Sun, and I do not believe that any one was ever sorry that he perished like a wretched outcast. Of course, one of his brothers had heard of El Dorado, and he began to inquire closely of the Indians whether there really was such a person.
"Yes, there is," he was told, "and this chief smears himself all over with a sweet-smelling gum and sprinkles his body with fine gold-dust until he looks like a shining statue."
"Where does this chief live?"
"Not far from here, and his people are very rich in gold and emeralds."
This was what the Spaniards wanted to hear, and the Children of the Sun hoped by this means to get rid of their hated conquerors. We remember the visit of the Golden Hearted to the Zipa of the Muscas, and we see, by the unfriendly feeling of their neighbors, that they were still quarrelsome.
"We will go and find the Valley of the Gilded Man," said the brother of Pizarro, to his soldiers, who were getting tired of being idle. "I am told that there are wealthy regions to the north, east, and south of us, where the people go about covered with gold-dust, and where there are no mountains or woods."
This pleased the greedy adventurers very much, and it was not long before there was quite an army of them ready to start. But they did not know that they were going into a country where there were cannibals—savages ready to kill and eat every one of them, and that they fought with poisoned arrows. The Muscas were obliged to fight these people, but they traded with them, because there was no gold in their own land, and they prized it highly as an offering in honor of the Golden Hearted. They had quantities of salt which they pressed into little round cakes, like sugar loaves, and carried over beaten paths to market. Besides this, they wove beautiful cotton cloth, and managed to get large quantities of gold and silver and emeralds by trading with the cannibals.
They had not forgotten what the Golden Hearted taught them about hammering the gold, or casting it into tasteful shapes, and they not only wore it for ornaments, but used it to decorate the outside and inside of their temples. It was near the anniversary of his departure, and there were many pilgrims from neighboring tribes who had come to cast emeralds into the lake at Gautavita in his honor. On the mountain tops surrounding the lake beacon lights were burning, and the sacred fires on the altars in the temples had never been allowed to go out. As each band of pilgrims came into the city, the Zipa welcomed them, saying:
"Tomorrow, comrades, we will go in solemn procession to the lake, and commemorate the departure of Bochica, and his purification afterward. We have made his heart very sad by our misdeeds, but from his home in the sun he can look down upon us, and see that we still adore and worship him."
The next day, at noon a solemn procession approached the lake. In the lead walked bronze-colored men, without any clothing, but whose bodies were covered with red paint, as a sign of deep mourning, and they wailed in a most sorrowful manner. Behind them were warriors decorated with gold and emeralds, wearing bright feathers in their gold head-dresses, and carrying mantles of jaguar skins over their arms. Some of them were singing, while others shouted joyfully or blew on horns and pipes, and conch shells. Close to them were priests in black robes, with white crosses on them, and tall black hats, like those worn by the wise men. In the rear was the Zipa riding in a kind of gilded wheelbarrow hung with disks of gold. His naked body had been anointed with a resinous gum, and covered all over with fine gold-dust.
Arrived at the shore, the Gilded Man and his companions stepped upon a balsa gay with streamers and loaded with flowers, and rowed out into the middle of the lake. There the Zipa, who was the Gilded Man, plunged into the water and washed off all the gold-dust. While he was doing this his companions, with music and singing, threw in the gold and emeralds they had brought out on the lake for that purpose. Coming back to the shore the Zipa said:
"Do no more work for this day, but make merry with singing, dancing and feasting, as if the gentle, kind Bochica were with you again."
All this time Pizarro's brother, and his greedy soldiers, were wandering around in the mountains trying to find the Gilded Man. If they could have seen him covered with gold at the festival, they would probably have tried to skin him alive to get the gold dust on his body. One of the padres, who came to convert and teach the natives, writing to the king of Spain, said:
"I do not believe that the men taking part in the expeditions in search of the Gilded Man, would have tried so hard to get into Paradise."
Further on in his letter the padre describes the terrible hardships and suffering the men had to undergo. After telling about their failure to find El Dorado, he says:
"The men and officers returned to us nearly naked. In the warm rain their clothes had rotted on their backs, and were torn into shreds by the thickets they had crawled through on their hands and knees. Their feet were bare and wounded by the thorns and roots in the pathways, and their swords were not only without sheaths, but were eaten up with rust. Hunger compelled them to kill and eat their horses and dogs."
While this had been going on in Peru, the King of Spain was busy sending out men for the same purpose. The story of the Gilded Man was known over all Europe, and other nations, besides Spain, were trying to find him. Some German bankers had loaned the king large sums of money for the privilege of searching for El Dorado, and the first white men to visit Gautavita was a band of Germans sent out by the banking house. They wanted slaves as well as gold, and were just as merciless and cruel as the Spaniards. In fact, any man having money enough to buy boats, or to provision men, stole off into the woods and went in search of the Gilded Man. The country was overrun with armed bands of adventurers who were ready to commit any kind of crime for the sake of gain. Whoever offered resistance was killed, and they were suspicious and jealous of each other, as well as of the Indians.
After Pizarro's brother made such a miserable failure, and had to endure such bitter hardships one would expect his friends and associates to be careful about making another venture, but they knew of the German invaders, and then it was a race to see who would get hold of the Gilded Man first. Either side would have killed him and burned and pillaged the city, so the Indians had learned to distrust and hate all white men, and they made war on both the Spaniards and Germans whenever they had an opportunity.
A young Spanish lieutenant, named Quesada, was the real conqueror of the Muscas, and, as might have been expected, he murdered the Zipa and robbed Gautavita, and every other village in the kingdom. He was as hard-hearted with his men, as he was with the Indians, and after five hundred of them had died from exposure on the way, they found themselves surrounded on all sides by overflowing rivers. Weeping and dejected they sought Quesada, saying:
"We beseech you to send us back to Peru. Instead of gold, only hunger, misery and death await us here. The Gilded Man only exists in the distorted fancy of those who believe the lying tales of the Indians."
At this juncture they stumbled on to a path with huts, at intervals, by the wayside, filled with the white cakes of salt said to come from the home of the Gilded Man, and they also found some cotton cloth.
"We are on the right road at last," said Quesada, to his dispirited soldiery. "Prove faithful now, and we shall soon stand face to face with El Dorado." With a significant nod of the head, he added: "You know what that means to fearless men, like yourselves, and you can trust to the generosity of your captain for a rich reward."
The prospect of getting plenty of gold soon caused the men to forget all about their troubles, but the Zipa not only fought them stubbornly, but when he was finally compelled to abandon Gautavita, there was no treasure to be found. The Muscas had either buried all their gold and emeralds, or thrown them into the lake. Great, indeed, was the disappointment of the Spaniards, and for his own safety Quesada soon planned another expedition against a neighboring tribe of Indians. The strange chief was surprised and captured in the Council House, and with him perished all of the notable men of the tribe. The soldiers found some gold and some very fine emeralds, but when they went to sack the Temple of the Sun, which had a thatched roof, they carelessly set the dry leaves on fire, and burned all the plate and other treasures it contained. Bands of armed men rode hither and yon looking for the Zipa, whom they now believed to be the Gilded Man. He kept in very close hiding, and no amount of torture, or promises of reward could make his followers tell where he was, or where the gold ornaments and vessels were hidden.
"He is in the mountain fastnesses, where he has a house made of gold," declared some irresponsible Indians, glad to get rid of the cruel Spaniards.
"Where is the house located?" Quesada asked, eagerly.
"Some of the Indians say it is in the north, some say the south, some say near by, and others far away," answered his servant.
"Very well, we will search in all directions until we find the miserable dog, and when we do it shall go hard with him."
It took them several months to hunt him down, and when they did find him he could not be induced to tell anything about the treasures.
"I have a house of gold in the sun where my master and lord, Bochica lives. I go to him, whom I have faithfully served all my life."
After his death a new governor was sent from Peru, and he undertook to drain the lake to get the treasures of gold and emeralds which had been thrown into it in honor of the Golden Hearted. The Muscas were told that the new Governor would be kind to them if they would tell where they had hidden their wealth, but one of their priests said:
"Do you think a river will run up hill?"
The new Governor, hearing the remark, turned to him, and said:
"No, it is not possible for water to run up hill. Why do you ask such a foolish question?"
"How then, do you expect me to believe in the existence of a white man who will be just to us? One thing is quite as possible as the other."
And to this day no one knows what became of the riches of the brave Muscas, but it is said that they still remember the Golden Hearted, and in secret, offer gold and emeralds in his honor.
The White Sea of the Manoas
THE death of the Zipa and the complete subjugation of the Muscas, did not cause people to forget the story of El Dorado. On the contrary other nations soon began to fit out expeditions to search for him, and they went into some dreadful places in South America thinking they would find him.
"What ails that dog of an Indian?" asked Aguirre, the tyrant, and the worst of all the Spanish adventurers looking for gold.
"He has fainted from fatigue," answered one of his men.
"Then cut off his head. We have no time to waste on these slaves."
"Let us unfasten the chain around his neck, and then he can drop behind the rest of the gang," pleaded some of the Indians, who were being used to help the horses carry the baggage.
"It will take too long, and the whole chain-gang of men would have to wait until we could unfasten his neckband and put some one else in his place. Chop off his head with this sword, and go on."
The other officers tried to console the terrified Indians by saying:
"If we were to leave him lying by the roadside, some wild animal would come along and eat him, so it is just as well for him as if we had done as you wished."
Many people now say that Aguirre was insane, and to this day the poor Christian Indians cross themselves when they hear strange noises at night, and exclaim:
"It is the soul of the tyrant Aguirre, who plunged a dagger through the heart of his own daughter when the King's officers came to arrest and punish him for his cruelties. He is doomed to wander over the swamps at night, and wail over his terrible sins. His soul can never be at rest."
Like thistle-down scattered by the wind, were the wonderful tales of El Dorado. No matter where white men went they failed to find it, but the cunning Indians always told them that it was still farther away, because they wanted to get rid of the unwelcome visitors, who tortured and enslaved, as well as robbed them.
Finally Sir Walter Raleigh, who helped colonize the state of Virginia, and named it for Good Queen Bess of England, heard about the city of Omagua, and the White Sea of the Manoas, and he determined to find them, because there, he believed, was El Dorado.
Some English sailors under his command traded some pieces of old iron to the Indians for shields of gold.
"Where did you get this metal?" was asked of the Indians.
"In Omagua, where the tiles on the roofs of the houses are made from the same glittering substance, and where we hang crescents of it in front of our doors to keep away evil spirits."
"What they say must be true," said the sailors among themselves, "for they have gold crowns on their heads, and breast-plates and earrings."
"Where is this city of Omagua?" again asked the men.
"It is very far south, and is on a lake of gold. Our chief lives in the House of the Sun, and has many green stones in his shield and on the walls of the temples."
"What is the name of your chief?"
"El Dorado," answered the Indians, anxious that the white men should know that they could speak their language.
"It is all plain to me," said Sir Walter Raleigh, when told of it. "Those Spanish adventurers have failed to find the real El Dorado. We will search for it ourselves."
"The Indians say there are whole streets filled with workers in gold and precious stones," said one of his officers, "and I dare say we shall make our enterprise quite profitable." So they, too, were looking for gold, only their methods were not so barbarous and cruel as the others had been.
As they went farther into the country they found a numerous band of Indians with flat heads, and when they examined the babies carried on the backs of their mothers it was seen that they had tied a board across the forehead so that it would sink in and leave the head pointed and flat in front.
"Why do you treat your heads in this manner?" some one asked their chief.
"Because our fathers did so, and we think it makes us beautiful," he answered. In that country there are still plenty of flat-headed Indians. As the men marched along they came to trees with holes cut through the bark, and little earthen pots hanging under them to catch the sticky-looking milk that oozed out.
"Can this be something good to eat?" the men said. "Let us taste it and see."
"Ugh! it has a nasty, disagreeable, bitter flavor," said the speaker, licking his finger after he had stuck it down into the pot. "It smells so badly that it makes me feel sick," he continued, spitting it out quickly.
"Here comes an old woman with some nuts from the palm tree she has been shaking in her hands. Let us ask her what this stuff is good for."
But the old woman evidently did not have a very good opinion of white men, and would not speak to them at all.
"We can watch her," they said, "and see whether she intends to eat it."
She paid no attention to them, but went on making a fire out of the palm nuts and some dry leaves, and as soon as they blazed brightly she set the little pot near the fire and began stirring the milk with a wooden paddle she carried in her hand. As soon as the blaze smouldered, she held the paddle over it until the milk began to get thick. Then she dipped it back into the pot and repeated the process until there was enough coating to scrape off and make a flat cake.
"Will you please give me the biscuit?" inquired one of the bystanders. Without a word the old woman threw it at him, and when he caught it in his hands, he exclaimed:
"It is India rubber! Now we can have a game of ball!" As it was still warm he rounded it into shape with his hands, and then he and his companions amused themselves for quite a while throwing the ball against the trees and catching it as it bounded back. While they were engaged in this sport the cooks were preparing them something to eat, but the forest was full of monkeys swinging themselves from one tree to another by their long tails and seemingly very much interested in what the men underneath them were doing.
Now, we all know that a monkey imitates everything it sees, and so the whole band began to go through the motion of throwing. As soon as they found out there was something to eat they bobbed their heads and screeched and chattered in great excitement. Every time the cook's back was turned they slid down a limb of the tree and grabbed a dish and scampered back again. They had such solemn little faces, and were so quick about it, that the men shouted with laughter, but when they sat down to eat, the monkeys jumped out of the trees and rushed for the food.
The old Indian woman, comprehending the situation, approached camp and said:
"Will the white chief let me cook something for the monkeys?"
"What do you want to feed them?"
"A pot of rice," she answered, "such as I know well how to prepare."
No one made any objection, and it was not long before she had a big pan full of boiled rice, which she had made almost red with pepper. Taking a wide, green leaf, she laid it down and poured the rice out to cool. No sooner had she done so than the monkeys swarmed around the pile, and squatting beside it began to eat by the handful. Tears ran down their faces and water poured from their mouths, but they kept on eating for a few minutes. Then, suddenly seeming to suspect each other of being to blame, they commenced fighting with sticks and stones until they scattered the rice all over the ground. By this time the pepper was burning their mouths worse than ever, and not knowing what was the matter they set up a doleful howling, and ran pell-mell into the river quite a distance from camp. They tumbled into the water and rolled and wallowed in it, but it was some little time before their mouths quit smarting, and they were very willing to let the men alone.
The dogs belonging to the party gave chase, but the monkeys screamed so that they awoke the alligators sleeping in the sun on the river bank, and then the dogs had to run for their lives. One or two of them barely escaped being caught in the wide open mouths of these monsters. It was very much cooler when the sun went down, but that brought out the mosquitos, and the men were obliged to sit in the smoke to save themselves from being bitten dreadfully. They kept the fire going all night, because they were afraid of the jaguars and panthers hidden in the woods during the day, but ready to kill and eat anything they might find in their night prowls.
It was considered safer out of doors than in the tents, but it was impossible to sleep on account of the hideous noises made by the animals, monkeys, birds and snakes.
"Why do these creatures keep up such a terrible din?" asked the men of their Indian guides.
"Because they are keeping the feast of the full moon," they replied, and this appeared to be a settled belief among them.
"Men put the jaguar out of humor," they explained. "He is a very selfish beast, and if he cannot rule alone he goes to his den and sulks. He will follow a man all day through the woods and will not spring upon him unless he tries to run or moves his arms. If you think one is following you do not look back and do not trust anything but the sharp blade of your sword. The noise of a gun only infuriates him."
As the men heard this they imagined they could see the yellow eyes glaring at them in the darkness, and some thought they smelled him.
"He is a ferocious, blood-thirsty beast," said the Indians in conclusion, "and you may well think yourselves fortunate when you leave these tropic forests and get out into the open plains."
The men would have agreed with him if it had not been for the intense heat, and a terrible sandstorm that almost blinded them for days when it did not blow so hard that they could make no headway against it. Finally, footsore, weary, and almost discouraged, they came to a wide and deep river, and here the Indian guides brought them boats, which they called pirogues.
"We are not far from the lake of gold beside the city of the Manoas," they said, and when the delighted soldiers inquired particularly, they responded readily:
"We have these things from our fathers and other men wise in the traditions and sayings of our people, but we are afraid to go any further, for the Manoans are a fierce and warlike race."
About this time Sir Walter Raleigh learned that the Queen was not pleased with his efforts in search of the El Dorado, and he decided to withdraw his men and abandon the attempt.
But this did not hinder other men from trying to solve the mystery. It was more than a hundred years before the truth was finally known, and then a scientist discovered that the location itself had shifted and was nearly as much changed as the ideas about El Dorado. He traced the legend to Lake Parima, near the center of South America, and said:
"This is really the White Sea of the Manoas, which people have long believed was a lake of gold. The reason the Indians thought so was because there is some fine gold-dust in the washings of the sand, which has plenty of mica mixed with it. Then there is a large quantity of salt dried on the grass, and when the hot sun shines, it looks at a distance as if it were a great sea of gold."
"Are the houses covered with gold tiles?" was the next inquiry.
"No indeed: they are common huts with thatched roofs on which the salt and mica glisten and sparkle as they do in the grass and sand."
"Are the natives warlike? and do they eat each other, as we have been told?"
"They are armed with javelins, wooden shields, bows and arrows, and a short sword which they make for themselves. We found them very friendly, and as for their being cannibals that is all imagination, but it may have been true in olden times."
And this is really what people spent millions of money trying to find, and for which hundreds of lives were uselessly sacrificed.
The Mountain of Gold
VERY far to the north of Lake Parima, is the celebrated Roraima, the "Mountain of Gold," one of the objects sought by the men who were looking for El Dorado.
"Let us set out on an expedition to see if we cannot solve the mystery of this mountain, that is not only rich in gold and precious stones, but grows the Plant of Life in abundance, which keeps one alive for hundreds of years," said some idle Cavaliers who had become reckless in their eagerness to acquire sudden riches.
"But they say Roraima is inaccessible, so what is the use of attempting the impossible?" said one of the party, who had been out hunting.
"I believe that the flat top of the mountain is inhabited, and that up there is the famous island city of El Dorado," responded the first speaker. "There is almost unlimited wealth to be had by finding it, and these cowardly Indians are afraid to go near it."
"It will be a long, tedious journey," said the hunter, "and I doubt if we can persuade the slaves to accompany us."
"They shall go," said the other, firmly, "and if there is any sign of rebellion we have a remedy," he continued, pointing to his gun with a smile that was not pleasant to see.
It was as the hunter feared. The Indian porters and servants were nearly frantic at the idea of being compelled to approach the dread mountain.
"The whole place is weird and uncanny," they declared, "and the demon mountain is surrounded by haunted woods, filled with camoodis and didis."
When asked what a camoodi was, they explained that it was a gigantic snake with a hood over its head, and whose breath killed whatever it touched, while the didis were man apes, ferocious and terrible to see.
"It is a foolish superstition," said the Spaniards, in derision, "and we will not listen to such idle tales."
"Roraima is an island, connected underground with the other mountains, and the lights you see on the tops are put there by the demons to lure us on to destruction."
"If it is inaccessible, how do these demons manage to get up there?" asked the Spaniards.
"There are huge white eagles, that fly so high we cannot see them; but they have very fine eyesight, and many a poor brave has been seized by them, and carried to the didis on the mountain."
"They must mean the big white birds we call condors, found in the highest peaks of the Andes," said the Spaniards, "but our good weapons are proof against any bird, and we need have no fear."
"As soon as it is dark in those terrible woods, blood-sucking vampires swoop down from the trees and fasten their long red bills in your throat," said the Indians, with a shudder, but no attention was paid to anything they told of the hardships to be endured.
"It is better for us to start at the beginning of the dry season," said Carino, the Indian guide, and in a short time the entire party was voyaging on one of the splendid rivers that span that country. In canoes they passed through untracked forests and grassy savannahs following the course of the river. Some places they were in great danger from cataracts and rapids, but finally landed in a place where there was a flock of red flamingos half hidden by tall pampas grass, and where there were hundreds of little wild ducks with tiny horns on their wings. In the trees were some rare and beautiful orchids, and when some of the party climbed up to pick the big perfumed blossoms, they were much surprised to find that what they thought was a flower was a perfumed butterfly.
"We must be near the enchanted wood," said the Spaniards, but just then they heard a sort of combination of whistle, snort and hiss that frightened them dreadfully:
"Carino! what is that?" they all said, huddling up close together, and listening intently.
"It is the cry of the Lost Souls, who have been slain by the camoodi," said Carino. "We have already seen their strange shapes flitting through the deep shadows. They are in league with the didi to guard this spot." As he spoke the Indian porters and slaves began a curious chant in a singsong tone:
Darkly from sunset to the rising sun,
A cry as of the pained heart of the wood,
The long despairing moan of solitude
And darkness and the absence of all good,
Startles the traveler with a sound so drear,
So full of hopeless agony and fear,
His heart stands still and listens with his ear,
The guide, as if he heard a death-bell toll,
Crosses himself and whispers "A Lost Soul."
The last words seemed to affect Carino deeply and falling on his knees before the leader of the expedition he said:
"My heart is heavy at the thought of your undertaking to fight the demons of the mountain. It is not good—this thing you are about to do. The didis may tempt you to enter these fatal woods, but they will trap you by closing the trail and you will never be seen again."
"We will encamp here for the night, and tomorrow at sunrise we will have a look at Roraima," said the leader, not feeling very comfortable over the doleful noise called the wail of a lost soul. "It may be that these Indians are not so far wrong," he said to himself when their backs were turned. "At any rate, I do not fancy going into the woods so near nightfall."
After a long parley Carino succeeded in persuading the porters and servants to venture a short distance to get some wood for cooking and other purposes. They had not been gone long when the Spaniards heard a loud roaring bark, almost like a trumpet, quickly followed by several more in the immediate vicinity. Soon the Indians came flying into camp terror-stricken.
"The Warracaba cats!" they shouted, and before the Spaniards could stop them, they had all piled into the canoes and were rowing for the middle of the river. The white men stood with guns raised as four screaming tigers sprang out of the woods in full pursuit of the Indians they had smelled, but not seen. Bang! bang! bang! went the guns in rapid succession, and three of the four tigers rolled on the ground dead or dying, while the other one made off into the woods as fast as he could go.
"That was a narrow escape, my masters," said Carino, shaking as if he had ague, "and the other Warracaba will come back and bring companions. These tigers hunt in packs like wolves, and are not afraid of anything except deep water."
"What are we to do?" asked the leader, gruffly, pale with fright. "Those dastardly slaves have gone off and left us without a single boat. Do you think you can call them back?" he asked eagerly.
"I fear to answer that question," faltered Carino. "I have warned you that my people fear these woods, and are never willing to go into them."
Then the Cavaliers began very foolishly to blame each other for coming to such a place, and were soon in high words—as if quarreling would help them out of their difficulty.
"If you had not been so greedy for gold you would never have undertaken such a journey," said one of them.
"And if you had been willing to work for an honest living you would not have been so eager to come with me," retorted the other angrily.
Carino realizing that something must be done at once, interrupted the dispute by saying:
"There is an old Manoan witch named Monella, who has lived at the edge of this wood for hundreds of years, and if you will follow me I will conduct you to her hut. The pathway is hung with bell-shaped flowers of many hues, and these give a dim light when the sun goes down. If we make haste we may reach it before dark."
Without a word the Spaniards picked up what things they needed for the night, and carrying them on their backs in separate bundles, moodily followed Carino. None but an Indian could have found the way through such a tangled mass of undergrowth. Suddenly Carino stopped and called out:
"Beware! here is one of the fierce lords of the wood, mouth open and bent upon attack." Being an agile, quick fellow, he jumped to one side barely in time to miss the venomous snake as it rushed toward him. The warning made the Spaniards ready, and with unerring aim one of them shot the reptile through the head.
"These are some of the guardians of Roraima," said Carino, solemnly. "They are not only poisonous, but show fight, and will not run from man."
By this time the Spaniards were beginning to lose heart.
"If the Holy Mother preserves me through this night I will give up this search for El Dorado," said the leader, and the other men agreed with him.
"The witch Monella has strange tales to tell of Roraima. She has been through the secret cavern in the side of the mountain, and up to the top," said Carino.
"Does she say that there is gold up there?" queried one of the Cavaliers. Before the guide could answer, a large yellow puma stood in the pathway, directly in front of them. A gun was leveled to shoot at her, when Carino sprang forward and said:
"Do not harm the puma. She belongs to Monella, and no red man ever kills one of these animals. They are always our friends, and to injure one is to bring bad luck on yourself and family."
They went forward eagerly now for the thought of a human habitation near by inspired them with courage, and they were soon rewarded by seeing a thin column of smoke issuing from an opening in the dense foliage. Nearing the hut they were met by a queer looking old Indian woman, who had no teeth, and whose face was so wrinkled that she could scarcely see out of her eyes. Carino approached her and said:
"We have come, good mother, to ask shelter and food for the night. We are a band of travelers who are left with no servants and must make our way the best we can."
"Your strange white masters come on a useless errand," said the old crone, blinking at them and grinning in a knowing way. "You think to find the hidden treasure of Roraima and to unearth its buried secrets, but you will fail. No one living, except myself, knows these things, and I will not tell you more than is good for you."
"Do not quarrel with the old hag," said the leader to Carino, "we need a place to sleep and are very hungry, so give her some gold and tell her we will do as she says."
"These are not Mellenda's men," said the old crone to Carino, as she eyed them suspiciously. "But the White Brotherhood would despise me if I refused to shelter them from the dangers of the forest at night. They are welcome to come and sup with me."
When they had all been given something to eat, and were sitting before the fire of pine knots, one of the Cavaliers said:
"Tell us, good mother, how you have managed to live so long. Carino says you are very old and very wise."
"Since I was a little child I have drank a tea made from the Plant of Life. Its juice is bitter-sweet, and unless one has the Falloa, or Don't Care Sickness, he can live always."
"Where did you get this wonderful plant?"
"It was given me by Ulama, the beautiful daughter of Mellenda," answered the old woman, proudly. "This is like her smiling face," she continued, going back to a cupboard and getting a curious old parchment roll from a shelf. As she unwound the figure the astonished Spaniards saw a fair representation of a yellow-haired girl with a circlet of gold set with gems on her head. On the breast of her flowing robe there was a golden star, and around the waist there was a jeweled girdle.
"Can you read this picture writing?" asked one of the Spaniards.
"It is the language of my forefathers, and as a child I could speak it well. Listen, and I will tell you what it says. Long years ago there was a rich and powerful white race living in these lands, and they built a wonderful city on the Mountain of Gold. But the Children of Darkness captured the city, and they enticed people up there so they could sacrifice them to the Devil-tree. There is never any thunder or lightning on top of Roraima, and its crest is a flat tableland edged with a high forest and guarded by white eagles. The mountains surrounding it were once islands in a great lake, and Mellenda was the ancient king of the Children of Light who lived there. The King was a man of peace and very great wisdom, and he had a wife and four beautiful children whom his enemies, the Children of Darkness, sacrificed to the Devil-tree while he was away in a distant part of the kingdom. He had a great fleet and could have punished the Children of Darkness."
The old crone ceased speaking, and seemed lost in deep study. Finally Carino roused her by asking:
"Did Mellenda do nothing for revenge?"
"No; he went away, but he promised he would come back again, and he will. Not long after his departure came the great sinking of the waters, and the lake of Parima has disappeared into another region of our country. For centuries after this the surrounding land was but a chaos of swamp and mud. By degrees vegetation grew up, and in time the trees became the thick tangled forest that cannot now be penetrated."
"Did this Mellenda take with him all the gold and silver?" asked a Cavalier, intent upon finding something worth carrying away.
"In the city on top of the mountain is kept a full suit of his gold armor, bright and ready, waiting to receive him."
"We will get it and take it home with us," said the Spaniards, now all eagerness.
"We, of Mellenda's race, firmly believe that he will come again, and none of us would dare touch any of his belongings," said the crone, earnestly.
"You need not touch it," began one of the Cavaliers. "We will bring it down the trail ourselves."
"There is no trail up the sides of Roraima. The entrance to its hidden passageway is guarded by a giant Devil-tree."
"Did you ever see this Devil-tree?" asked her visitors.
"Yes; a few years ago, I took my two pumas and went to the cave for a certain purpose. As we stood looking at the monstrous thing one of its long, horny branches crept toward us, and one of the pumas sprang forward to bite it. Instantly it curled around the body of the poor creature, dragging it until they came to the trunk of the tree. Here shorter and thicker limbs knotted together over the struggling puma, and finally all rose in the air and almost disappeared in the hollow trunk."
"Did you make no effort to rescue your pet?"
"I hacked the first branch with an axe until it bled a dark, crimson liquid that smelled so badly I was deathly sick. Every inch of the bark is covered with small mouths that pierce the flesh and suck the blood of its victims. I kept watch until the moon came out, and then the knots of limbs unrolled and out fell something. Each branch tossed it before it reached the ground, when I saw it was the crushed and lifeless puma. Out of a slimy pool near by rushed huge alligators, and in a few minutes they were eating what the Devil-tree left of the puma."
"Let us go away from here," said the Spaniards among themselves. "Instead of being an earthly paradise, this is an infernal region."
When they were bidding the old crone good-bye the next morning, she looked at them sharply and said:
"You came here searching for gold, and expected to find it ready for your use. My friends, the great blessings of life must be worked for and earned. You cannot cheat your way into Heaven, nor will you or your people ever find any more hidden treasures belonging to other races. You will earn all the fortunes you get after this adventure."
The Amazon Queens
WE should all get very tired I am sure if we tried to follow the Spaniards into every nook and corner of the New World where they went in search of El Dorado, but we are interested in knowing that the name Costa Rica means the rich coast, because it was one of the El Dorado regions, and in Panama, the little narrow strip of land which unites North and South America, they expected to find a Castle of Gold, while the Island of Porto Rico is also one of the homes of El Dorado. It made no difference to the Spaniards whether the natives in these places had heard of the Golden Hearted or not. They only wanted to find the riches of the country, and would not have listened to any teaching other than that brought by the padres. So for years and years they kept on making mistakes and undergoing the most terrible hardships trying to acquire sudden wealth.
One of the stories that is very queer was that about the Amazon Queens. Columbus wrote of them, and this is what he said:
"On the first island discovered on the voyage from Spain to the Indies, no men are allowed to live. The female warriors do not follow any womanly occupations, but use bows and arrows of cane, and cover as well as arm themselves with brazen plates, of which they have many."
He says nothing of their having great wealth, but Cortez also heard of them, and wrote to the King of Spain that the island was ten days distance from a province in Mexico, and that many persons had gone there and seen the women warriors. He concludes his letter by saying:
"I am told that these fighting women are rich in pearls and gold."
This news was quite enough to start the Spaniards on a search for the island, and, as usual, the Indians gave them much contradictory information about its location. Some said it was north and some said it was south, so exploring parties were sent in both directions. A man by the name of Guzman came up into Mexico as far north as Sinaloa, looking for this wonderful island, and his march was one of devastation and murder. He not only compelled the Indians to accompany him as slaves to do all the drudgery, but tortured such chiefs as he thought had gold, and in many cases killed them because they either did not give it to him quickly enough, or in as large quantities as he wanted. The farther north he went the poorer the natives were.
"Instead of a rich island inhabited by soldierly women," he exclaimed, in disgust, "I find a few insignificant villages occupied by women and children, because the men have all fled to the mountains. In the whole country there is not a trace of gold, pearls or treasures of any kind."
Along the way he found very scant supplies of gold, and this made him furious, for he returned to the city of Mexico poorer than when he left it.
Pizarro and his followers in Peru heard of the Amazon Queens, and so did Sir Walter Raleigh and the German adventurers, but their country was said to be along the banks of a very wide river in South America. The Indians called them the Great Ladies, and the river has since been named the Amazon in their honor.
"If the Great Ladies do not invite you to visit them, it is a very dangerous thing to attempt," said the Indian guides to Orellana, the man who discovered the Amazon river, and was the first to sail its entire length.
"Why do you say that?" asked Orellana.
"Because they are tall, strong-limbed and fair, and are great fighters. They wind their long hair across their foreheads in thick bands, and defend themselves well."
"What kind of weapons do they use?" queried the Spanish soldiers, when they could stop laughing at the Indians for being afraid of a lot of women.
"They shoot with blow-pipes, bows and arrows, and have a war-club that they wield with great vigor," answered the Indians, with serious faces.
"Are they always so hostile to men?"
"Only the grandfathers of this generation have seen them, and none save the Kings of the Borderers ever venture near their habitation."
"How are the Kings of the Borderers received by these strange women?"
"They meet them at the frontier of their possessions with bows and arrows in their hands, but after an exchange of pledges the Great Ladies invite the men to come and feast and dance with them. Sometimes they stay a month, and then the Queens escort them to the edge of their land, and send them home loaded with presents."
"What kind of presents do they give?" asked the Spaniards, suddenly taking a great interest in what was being said.
"There are gold ornaments in plenty, and emeralds and pearls, besides the grains of gold carried in eagle quills."
"We will capture these Great Ladies," interrupted the Spaniards, excitedly. "We will teach them their proper places when we get hold of them. Why do you Indians allow them to live in such a manner?"
"Our forefathers have taught us to hold them in great veneration, because they live in a Mansion of the Sun. Long years ago they were Virgins of the Sun, but in the wars between the different tribes they were allowed to separate from the rest and live in a community by themselves."
"Do they build houses?"
"They have temples, and keep the sacred fires burning on the altars, as was done in olden times."
"Who rules them, and what do they do with their boy babies?"
"They select their own queen, and the boy babies are given to the Kings of the Borderers; they only keep girl babies in their tribe, and when they grow up they become either warriors or priestesses."
"How do they support themselves?"
"By hunting, fishing, weaving cloth and trading with their neighbors."
"Where do they get their riches?"
"From the mountains of Parima, where they have secret storehouses filled with treasures they have been hoarding for ages."
This pleased the Spaniards very much, and quite decided them to make a raid upon that country. Even after they had talked the matter over fully among themselves they recalled the Indians and questioned them still further.
"Would you be afraid to undertake to fight these strange women?" they asked, when they saw that the guides were unwilling to accompany them.
"No, we are not afraid, but we are enjoined to let them alone. None of us would ever think of disturbing them. They are very fierce, and will kill any man that they do not like."
"But you could easily conquer women warriors," urged the Spaniards, now eager to commence the journey.
"It would not be so easily done as you imagine," said the guides, shaking their heads doubtfully. "The Great Ladies wear thick shields and cover their clothes with metal discs which turn away an arrow point."
"We can easily overcome that protection with our guns, and we are not commanded to respect them," replied the Spaniards.
"You will find that they have deep underground retreats to which they fly in times of danger, and they are known to be excellent shots."
Just then a party of prospectors returned from the mountains where they had been looking for gold. Among the things they brought was a number of thin, flat green stones with holes pierced in each end, showing that they had been used for ornaments. The Indian guides said at once they were the same kind of emerald as that worn by the Amazon Queens for an amulet against disease.
"How did you succeed in getting them?" they asked.
"From some Indian pedlars we met with packs on their backs. They said the stones would cure the spleen, and we have been wearing them ever since."
"Did you have any difficulty in persuading the pedlars to part with them?"
"No; they said they got them from a tribe of women warriors many leagues to the south, but we did not believe them."
"It is all true," said the guides, "and these Great Ladies have been in that land a very long time."
"If we can find enough of these spleen stones to make our trip profitable we do not care whether we meet the Great Ladies or not," said the prospectors, when told of the proposed trip in search of the Amazon Queens.
As the party pushed forward into the tangled thickets, they found cocoanuts, and plantains, ripe and ready to eat, and they also found some very juicy little canteloupes growing on a vine, but none of the Indians living on, or near the Amazon river, could tell them where to find the Queens. They searched up and down the banks for a hidden passageway which was said to guard the entrance to their mountain home, but to all questions the river made no answer. To the disappointed Spaniards it looked angry, sullen and relentless in the untamed might of its turbid waters.
"It seems to be always summer here," said the weary soldiers, "but one would die of malarial poisoning if compelled to stay long."
Some of the guides felt sorry for the sick men, and went into the woods and brought them sarsaparilla bark, and made them a tea of it.
"Drink this," they said, "because it will cure your sickness which comes from the head. If your heart was strong with love for your brothers you would find blessings in this land. As it is you seek to plunder and rob the Great Ladies, but the Sun is their father, and he will make the mountains, trees and rocks hide them and their treasures."
"It is no use to look for these women any longer. We shall all die before we can reach them," said the leader, wearily.
And no one to this day knows just where the Amazon Queens lived.
The Seven Cities of Cibola
THE Nahuas in Mexico were really a sect of wise men descended from those that came with the Golden Hearted. They believed that they originated in Seven Caves, which were not locations at all, but was only a way of saying that human beings have seven wonderful qualities. They might have thought so because we can see, feel, taste, hear and smell, and have instinct and are able to reason, or it may have been something else. At any rate, it did not mean actual caves, but was a symbol. In later times when people were not so wise, they said it was seven tribes instead of caves, and when the Spaniards heard about it they managed to twist it into seven cities, and immediately conceived the idea that great riches and gold could be found in them. When questioned on the subject the Indians said:
"To the far north there are seven wonderful cities where the people make arrow-heads of emeralds and take the sweat off their bodies with scrapers of pure gold, and have jeweled gates, and turquoise ornaments over their doors."
"Do these men know how to work precious stones and metals?" asked the Spaniards eagerly.
"There are long streets filled with jewelers who make rings for the ears, nose and arms," they said. "Forty days must you journey to reach this land, and you must travel through a desert where there is neither water nor food to be had."
The first Spaniard to attempt the search for the Seven Cities was the cruel Guzman, who looked north for the Amazons. He had with him quite an army, and his men were so excited over the stories they heard that they scarcely took time to eat or sleep on the way. They hoped every day to find the cities, but instead of this the country grew more desolate, the road more difficult, and the cities still farther to the north. Then the Spaniards began to complain, and said:
"We have been deceived, and shall all die in this bleak land. Let us return to Mexico." And they did. For six years no one had the courage to seek the Seven Cities.
Then something very strange happened.
Into a little seaport where Cortez had ordered some ships built to explore the western coast, came wandering four strange men. They were barefooted, and had no clothing except some old, dirty skins with the hair worn off in spots. Their heads were a perfect mass of tangles, and their beards reached almost to the knees. Falling flat on their faces before the first white man they saw, they cried out in a loud voice:
"Thank God! We are safe at last!" When the astonished Spaniard turned to look at them, they seized his hands and kissed them, and springing to their feet danced and shouted for joy.
"These are escaped maniacs," said the people, gathering around to look at them. "Whatever shall we do with mad men?"
"No, no! You do not understand. We are poor wanderers who have been lost for years among the Indians."
"Let us take them to our Captain. There is something very strange about this," said the Spaniards, and they started at once.
"Who are you?" asked the Captain, rudely, looking with disgust at their dirt and rags.
"I am a noble of Castile who came to help conquer Florida, and my name is De Vaca," said the oldest man. "The fleet was wrecked and all were lost except my companions here, and me. All the years since we have been with the Indians."
"I do not believe a word of it," said the Captain. "Put these fellows in prison until we find out about them. They may be criminals."
For three months they lay in prison, and then the Alcalde came and released them.
"Tell me your story," he said.
"When the ships were lost," responded De Vaca, "we swam to the mainland, and were captured by the Indians. They were a poor, starved tribe who lived on roots and berries, and often went days without a mouthful. We had with us a rattle, and this, with our beards, made them think we came from Heaven, and were great medicine men. They fell on their faces before us and gave us all they had. We asked them to take us where the sun sets, but they refused, and we pretended to be very angry, until they finally let us go. After months of wandering we came to a land of plenty, where the people were wealthy, and wore beautiful plumes in their head-dresses. They brought us five emeralds cut into arrow-heads, and many fine turquoises, and beads made of coral. When I asked where they got these stones, they pointed to some lofty mountains toward the north and told us the gems came from there, and that near them were large cities, with houses three or four stories high. I did not go there because I heard that toward the sunset were other men of my kind, and I longed once more to look upon the face of a Spaniard."
"Of course," said the people, as they talked the matter over, "these are the same cities Guzman tried to find. He did not go in the right direction, but we know where they are," and many were eager to set out at once. But the Viceroy was a quiet and careful man.
"There have been many lives lost already," he said, "and it will be best not to hurry. I shall not send an army there until I am sure."
Then he thought of a padre, named Fray Marcos, who had lived much among the Indians of the north, and he sent for him, and said:
"Perhaps there lies to the north as rich a nation as Mexico or Peru. If so it must be conquered for the Church and the King of Spain. You know how to speak to the Indians, and it might be that they would let you come among them and learn the truth. Will you undertake to do so?"
"God giving me strength I will," said Fray Marcos, with enthusiasm.
"Very well. The negro Stephen, who was with De Vaca is here, and is willing to be your guide. If you come to any great city do not send back word, but return yourself and tell me about it. Make all your plans and set out as soon as possible."
Fray Marcos did as he was told, but it was several months before anything was heard of him. One day a traveler, in a monk's gown, came walking into the same seaport that De Vaca had visited.
"It is Fray Marcos, who went in search of the Seven Cities! Did you find them! Are they full of wealth? Where is the negro Stephen?"
Fray Marcos would not answer their questions.
"I have much to tell, but my news is for the Viceroy himself," said the padre, and he started for the city of Mexico. When there he said to the Viceroy:
"The Indians came out to meet and welcome me everywhere. They had food ready for me, and where there were no houses, they built bowers of trees and flowers that I might rest safe from the sun. I spent four days journeying through a desert, and then I found some Indians who marveled much to see me. They thought, because I was white and wore a gown, that I must have come from Heaven. I asked them if they knew of any great kingdom where there were seven large cities, and they told me that farther on were high mountains with wide plains at the foot where the people lived in cities and clothed themselves in cotton. I sent Stephen ahead three-score leagues, and charged him to send back Indians to bring me news of his success. If the country was poor and mean, he was to send me a cross no longer than my hand; if it were a goodly place the cross was to be two lengths of a hand, and if he found what he sought he was to send me a large cross. In four days a messenger came from Stephen bearing a cross as high as a man. He brought news of a mighty province called Cibola, thirty days journey northward from the town where Stephen was. In this province there are seven great cities governed by one Prince."
"You should have followed at once to make sure that all these things were true," said the Viceroy, now very much interested.
"I did," responded Fray Marcos. "Each day messengers came to me carrying large crosses and giving more particulars concerning Cibola. Finally I entered a valley where there were many people, and all of them had turquoises hanging from their noses, and ears, and collars of the same three or four times double around their necks. Then I had to go through another desert, and was beginning to get very tired when one day there came running to me, an Indian in great fright—his body covered with sweat and dust, and his face showing extreme sadness. He said that the day before Stephen had reached Cibola, and had sent guides into the city with presents for the chief, and to let them know he came in peace. But the great Lord of the City flew into a rage and dashed the presents to the ground. He drove the messengers out in fury, and said he would kill them if they came back again. He said, too, that he would kill Stephen. But the negro was not afraid, and went directly into the city. Instantly they were seized and cast into a prison, where they were kept all night without anything to eat or drink. The next morning Stephen and his guides tried to escape, but the people killed all of them except one other and the messenger who came to me. These two were struck down and left for dead, but were only stunned, and when the angry people went away they crept out in the night, and made their escape."
"What did you do then, Fray Marcos?" asked the Viceroy.
"So great was my grief that it seemed for a moment as if I should die, but when my guides began to weep and lament I gave them the presents I intended for the Lord of Cibola, and resolved to go and see the city, even if I could not enter it. I traveled one day and came to a round hill, which I climbed. Looking down I saw the beautiful city of Cibola."
"And the houses, were they as the Indians told you?"
"Yes, my lord; they were built of stone four stories high, and glistened in the bright sunshine. The people were fair and dressed in white. Greatly was I tempted to risk my life and go down to them, but I contented myself with planting a cross and hurrying here to tell you what I had done."
"That was right, Fray Marcos," said the Viceroy, "and now it is time to send an army."
The first person the Viceroy thought of to lead the soldiers was a brave nobleman, named Coronado, who sat by his side. He had been listening eagerly to all that Fray Marcos had to tell. Turning to him the Viceroy said:
"It is my wish that you should command my forces and conquer this Kingdom of Cibola. I desire you to make ready at once."
"Fray Marcos simply confirms what Guzman and De Vaca have already told us," replied Coronado, "and I accept your commission with one proviso."
"And what may that be?" asked the Viceroy, with a smile.
"That you allow me to bear the expenses of the entire expedition."
"Very well, and when you find Cibola I will make you its governor and give you all the treasures you find except what justly belongs to the King of Spain, and his representatives and soldiers taking part in the enterprise."
So great was the excitement over Fray Marcos' story of the new El Dorado, that Coronado scarcely knew what to do with the volunteers of all classes who came flocking into camp determined to go with him. He not only spent all his own money, but borrowed all he could get and provided for every one in splendid style. They marched out in glittering armor, on prancing horses with lances gleaming in the sunshine and banners flying gayly. They were all in high spirits because they expected to return in a short time loaded with gold and jewels.
But it was very different when they reached the desert and mountains, for they did not know how to bear the fatigue of such a journey, nor how to care for their horses, cattle and sheep. The animals died rapidly, and the soldiers got into many fights with the Indians who resented being robbed and badly treated. On they went through what we now call Arizona, over almost the same road that Fray Marcos had traveled, and found, instead of the fine, glittering city they expected, only a few houses of one of the Zuni Indian villages.
The hearts of the Spaniards sunk as they gazed upon it. Calling some of the men, Coronado said:
"Go in to the people of the city, and say that we come to defend and join with them in friendship."
They went and delivered Coronado's greeting, but were received with scorn.
"We did not ask you to come, and your chief had no right to send you. This is our land, and we can defend it. If you attempt to stay here we will kill every one of you." Even as the soldiers, carrying the message, turned to go away the people of Cibola began firing arrows at them. Coronado quickly gave the command to attack, which the Indians answered by a shower of arrows and stones which they sent down from their high-walled houses. They seemed bent upon killing Coronado; twice they felled him to the ground, but he recovered and led the charge with an arrow sticking through his foot.
"Santiago! and at them!" he shouted, as he rode forward in the last assault.
"Santiago," echoed his soldiers, close at his heels. When the Indians saw the horses coming at full speed into their village, they threw down their bows and arrows, and fled in every direction.
Then the Spaniards almost cried with anger and disappointment. The houses were really made of stone, but there were no jewels, no gold, no treasures of any kind—nothing, in fact, but a poor, miserable Indian pueblo, or village, built upon a high ledge of rocks, miles away from the fields of corn, beans and squashes, upon which they lived. All the Indians in that part of the United States built their houses in pueblos, or villages, but not one of them had any treasures. They irrigated the dry, sandy soil and tilled their fields, and were a simple, kindly people, until the greedy Spanish soldiers drove them into rebellion which has left their country bare and desolate, even to this day.
The Kingdom of Quivera
THE air was full of the chill and blast of winter, and with the first snow-flakes great discontent broke out in camp, and Coronado realized that he must find a place to make his men more comfortable.
"There are ten big community houses on top of that spider-shaped rock," he said, one morning to a squad of soldiers who had been drilling on parade ground, "and I want possession of it for the troops. Some one must go ahead first and report the situation."
"The rock is so high that our bullets scarcely reach to the top," said the scout, who had galloped over to the pueblo to spy out a way of doing what Coronado commanded. "But there are four winding paths leading up the sides, and we can ascend in single file."
"Have you tried it?" asked Coronado.
"Yes, and found it quite an easy task. I spent last night there, and as the rays of the sun took leave of the lofty Sierras, I felt forsaken, and as if I were about to float away into the darkness."
"Did the Indians suspect your purpose in coming?"
"Certainly not, and all my gloomy feelings passed away as soon as the fires began to blaze on the roofs at different heights of the same building. Inside the houses laughing voices greeted me, and I was glad to be the guest of such simple people."
"Do you think we would be safe from attacks and surprises at night?"
"Perfectly. And when once up there it would be almost impossible to come down at night. The narrow paths are really unsafe except in daylight."
It was not long until the Spaniards had forcible possession of the village, and during the long, dreary winter months they went about in rusty helmets, battered cuirasses, ragged doublets and worn-out boots, while the Indians wrapped themselves in thick coverings made of rabbit skins. Every morning the bell called them to mass, and then the criers went up and down announcing the day's duty to every one in the camp. On the plains below was heard the neighing of horses, the lowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep.
In the pueblos near by the Indians danced, and gathered around the fires to listen to the old men's stories of their past, and as the winter drew to a close the Spaniards were no longer homesick and despondent, but ready and willing to test the truth of some of the things the Indians had told them of the Wrathy Chieftain and the Kingdom of Quivera.
At Pecos the scouts were received with music and presents of cotton cloth and handfuls of turquoises, because the inhabitants were not sure but that the white men came from the sun, and were sent by the Golden Hearted, whom they revered and honored as the Wrathy Chieftain.
In this village they met a strange-looking Indian.
We will name this fellow the "Turk," because he looks so like one, and find out, if we can, where he lives. "May be his people have gold," said the soldiers, as soon as they arrived at Pecos.
"My home is very far to the east," said the Turk, when questioned, "and we have plenty of gold."
"What is the name of your country!"
"Quivera, and my king's name is Tatarax. He wears a long beard, and worships a golden cross and an image of the Queen of Heaven."
Had the Spaniards been at all cautious and shrewd they would have taken pains to find out how true this statement was, but they were so tired of being in camp, that they were glad of an opportunity to go on another expedition in search of an El Dorado, which they always hoped to find.
"The chiefs of the Pecos have taken a gold arm band of mine," said the Turk, wishing to make trouble between them and the Spaniards. "No matter what I say to them, they will not give it back to me."
He described the band as being so wide and heavy that Coronado was induced to seize the chiefs and carry them off to another pueblo in the hope of compelling the Pecos Indians to pay a big ransom for them. In addition the Spaniards demanded cotton clothes and provisions for their journey. The Indians refused, and fought two weeks before Coronado became satisfied that the Turk never had such a thing as an arm band, and that there was no gold in the village.
"It is no use to waste time looking for treasures in this part of the world," he finally told his men, and they immediately began to question the Turk.
"I know a country," he declared, "where there is a very wide river that has fish in it as big as a horse. The people tip their canoes with gold, and sometimes there are forty rowers in a boat. Every vessel they use is made of gold and silver."
All the time he was talking he watched the faces of the soldiers with keen craftiness, and when he saw how delighted they were, he made the story just as big as he could.
"There are plenty of such places," he said, with a toss of his head, "but my country of Quivera is the most important of them all, and I will take you there first."
When any one gets lost on the plains where there are no hills or trees to mark the way, they wander around in a circle, and finally get into a perfect frenzy by coming back to the same place over and over again.
This was what happened to the Spaniards under Coronado. They returned in a wide bend to Pecos, after marching for months on the desolate plains.
"Led around in a circle," he said, "as if by some evil spirit. Everywhere we went we found ourselves surrounded by herds of misshapen, crinkly-wooled cows. Some of them had calves, and the bulls had beards of sunburnt hair. Our horses took fright and ran away, while some of them plunged and threw their riders over their heads."
"Were these woolly cows ferocious?" asked the good padre, who had remained at Pecos to teach the Indians, and had never seen a buffalo.
"They are very terrible when they stampede. If they catch sight of a white man, they lower their heads and with a quick, short bellow set off at full tilt in a heavy, rolling gallop. On they come, like a mad rush of waters, tails high in the air and their big eyes gleaming with fright. We had much ado to keep out of their way, for they would run over and trample all to death."
"No wonder your horses ran away," said the padre. "It was quite enough to frighten anything."
"Finally we met some of the people who go around the country with the cows. They make tents of the hides and wear them for blankets, and keep huge dogs to carry their food and baggage. They were friendly to us, but knew nothing of Quivera and its treasures."
But the feeling of helplessness and desolation of the plains gradually left the Spaniards, and then they were ready to follow the Turk's lead again. This time they got lost in the desert, and many of them wandered off and died from thirst, and their bodies were eaten by wolves and coyotes. They kept going round and round in a circle until their tongues hung out of their mouths and they were delirious. In the hot, quivering air they imagined they saw cities, and lakes and springs of water, and they laughed and cried, and sung and danced in a raging fever. At last they began to suspect the Turk.
"He is purposely leading us astray," they said. "He is trying to lose us on these desolate plains where we will starve to death. He intends to desert and leave us here."
They put the Turk in chains, and then he confessed that he had never seen the big stone houses he said were in Quivera, but stoutly insisted that the country was rich in gold and silver.
The Prairie Indians begged Coronado to turn back.
"The land of Quivera is forty days' journey toward the north," they said, "and you will suffer from hunger long before you reach other tribes."
But Coronado had spent all his money and was in debt deeply, so he determined to take twenty-nine picked horsemen and go forward. Leaving the rest of the company to find their way back to Pecos, he engaged some new guides among the Prairie Indians and pushed on determined to find Quivera. They rode directly north until they came to a place in Kansas near where the city of Leavenworth is now located.
In the meantime the Pecos Indians went on the warpath and refused to receive or aid the Spaniards who left Coronado and went back to them. He found them encamped before the pueblo when he returned months after, weary, empty-handed, and disappointed.
"I have found Quivera and explored it well," he said, "but it has no permanent settlement, and no gold and silver. I was expecting to see houses several stories high, made of stone. Instead of that they are simple huts and the inhabitants are perfectly savage."
The Turk tried to secure his freedom by saying that the Pecos Indians had hired him to lose the Spaniards on the plains, but no one paid any attention to him. In revenge he said to the people of Quivera:
"Do not let one of these white men escape alive. They will bring others of their kind and rob you of all your possessions and ill treat your women and children. They have already killed many of the Pecos."
Some one told Coronado what was being said, and he ordered his soldiers to take the Turk out and hang him to the first tree they found, which they did.
Coronado spoke the truth about Quivera, but even the men who went with him believed that there was a land near by where they would find great riches, and they kept repeating all the stories about El Dorado until Coronado was obliged to promise them that he would make another effort to find it.
"If we go north again we can be certain of good food for the soil is the best that can be found for all kinds of crops. In Quivera we were given plums, nuts, very fine grapes, mulberries and flax. I really believe we shall make some important discoveries very soon."
One day at Pecos after he had made friends with the Indians, he was tilting with an officer in his command when his saddle girth broke while his horse was running at full speed. He fell on his head and was run over and so badly hurt that for days it was thought he would die. Before he got well news came from Mexico that the Indians behind him were on the warpath, and then he knew he must retreat as quickly as possible. So instead of going in quest of the roving band of Quivera Indians, he was obliged to return to the city of Mexico. Here the Viceroy received him coldly and upbraided him, saying:
"It is a source of keen disappointment and regret to me, that you, my trusted friend and favorite officer, should abandon the rich treasures of the north. I wish you to go to your estate and live in retirement for the remaining years of your life. I will try to find some one more worthy of my confidence for future work."
Reduced to poverty, with many debts unpaid, and disgraced by the Viceroy, the poor unfortunate nobleman lived only a few years on his estate in Mexico and died heartbroken over his failures.
Everybody in Mexico believed that he was mistaken, and several other expeditions set out to find the Kingdom of Quivera. More than a century afterward the legend settled around one of the missions founded by the padres, and for years people thought this was the Grand Quivera. Great treasures were supposed to be buried there by the missionaries when the insurrection of 1680 came. That year all the Indians in the region of Arizona and New Mexico organized a general uprising and they not only killed all the whites they could find but sacked and burned the missions. And that is the last ever heard of the one known as the Grand Quivera. No treasures were ever found in or near its ruins. There are ten curious maps of that time and each one locates the kingdom of Quivera in a different place. One of them brings it as far north as the Sacramento Valley in California.
Really Quivera is a will-o'-the-wisp, and from a roving band of Indians, has become a wandering treasure city, and a land of vague and mysterious proportions.
The Land of Gold
IF any of the boys and girls born in the United States were asked "Where is the land of gold?" they would answer "It is California," and if any of the children born in California were asked "What is El Dorado?" they would say "Why, that means the land of gold."
So it does and for two reasons.
Cortez named it California after the heroine of a romance of chivalry he had read when he was in Spain. The book said there was an island on the right hand of the Indies very near the terrestrial Paradise, peopled with black women, who were Amazons, and wore gold ornaments in great profusion. Down in his heart Cortez cherished the hope that he might find the northwest passage to India, not because he cared very much for science, but because he believed the most extravagant stories about the silks, spices, sweet-smelling gums and rare gems to be found there. His ill-gotten Mexican gold did him very little good, and was soon all expended, and he was anxious to find some other country to conquer. The very next year after the death of Montezuma, Cortez heard of the Land of Gold, and came over to a cove on the Pacific Coast of Mexico where he laid out a town and built some ships for the purpose of finding the new wonderland. All he ever discovered was the peninsula of Lower California, where the Indians already knew about the pearl fisheries. This was what he thought was an island, and what he named California.
One of his officers sailed around the island of St. Thomas, and on a Sunday morning he said he saw a merman swimming close to his ship.
"It came alongside the vessel," he declared, "and raised its head and looked at us two or three times. It was as full of antics as a monkey. Sometimes it would dive, and then raise up out of the water and wash its face with its hands. Finally a sea bird drove it away."
Of course he was mistaken, for what he really did see was either a walrus or a big seal as both animals abound in the Pacific Ocean.
It was more than three hundred years after Cabrillo sailed into the Gate of Palms at the entrance to the bay of San Diego, before gold was discovered in California. The country had been settled by Spanish Cavaliers and padres and there were missions for the teaching of the Indians. Mexico had rebelled against the King of Spain and the United States had made war on Mexico and won. Then a man by the name of Marshall found some free gold. It was in the sand at the bottom of a ditch he was digging to get water to run a sawmill he was building. He knew at once that the bright yellow pebbles he held in his hands were gold, so he hurried to the men at work on the watershed and said:
"I have found it!" and that is what the motto, Eureka! on the state shield of California really means.
"What is it you have found, Mr. Marshall?" asked the men.
"Gold!" he exclaimed, excitedly. The men threw down their tools and gathered about him to examine the new find.
"No, no; you are mistaken," they said, when they had turned the pebbles over, and held them to the light, and hammered them with a stone.
"I am certain that it is," he stoutly maintained, but they only laughed at him. He paid no attention to them but turned on the water the next night. Then he picked up all the yellow lumps he found in the sand, and putting them into a little bag hastened to the man for whom he was building the mill, and said:
"I have found gold at the sawmill, and want you to come and see for yourself."
His employer tested and weighed the shining mass carefully, and finally said:
"You are right. It is real gold. Go back to the mill, but say nothing until we get it finished. If you do the men will quit work and we shall have no one to take their places."
But the secret was too good to keep, and in a few days the whole country raised the same sordid cry of "gold, gold, gold," which had brought the Spaniards to the coast. In less than a year eighty thousand people came to California looking for gold. From an independent republic, California became a state and with its admission into the Union the search for El Dorado passed from Spanish into American hands. Both the padres and Cavaliers in California as elsewhere in the Americas enslaved the Indians in a system of peonage which thinned out their ranks, and led to many hostile outbreaks before they were finally subdued. The gold seekers had to do some of the fighting, but they did not rob and pillage the country, nor were they allowed to be unnecessarily cruel. One of our great writers has said of the Indian:
"The red man of America has something peculiarly sensitive in his nature. He shrinks instinctively from the rude touch of a foreign hand. Like some of the dumb creatures he pines and dies in captivity. If today we see them with their energies broken we simply learn from that what a terrible thing is slavery. In their faltering steps and meek and melancholy aspect we read the sad characteristics of a conquered race."
His faith in the traditions of his forefathers, the belief that the Golden Hearted would come again to bring him all that his heart desired finally enslaved and ruined him.
If we pity the Indian we must also feel sorry for the miserable ending of all the Spanish leaders who searched for El Dorado. Columbus spent the last years of his life in prison; Balboa, who discovered the Pacific Ocean, was treacherously executed and lies in an unknown grave near Panama; Pizarro was assassinated and buried in Peru; Magellan was killed by the natives in the Philippine Islands; Cortez was accused of strangling his wife to death, and finally deprived of all honors and wealth; Guzman died in poverty and distress while Coronado was said to be insane after his return to Mexico. For the crime and violence done by Spain in these expeditions she has not only lost all the revenues, but no longer owns a foot of land in any part of the new world.
Let us be thankful that the wisdom and liberty of our own government has saved us from making such terrible mistakes, and doing such grievous wrongs in our attempts to find El Dorado. The brave men and women who crossed the plains long before we had a railroad were willing to work for the riches they wanted. They did not come with the idea of robbing anybody, and when they found the gold they were generous and kind to less fortunate neighbors and friends.
"In this land of sunshine and flowers," they said, "we find gold in the crops of the chickens we have for our Sunday dinners, and our children build doll-houses with the odd-shaped nuggets given to them by the big-hearted miners."
It is hard to imagine the stirring times that followed. Everybody had the gold fever, and in crossing the plains they heard the name El Dorado as soon as they came near where Coronado had been. Some of them made up a song about it, which was for many years very popular among the men in the mining camps. This is one verse of it:
We'll rock the cradle around Pike's Peak
In search of the gold dust that we seek,
The Indians ask us why we're here
We tell them we're born as free as the air,
To the mountains we will go
For there is plenty of gold
Out West we are told
In the new El Dorado.
Many of the emigrants sickened and died on the way; others were killed by the hostile Indians, and all were subjected to a life of hardship and toil, because they were the builders of a new commonwealth. Once in California they found many trying situations, not the least of which was an occasional fight with the huge grizzly bears that roamed through the forests. Many times the men were obliged to organize a hunt for the purpose of ridding a district of a nest of grizzlies. Not only would the bears fight ferociously, but they did not hesitate to go into a corral and carry off calves, hogs and sheep under the very eyes of the owner.
"Never for a moment imagine that a grizzly bear will run from you," said the leader of a hunting party filling his powder horn and putting a box of caps into his pocket. "Take good aim at the center of his forehead. Otherwise one shot will not kill him, and remember that he cannot climb. If you get into close quarters, try to get up a tree as fast as you can."
"We know his trail and we are going to send our dogs in to start him out of his den."
"Unless your dogs know how to attack him it is very unsafe to let them go near. One blow from a grizzly's paw will kill any dog, and we cannot afford to lose any of yours," said the leader, doubtfully.
"My dogs know all about bear hunting. They will keep well behind him, and after we have crippled him, they will snap at his heels and worry him so he cannot chase the last man who shoots at him."
"Will a grizzly do that?" asked a man who had never been in a bear hunt before.
"Indeed he will. If you watch closely you can tell how many times he is hit for he will fall down, roll over and slap himself wherever the bullet strikes him."
"I would not advise you to waste any time trying to find out who fired the last shot, for the bear will never make a mistake about it. He knows, and is always after the last one."
"Separate into pairs," said the leader, when he had finished examining the bear tracks in the path they were following. "Take your stations about a hundred yards apart, and when you hear the grizzly coming, aim as I have already told you, and then look out for trouble."
"Do you think we are likely to find him soon?" asked the newcomer, nervously.
"He is in that thicket where the dogs are keeping up such a loud barking. You will hear him snapping and growling in a few minutes."
"The grass and underbrush are so high I am afraid I will not be able to see him," said the timid, inexperienced hunter.
"You can tell by the way the dogs bark when he is coming, and you can easily hear the click of his sharp claws before he gets too near for comfort," said the leader, with a smile. "Make sure that the trigger of your gun is properly set, and you will be all right."
He had stationed other men farther up the ravine, and in a few minutes the dogs yelped warningly, and the man at the upper station shouted:
"Look out! here he comes!"
"Bang!" went the gun, and then the dogs rushed by in a solid pack with a huge she bear at their heels.
"There are two of them," somebody said, and in a moment everything was in the wildest confusion.
"Man alive! don't you see that wounded grizzly rolling in the grass. He is not badly hurt, but he will be after you in a second. Give him another dose, and run," said the leader excitedly, to the new hunter who was standing stock still and gazing around him helplessly. He did not seem to hear what was said, and before he recovered from his paralyzing fright, the bear grabbed him.
"Help! help! help! For God's sake come here! I am being killed!" he screamed.
"Lie perfectly still and pretend you are dead," said the leader. "Make no sound when I shoot, and crawl behind that big rock as soon as you get up."
The knowing dogs barked and raged around the bear until he could not tear the prostrate man. They kept him turning round and round, and the daring hunter coolly waited until his head was away from the wounded man's, and then he shot him through the fore leg. Down he fell and kicked and scratched the fallen hunter, but true to his instinct got up and gave chase to the leader, with the dogs in full cry behind him. The wounded man managed to reach the rock, and by scrambling up on its jagged sides was comparatively safe. From his height he could see what the other men were doing.
"I am all right," called the leader from a neighboring tree, "but how is it with you?"
"My powder-horn is crushed and broken and my arm is bitten through. There is blood running down my face too, but I think that is only scratches."
"Bang!" went a gun near by, and turning to look both men saw one of the party standing up in the saddle, on the horse brought along to carry the game.
"Get out of that thicket! You will be killed if you try to stay there," shouted the leader.
"My only chance is to shoot as I stand," answered the man, busy loading his gun. "I can not make this horse move. But for the Mexican stiff-bit in his mouth and a vigorous use of my big spurs he would lie down with me."
"I am coming to help you," said the leader, sliding down the limb of the tree to the ground. "I will ham-string the grizzly and then you can finish him."
He was an excellent shot, and soon the bear was dragging his hind quarters and showing signs of weakness from loss of blood. The man in the saddle deliberately aimed at his heart, and after a few convulsive struggles the grizzly lay dead.
The barking of the dogs and the reports of the guns brought the whole party together, and after bandaging the wounds of their companion, and sending him home on the horse the remaining men went in search of the she bear. They had wounded her and it was not hard to track her to a small stream, where they found her sitting on her haunches and groaning like a human being.
"That sounds too much like a woman's moans," said the men, "and we will slip away without being seen and let her alone."
As they walked home they took turns in carrying the skin of the grizzly they had killed.
"He would weigh two thousand pounds and could jump fully twenty feet," they said.
The New El Dorado
ONE day long after the gold excitement in California had subsided, a strange craft sailed into San Francisco bay flying a flag different from any other ship in the harbor. It was a yellow satin banner showing the imperial double eagles of the Russian Czar, and the guns at the forts fired a royal salute as the vessel passed by on its way to the wharf. On board was a man empowered by the Czar to sell Alaska to the United States, and waiting on shore to greet him was a Senator who was appointed to make an offer for the territory.
"You are very welcome, my friend," said the Senator, grasping the hand of the Diplomat, as he came ashore. "Your arrival gives my countrymen much pleasure, and I earnestly hope that we may be able to make the ties of friendship between your people and mine very much stronger."
"His Majesty, the Czar, charged me to make plain to you his sentiments of good will and his desire to render your government a service."
The two men pushed their way through the crowd and were soon being driven rapidly toward the Senator's residence. After dinner that evening, while sitting by the fire the Diplomat said:
"Do you know the Russian story of the discovery of Alaska, the Great Land, as we called it?"
"No," replied the Senator, "I do not. I only know that it was a curious freak of fortune that your people should be the ones to discover the fabled 'Straits of Anian' so long sought by the Spaniards, Portuguese and English navigators. Bering's Sea is very far from India, but it is the famous northwest passage, that separates Asia from America." The Diplomat said:
"While Europe was exploring and settling the Americas my countrymen were throwing off the yoke that made them subjects of the Khans of Tartary. Even at that time we had a great caravan trade with China and Persia, but our merchants suffered severely from the depredations of the Cossack freebooters roaming over the steppes of Siberia. These reckless horsemen would charge down on a caravan and rob it of all its silks, spices, teas and perfumes."
"Then you can sympathize with the galleons of Spain that were harassed by the buccaneers and pirates infesting the high seas ready to scuttle and sink any ship that fell into their hands," said the Senator, greatly interested.
"Our merchants had no redress and they complained bitterly to Peter the Great, who immediately undertook to chastise the unruly Cossacks. They fled into Siberia, and it was not long before they found rich silver mines on the Amoor river, and began to traffic in the ivory and sable skins which make that vicinity notable. As they advanced toward the Pacific Ocean they were able to slaughter herds of musk oxen, and before many years the fame of the ivory deposits brought hundreds of adventurers into that barren region. Diligent inquiry among the natives disclosed the fact that there was a Great Land toward the North Pole where remains of the hairy elephant were plentiful, and its beautiful tusks were heaped up in huge mounds."
"It was a desire for gold that brought the first white men to California," said the Senator, "and the building of the railroad across the continent is the result of having found it."
"Ivory and furs were the lure that nerved the Russian freebooter to brave the frozen sea and six months of night," said the Diplomat. "They went to sea in open boats made of planks tied together with rawhide straps and thongs. Their sails were of soft dressed reindeer skins, and in place of rope they used elk skin strips. The anchors were pieces of wood weighted with stones. They had no beds, and carried a wooden plate and spoon tied to the sash around their waists."
"They must have suffered very much from cold and hunger," said the Senator.
"They did; and many of them died with scurvy. They were greatly hindered by glaciers and icebergs, and would never have been able to make the journey at all except for the sleds and dogs furnished by the natives."
"Were the Eskimos and Aleuts always friendly?" asked the Senator. The Diplomat hesitated for a moment, then said with a smile:
"The freebooters found it necessary to fight after they had once ill-treated the natives. At first the white men were supposed to be superior beings, but they proved themselves unworthy of confidence and then there was serious trouble."
"We have had a somewhat similar experience in dealing with the Indians in this country," replied the Senator.
"In one of the numerous attempts made by the freebooters to reach the Great Land, they fell in with some Japanese castaways who claimed to have found gold and silver there in abundance. When this was reported to Peter the Great he organized a scientific and military expedition under Bering to find Alaska, with the hope that it would lead to commercial relations with America and Japan."
"It seems a hard fate that Bering should die of scurvy in the winter when all was dark as night and exceedingly cold," said the Senator.
"Yes," answered the Diplomat, "especially after he had survived the six weary years of hardship and toil necessary to march across Siberia. It is possible that he would have failed at last had he not noted the flight of the land birds and known that there must be a shore-line not far away."
"Did he or his family profit by the discoveries he made?"
"Very little. It has been the fate of all the Russian explorers in America to die poor," responded the Diplomat. "It has cost my government vast sums of money and more than two hundred years have elapsed since the first efforts were made. We have profited greatly by the seal fisheries and so will your people when once Alaska becomes a territory of the United States."
"It has always been a puzzle to me why the Czar recalled the Russian colonists living in peace and prosperity in California under Spanish rule," said the Senator, after a pause.
"It was because he wished to maintain friendly relations with the United States and he was far-sighted enough to see that California would some day come under the American flag. It is to increase that feeling that he now offers to sell Alaska to you. He does not wish to have any possessions on this continent. The destiny of Russia lies in another direction."
Both the Senator and Diplomat went to see the President and it was not very long until the purchase was made. When the Senator came back from Washington he said:
"We have paid exactly two cents an acre for Alaska, and its seal fisheries are well worth that amount. We will not have to fight for its possession, and I am certain that we have made a good bargain."
Since then many men have sailed into the northern waters and come back with cargoes of whale oil, or seal skins or canned salmon, but no one paid any particular attention to them. A party of scientific men explored the Yukon river which is as long and as wide as the Mississippi and made the ascent of Mount St. Elias, one of the loftiest peaks in North America, but nobody was interested in Alaska except as a place where the sun shines for six months and then leaves the whole country in partial darkness for another six months.
Imagine the sun apparently traveling around in a little circle all the time. There are no sunrises and no sunsets, and no need of lights at night. Then when it goes down, lamps or candles must be burned all the time. When the extreme cold comes the aurora borealis sends out splendid rays of many colored lights to burnish up the vault of heaven and make a grand electrical display.
The Eskimos are a dwarfed race of men and women with flat noses, and eyes wide apart, and they dress themselves in heavy furs with the hair turned next to the body. They live on fish and whale blubber, and are experts in throwing a spear or managing a skin canoe. In front of their homes they have curious totem poles to show what tribes they belong to, and they are quite ingenious in weaving fish-nets, baskets, and in the carving of silver and ivory.
For many years no news came from Alaska, except by ship, and on a warm, sunny day in autumn not long ago, some sailors set up the cry:
"Gold has been found in Alaska! It is the new El Dorado! It is richer than California!"
At first people did not believe them, but when the experts passed upon the findings everybody said:
"Let us go to the Klondike! We can get rich in a few months."
The excitement was so great that it did no good to point out the hardships and dangers of such an undertaking.
"We will take the chances of freezing," they said, carelessly. "We can walk over the mountain passes and we do not care about the discomforts."
"But only a few can find the gold. It was the same in California. Not one in a thousand can possibly bring away as much gold as he takes with him to live on, for food will be very scarce and high priced," urged the prudent ones.
"You will freeze," said others, "or will die with scurvy, or be eaten by those terrible white polar bears and wolves."
"No matter what you say to us we are going," was the reply, and every ship that could be found was loaded with eager men, and some venturesome women bent upon wresting the gold from the frozen north. Many of them had never seen an iceberg or a glacier, and had no idea what misery awaited them.
"Write us as soon as you can," said the wives and mothers tearfully, as they stood on the wharf in some seaport of the Pacific saying good by to some loved one, going to seek a fortune.
"It will be six months before this ship can return," said the captain of one of the first ships that carried gold seekers to Alaska in answer to an anxious inquiry as to how long it will be before the promised letters could arrive.
"Why will you be so long?" asks some little boy or girl whose heart is sad at parting with their beloved father.
"Because the great ice-floes will close in on our vessel and we will not be able to move until the weather moderates."
"Then will you bring my father back to me?" asks the simple child.
"I hope so, my dear," and then the kindly face of the captain looks serious and he mutters to himself, "God forbid that it should be a grave instead of a fortune that awaits this child's father."
The first season many a brave man sailed away, full of hope and expectancy, but the next year returned haggard, worn and in some instances a hopeless invalid.
"What do you think of the gold fields of Alaska?" asks his old friends as they shake his hand.
"It is a place to suffer and grow old in; a place to lose the earnings of a lifetime, and your health with them. In the long, dreary, dark nights the stoutest heart loses courage, and next to longing for home is the longing for death."
If he were one of the fortunate few who found the grains of free gold deposited in the frozen sands, he had a sobered, prematurely old look and said:
"Yes, I have made money in the gold fields of Alaska, but I hope I may never be obliged to go back and live in the mines."
Strewn along the trail and over the Chilkoot Pass are the bleaching bones of those who sacrificed their lives in the effort to reach the new El Dorado. The simple Eskimos looked on in wonder at the frantic energy of their white brothers, and were content in their own security.
The Ice Queen is their guardian and she punishes those who venture into her frigid realm to unearth and carry away the hidden treasures. In Alaska, as everywhere else, one must work hard and build up the country instead of robbing it, if money is really to be made. The late comers have already learned this lesson, by experience, and are beginning to build railroads, good houses, schools and churches in the warmest and most fertile part of the country surrounding the seaports.
And we know at last that El Dorado exists solely in the hearts and minds of men, and not in the everlasting snows of Alaska.