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- Old Mission Stories of California - 3/22 -


gradual breaking down and dying of her strength than actual illness; for her mind seemed to be as clear as ever) she had given evidences of having something in her thought, some instruction or advice she desired to impart to her children, but which, so feeble was she, was beyond her strength to utter. Thus she had lain for three days, motionless, but for the restless turning of the head, and the burning, gleaming eyes seeming to take the place of her voice, and cry out the message her lips refused to speak.

Suddenly the young woman gave a start, and a look of joy passed swiftly across her face, for she saw her husband come around the brow of the hill far below. She rose quickly and hastened to meet him. As she neared him, she saw he was bearing on his back the carcass of a young deer, under the weight of which he staggered up the hill toward her. Running to him she cried:

"Itatli! Oh, you are come in time! You have been away so long! But I see you have had good luck this time in your hunting. How tired and thin you look! Have you been far?" and as she spoke, she took the deer from him, and laid it upon her own strong shoulder.

"Mota, it is a long way I have been, and I am sorely tired. Let me rest and have something to eat, and tonight I will tell you where I have been and what I have seen. How is the grandmother?"

"She is dying, Itatli. She has grown worse every day, and now cannot sit up, and she lies all day so still - all but her eyes. She tries to speak, and I am sure she has something on her mind that she wants to tell us. She will not live long."

Slowly they climbed the hill, with an occasional sentence now and then. Arrived at the hut, the Indian entered, leaned his bow against the wall, near the baskets, and stood regarding the inanimate figure, a sombre expression stealing over his face as he gazed. The woman's eyes were closed, and she seemed to be asleep, nothing but her short, quick breathing showing she was still alive. For some minutes the man stood thus, then turned and strode out of the hut, picking up his bow as he passed it, and carrying it with him. Without a word to his wife, who had begun to cook a piece of the deer meat, and was busily at work over the out-door fire, he occupied himself with his bow and arrows, testing the strength of the cord, made of the intestines of a wild-cat, and examining closely the arrow-heads, tipped with poison, taken from the rattlesnake; but all in an intermittent way, for every few moments he raised his head and gazed long and steadily over the plain to the far distant hills on the southern horizon.

At last his wife called to him that the meal was ready. He went over to the fire and began to eat, while the woman took some of the broth, which she had made out of the meat, put it into a small earthen pot, and carried it to her grandmother, in the hope that she might be able to force a little of it down her throat. It was of no use: the dying woman was insensible to all help from food, and lay as in a stupor, from which it was impossible to rouse her. Mota returned sadly to the fire where her husband was eating as only a hungry man can eat.

They finished their meal in silence, and after the wife had put away the remains of the food, she came over to where her husband was sitting in the opening of the hut, and crouched by his side. There, in the gathering gloom of the night, he told of the experiences of his search for food.

"It was a long, long distance I went, Mota," he began. "I journeyed on and on to the far south, until I reached a river that flows across the plains toward the sea. It was nearing evening of the second day after I came to the river, when suddenly I heard a queer sound as of the steps of a small army of some kind of hard-footed animals. It was far in the distance when first I heard it; for the air was still as though listening to the voice of the Great Spirit, its master; and I listened, rooted to the spot where I stood. What could it be? Never had I heard the tread of so many animals at one time. Nearer they came, and soon I heard the voices of men, speaking to each other, but not in any Indian language I am familiar with, and I know several. But if they were men I must hide, for they would take me prisoner, if they did not kill me, should I be seen. So I ran to the rushes growing on the bank of the river, and sank down among their thickly-growing shoots. The army came nearer steadily, and, in a few moments, I could see them climbing down the steep bank of the river a little way above me. I took one peep, and my breath almost left my body, for what I thought were men before I saw them, now that they came in sight, I knew to be celestial beings."

"But that could not have been, Itatli," exclaimed his wife, "for such a sight would have blinded, if not killed, you."

"I know not about that," answered the man, "but if they were not from above, whence came they? They were like me in shape, stature, and all else but in color and dress. They were white, nearly as white as, the snow on the distant mountains, and their bodies were completely covered with their clothes, excepting only their faces and hands. Their clothes were not made of skins, but were something different from anything I had ever seen; it was more like fine basketwork than anything I know of. They had no bows and arrows, such as ours, but straight, long, bright weapons which glittered in the sun. It may have been a strange kind of bow, but I could see no arrows, and they did not shoot with them while near me. On their heads, they wore a large round covering, which shaded them from the hot sun, and on their feet they had queer clothes, shaped like their feet, and these it was which had made me think the sound I heard was that made by animals. But among them were a few who were like us, and they may have been Indians, although they had on clothes like the others; so, perhaps, after all, the white beings were not gods, for the Indians were in their company and lived."

The man had talked in low, earnest tones; but as he advanced in his tale, his voice, though still low, had taken on a penetrating, vibrating quality that thrilled his wife, and reached the ears of the old woman on the couch, seeming to rouse her from her lethargy like a voice from the grave. She had stirred restlessly two or three times, striving ever harder to break the thrall of her weakness: it would have moved the heart of any one beholding her efforts to make herself heard, but she lay unnoticed, for the man was deep in his wonderful narrative, and his wife listening intently, drinking in every word. At last she attracted the attention of the two, for her strenuous efforts to speak resulted in a hoarse, guttural sound deep in her throat. They sprang to their feet, and stepped quickly to the couch. There they saw a surprising change in the countenance of the old woman: her eyes, bright and unclouded as they had been before, now looked at them recognisingly, although they still bore the weighty, thoughtful expression; her mouth, now partly open, was full of resolve, and the lips were just shaping the words she was about to speak, as the two approached:

"Itatli, I heard the words you have spoken this evening, and I, alone, understand them. You know not what manner of men were those you saw; you know not, indeed, whether they be men or angels. I will tell you. They are men like ourselves, but they come from afar. Listen, my children," she continued, her voice growing in power and volume, "I will disclose to you what I have never revealed to any one of our people. About two seasons of rain after I had foretold the future of our tribe, when the last lake should have become entirely dry, I had a revelation of what was to befall all the Indians of this great land, that far surpassed anything I had ever before prophesied. I saw, as in a vision, the great blue sea sparkling in the sun, the little waves rolling softly to the shore, to break into lines of white foam on the sands of the beach at my feet. I was alone, but was not afraid, although I had never before seen the sea, either in my visions or in real life; yet I knew at once what it was. While I gazed at the water, and watched the waves rushing up to my feet, I felt, all at once, as though an unseen power was impelling me to look up. I raised my head and gazed out over the water, and there I saw, far away, a great white object that looked like an immense bird. I knew, as I know all things that occur in my visions, this was a ship.

"Presently, the unseen power, as though whispering in my ear, revealed to me that the ship was full of men from a far country, coming to settle in our land, and that they would subdue the Indians, killing many, taking others captive, and making them work for their masters; and that, later, after many years, the Indians would vanish from the land which had been theirs since the time when Ouiot was on this earth. Then the vision faded slowly from my sight, and I seemed to enter a luminous mist as I felt myself impelled to walk. After what, in my trance, seemed many hours, I came out of the mist on to a level stretch of land, through which flowed a large river. There were mountains on the north, reaching for many miles, and from the west, which was lowland as far as the eye could see, came the cool afternoon sea wind. In the middle of the plain was a great tall house, white with a red roof, and at one end hung some bells in openings made for them in the wall. All around were a great many houses of brush, much like this we are in, and outside and in were crowds of Indians working like bees, at all kinds of toil, doing many things, too, that we never do, such as planting fields with seeds, and gathering the harvest when it was ripe; making cloth for clothes, such as you, my son, saw those strange men wearing. Then they were making jars and dishes of clay, and weaving baskets, such as we use."

"Suddenly, a little time before sunset, while they were at their busiest, the bells in the big white house began to ring. Every one stopped working and stood facing the building. Then, as the bells were ringing, they bowed their heads. At this moment, I heard, again, the voice which yet was not a voice, revealing to me the meaning of the scene before my eyes. 'Behold,' I seemed to hear, 'the final end of the Indians of this, land! See the fate which is awaiting them! All these peoples and tribes, and others far to the north and south of here, will be brought together into places like unto this. They will be made to work at these white men's tasks; give up their own wild, free life in the open country; give up their old customs; give up their own god, even, to pray to the God of their masters. And thus will it be for many years, until the Indians disappear forever; for, after a time, they will grow fewer and fewer until not one shall be left in the whole land which once they owned.' Then what seemed a deep sleep fell upon me, and when I awoke, I was in my own home. I was greatly frightened, but dared not tell any one of my visions; for I knew they would laugh me to scorn, perhaps drive me away, as they did at the last."

As the old woman described this picture of the future revealed to her, her agitation increased. She raised herself on an arm, and with the other stretched out, she swept her hand along the horizon, from the south to the north, saying, as she did so:

"This is the land of the Indians; this Ouiot gave to our fathers, and they gave it to us. While the sun has been traveling over his path in the sky for many hundred years, we, and our fathers before us, for generations, have lived in this land. But now the end is come. We must give way before a people stronger than we; give up our land to them and vanish."

Her voice increased in volume as she spoke, until, at the close, it was as powerful as in former days. When she had ceased speaking, she paused, with arm still outstretched, as though transfixed. She gazed steadily across the level plain to the distant mountains, motionless and rigid, while the two young Indians waited, awed and afraid, minute after minute, for they knew not what.

After a long silence, the aged sibyl let fall her arm, and dropped back suddenly on to the couch. The fire of prophecy in her eyes was still


Old Mission Stories of California - 3/22

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