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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 206

After weeks had lapsed into months and months into years, and no word came of the missing regiment, the priests named the river El Rio de las Animas Perdidas—the River of Lost Souls. The echoing of the flood as it tumbled through the canon was said to be the lamentation of the troopers. French trappers softened the suggestion of the Spanish title when they renamed it Purgatoire, and—"bullwhackers" teaming across the plains twisted the French title into the unmeaning "Picketwire." But Americo-Spaniards keep alive the tradition, and the prayers of many have ascended and do ascend for the succor of those who vanished so strangely in the valley of Las Animas.





RIDERS OF THE DESERT

Among the sandstone columns of the Colorado foot-hills stood the lodge of Ta-in-ga-ro (First Falling Thunder). Though swift in the chase and brave in battle, he seldom went abroad with neighboring tribes, for he was happy in the society of his wife, Zecana (The Bird). To sell beaver and wild sheep-skins he often went with her to a post on the New Mexico frontier, and it was while at this fort that a Spanish trader saw the pretty Zecana, and, determining to win her, sent the Indian on a mission into the heart of the mountains, with a promise that she should rest securely at the settlement until his return.

On his way Ta-in-ga-ro stopped at the spring in Manitou, and after drinking he cast beads and wampum into the well in oblation to its deity. The offering was flung out by the bubbling water, and as he stared, distressed at this unwelcome omen, a picture formed on the surface—the anguished features of Zecana. He ran to his horse, galloped away, and paused neither for rest nor food till he had reached the post. The Spaniard was gone. Turning, then, to the foot-hills, he urged his jaded horse toward his cabin, and arrived, one bright morning, flushed with joy to see his wife before his door and to hear her singing. When he spoke she looked up carelessly and resumed her song. She did not know him. Reason was gone.

It was his cry of rage and grief, when, from her babbling, Ta-in-ga-ro learned of the Spaniard's treachery, that brought the wandering mind back for an instant. Looking at her husband with a strange surprise and pain, she plucked the knife from his belt. Before he could realize her purpose she had thrust it into her heart and had fallen dead at his feet. For hours he stood there in stupefaction, but the stolid Indian nature soon resumed its sway. Setting his lodge in order and feeding his horse, he wrapped Zecana's body in a buffalo-skin, then slept through the night in sheer exhaustion. Two nights afterward the Indian stood in the shadow of a room in the trading fort and watched the Spaniard as he lay asleep. Nobody knew how he passed the guard.

In the small hours the traitor was roused by the strain of a belt across his mouth, and leaping up to fling it off, he felt the tug of a lariat at his throat. His struggles were useless. In a few moments he was bound hand and foot. Lifting some strips of bark from the low roof, Ta-in-ga-ro pushed the Spaniard through the aperture and lowered him to the ground, outside the enclosure of which the house formed part. Then, at the embers of a fire he kindled an arrow wrapped in the down of cottonwood and shot it into a haystack in the court. In the smoke and confusion thus made, his own escape was unseen, save by a guardsman drowsily pacing his beat outside the square of buildings. The sentinel would have given the alarm, had not the Indian pounced on him like a panther and laid him dead with a knife-stroke.


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