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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 211

When the contest in tree-pulling took place the wind god pulled up a large tree while Noqoilpi was unable to stir a smaller one. That was because the beavers had cut the roots of the larger. In the ball contest Noqoilpi drove the ball nearly to the bounds, but the wind god sent his far beyond, for wrapped loosely in it was a bird that freed itself before touching the ground and flew away. In brief, Noqoilpi was beaten at every point and the remaining captives left him, with jeers, and returned to their people.

The gambler cursed and raged until the wind god seized him, fitted him to a bow, like an arrow, and shot him into the sky. He flew far out of sight, and presently came to the long row of stone houses where the man lives who carries the moon. He pitied the gambler and made new animals and people for him and let him down to the earth in old Mexico, the moon people becoming Mexicans. He returned to his old haunts and came northward, building towns along the Rio Grande until he had passed the site of Santa Fe, when his people urged him to go back, and after his return they made him their god—Nakai Cigini.





THE DEATH WALTZ

Years ago, when all beyond the Missouri was a waste, the military post at Fort Union, New Mexico, was the only spot for miles around where any of the graces of social life could be discovered. Among the ladies at the post was a certain gay young woman, the sister-in-law of a captain, who enjoyed the variety and spice of adventure to be found there, and enjoyed, too, the homage that the young officers paid to her, for women who could be loved or liked were not many in that wild country. A young lieutenant proved especially susceptible to her charms, and devoted himself to her in the hope that he should ultimately win her hand. His experience with the world was not large enough to enable him to distinguish between the womanly woman and the coquette.

One day messengers came dashing into the fort with news of an Apache outbreak, and a detachment was ordered out to chase and punish the marauding Indians. The lieutenant was put in command of the expedition, but before starting he confided his love to the young woman, who not only acknowledged that she returned his affection, but promised that if the fortune of war deprived him of life she would never marry another. As he bade her good-by he was heard to say, "That is well. Nobody else shall have you. I will come back and make my claim."

In a few days the detachment came back, but the lieutenant was missing. It was noticed that the bride-elect grieved but little for him, and nobody was surprised when she announced her intention of marrying a young man from the East. The wedding-day arrived. All was gayety at the post, and in the evening the mess-room was decorated for a ball. As the dance was in full swing a door flew open with a bang, letting in a draught of air that made the candles burn dim, and a strange cry, unlike that of any human creature, sounded through the house. All eyes turned to the door. In it stood the swollen body of a dead man dressed in the stained uniform of an officer. The temple was marked by a hatchet-gash, the scalp was gone, the eyes were wide open and, burned with a terrible light.


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