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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 217

Long afterward a man who did not know its story entered this place, when he was confronted by a thing, as he called it, that glared so fearfully upon him that he fled in an ecstasy of terror. Two prospectors subsequently attempted to explore the cave, but the entrance was barred by "the thing." They gave one glance at the torn face, the bulging eyes turned sidewise at them, the yellow fangs, the long hair, the spreading claws, the livid, mouldy flesh, and rushed away. A Western paper, recounting their adventure, said that one of the men declared that there was not money enough in Maricopa County to pay him to go there again, while the other had never stopped running—at least, he had not returned to his usual haunts since "the thing" looked at him. Still, it is haunted country all about here. The souls of the Mojaves roam upon Ghost Mountain, and the "bad men's hunting-grounds" of the Yumas and Navajos are over in the volcanic country of Sonora. It is, therefore, no unusual thing to find signs and wonders in broad daylight.





SACRIFICE OF THE TOLTECS

Centuries ago, when Toltec civilization had extended over Arizona, and perhaps over the whole West, the valleys were occupied by large towns—the towns whose ruins are now known as the City of Ovens, City of Stones, and City of the Dead. The people worked at trades and arts that had been practised by their ancestors before the pyramids were built in Egypt. Montezuma had come to the throne of Mexico, and the Aztecs were a subject people; Europe had discovered America and forgotten it, and in America the arrival of Europeans was recalled only in traditions. But, like other nations, the Toltecs became a prey to self-confidence, to luxury, to wastefulness, and to deadening superstitions. Already the fierce tribes of the North were lurking on the confines of their country in a faith of speedy conquest, and at times it seemed as if the elements were against them.

The villagers were returning from the fields, one day, when the entire region was smitten by an earthquake. Houses trembled, rumblings were heard, people fell in trying to reach the streets, and reservoirs burst, wasting their contents on the fevered soil. A sacrifice was offered. Then came a second shock, and another mortal was offered in oblation. As the earth still heaved and the earthquake demon muttered underground, the king gave his daughter to the priests, that his people might be spared, though he wrung his hands and beat his brow as he saw her led away and knew that in an hour her blood would stream from the altar.

The girl walked firmly to the cave where the altar was erected—a cave in Superstition Mountains. She knelt and closed her eyes as the officiating-priest uttered a prayer, and, gripping his knife of jade stone, plunged it into her heart. She fell without a struggle. And now, the end.


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