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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 253

The Yuma Apaches had been warned by one of their oracles never to enter a certain canon in Castle Dome range, Arizona, but a company of them forgot this caution while in chase of deer, and found themselves between walls of pink and white fluorite with a spring bubbling at the head of the ravine. Tired and heated, they fell on their faces to drink, when they found that the crumbling quartz that formed the basin of the spring was filled with golden nuggets. Eagerly gathering up this precious substance, for they knew what treasure of beads, knives, arrows, and blankets the Mexicans would exchange for it, they attempted to make their way out of the canon; but a cloudburst came, and on the swiftly rising tide all were swept away but one, who survived to tell the story. White men have frequently but vainly tried to find that spring.

In Southwestern Kansas, on a hill a quarter-mile from Solomon River, is the Sacred Water, pooled in a basin thirty feet across. When many stand about the brink it slowly rises. Here two Panis stopped on their return from a buffalo hunt, and one of them unwittingly stepped on a turtle a yard long. Instantly he felt his feet glued to the monster's back, for, try as he might, he could not disengage himself, and the creature lumbered away to the pool, where it sank with him. There the turtle god remains, and beads, arrows, ear-rings, and pipes that are dropped in, it swallows greedily. The Indians use the water to mix their paint with, but never for drinking.

The mail rider, crossing the hot desert of Arizona, through the cacti and over holes where scorpions hide, makes for Devil's Well, under El Diablo—a dark pool surrounded with gaunt rocks. Here, coming when the night is on, he lies down, and the wind swishing in the sage—brush puts him to sleep. At dawn he wakens with the frightened whinny of his horse in his ears and, all awake, looks about him. A stranger, wrapped in a tattered blanket, is huddled in a recess of the stones, arrived there, like himself, at night, perhaps. Poising his rifle on his knee, the rider challenges him, but never a sign the other makes. Then, striding over to him, he pulls away the blanket and sees a shrivelled corpse with a face that he knows—his brother. Hardly is this meeting made when a hail of arrows falls around. His horse is gone. The Apaches, who know no gentleness and have no mercy, have manned every gap and sheltering rock. With his rifle he picks them off, as they rise in sight with arrows at the string, and sends them tumbling into the dust; but, when his last bullet has sped into a red man's heart, they rise in a body and with knives and hatchets hew him to death. And that is why the Devil's Well still tastes of blood.


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