HotFreeBooks.com
The Arrow-Maker - A Drama in Three Acts
by Mary Austin
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

PADAHOON

As they have been since the day the Chisera took away her blessing from the war leader.

WOMEN

(Wailing.) Ai! Ai!

(Others come out of the rocks to join in the general grief.)

WACOBA

Could you but persuade her to give it back again. (Hopefully.)

PADAHOON

If I cannot, then this is like to be the last fight of Sagharawite!

WACOBA

If you cannot, then must the chief enforce her, for since we were driven from our homes, neither the anguish of the women nor the hunger of the children has moved her.

PADAHOON

I will speak with her at once.

(He goes up among the rocks, and the women huddle wretchedly together watching.)

WACOBA

Do you think she will consent?

SEEGOOCHE

She cannot choose but do it. The men have kept her supplied with venison, but she must know that there is hunger in the camp of the women and children.

WACOBA

And that the Tecuyas have taken the best of our fighting men.

TIAWA

But no man of hers. I have always said—but because I am old nobody minds me—that if there was one of her household to go to battle, she would need no persuasion to go before the gods. I would Simwa had given her a child.

WACOBA

(Aside from SEEGOOCHE.) Then you believe that he was her lover?

TIAWA

What else? Would any but a jilted woman sit and mope while our wickiups go up in smoke?

WACOBA

I would she had a child, but not Simwa's. One of that breed is enough.

SEEGOOCHE

(Who has moved nearer the hut.) Hush, see the curtain! (They start.)

TIAWA

It was the wind.

SEEGOOCHE

They say she has not made medicine since my daughter's marriage.

WACOBA

(Looking off to the right where the mountains dip abruptly valleyward.) And to think that even now they must be fighting under Toorape.

SEEGOOCHE

Hush! Hush!

(PADAHOON and the CHISERA come out of the hut. The CHISERA'S whole appearance is of heartbreak and neglect. She leans against the boulders at the left, holding her blanket close, and answers PADAHOON sullenly.)

PADAHOON

And is this all your answer?

THE CHISERA

The trail is cold between the gods and me.

PADAHOON

Then you will not make medicine?

THE CHISERA

And would not if I could.

PADAHOON

Have you turned renegade, Chisera, and side with our enemies of Tecuya?

THE CHISERA

No, Padahoon, but I see that no good comes of persuading the gods to do more for man than his natural destiny.

PADAHOON

You have always persuaded them to our advantage.

THE CHISERA

What good came of having Simwa made war leader? Had I not persuaded them to meddle with that business, the leadership would have fallen to you as the elder, and we should not now be without allies in our need.

PADAHOON

I am not sure the gods had so much to do with that: but if the mischief came through them, the gods must repair it.

THE CHISERA

I will not make medicine. Send the women away.

PADAHOON

What shall I say to them?

THE CHISERA

To count themselves already blessed in having those for whom they desire blessing. Tell them that to have loved and given the breast is enough to salve the wounds of loss.

PADAHOON

You are hard, Chisera.

THE CHISERA

I am jealous of their griefs. Their very pangs I envy them. Who is there of mine goes to this war that I should grieve for his wounding or look for his return? (She looks bitterly toward the women who have crept from the caves to peer from the rocks in the direction of the fighting.) Persuade me no more, Padahoon. I will not do it.

(She disappears among the rocks to the left, and PADAHOON turns to the women who crowd around him anxiously.)

WACOBA

Has she promised?

TIAWA

Will she help us?

PADAHOON

The Chisera will not make medicine.

WOMEN

(Rocking themselves to and fro.) Ai! Ai!

SEEGOOCHE

Is it because our gifts are so small? She should consider how hard it is to get venison in war-time.

PADAHOON

Her heart is so full of bitterness that there is no room in it for the gods.

WACOBA

That is Simwa's doing—though he is your son, Seegooche, I must say it—there was no better Chisera between here and Tehachappi until he curdled her wisdom with his lies.

TIAWA

Ah, Simwa! I spit upon his name.

(The women spit between their teeth with sharp hisses.)

WACOBA

How the Chisera hates him!

PADAHOON

How she loves him!

TIAWA

(Struck with this.) You think so? Yet there is not one word of the evil she said of him a year ago that has not come to pass.

WOMEN

Ai! Ai! On him and us.

PADAHOON

And hate would have been satisfied to strip him of his honors, but now she lets the whole tribe go down in the ruin of her love.

WACOBA

(Hopefully.) Then if she loves him, perhaps he can persuade her.

PADAHOON

As well persuade the rattlesnake not to strike him.

SEEGOOCHE

If the Chief should insist, she would not dare refuse.

PADAHOON

There is little she would not dare. But you can try.

WOMEN

Let us bring the Chief. (They go out.)

THE CHISERA

(Reappearing cautiously.) Have they gone?

PADAHOON

To bring Rain Wind to command you.

THE CHISERA

Can he command the sap to rise or bid the deer-weed spring when there is no rain? My power is gone from me.

PADAHOON

Chisera, it is a grave matter to refuse service in time of war—be advised by the word of a friend—

THE CHISERA

Has the Chisera indeed a friend?

PADAHOON

Have I not proved—

THE CHISERA

Padahoon, when did you ever visit me for any but your own advantage? For what else did you stir me against Simwa, and why now do you seek my blessing but to make good against him the honor of which he has robbed you? Does any one of you bring me venison except for profit or grind my meal for love?

PADAHOON

Seeing how little good you had of the love of the Arrow-Maker, why should you desire it?

THE CHISERA

You spit poison like a toad, Padahoon, but your fangs are drawn. The Arrow-Maker never loved me.

PADAHOON

(Approaching her with the manner of having gained a point.) If you have the wit to know so much—

THE CHISERA

(Commanding him from her with a gesture as she seats herself.) Padahoon, there is no more power in me than there is tang in a wet bowstring. (She rocks her head between her hands.) It is gone from me as the shadow goes up the mountain. As the wild geese go northward at the end of the rains, so is my power—How shall I win it again who cannot win the love of man?... Ah, leave me, Padahoon, leave me!

(She covers her head with her blanket.)

(Enter CHIEF RAIN WIND, stumbling blindly, led by his wife and followed at a respectful distance by the other women. He walks with dignity, in spite of his blindness, and has on all the insignia of rank except the war-bonnet. SEEGOOCHE has a hasty, eager manner, ingratiating but timid.)

PADAHOON

(To them.) You will get nothing.

CHIEF

I do not come asking: I command.

SEEGOOCHE

No, no, do not be harsh with her! Let me speak, we women will understand one another.

CHIEF

(Putting his wife aside.) Chisera. (The CHISERA starts at the tone of authority, but controls herself.) Friend of the gods. (She makes a movement of protest.) I have that to say to you which should be said but once, which to say at all is shame to you. Great powers have been given you to turn the favor of the gods as a willow is turned in the wind. How is it you have not turned them when your people are in war and bad fortune? We are driven as hunted rabbits to hide in holes in the rocks, and our fighting men are outnumbered; even now we do not know if there be one left alive of them—Our tribe shall be as a forgotten tale unless you intercede for us.

THE CHISERA

(Over her shoulder.) What? Is it possible Simwa cannot bring this affair to pass without the gods?

SEEGOOCHE

(Breaking in eagerly.) Yes, yes; the gods are very great, there is nothing without them.

THE CHISERA

(Still to the CHIEF.) Does Simwa ask it?

CHIEF

The chief commands it.

SEEGOOCHE

(Cringingly.) No. No. Chisera, mind him not! He is not himself, the hunger and the loss of battle do distress him. We beg of you, we implore you, Chisera—we will bring gifts to you—gifts, Chisera. (She looks about despairingly for a suitable gift, snatches a great rope of beads from the Chief's neck and drops it in the CHISERA'S lap.) Spoil of our enemies when the war is over, and this to keep as a reminder—So—if only you will persuade the gods to friend us.

THE CHISERA

(Lifting the collar and letting it fall.) And if I will not?

(Still with her eyes on the CHIEF, ignoring Seegooche.)

CHIEF

Chisera, I am an old man, and I knew your father. We had much good talk together—I am very old—but I am not blind in my judgment as I am in my eyes. In war-time there is but one law for those faithless to the tribal obligation. You know it.

THE CHISERA

(Drawing her blanket.) I know it.

SEEGOOCHE

(Dropping to the ground and beating the earth with her palms.) Do not, do not refuse it, wise one, friend of the Friend! What has Simwa done that you should destroy us?

THE CHISERA

You ask me that, Seegooche?

SEEGOOCHE

I know—you said—Such a small thing, Chisera. To love you a little before he loved my daughter. Young men do often so—and you were very fair and no doubt beguiled him—Ah, who could withstand you, daughter of the gods? (Wheedling.) But your punishment is heavy upon him.

THE CHISERA

Is it so?

SEEGOOCHE

(Thinking she has gained a point.) It is indeed as you said; he makes no more arrows, and his luck in the hunt is gone from him. And the men mock him. A war leader should not be mocked, Chisera.

THE CHISERA

No more should a friend of the gods, but Simwa mocked me.

SEEGOOCHE

(Loosing hope.) He was mad, Chisera, he had eaten rattle-weed. But my daughter did not mock you. Think of my daughter!

THE CHISERA

When does your daughter ever think of me?

SEEGOOCHE

(Broken and drooping.) Every day she thinks of you. When she is a-hungered, when her man brings her nothing from the hunt—as—you have said, Chisera. When she digs roots with the old women and no one prevents her for the sake of a child to be born.

THE CHISERA

(With relish.) Does she dig roots?

SEEGOOCHE

With the barren women. Also her beauty goes, she is so thin with the famine.

THE CHISERA

(Baring her arm.) I also am thin.

(From this moment some perception of the pervasive misery of the situation enters her mind and begins to color her speech.)

CHIEF

Hunger and sickness and war have come into the camp because you kept not your heart, Chisera. Yet a greater than all these shall come upon you if you forget your tribal obligation.

THE CHISERA

(Rising on one knee.) What obligation have I owed, Chief Rain Wind, and not remembered it?

CHIEF

That which lies upon all that have power with the Friend of the Soul of Man. Only the gods can save us, and only you know the true and acceptable road to them.

THE CHISERA

(Rising and moving toward her hut.) I am overweary for the road; let Simwa find it.

(An arrow, with a feather and a fragment of bark attached to it, is shot into the camp from the direction of the fighting. PADAHOON takes it up and carries it to the CHIEF, the others crowding about.)

CHIEF

What was that?

PADAHOON

A message from the Fighting Men.

CHIEF

Read me the token.

PADAHOON

A vulture's feather and a bark of whenonabe. Defeat and flight.

WOMEN

Ai! Ai!

(They throw up their arms in despair.)

CHIEF

They will not be far behind their arrows.

(All listen. A faint whoop is heard. PADAHOON answers with his mouth covered with his hands. The rest of the women and children come out of the rocks. Fighting Men come clambering up the steep. They show torn clothing and streaks of blood. The women bring them the water-bottles as they drop upon the ground. WACOBA'S husband, PAMAQUASH, with an arrow in his side, leaps once in air and drops dead. His wife sinks on the ground beside him, rocking and moaning. One breaks his unstrung bow across his knees and stamps the pieces in the earth. Finally comes SIMWA, his war-bonnet bedraggled.)

SIMWA

Ugh! Is it so I find the fighting men of Sagharawite—huddled together like rabbits when the coyotes are after them?

WACOBA

(Scattering dust on her head.) Ai! Ai! My man, my man!

SIMWA

Be still, you fool! Would you call up our enemies with your noise? (The wailing drops to a moan.) Put out that fire—they can sniff smoke as far as a vulture smells carrion. (CHOCO stamps out the fire.) You, Choco, do you show your face to me, misgotten whelp of a coyote! It was you who led the fleeing.

CHOCO

(Sullenly.) It was Tavwots.

TAVWOTS

By the Bear, you shall have a wound for that, though you ran too fast to have one in battle.

(He draws the obsidian knife at his belt.)

PADAHOON

Fools! (He strikes up TAVWOTS' arm; another Indian jerks CHOCO by the ankles causing him to sit down.) Have you killed so many in battle, Tavwots, that you can afford to lose us a fighting man?

(The men subside, exhausted.)

CHIEF

Peace! Though I am too old for battle, yet am I master in the camp. What has happened?

SIMWA

We have shown the Tecuyas what running is like.

TAVWOTS

The gods send we have run fast enough to throw them off the trail, else they will attack before morning.

(Consternation among the women.)

CHIEF

(To them.) Kima! (Their grief falls off to a whimper. To SIMWA.) Where met you?

SIMWA

Under Waban where they stayed to cook venison they had killed. We had every way the advantage—

TAVWOTS

As much as rabbits when they have met with coyotes. They were three to one of us.

SIMWA

(Ignoring him with an effort.) We were between them and cover—we were driving them toward Waban—but they sent one out against us armed—Chief and father, how do you think he was armed who put the sons of the Bear to flight? With a stick—a painted stick with feathers on it. (Angry and protesting murmurs.) An old man with a stick, Rain Wind, and they ran before him like squaws who deserve a beating! Faugh! (Native movement of disgust.)

TAVWOTS

(Rising on his elbow.) You shall be sicker, Simwa, when you have eaten your words. That old man was Tibu, the medicine man of the Tecuyas. I knew him.

SIMWA

Then it was you, Tavwots, who broke and ran?

TAVWOTS

He came upon us with charms and spells. He had the gods on his side.

CHOCO

Our hearts were turned to water because of his evil medicine.

CHIEF

Are not the gods of Sagharawite stronger than the gods of the Tecuyas?

TAVWOTS

Not when we have one to lead us who despises their blessings.

SIMWA

Well, I believe in the medicine of Tibu. He has made old women of you.

CHIEF

Think no more of that. Let us consider what is to be done.

(Shadows of vultures appear on the rocks, attracted by the dead. WACOBA springs up from casting dust upon her head to flap them away with her blanket, which she spreads over the body of her husband.)

PADAHOON

(As he motions to the men to move the body near the shelter.) Yes, it is time to take counsel when the birds of the air betray us to our enemies.

(The women gather together about the dead. One of them takes the place of the sentry who comes to Council. The men collect near the CHISERA'S hut with the exception of SIMWA, who remains seated, re-stringing his bow. BRIGHT WATER goes to him.)

BRIGHT WATER

Simwa, how long will you let your pride destroy us?

SIMWA

Is that a word for a man's wife?

BRIGHT WATER

It is a true one. Do we not know, you and I, that it is but pride that makes you stand out against the friend of the gods? Look at me, Simwa, is it not proved on my body that she spoke truly when she said that you throve only by her blessing?

SIMWA

Can you bear to admit so much?

BRIGHT WATER

Bear? What have I not borne? Have I complained when I dig roots? Have I quivered when I was mocked? Has there been any sign of shame on my face for all the scorne on theirs? Have I said, "Give me children," when the nursing mothers pitied me? Oh, I have borne, I have borne; but this I cannot bear.

SIMWA

What is now so hard?

BRIGHT WATER

To know that you and I know the truth and that you will see the tribe wiped out before you will admit it.

SIMWA

The truth?

BRIGHT WATER

That you were the Chisera's lover for the sake of what she could do for you, and your denial left her no way to prove it except by taking away the help of the gods from us all. Is not that the truth?

SIMWA

Would you have me ashamed before all men?

BRIGHT WATER

When have I not been ashamed since I married you?

SIMWA

Let her alone! They will kill her if she refuses to make medicine and then we shall be rid of her.

BRIGHT WATER

And you would permit that? (He shifts uneasily under her gaze.) Simwa—(With profound entreaty.) Simwa!

SIMWA

What is the witch to me?

BRIGHT WATER

My sister, I think, for she has loved you even as I have, to my sorrow.

(She turns away from him meditating some deep purpose, and from this time on the progress of that purpose in her mind is evident in her bearing toward her husband.)

CHIEF

(Coming forward.) Let the Council sit. (They sit as in ACT I.) Simwa, as war leader, what plan have you?

SIMWA

It wants not plans so much as men to do them.

CHIEF

Whatever is in any man's mind for the good of the tribe, let it be delivered. Observe not the rule of the elders, but speak at once. (A moment, during which black looks are cast at SIMWA.) Will no one speak?

PADAHOON

Chief and tribesmen, once I gave counsel and you despised it—

CHIEF

No more of that. Give counsel now.

PADAHOON

It is the same counsel, but time has not mended the occasion. Penned here on the edge of the precipice we can but starve. We must break through our enemies and strike at their women and their stores.

TAVWOTS

Every trail is watched. Not so much as a weasel can go in and out from Toorape and they not know it.

PADAHOON

With so many watchers, then, they cannot have much of a fighting force at any point. In an hour it will be dark; we shall go down by Deer Leap with the women and children, and stay not for fighting, but, fleeing for our lives, break through to their villages—

CHOCO

But if they move on us to-night? If the vultures have already betrayed us—even now they may be within earshot?

TAVWOTS

If they come up with us before we reach Deer Leap it is to run into the wolf's mouth.

PADAHOON

I have thought of that. To-night they expect us to mourn our dead and go before our gods—

CHIEF

So should we.

PADAHOON

That they may think so, leave one behind to sound the medicine drum throughout the night. So they shall fear to attack and expect an easier victory in the morning when we are exhausted with dancing to the gods.

TAVWOTS

But he that stays, what shall become of him—

CHIEF

He shall die as becomes him (rising)—as becomes a chief of his people.

(Murmurs of consternation and then silence.)

PADAHOON

But another—whose counsels we prize less—

CHIEF

It is the tribal use. None else too blind for the trail and too feeble for the sortie (with grim humor)—but I can drum. (Solemn grunts of approval.)

PADAHOON

If we win through Deer Leap, we can make terms for you. Tribesmen, what say you? (A pause.)

TAVWOTS

What I say is for myself only; but I go not out against the Tecuyas again unless the Chisera has blessed the going.

THE COUNCIL

Good counsel; good counsel! He has it!

SIMWA

There are two or three things to the making of fighting men, Tavwots, beside the blessing of women.

TAVWOTS

Two or three things, Simwa, that I think you have not: honor to win advantage and wit to keep what you have got.

PADAHOON

As for me, I am with Tavwots; but (he looks at SIMWA)—the gods have no favors for unbelievers.

TAVWOTS

Nor have we, by the Bear!

INDIANS

(Springing up.) Nor have we! No; by the Bear! Out with him! (They hustle SIMWA. One snatches off the war-bonnet, another the collar of bears' claws. Even the women strike dust upon him with their feet in an excess of contempt.)

CHIEF

Peace, tribesmen!

TAVWOTS

Perhaps we shall have peace when we have a leader against whom neither the gods nor women have a spite. Tribesmen, who shall lead the going out but he who planned it?

INDIANS

Hi! Hi! Padahoon! Padahoon! (They fling the collar about his neck. TAVWOTS hands him the bonnet.) Hi! Hi! The Sparrow Hawk.

PADAHOON

Do not count on me too much with the Chisera; all this time I have kept in camp with my wound I have reasoned with her, but still she refuses me.

CHIEF

There shall be an end to that—

PADAHOON

How then—?

CHIEF

Who denies service to the tribe in extremity must be dealt with as an enemy. (Consternation.)

CHOCO

But a friend of the gods—

TAVWOTS

Let the gods save her—

CHIEF

There are times when the gods must be content to stand still and see what men will do. Who serves not us, serves our enemies. It is the law.

PADAHOON

(Reluctantly.) It is the law—

CHIEF

Death or good medicine—Speak, tribesmen!

(Above the silence of the Council is heard the deep, excited breathing of the women.)

THE COUNCIL

(One after another.) Death. Death. Death or good medicine. It is the law.

CHIEF

(To PADAHOON.) Bid her come.

PADAHOON

(At the hut.) Chisera, come to Council!

THE CHISERA

(Issuing, wrapped in her blanket.) Who sends for me?

CHIEF

Death is hot upon our trail. Stay him with your spells.

MEN AND WOMEN

Good medicine, Chisera, good medicine!

THE CHISERA

Have you not a war leader—

(She stops, noticing the bonnet on PADAHOON—looks from him to SIMWA.)

PADAHOON

Who invites your blessing, Chisera!

CHIEF

Make spells for thy people!

THE CHISERA

What have my people done for me that I should weary myself to make medicine for them?

CHIEF

Are you not respected above all women of the campody? Even in war-time—

THE CHISERA

Ah—respect! What have I to do with respect? Am I not as other women that men should desire me? Are my breasts less fair that there should never be milk in them?

CHIEF

We honor you after the use of medicine men. What more would you have?

THE CHISERA

The dole of women. Love and sorrow and housekeeping; a husband to give me children, even though he beat me.

CHIEF

Love you have given, and sorrow you have got. Shame and defeat are your children. So it is always when power falls upon women. The word has passed in Council, Chisera; will you repair this damage, or will you die for it?

THE CHISERA

(As her eye travels the circle of the camp.) I do not find the taste of life so sweet that I should turn it twice upon my tongue; but—(Her gaze halts on SIMWA, and all the attention of the camp seems to hang a moment in suspense as SIMWA ignores her.) Do I die, then?

PADAHOON

Let Simwa die!

INDIANS

Ah—ah—!

SIMWA

What, old fox, are you out of cover at last?

PADAHOON

By whom trouble came into the camp, let it depart. Who prevented the wisdom of the gods at the throwing of the sacred sticks? By whose counsel were our allies of Castac destroyed? Who hardened the Chisera's heart so that she kept not our foes from us?

INDIANS

Simwa! Simwa!

PADAHOON

Sons of the Bear, do you think to win favor of the gods when you have one who mocks them in your midst? Would you see the backs of the Tecuyas? Would you win to your homes again? Let Simwa die!

INDIANS

Aye, aye. Let Simwa die! A judgment! A judgment!

SIMWA

(Aside to his wife.) My quiver, hand me my quiver!

CHIEF

Simwa, as thou art a son to me, I fear the charge is just. But do you entreat the Chisera to go before the gods for us, then will this evil pass.

SIMWA

(Rising.) And if I choose to have it said that when the tribesmen of Sagharawite took a woman to Council, only Simwa stood out against it?

CHIEF

Then must I give judgment.

BRIGHT WATER

Simwa!

SIMWA

(Folding his arms.) It shall not be said of me that I have borne to take my life of a woman.

THE CHISERA

Whether you can bear it or not, it shall be said of you, for though I am unhappy, I am still the Chisera, and I declare unto you that neither the life nor the death of a broken man can avail to turn the gods. But you, Chief Rain Wind, and you tribesmen of Sagharawite,—if you must visit the loss of my power, let it be on your own heads, for you only are blameworthy.

CHIEF

This is no time for riddles, Chisera.

THE CHISERA

I mean none. What did Simwa other to me than the occasion allowed him? Was it his fault that he found me alone and love-hungry? Was it he who ordered that I should live apart where no woman could see how my heart went and give me counsel? Was it any fault but yours—you that kept me far from your huts lest I should see and carry word to the gods how unworthy you were! You that feared yourselves lessened when I walked among you with my power—Ai! Ai! Did you think at all what became of the woman so long as you had my medicine to help you?

TIAWA

(Creeping forward.) So I said, so I said from the beginning. She was taught to be a Chisera, but she was born a woman! (Excitement among the women.)

CHIEF

Your words are sharp, Chisera.

THE CHISERA

The fact is sharper. It has eaten through my bosom.

CHIEF

We meant the best—we judged you companioned by the gods.

THE CHISERA

Did ever a woman serve them the less because she had dealt with a man? Nay, all the power of woman comes from loving and being loved, and now the bitterest of all my loss is to know that I have never had it.

(She draws up her blanket.)

BRIGHT WATER

And not you only—

THE CHISERA

You—?

(She turns away confounded.)

SIMWA

Wife—wife—if she finds the gods again, they will surely kill me.

BRIGHT WATER

Let them. Though I am your wife, I am the Chief's daughter, and the tribe is still something to me. I will save them if I can. Chisera—

(The CHISERA listens and turns slowly.)

CHIEF

Is that my daughter?

TAVWOTS

Hush! Perhaps she will move her!

BRIGHT WATER

Do you think yourself aggrieved so much, Chisera? Come, I will match sorrow with you, I and all these (the women surge forward), and the stakes shall be the people. Here is my pride that I throw down, in my bride year to know my husband an impostor. Have you any sorrow to match with that?

WACOBA

Since you wish a man so much, Chisera, here is mine whom the vultures seek.

(The women part to show the dead man stark in his blanket.)

HAIWAI

Would you have a child at your breast, Chisera, here is mine, for my milk is dried with hunger.

(She holds up her swaddled child which BRIGHT WATER takes and holds toward the CHISERA, who stands confused, for the first time acutely aware of their misery.)

BRIGHT WATER

(Measuring the effect of her words.) Chisera, my breast is as fruitless as yours—but you ... you have ... good medicine.

TIAWA

Lay hold on the gods, Chisera, these are ills from which man cannot save us!

(The CHISERA throws out her hands to signify the loss of her power, her blanket slips to the ground and she covers her face with her hands.)

THE CHISERA

Gone—gone! It is gone from me!

BRIGHT WATER

(Signing to the women to hide the blanket.)

By dancing you shall bring it back again—for the sake of the women and children—dance, Chisera!

(Her voice has a kindling sound, and the women echo it with a breath.)

THE CHISERA

Oh, I have danced until the earth under me is beaten to dust, and my heart is as dry as the dust, and all my songs have fallen to the ground. (She begins to walk up and down excitedly.) With what cry shall I call on the gods, now my songs are departed? (She begins to chant.)

And my heart is emptied of all But the grief of women.

(The women watch her breathlessly; as she gradually swings into the dance, they seem to urge her with the stress of their anxiety.)

All the anguish of women, It smells to the gods As the dead after battle, It sounds in my heart As the hollow drums calling to battle, And the gods come quickly.

(As she falters the tribe surges forward.)

TRIBE

Dance, Chisera, dance!

(She tries again and no strength comes—the men hold up their hands, palms outward, in the sign of prayer. The drum begins hollowly.)

Come, O my power, Indwelling spirit! It is I that call. Childless, unmated—

(Drums and rattles are brought out, at first cautiously, lest she take alarm and be turned from her purpose, but as the fervor of her dancing increases, with increased confidence. SIMWA remains seated at one side, watching her, his foot touching his quiver. PADAHOON, who has moved over near him, observes him narrowly in the interval of dancing. CHISERA sings.)

Nay, I shall mate with the gods, And the tribesmen shall be my children. Rise up in me, O, my power, On the wings of eagles! Return on me as the rain The earth renewing, Make my heart fruitful To nourish my children.

(SIMWA is seen to strip the magic arrow from his quiver.)

BRIGHT WATER

Simwa, Simwa, what do you do?

SIMWA

No more than the gods will do to me if they hear her.

THE CHISERA

This is my song that I make, I, the Chisera, The song of the mateless woman: None holdeth my hand but the Friend, In the silence, in the secret places We shall beget great deeds between us!

(As she rises on the last movement of the dance toward ecstasy, the excitement rises with her, expressing itself in short, irrepressible yelps, at the highest point of which a scream from BRIGHT WATER arrests the dancers.)

BRIGHT WATER

Chisera, the arrow, the black arrow! (SIMWA shoots.)

THE CHISERA

(Dying.) Ah, Simwa! (Dies.)

(In the distance is heard the shout of the approaching Tecuyas.)

CURTAIN



GLOSSARY OF INDIAN WORDS AND PHRASES THE DANCES COSTUMES

GLOSSARY OF INDIAN WORDS AND PHRASES

The names and phrases used in The Arrow-Maker were chosen from the culture area comprising the central valleys of California, from tribes belonging to or affiliated with the Paiute group. Exact definitions could not always be ascertained and frequently the meaning given by different villages differed widely. Whenever possible the nomenclature of the locality in which the incident occurred is preferred.

Choco. "Fatty"; a nickname of doubtful origin, possibly from the Spanish Chopo.

Pamaquash. "Very tall"; the Paiute equivalent of Longfellow.

Castac. "Place of Springs"; a small valley in the southerly Sierra, from which the inhabitants take their name.

Yavi. A common given name, meaning unknown.

Tavwots. "Mighty Hunter"; a name given to the rabbit in Paiute lore.

Seegooche. "Woman who gives good things to eat." Lady Bountiful.

Tiawa. A familiar title frequently given to old women, like "Grannie."

Wacoba. "Flower of the Oak"; oak tassel, also the plume of the quail.

Chisera. Medicine Woman; witch. (See last chapter of The Flock for account of the original Medicine Woman from whom the character was drawn.)

Tuiyo. "Shining"; very bright.

Pioke. "Dew drop."

Simwa. Applied in humorous sense, meaning a "swell."

Padahoon. The Sparrow Hawk.

Tecuya. Oak thicket, encinal.

Pahrump. Corn water. A place where there is water enough to grow a crop of corn.

Sagharawite. "Place of the mush that was afraid." An Indian village named from the quaking, gelatinous mush of acorn meal.

Paiute. More properly "Pah Ute": the Utes who live by running water as distinguished from the Utes of the Great Basin; one of the interior tribes of the Pacific Coast.

"Friend of the Soul of Man." The Great Spirit; the Holy Ghost.

Toorape. "Captain"; chief; a name given to one of the peaks of the Sierras.

"The Sacred Sticks." A number of small sticks with peculiar markings. Divination was practiced by throwing them on the ground and interpreting the pattern in which they fell.

Haiwai. "The dove."

Winnedumah. "Standing Rock"; a legendary hero.

Tinnemaha. Probably "Medicine Water." Mineral spring. Brother of the hero in the legend of Winnedumah.

"Eaten meadowlarks' tongues." Said of one nimble of wit. With the idea that like cures like, Indians were accustomed to feed backward or defective children with associated parts of animals.

Whenonabe. Bitter brush; a decoction of the bark producing colic and griping; a symbol of disaster.

"Rattle-weed." Astragalus; produces madness when eaten.

"Toyon." California Christmas Berry.

"Snake-in-the-grass ... tattle to the gods." Snakes are believed to be the messengers and familiars of the gods; therefore the Paiutes tell no important matter in the summer when they are about.

"To dig roots before her wedding year is out." A curse equivalent to barrenness. The work of digging roots was not performed by expectant mothers.

"Wickiup." A wattled hut of brush, made by planting willow poles about a pit four or five feet deep and six to eight feet in diameter. The poles were then drawn over in a dome and thatched with reeds or brush.

"Campody." An Indian village; from the Spanish campo.

Barranca. A bank, the abrupt face of a mesa. From the Spanish.

THE DANCES

All tribal or emotional occasions among Indians are invariably accompanied by singing and dancing. These are frequently derived from the movements of animals and are both pantomimic and symbolic.

The object of the medicine dance is to work up the dancer to a state of trance, in which he receives a revelation in regard to the matter under consideration.

Some of these medicine dances are ritualistic in character and must be performed with great strictness, but in the case of the Chisera the dance is assumed to be made up of various dance elements expressing the emotion of the moment, combined by individual taste and skill.

Power is supposed to descend upon the dancer as he proceeds. Sometimes the dance lasts for hours, and even for days before the proper trance condition is attained. Even then the revelation may not come until a second or third climax has been reached.

The blanket dance is common throughout the Southwest, and possibly elsewhere. It is accompanied by a song which says, in effect, "How lovely it will be when you and I have but one blanket." By the young people it is not taken any more seriously than "drop the handkerchief" and other courtship games.

COSTUMES

While the scene of this play is laid among the Paiute peoples, there is nothing which makes it absolutely unlikely among any of the hunting tribes.

Considerable latitude is therefore permissible in costume and accessories. The only indispensable thing is that all these should be kept within a given culture area. Every article of Indian use or apparel is determined by some condition of living, and it is a mistake to mix costumes from various tribes.

Concessions must be made to the objections of the modern audience to the state of nudity which would be natural to the time in which the story is laid. But even making allowance for this, the tendency is always to overdo, to have too many beads and fringes and war-bonnets. No more than his white brother did the Indian wear all his best clothes every day.

The blanket is the most considerable item of Indian equipment. At once by its quality, its color, and its pattern it announces something of the wearer's rank and condition.

The way in which it is worn betrays the state of his mind as does no other garment. It is drawn up, shrugged off, swung from one shoulder, or completely shrouds the figure according as his mood runs, or it is folded neatly about the body to get it out of the way of his arms when he has need of them. Blankets would be worn to Council, but not going to battle. They would be worn by young and modest women on public occasions, but by old women only for warmth and protection. They are also worn as an advertisement of the desire for privacy.

When an Indian is seen completely shrouded in his blanket, standing or sitting a little apart from the camp, he either has a grouch or he is praying. In either case it is not good manners to interrupt him.

As far as possible the use of the blanket is indicated in the text. Always it may be safely taken as an indication of the wearer's attitude toward whatever is going on about him.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse