THE WHITE GOD OF THE SINK HOLE

For the last few moments, Roy had leaned forward as if afraid he might
miss some word of his companion’s strange tale.

“Indians had saved you!” he exclaimed huskily.

“A white man,” remarked Mr. Weston. “The High Mucky-Muck o’ the Sink
Hole–the high priest o’ the Lost Injuns–him that they say loosened
some o’ my screws.”

“Go on,” interrupted the boy impulsively, now wholly indifferent as
to the result of possibly drawing out the plainsman’s hallucination.
Weston arose, went over to the water barrel and put his mouth to the
spigot.

“You don’t never see me wastin’ any o’ that sence the day I got out o’
the rocks,” he explained, “an’ I got a purty high regard fur it ever
sence.”

He moved the fire coals together with his foot and added a couple new
mesquite roots to the embers. As the coals flared into a flame, he
took from his hip pocket a worn and greasy pocketbook. The flap was
reinforced with a string. Slowly untying this, Weston opened the book
and extracted a little pocket or envelope made of what appeared to
be thin, black oilcloth. The boy was on his knees close by the fire.
Weston squatted on his heels, opened the oilcloth packet and took out a
piece of yellowish paper, about twice the size of an envelope, folded
once in the middle.

“What’s that?” exclaimed Roy, moving closer.

Weston opened the old sheet, almost ready to come apart in the center.
The quick-eyed boy could make out only what seemed to be three words in
either hieroglyphics or some language unknown to him, dim with age, and
a single line resembling an arrow.

“What’s that?” repeated Weston. “Ef ye’ll tell me that, I’ll know what
I been tryin’ to find out fur a good many years. It’s what makes folks
say I’m wrong in my upper story.”

As the boy reached forward to take the mysterious sheet in his hands,
Weston withdrew it, put it back into its case, dropped it into the
pocketbook, and, with the latter in his hands, took a new position
cross-legged before the fire.

“In a minute,” he went on. “But let me finish my yarn. I’ll show it to
you then. Them as hev seen this ain’t so sure I’m off. Them as ain’t,
don’t know. What it means, I reckon they ain’t no one kin tell. I tuk
it offen the high Mucky-Muck white man when them Lost Injuns killed
him.”

There was already a little chill in the night air. The whole world
seemed asleep. Roy wet his lips and looked behind him. He was wondering
if old Doolin were near. And yet, neither Weston’s eyes nor voice
seemed to be those of a man not in his normal senses.

“I’ll give what happened to you brief,” the westerner went on, slapping
the pocketbook on his knee. “As fur as I kin make out, them hills an’
rocks was purty much my imagination. Leastways, I never seen ’em agin,
and couldn’t find ’em though I looked offen enough. After gettin’
that drink from the squaw I must a mended fast. When I come to agin,
I knowed I was in a cave, but a cave that wa’n’t made by no man. An’
settin’ by me was a Injun fur yer life. I seen about ever’ kind uv
Injun in the west, but I ain’t seen none like him before nur sence.
An’ he was one uv about thirteen, half squaws an’–I was agoin’ to say
bucks–but they wa’n’t bucks. They wuz old men–every one of ’em who
wa’n’t an ole woman. No papooses an’ no young people.

“That cave was jist a kind o’ room. They wuz other rooms an’
galleries–plenty of ’em. The Injun by me, an ole man, was on guard.
So I sung purty small seein’ I was a pris’ner. He had Injun hair all
right, but gittin’ bald. This is where the wise ones all laugh when I
tell about that gang. ‘A bald Injun?’ they say. No matter–squaws and
men alike they was all more or less bald.

“As fur looks, they didn’t look like no one ’at I ever see, exceptin’
the picters o’ Eskimos an’ Chinks. They had sort o’ slant eyes. But
their skins was the unusuallest part uv ’em. They ever’ one looked kind
o’ cold-gray-brown like a Injun whose been dead a day or two.”

Roy looked again toward the star-crowned black wall of the Mesa Verde,
as if hoping that the absent Doolin might be coming campward.

“Where was this?” he asked, nervously.

“Ain’t no doubt in my mind,” went on Mr. Weston, “but that gang was the
last o’ them Lost Injuns. And afore now they’re all gone, I reckon.
Where wuz it? Well, sir, that tribe didn’t have no range–they lived in
a Sink Hole. That’s the answer. That’s why I reckon they ain’t but two
white men ever seen ’em an’ never will.”

“I don’t understand,” interrupted the boy. “What is a Sink Hole?”

“A Sink Hole is whar onct was a volcano er whar the water frum the
mountains bores a hole in the desert. Somewhar out thar in Utah,”
continued the speaker, “somewhar between the Colorado River an’ the
western mountains is the Sink Hole o’ the Lost Injuns. A quarter uv a
mile away they ain’t no sign uv it exceptin’, as I seen it first, smoke
o’ sulphur driftin’ out. It’s sides ain’t fur climbin’–they air nigh
straight except whar the dry river bed falls into the pit. When the wet
season’s on ye can’t get in er out. In the dry months they’s steps cut
in the arroyo bed.

“When the floods begin to eat a hole in the sand whar that pit is, they
dug out holes in the rocks. Then the water et furdder down and made
more holes. An’ that’s the way it went on, I reckon, makin’ drifts like
a silver mine. Then these Eskimo-Chink Injuns come along, fur the water
that wuz at the bottom o’ the sink mebbe, and scooped the caves bigger
and jined them till it was a home under the desert.”

Roy’s eyes bulged with amazement.

“And they found you and took you down there?”

“The white boss did. I calkerlate that sulphur smoke leakin’ out o’ the
lower tunnels wuz what did the business. And sence them Injuns don’t
stir ’round much, I reckon I must a stumbled into that dry arroyo. Like
as not, I was on the aidge o’ the sink when the white man seen me.
Anyway, they took me in.”

“And the white man?” asked Roy. “What about him?”

“You’d a thought he’d a give me the glad hand now, wouldn’t you?”
continued the westerner. “He did–_not_. I didn’t even know about him
till night was comin’ on agin. Ye could tell it was night an’ day down
thar because near’ all them rooms er caves had a winder looking out on
the sink. Towards night, after I was feelin’ a good sight better, and
was figgerin’ on jist what sort uv a deal I’d put over on the Injuns,
all my plans wuz knocked galley west.

“Ye kin imagine. It was jist shadderin’ into dark when a figger come
into the room like he was a emperor or somepin. He was the imposinest
being I ever see. I knowed he was white by his hair and beard which was
spread out over his chest like one o’ them Bible prophets what are
offerin’ up lambs fur sacerfice. On his feet they wuz sandals. An’,
instid o’ white men’s clothes, he was dressed mainly in a white blanket
with a belt o’ silver buckles ’at I reckon’d weigh five pounds.

“‘Thank God,’ I mumbles kind o’ thick like an’ tryin’ to set up. He
only bowed like I wuz a salutin’ him an’ never cracked a smile. ‘I’m
much obleeged,’ I went on, tryin’ to be sociable, ‘fur the water.’
Instid o’ sayin’ he was glad or somepin pleasant, the old geezer, in a
voice like a preacher, begun to talk Injun to the old baldy by me. An’
sich Injun! Then he left, old baldy makin’ a low bow as his white boss
walked away, like as if he was leadin’ a army. Thet night, they brought
me some kind o’ meal mixed with water an’ more water, an’ another ole
grandpa come an’ set by the door o’ my room till day.

“They w’a’n’t no use tryin’ to do anything in the dark. So I snoozed.
When I woke up, it looked as if somepin was doin’. Five er six uv them
Injuns was crowded in the door o’ my cell er room or cave.

“‘Come in,’ I says, feelin’ a mighty sight stronger an’ pearter. But
they didn’t. They ducked like yearlin’s. All but one. He wuz on guard.
I was gittin’ purty cur’ous by this time. So, seein’ no one but a
single baldy on watch, I got up, pushed him to one side and walked out
into a kind o’ corridor. It was not till then that I knowed anything
about the lay o’ the land. This hall was like a gal’ry in the side o’
the sink hole. On the outside they wuz openin’s, nacherl like, jis like
holes in the rock. Out o’ these ye could look down whar it was black
and smelly with sulphur. Up above, ye could see the sky. On the inside
o’ the gal’ery, they wuz the caves, an’, I discovered later, some other
gal’ries runnin’ back to I don’t know whar or what. Like enough, store
rooms.

“Ye kin bet, they wuz a commotion. Sich gibberish as wuz set up would
a made ye tired. I didn’t keer much fur the old Injuns, but ole
bearded-boy was right on the job. They w’a’n’t no place to go, an’ I
hadn’t no gun, so when ole White Blanket come up and laid hold o’ me,
I knowed it wuz all over. He had a grip wuss’n Dan Doolin fifteen year
ago. He carried me back to my coop an’ dropped me on the floor like a
piller.

“But I seen one thing. When he nailed me, I wuz in what ye might call
the holy o’ holies. It was a big room about the middle o’ the main
gal’ry. I never seen it but that one time, my boy, but that was enough.
Mebbe I’m ‘off,’ ‘cracked,’ ‘nutty,’ an’ ‘bughouse’–ye don’t have to
believe it–but ef I didn’t see more gold and silver dishes in that
room ’an ye could carry away in a wagon, I ain’t a settin’ here.”

Treasure–gold and silver lost in a cave! Roy’s heart thumped. Did he
hear right?–was he dreaming or reading some old tale of fiction?

“You saw it?” was all he could say.

“’Bout that long,” answered Weston, snapping his fingers. “But it don’t
take no camera long to take a picter. What I seen I seen. They was a
altar an’ a lamp burnin’ on it. An’ that wuz no Injun racket. Wa’n’t no
corn an’ grain an’ painted sticks an’ eagle feathers an’ false faces.
What I see was a white man’s work.”

“But the gold and silver?” exclaimed Roy, forgetting hallucinations,
Dan Doolin and all else.

“That tribe must a been a real tribe onct,” went on Mr. Weston. “That’s
the only way I kin explain it. In that room wuz, I reckon, all the
dishes ’at they ever made. They wa’n’t on the altar only. They was
ever’whar. Can’t fool me on gold and silver. I seen ’em. Them on
the altar had turquoises over ’em like dirt. I don’t know whether I
figgered right, but, layin’ thar that night, I couldn’t see it but one
way. Ole White Blanket wuz a fake. He wa’n’t thar to teach no religion
nur to save no souls. He was gittin’ that plunder all together fur no
good purpose–no better’n mine ef I’d a got the chanct.”

“Well,” urged Roy. “What then?”

“I couldn’t figure it but one way, as I say. They wa’n’t nothin’ fur
me to do but to git away, locate the sink hole an’ git back with help
to chastise the old geezer an’ mebbe git the stuff he was atryin’ to
steal. I saved a little chuck each meal fur a couple o’ days, an’
then tried it. O’ course I had to tap the old baldy guard on the head
jist heavy enough to keep him still a while. I selected the time jist
about daybreak, an’ I thought I was goin’ to hev no more trouble. I
was out o’ the gal’ery an’ on the arroyo steps when I got this,” said
Mr. Weston tapping the long scar on his arm. “That was frum old high
Mucky-Muck hisself. I didn’t allow he had no gun.

“That meant I was two weeks laid up. But the Injuns give me a square
deal. They tended me like brothers, even the old one I had to be
vi’lent with. Then, one day jist when I was feelin’ it wuz about time
to try it agin, who should come in but the boss hisself. You wouldn’t
believe what that ole duffer done–hot as it wuz out there in them
deserts. An’ I guess he wa’n’t no thief after all er he might a saved
hisself all his trouble by just knockin’ me on the head an’ bein’ done
with it. He had a hood, made out uv a piece o’ blanket, and some hide
strings. With him wuz four old men ready fur travelin’, as I could see.
An’ so wuz the white man. Instid o’ his blanket an’ sandals, he had on
a white man’s boots, a long black coat and a big hat.

“Without askin’ my leave an’ no special talk among ’em, they tied my
arms behind me an’ dropped that black hood over my head.” Weston paused
awhile, in which interval he lit anew his long neglected pipe.

“I reckon,” he began again, at last, “ye’ll imagine they took me out on
the desert an’ turned me loose. They jist traveled with me two days.
An’ the last days we wuz in the mountains. I could see what was comin’,
though in all that travelin’ they wa’n’t one word spoke to me.

“That’s whar ole High Mucky-Muck made his mistake. He might as well
a’ talked all he wanted. He was wuss off’n I was. But he didn’t know
it. That night, like the fust night, they tied my feet, although two
o’ the Injun ‘has-beens’ stood guard. We didn’t have no campfire, an’
only meal an’ water fur chuck. I slept all right till it got cold–we
wuz well up in the mountains somewhar–an’ then I woke up. My feet an’
hands wuz free and them that brung me two days’ travel wuz gone.

“I understood like it wuz all wrote down. It was jist to be shore I
couldn’t never find my way back to them as didn’t relish my company.
An’ I cussed. Then I figgered it out. I was lucky to be alive, an’ I
turned over an’ went to sleep agin. When it was day, I found they’d
left me a bag o’ meal an’ a bottle o’ water.”

Roy’s tense feelings relaxed with the explosive inquiry:

“And that’s how you escaped? But the paper–the funny writing?”

Weston shrugged his shoulders.

“I could tell east and west and I knowed the way I had ought to go, but
did ye ever know a man to do what he’d ought to–always? That white
man wore boots. I couldn’t no more keep from trailin’ him an’ I could
fergit that plunder. It wa’n’t easy, in that high ground, but I kep’
goin’ an’ I knowed I was doin’ a good job. About sun down, I come to
the end o’ the trail, as we say out hyar.”

“You lost it?”

“One of ’em, I never lost,” said Mr. Weston slowly. “Jist when the sun
was makin’ shadders on the mountain side, I seen somepin afore me I
wisht I’d never seen. On a pile o’ rocks, sort o’ square like, was the
big white man stark an’ stiff dead.”

“Dead?” almost shouted the awed boy.

“With a hole in the back o’ his head like this,” added Mr. Weston
solemnly, holding out his closed fist.

Roy shuddered.

“The Indians killed him?” he almost whispered.

“Shore,” answered Weston. “And they wasn’t but one answer to that. It
took me days to figger it out, but thar was only one reason. How that
white man come among ’em o’ course no one’ll ever know. But bein’ thar,
he wuz the biggest thing ’at ever happened. They’d never seen a white
man afore. He might’a been a kind a holy thing to ’em. Mebbe even a
god. An’ when I came along they seen they wuz other white men on earth.
Ef he’d been a god he wa’n’t the only one. So they went back to their
old feathers an’ painted sticks an’ Injun totems. But they sacerficed
the new god first.”

“And the paper?” asked the boy, after a long silence.

“’Ceptin’ his gun and boots,” said Mr. Weston, “it wuz the only thing
on him I took. What it means, I guess the White God o’ the Lost Injuns
knowed. But I don’t. If it’s Injun, ain’t no Injun I ever met could
read it.”

“And you?” said Roy. “What then?”

“I piled stones on the dead man an’ slept thar that night. The next day
I tried to pick up the trail o’ the Injuns. But they air the kind that
don’t leave no trails. Then I lit out northwest. My meal lasted, but
the water didn’t. In six days, I struck a trail an’ the next day wuz
picked up by a ore wagon comin’ off Awapa Plateau–out o’ my head.”

When the guide had finished his story, he again opened his worn
pocketbook.

“Mebbe you’d like a look at the paper,” he added. “An’ remember. Ye
don’t have to lie. Ye don’t have to say ye believe a word o’ what I
been tellin’ ye. But that scrap o’ paper and this,” pointing to his
arm again, “air all I got to prove that A. B. Weston, which is me, has
actu’ly seen the Lost Injuns o’ Utah, their goods and chattels o’ solid
gold and silver an’ the White God o’ the Sink Hole. Anyway, that’s why
I’m ‘Sink Hole’ Weston.”

Weston spread out the paper and handed it to Roy. As he did so, he
punched up the fire and the boy leaned forward. For a moment, the boy’s
eyes were fixed on the three hieroglyphic words. Then, at the bottom of
the sheet, Roy detected two other words in faded ink.

“It’s a name,” exclaimed the lad suddenly.

“But that don’t mean nothin’. Ain’t no one I ever met ever heerd it.”

Roy caught his breath, started, looked again and then shouted:

“I know it. I’ve heard it. You’re not crazy. That’s the name of a man I
know. It’s my great uncle!–a Mormon.”

Weston caught the boy by the arm.

“What’s his name?” he asked, in a thick voice.

“Willard Banks.”

The plainsman sprang to his feet, laughed nervously and then exclaimed:

[Illustration: THE REMARKABLE HIEROGLYPHICS]

“I reckon there’s some one then ’at’ll believe me.”

“Every word,” answered Roy, handing back the paper. “But,” and he too
laughed in an excited way, “I’m glad you had that proof.”