Before the grotto where the council was to meet that night, men were standing, sitting, or lounging. They were the delegates who had come to listen at last to the oracle which was to be revealed to them through the mouth of the great shaman. Their number was not yet complete; the Tapop, Tyope, the Koshare Naua were there, but neither the Caciques nor the Chayani nor the Maseua had put in an appearance. Everybody was silent, hardly a word was heard from time to time, seldom a whisper. The men were in part exhausted by long penitence, but mostly depressed as if some nightmare was still weighing upon them. The obligation to be silent imposed by the medicine-man was yet in force.
One by one those who were lacking came. The medicine-men appeared at last, and only the yaya and the maseua were missing. The tapop, prompted by a wink of the Hishtanyi Chayan, went into the cave and prepared the council-fire. It burned well, but nobody came.
Distant thunder rolled through the clouds; lightning flashed from them in fiery red tongues. The wind continued to blow in gusts, but at long intervals only. Between gust and gust it grew dismally, anxiously, still. The singing, shouting, laughing of the people had almost ceased. Now the wind again whirled up the valley stronger than before, and as its noise ceased, a plaintive sound, a distant howling, floated on the air. It waxed in strength and power till it rose into the night shrill and heart-rending. The men listened in surprise. Sobs, cries, shrieks, from time to time a piercing scream, were the dismal sounds that struck upon their ears. All came from the large building; it was a lament by many voices, the sad, soul-rending lament over the dead!
Breathlessly they listened. Hurried footsteps rushed toward them, several men came running up the slope. When the foremost of them reached the group he asked, panting,—
“Where is the tapop?”
Hoshkanyi Tihua stepped forward and inquired,—
“What has happened? What do you want?”
“Our father the maseua,” gasped the man, “is dead! He was killed on the Ziro kauash!”
“Who killed him?” demanded the principal chayan, placing himself in front of the speaker.
The Indian raised his arm on high; from it depended a circular object. As the pale light of the rising moon fell on it, it was plainly distinguishable as a circular war-sandal!
“Did you find that?” asked the shaman.
“Yes, I found it. I and Hayash Tihua together.”
“On the kauash, on the trail that leads to the north.”
“Who killed sa nashtio?” the chayan further inquired. He alone carried on the investigation; Hoshkanyi Tihua had mingled with the rest again, and stood there silent and speechless over the terrible news. Neither did any of the others utter a single word, but from time to time one or the other shook his head and sighed deeply.