Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/381

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365
THE HOUND OF THE PLAINS.

of his race as to give him the book-name Canis latrans, or “barking” wolf. I can not picture this rattling concert (to which I have often been an unwilling listener) of quickly repeated, infinitely varied, ventriloquial yelps better than it has already been done by Dr. Elliott Coues, who confesses the difficulty of conveying in adequate words the noisy confusion of these polyglot serenades:

“One must have spent an hour or two vainly trying to sleep,” says this brilliant writer and naturalist, “before he is in condition to appreciate the full force of the annoyance. It is a singular fact that the howling of two or three wolves gives an impression that a score are engaged, so many, so long-drawn are the notes, and so uninterruptedly are they continued by one individual after another. A short, sharp bark is sounded, followed by several more in quick succession, this time growing faster and the pitch higher till they run together into a long-drawn, lugubrious howl in the highest possible key. The same strain is taken up again and again by different members of the pack, while from a great distance the deep, melancholy baying of the more wary lobo breaks in, till the very leaves of the trees seem quivering to the inharmonious sounds.”

In the memory of this astonishing voice of his, it is amusing to read the story told by the Kaibabits Indians, of Northern Arizona, to account for the diversity of languages; for what animal could better figure in such a history than our polyglot wolf? The old men of the Kaibabits will tell you that in the beginning the grandmother, goddess of all, brought up out of the sea a sack which she gave to the Cin-aú-av brothers, great wolf-gods. This sack contained the whole of mankind, and the brothers were bidden to carry it from the shores of the sea to the Kaibab plateau, and by no means to open the package on the way lest, as with Pandora's box, untold evils should be turned loose. But, overcome by curiosity, the younger Cin-au-av untied the sack, when the majority of people swarmed out. The elder Cin-aú-av hastened to close it again and carry it to the Kaibab plateau, where the people who had remained found a beautiful home. Those who had escaped were scattered and became Navajos, Moquis, Dakotas, white men, all the outside world in short — poor, sorry fragments of humanity, without the original language of the gods.

The nocturnal prowling, secretive disposition, and remarkable craftiness of this animal, together with the annoyance it has the power to inflict, cause it to figure prominently in the myths and religious histories of the native races of the Far West. Some of these stories I propose to recall, and I am sure they will suggest to every reader at least the reynard of European folk-lore, if not any other interesting parallels.

In all the Mexican pantheon the most sublime figure is that of Tezcatlipoca, creator of heaven and earth, sole ruler of the universe, invisible and omniscient. To him, as presiding over darkness and all