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The Queen Of Death Valley


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

In the southern part of California, near the Arizona line, is the famous
Death Valley--a tract of arid, alkaline plain hemmed in by steep
mountains and lying below the level of the sea. For years it was believed
that no human being could cross that desert and live, for horses sink to
their knees in drifts of soda dust; there is no water, though the
traveller requires much drink; and the heat is terrific. Animals that die
in the neighborhood mummify, but do not decay, and it is surmised that
the remains of many a thoughtless or ignorant prospector lie bleached in
the plain. On the east side of Dead Mountain are points of whitened rock
that at a distance look like sheeted figures, and these, the Indians say,
are the ghosts of their brethren.

In the heart of this desert is said to be the ruin of a pueblo, or
village, though the shape and size of it suggest that it was made for a
few persons rather than for a tribe or family. Long ago, the tale runs,
this place of horrors was a fair and fertile kingdom, ruled by a
beautiful but capricious queen. She ordered her subjects to build her a
mansion that should surpass those of her neighbors, the Aztecs, and they
worked for years to make one worthy of her, dragging the stones and
timbers for miles. Fearing lest age, accident, or illness should forbid
her to see the ending of her dream, she ordered so many of her subjects
to assist that her tribe was reduced to practical slavery.

In her haste and heartlessness she commanded her own daughter to join the
bearers of burdens, and when the toilers flagged in step in the noonday
heat she strode among them and lashed their naked backs. As royalty was
sacred, they did not complain, but when she struck her daughter the girl
turned, threw down her load of stone, and solemnly cursed her mother and
her kingdom; then, overcome by heat and weariness, she sank to the earth
and died. Vain the regrets and lamentations of the queen. The sun came
out with blinding heat and light, vegetation withered, animals
disappeared, streams and wells dried up, and at last the wretched woman
gave up her life on a bed of fever, with no hand to soothe her dying
moments, for her people, too, were dead. The palace, half-completed,
stands in the midst of this desolation, and sometimes it seems to lift
into view of those at a distance in the shifting mirage that plays along
the horizon.

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