Sacrifice Of The Toltecs





Centuries ago, when Toltec civilization had extended over Arizona, and

perhaps over the whole West, the valleys were occupied by large

towns--the towns whose ruins are now known as the City of Ovens, City of

Stones, and City of the Dead. The people worked at trades and arts that

had been practised by their ancestors before the pyramids were built in

Egypt. Montezuma had come to the throne of Mexico, and the Aztecs were a

subject people; Europe had discovered America and forgotten it, and in

America the arrival of Europeans was recalled only in traditions. But,

like other nations, the Toltecs became a prey to self-confidence, to

luxury, to wastefulness, and to deadening superstitions. Already the

fierce tribes of the North were lurking on the confines of their country

in a faith of speedy conquest, and at times it seemed as if the elements

were against them.



The villagers were returning from the fields, one day, when the entire

region was smitten by an earthquake. Houses trembled, rumblings were

heard, people fell in trying to reach the streets, and reservoirs burst,

wasting their contents on the fevered soil. A sacrifice was offered. Then

came a second shock, and another mortal was offered in oblation. As the

earth still heaved and the earthquake demon muttered underground, the

king gave his daughter to the priests, that his people might be spared,

though he wrung his hands and beat his brow as he saw her led away and

knew that in an hour her blood would stream from the altar.



The girl walked firmly to the cave where the altar was erected--a cave in

Superstition Mountains. She knelt and closed her eyes as the

officiating-priest uttered a prayer, and, gripping his knife of jade

stone, plunged it into her heart. She fell without a struggle. And now,

the end.



Hardly had the innocent blood drained out and the fires been lighted to

consume the body, when a pall of cloud came sweeping across the heavens;

a hot wind surged over the ground, laden with dust and smoke; the

storm-struck earth writhed anew beneath pelting thunder-bolts; no tremor

this time, but an upheaval that rent the rocks and flung the cities down.

It was an hour of darkness and terror. Roars of thunder mingled with the

more awful bellowing beneath; crash on crash told that houses and temples

were falling in vast ruin; the mountainsides were loosened and the rush

of avalanches added to the din; the air was thick, and through the clouds

the people groped their way toward the fields; rivers broke from their

confines and laid waste farms and gardens! The gods had indeed abandoned

them, and the spirit of the king's daughter took its flight in company

with thousands of souls in whose behalf she had suffered uselessly.



The king was crushed beneath his palace-roof and the sacerdotal

executioner perished in a fall of rock. The survivors fled in panic and

the Ishmaelite tribes on their frontier entered their kingdom and

pillaged it of all abandoned wealth. The cities never were rebuilt and

were rediscovered but a few years ago, when the maiden's skeleton was

also found. Nor does any Indian cross Superstition Mountains without a

sense of apprehension.





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