The Project Gutenberg eBook of Children of the Cliff

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Title: Children of the Cliff

Author: Belle Wiley

Grace Willard Edick

Release date: December 26, 2018 [eBook #58550]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Tim Lindell, Stephen Hutcheson, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


Children of the Cliff





Copyright, 1905, by
Printed in the United States of America.



I. The cliff country 1
II. Lost 13
III. The tower 18
IV. A cliff house 28
V. The cliff home 35
VI. The dress of the cliff people 44
VII. The race 50
VIII. The feast 59
IX. The journey 66
X. Home again 72


Little Teni and Mavo lived in a dry sandy country far away from here.


They lived with their father and mother high up on a rocky cliff.

All about them were rocks and sand.


They could not play in the shade of the trees, because in that dry land there were very few trees.

But the little boy and girl had great fun climbing up and down the rocks and running in the sunshine.

One day when Mavo and Teni were playing at the foot of the cliff, they saw some baby rabbits not far away.

They were brown rabbits, just the kind that Teni loved to play with.


“Oh, Mavo! Let us catch them,” he said, and the two ran off together.

As the children came near, the little rabbits scampered away as fast as they could.


The mother rabbit was waiting for her children in a hole near by and they ran straight for home.


Mavo laughed as the little creatures ran over the sand toward the hollow cliff.


“Come, Mavo,” said Teni. “We can catch them if we hurry.”

They did not see the rabbits go into the hole, and ran on and on.


“I see them, Teni,” said Mavo, pointing to a brown spot in the distance.

But when they came to the brown spot they saw only a stone.

They looked all about them, but could find no trace of the rabbits. Mavo was so disappointed not to find them!

“Where are the rabbits?” said Teni.

“We have lost them.”

“They may be hiding there,” he said, looking toward a clump of cedar trees, at the foot of the cliff.


The two children ran among the trees, but could find no rabbits.

Mavo was tired and thirsty, so Teni said, “Sit down, Mavo; I will get you a drink of water. See, the rocks are wet. There must be a spring in the cliff.”

Mavo sat on a rock, while her brother climbed up the cliff to the spring.


As he stooped down to take a drink he wondered what he could use to carry some water to Mavo.


He looked around for a gourd but could find none.

The only thing he could use was the little skin bag that hung around his neck.


He never opened this bag, for he knew that if he lost the bit of bear’s fur from inside, no one would know what his real name was.

The children of the cliff-dwellers took their names from their mothers.


These names were very queer, because they were the names of animals or the sun or the moon.

The little piece of fur showed that Mavo and Teni belonged to the bear family.


Teni knew that Mavo was very thirsty, so he took the bag from his neck and opened it.


He held the fur tight in his hand, for he had no pocket in his loose skin tunic.

Mavo drank the clear water, and Teni sat down beside her and put the fur carefully back in the bag.


Being very warm, he threw off his skin tunic for a few minutes and rolled about in the sand.

The brother and sister meant to rest only a moment, but as the shadows grew longer and longer the little heads drooped, and soon they were fast asleep in the warm sand.


The sun went down.


The little stars came out.

Their mother had told them that these were baby suns, and that the pale moon was the mother.


As the children slept, an owl cried over their heads, and the black beetles ran over their little brown feet.



In the early morning, when Father Sun began to put his star babies to bed, the little cliff-dwellers awoke.


They looked about for their father and mother, for they thought they had been sleeping on their own little skin bed.


“Why, Teni,” said Mavo, “we are out of doors; see the red cliff, and the cedar-tree over there.”

They called and called, but no one answered.

Even the owl had gone.

Teni took Mavo by the hand, and said, “Let us go home.”

So they started straight for the cliff which they thought was home.


They walked and walked, but the cliff was not as near as it seemed.

Mavo began to cry, and said, “Oh, Teni, hurry home, I am so hungry!”

“Never mind, Mavo,” said Teni, “I will find something for you to eat, and then we will try to find home.”

So Mavo stopped crying, and clung to Teni’s hand, as he looked about for the little plant which he knew was good to eat.


Teni had to look a long time, and Mavo was very tired before he found the plant.


“See, Mavo! this is what I have been looking for,” said Teni, as he stooped down and pulled up an herb.


“Let us eat these roots; they are very good; then we will start for home.”

The brother and sister stopped a short time to eat their breakfast of roots, then they ran on again.

As the sun grew hotter the sand seemed to grow heavier.

How glad they would be to find their home!



As they stopped a moment to rest under some sage-bushes, they saw something which frightened them.


A band of fierce Indians was coming toward them.


The Indians had paint on their faces and bows in their hands. They had long black hair like Teni’s, but their skin was much darker.


Mavo clung to Teni, and both crouched behind the bushes.

They did not speak, for fear the Indians might hear them.


Teni drew Mavo close to him and wiped the tears from her eyes. He knew that this tribe of Indians hated his people, and would kill him and his sister if they should find them.

It was well that the children were hidden by the trees, for the Indians passed by without seeing them.

The children’s eyes were filled with red dust so that they could not see for a long time.

When the dust cleared away, they saw a man running toward them.


He was running from those fierce Indians.


“Look, look, Teni,” said Mavo, “there is father coming for us. See! Here he is! Call him, Teni!”

Teni jumped up very quickly and called as loudly as he could.

The man understood the call because he was a cliff-dweller too.


The cliff people were Indians, who had a language of their own.

As the man came nearer, the children saw it was not their father, though he looked very much like him.

“What are you doing here?” he said to Teni.

“We want to go home,” said the boy, “but we can not find the way.”

“You can not go home now,” said the man, “for those Indians would get you.”


“Come, I will take care of you.”

He took Mavo in his strong arms, and telling Teni to follow, he walked over the hot sand to a tall tower on the cliff.

The tower was made of stones held together with clay.

It stood high on the cliff, and from its little windows one could see far into the valley.

When the cliff-dwellers were in this fortress, they were safe from their enemies because when the ladders were pulled up there was no way to get in.


The man found a ladder and raised it to a hole high in the tower.


They climbed it and were soon inside.

Mavo and Teni looked through the peep-holes in the walls while their new friend pulled in the ladder.

“Are you hungry?” said the man, looking toward the children.


Mavo nodded, for she was very hungry.

The brother and sister had had nothing but herbs to eat since the day before.

“I will look for some food,” said their new friend. “There must be some here.”

Then he climbed into the storeroom and came back with his hands full of dried meat.


He gave the meat to the children, and while they ate, he climbed down to a room below and pulled some willow branches from a hole in the wall. He called the children, and lifted them into this room.

It was dark down there, but he told Mavo and Teni not to be afraid, for they would soon be out in the light.

They crawled through the hole into a dark tunnel.

The way was very long and the children were very tired.

But soon they reached the end of the tunnel.



They were glad to see the sunshine again.

They sat down at the foot of the cliff to rest a moment.


“Is that your home?” asked Teni, pointing to the cliff far above him.

Mavo looked up at the stone house on the rocky shelf.


This house, with its plastered walls, looked like a part of the cliff.

There were finger-prints in the plaster, for the people had worked with their hands, because they had few tools.


The tools they did have were made of stone and bone.


The children noticed a woman climbing into the high door-way.

Mavo said, “Who is that?”

“My wife,” replied Demino.

The woman turned and saw the children.


She wore a loose skin tunic, and her long black hair hung over her shoulders.

She smiled at the children, and motioned to Demino to come up into the house.

A little boy was shouting to his father from the small window above the door.


He, too, had seen the strangers, and wished them to come in.

Demino waved his hand and said, “That is my little boy. He wants to see you.”


“Let us hurry and climb the ladder.”

Mavo cried, “I will not go! I will not go! I want my mother!”

She did not like the strange house.

Teni put his arm about his sister and said, “Come, Mavo. We must be brave.”

When they were in the house even Teni felt strange, for it was very much larger than his house.

Tears came to his eyes, but he tried hard not to cry.


“Oh, Mavo!” he called, “see!” and they ran to the corner, where a tiny brown baby lay fast asleep on a deerskin.

The little boy, who had been climbing up and down some wooden pegs in the wall, ran toward them, saying, “That is my baby brother.”


Mavo lay down on the deerskin and put her little hands on the baby’s cheek.

She was happy now, and soon fell asleep.



“Come, Teni,” said the little boy, “I will show you my home.”


Teni was glad to see this strange house, for he had never been in one so large before.

They climbed about from room to room.

There were so many that Teni could not count them.


After a while the little boy said, “Let us go into this store-room.”

So they climbed the notched pole and lifted the stone from the hole which led into the largest granary.

Teni said, “There is only one granary in our house. How many have you?”


“Five,” said the little boy, “but this is the largest one.”

“See how much food we have!”


Teni’s eyes opened wide with wonder. He had never seen a storeroom so well filled. There were piles and piles of skin boxes filled with powdered buffalo’s meat. There were large baskets filled with grain and beans.


In one corner was a box of wheat, and hanging from the pegs in the wall were the skin clothes and skin leggings ready for winter’s wear.


The boys climbed up some of the pegs and looked over the wall into the large reservoir.

There was only a little water in it, because it had not rained for many months.


One of the stone jars on the wall had some water in it, and Teni took a long drink.

Then they crept carefully along the wall till they came to a part of the cliff which hung over the reservoir.


The boys stood here a few moments and looked down at the water.

“This reservoir is nearly empty,” said Teni.

“Have you another?”

“Yes,” said the boy, “but we pray for rain every day, because the other reservoir is nearly empty also.”

Just then Teni thought of Mavo, so they started back.

On the way they stopped at a round room which was in the center of this queer house.

“What is this room?” said Teni.


“The kiva,” said the boy. “All the men of this cliff village sleep here on the skins which you see scattered about.”


On a shelf in one part of the kiva was a curious-looking doll baby with a painted face, long hair, and bright-colored clothes.


This doll was an idol, so the children stopped to put some red corn at its feet, touching its dress very gently.

“Let us light the fire,” said Teni.

They walked to a hole in the center of the floor and sat down beside it.

Then they rubbed two pieces of flint together to make a spark.


They lighted the cedar wood that was in the hole, and watched the flames grow brighter and brighter.


“Hush!” said Teni, “we must be very quiet. I can hear the spirits talking in the fire.”


“The spirits say that Mavo and I will soon be at home with father and mother and we shall be glad, too.”

By and by the boys went quietly from the still room.



“Let us race back,” said Teni, “and I will tell Mavo what the spirits in the fire said.”

Away they ran as fast as they could, and the race was soon over.

Teni was a good runner, but he did not win this time.

Mavo was awake and very glad to see her brother.


She jumped up to meet him and led him to a part of the room where two women stood over a fire.


Teni watched them as they mixed the ground corn with water and poured this on a hot stone.


The women were very busy, so that they did not notice the children.

They had much piki to make, for the men would soon be home.

“May I have some?” said Mavo.

Then the women looked up and saw the three children standing near them.

They gave Mavo a piece of piki for herself and another for Teni.

The other little boy was not hungry, but sat down with the others while they ate.


Demino was just coming back from the store-room with some dried peaches and powdered buffalo’s meat.

He placed this food on the floor and heated another stone for the women, so that they could make more piki.


Just then Baby awoke and began to cry, so his mother gave him a warm drink of herbs and water.


Mavo said, “I will give the baby some of this piki;” but the mother shook her head and said, “No, Baby is too little.”


Teni took the beads from his sister’s neck and gave them to the little one.

Soon Baby was happy playing with the beads and pulling at Mavo’s loose skin dress.


Teni’s clothes were of skin too; even his little moccasins were made of soft skin.

In winter these cliff Indians wore heavier skin clothing, and long leggings which came up to their knees.

They never needed caps, for their hair was long and thick.

They loved to wear bright beads and bracelets, and often painted their faces with gay colors.



Teni and his new friend took Mavo by the hand and climbed out on the rocky shelf, which was the only yard these children had.


They walked toward a place where some women were making jars from clay.

One woman was mixing the clay with water, while another shaped the jars with her hand.


Near-by, on the ground, were many jars of different shapes which were being dried by the sun.


The cliff-dwellers used these jars for holding water.

The children watched the women for a while, then went to another part of the cliff where other women were weaving baskets from cedar fibers.


The baskets were closely woven, so that they could be used to carry water.

As the children stood there, Demino came down the ladder with a water jar on his head, and behind him came his wife with the baby on her back.


“Let us have a race,” said Teni. Mavo wanted to run too, but Teni said she was too little.

The boys climbed down to a lower shelf where more cliff people were gathered.


Here were other boys, and they wanted to race too.

They were soon on the sandy ground below the cliff and ready for the start.

One of the boys had a large dog. He wanted him in the race too, because he could run so fast.


They started off toward a hill. The boys were to race to the hill and back. The boy who won was to ride a pony belonging to one of the men.


On and on they ran, while the cliff people strained their eyes watching them.

Teni seemed in the lead, but just as they were nearing home the large dog dashed ahead and won the race.

Teni came next.

The dog wagged his tail as the boys ran up to him.

He looked at Teni, as much as to say, “You may have the ride.”

Now the pony was led up, and Teni was lifted to its back.


Teni could ride a pony, because all Indian boys are taught to ride when they are very young.


So he started off, sitting very straight and looking proudly before him.

Mavo clapped her hands and said, “Hurry back, Teni.”

“I will,” answered Teni, as the pony galloped away.

The boy and the pony were soon hidden by the thick dust.


In a short time Teni was back.

He jumped down quickly and patted the pony’s head, happy because he had had so fine a ride.


Just then some men came up.

They had been hunting, and now all the people crowded round to see the fine game they had brought.


The hunters were very hungry, so they all turned back to the cliff village to cook the deer and rabbits which they had killed.

There was great haste to prepare the food for the hungry men.



While Demino lighted the fire, his wife brought some corn and ground it in the stone mortar.


Another woman cooked more piki on the hot stones, while one of the men went to the reservoir for a jar of water.


Then the hunters skinned the animals and roasted them.

The women were not hungry, so while the men ate they busied themselves weaving baskets and mats of coarse grass.


Demino’s wife stretched the deerskin on the rocks in the sun.

“Let me help you,” said Teni, as he ran toward the woman.

She let him help her stretch the skin and then thanked him.


“What are you going to use this skin for?” said the boy.


“It will make a warm winter coat for my little boy,” she said.

“My mother makes my coats from skins, too,” said Teni.

As the men ate, they talked.


They wished for rain, that they might plant their corn and beans.


The wind might blow the seed away if the rain did not come to wet the dry sand.

“The rain is late this year,” said one, “but our dried fruit will last a long time even though we have no grain.”


The cliff people dried their fruit in the sun.

We would not have liked it because it was so sour.

Soon the men noticed Teni and Mavo and asked who they were.

“They are children of the Bear people, our neighbors,” said Demino.

“This morning, as I was walking near the tower, I saw a band of Indians coming toward me.


“I knew them to be our enemies, so I ran quickly toward some cedar trees.

“The Indians did not see me, but these children were hiding behind the trees, and called to me as I came along.

“They had lost their way and could not find their home.

“I was afraid that the Indians would find us, so went straight to the tower.

“We crawled through the tunnel and came here.

“I shall take the children home as soon as the sun goes down.”


Teni and Mavo heard Demino say this, and kept watching for the sun to tell them when it was time to go home.



Just at sunset the two children stood on the cliff.

All about them was beautiful red sandstone.


So red were the rocks that the setting sun made them glow like fire.

Every little bush in the valley was covered with gleaming red sand.

The few white rocks looked like silver in the fiery light.

“Oh, Teni,” said homesick little Mavo, “let us go in and ask Demino to take us to our mother and father.”

But Demino was already climbing down the cliff to get his pony.


The brother and sister jumped with joy when they saw him.


“Oh, Demino!” they said, “are we going home now?”

“Yes,” said Demino.

“May we ride on the pony?” said little Mavo. “I am not afraid.”


Demino lifted Mavo on the pony and told Teni to jump up behind her.

“You must not let Mavo fall, Teni,” said Demino. “I will walk beside you, and lead the pony to your home.”

The people had gathered on the cliff as Teni and Mavo started off.

The children shouted “Good-by!” and “Thank you!” and Demino’s little boy waved his hand as long as he could see them.


“See, there is the tower, Mavo,” said Teni.

“We must be very far from home, for I never had seen the tower before this morning.”

“Your father has been there,” said Demino. “He can tell you all about it.”

They rode a long while, and Mavo grew very tired.

Teni put his arms about her, and said: “We will soon be home, Mavo.”


As they rode on, Mother Moon and the baby stars seemed to smile and say, “We are glad, too, that you will soon be home.”



The father and mother had been looking far and near for their little boy and girl.


They had no one to help in the search, because they did not live near any other cliff people.

In their house there was room for only one family.


There was no way of calling the people together, because the cliff-dwellers had no chief, as some of the Indians had.

At last the tired parents had gone into the kiva to pray to the gods to lead their children safely home.


They threw themselves down and scattered handfuls of sacred corn before the bear, which they thought they saw in the fire.


These cliff people worshiped the bear because they took their name from it.

The deer family worshiped the deer, and the snake family the snake.


When they were hunting they were very careful never to kill the animal from which they took their name.

“Hush,” said the mother, “the spirits tell me our children are coming.”


The father also listened for the voice of the spirits.

The voices seemed to say that the children were safe and would soon be at home again.

The father and mother sat about the fire for a long time, then rose quietly, and after throwing more corn to the flames, walked out of the kiva.

They went on the cliff, and looked about them for some sign of their children.


“The moon is clear to-night,” said the father. “There are no clouds to hide her light. She will guide Teni and Mavo home.”


“Where can they have been all day?”

“If only we knew that they were safe!”


The mother and father could not see the pony as it neared the cliff.

Mavo had fallen asleep in Teni’s arms, and Demino walked on, thinking how glad the parents would be to see their children.

Teni did not say a word, but kept looking toward his home.

The father and mother were looking anxiously into the valley.

While they were watching, they saw shadows in the distance.


“Look!” said the mother. “I see something. Can it be our children?”

They waited a moment, then the father climbed down the cliff and ran quickly toward Demino.


The children clung to their father while Demino tried to tell the story.

The father did not wait to hear very much, for he wished to get back to the mother.

How happy he was to find that the fierce Indians had not harmed his children! and he thanked Demino again and again.

As they came nearer the cliff they saw their mother watching.

She waved her hand and called to them, but they could not hear her, they were so far below.


Then she raised her arms to the moon above, and called aloud her thanks for the safe return of her children.


The little boy and girl were soon clinging to their mother and trying to tell her all about what had happened.

That night their dreams were happy, for they were safe in their own home.


Transcriber’s Notes