From Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather (Project Gutenberg, 2023; Knopf, 1927), Book 3, Chapter 2:
TAKING leave of Isleta and its priest early in the morning, Father Latour and his guide rode all day through the dry desert plain west of Albuquerque. It was like a country of dry ashes; no juniper, no rabbit brush, nothing but thickets of withered, dead-looking cactus, and patches of wild pumpkin—the only vegetation that had any vitality. It is a vine, remarkable for its tendency, not to spread and ramble, but to mass and mount. Its long, sharp, arrow-shaped leaves, frosted over with prickly silver, are thrust upward and crowded together; the whole rigid, up-thrust matted clump looks less like a plant than like a great colony of grey-green lizards, moving and suddenly arrested by fear.
As the morning wore on they had to make their way through a sand-storm which quite obscured the sun. Jacinto knew the country well, having crossed it often to go to the religious dances at Laguna, but he rode with his head low and a purple handkerchief tied over his mouth. Coming from a pueblo among woods and water, he had a poor opinion of this plain. At noon he alighted and collected enough greasewood to boil the Bishop's coffee. They knelt on either side of the fire, the sand curling about them so that the bread became gritty as they ate it.
The sun set red in an atmosphere murky with sand. The travellers made a dry camp and rolled themselves in their blankets. All night a cold wind blew over them. Father Latour was so stiff that he arose long before day-break. The dawn came at last, fair and clear, and they made an early start.
About the middle of that afternoon Jacinto pointed out Laguna in the distance, lying, apparently, in the midst of bright yellow waves of high sand dunes—yellow as ochre. As they approached, Father Latour found these were petrified sand dunes; long waves of soft, gritty yellow rock, shining and bare except for a few lines of dark juniper that grew out of the weather cracks,—little trees, and very, very old. At the foot of this sweep of rock waves was the blue lake, a stone basin full of water, from which the pueblo took its name.
The kindly Padre at Isleta had sent his cook's brother off on foot to warn the Laguna people that the new High Priest was coming, and that he was a good man and did not want money. They were prepared, accordingly; the church was clean and the doors were open; a small white church, painted above and about the altar with gods of wind and rain and thunder, sun and moon, linked together in a geometrical design of crimson and blue and dark green, so that the end of the church seemed to be hung with tapestry. It recalled to Father Latour the interior of a Persian chieftain's tent he had seen in a textile exhibit at Lyons. Whether this decoration had been done by Spanish missionaries or by Indian converts, he was unable to find out.
The Governor told him that his people would come to Mass in the morning, and that there were a number of children to be baptized. He offered the Bishop the sacristy for the night, but there was a damp, earthy smell about that chamber, and Father Latour had already made up his mind that he would like to sleep on the rock dunes, under the junipers.
Jacinto got firewood and good water from the Lagunas, and they made their camp in a pleasant spot on the rocks north of the village. As the sun dropped low, the light brought the white church and the yellow adobe houses up into relief from the flat ledges. Behind their camp, not far away, lay a group of great mesas. The Bishop asked Jacinto if he knew the name of the one nearest them.
"No, I not know any name," he shook his head. "I know Indian name," he added, as if, for once, he were thinking aloud.
"And what is the Indian name?"
"The Laguna Indians call Snow-Bird mountain." He spoke somewhat unwillingly.
"That is very nice," said the Bishop musingly. "Yes, that is a pretty name."
"Oh, Indians have nice names too!" Jacinto replied quickly, with a curl of the lip. Then, as if he felt he had taken out on the Bishop a reproach not deserved, he said in a moment: "The Laguna people think it very funny for a big priest to be a young man. The Governor say, how can I call him Padre when he is younger than my sons?"
There was a note of pride in Jacinto's voice very flattering to the Bishop. He had noticed how kind the Indian voice could be when it was kind at all; a slight inflection made one feel that one had received a great compliment.
"I am not very young in heart, Jacinto. How old are you, my boy?"
"Have you a son?"
"One. Baby. Not very long born."
Jacinto usually dropped the article in speaking Spanish, just as he did in speaking English, though the Bishop had noticed that when he did give a noun its article, he used the right one. The customary omission, therefore, seemed to be a matter of taste, not ignorance. In the Indian conception of language, such attachments were superfluous and unpleasing, perhaps.
They relapsed into the silence which was their usual form of intercourse. The Bishop sat drinking his coffee slowly out of the tin cup, keeping the pot near the embers. The sun had set now, the yellow rocks were turning grey, down in the pueblo the light of the cook fires made red patches of the glassless windows, and the smell of piñon smoke came softly through the still air. The whole western sky was the colour of golden ashes, with here and there a flush of red on the lip of a little cloud. High above the horizon the evening-star flickered like a lamp just lit, and close beside it was another star of constant light, much smaller.
Jacinto threw away the end of his cornhusk cigarette and again spoke without being addressed.
"The ev-en-ing-star," he said in English, slowly and somewhat sententiously, then relapsed into Spanish. "You see the little star beside, Padre? Indians call him the guide."
The two companions sat, each thinking his own thoughts as night closed in about them; a blue night set with stars, the bulk of the solitary mesas cutting into the firmament. The Bishop seldom questioned Jacinto about his thoughts or beliefs. He didn't think it polite, and he believed it to be useless. There was no way in which he could transfer his own memories of European civilization into the Indian mind, and he was quite willing to believe that behind Jacinto there was a long tradition, a story of experience, which no language could translate to him. A chill came with the darkness. Father Latour put on his old fur-lined cloak, and Jacinto, loosening the blanket tied about his loins, drew it up over his head and shoulders.
"Many stars," he said presently. "What you think about the stars, Padre?"
"The wise men tell us they are worlds, like ours, Jacinto."
The end of the Indian's cigarette grew bright and then dull again before he spoke. "I think not," he said in the tone of one who has considered a proposition fairly and rejected it. "I think they are leaders—great spirits."
"Perhaps they are," said the Bishop with a sigh. "Whatever they are, they are great. Let us say Our Father, and go to sleep, my boy."
Kneeling on either side of the embers they repeated the prayer together and then rolled up in their blankets. The Bishop went to sleep thinking with satisfaction that he was beginning to have some sort of human companionship with his Indian boy. One called the young Indians "boys," perhaps because there was something youthful and elastic in their bodies. Certainly about their behaviour there was nothing boyish in the American sense, nor even in the European sense. Jacinto was never, by any chance, naïf; he was never taken by surprise. One felt that his training, whatever it had been, had prepared him to meet any situation which might confront him. He was as much at home in the Bishop's study as in his own pueblo—and he was never too much at home anywhere. Father Latour felt he had gone a good way toward gaining his guide's friendship, though he did not know how.
The truth was, Jacinto liked the Bishop's way of meeting people; thought he had the right tone with [rich] Padre Gallegos, the right tone with [poor] Padre Jesus, and that he had good manners with the Indians. In his experience, white people, when they addressed Indians, always put on a false face. There were many kinds of false faces; Father Vaillant's, for example, was kindly but too vehement. The Bishop put on none at all. He stood straight and turned to the Governor of Laguna, and his face underwent no change. Jacinto thought this remarkable.