The Story Of Oello

Once upon a time there was a young girl, who had the pretty name of

Oello. I say, once upon a time, because I do not know when the time

was,--nor do I know what the place was,--though my story, in the main,

is a true story. I do not mean that I sat by and saw Oello when she wove

and when she spun. But I know she did weave and did spin. I do not mean

that I heard her speak the word I tell of; for it was many, many hundred

> years ago. But I do know that she must have said some such words; for I

know many of the things which she did, and much of what kind of girl she


She grew up like other girls in her country. She did not know how to

read. None of them knew how to read. But she knew how to braid straw,

and to make fish-nets and to catch fish. She did not know how to spell.

Indeed, in that country they had no letters. But she knew how to split

open the fish she had caught, how to clean them, how to broil them on

the coals, and how to eat them neatly. She had never studied the

"analysis of her language." But she knew how to use it like a lady; that

is, prettily, simply, without pretence, and always truly. She could sing

her baby brother to sleep. She could tell stories to her sisters all day

long. And she and they were not afraid when evening came, or when they

were in any trouble, to say a prayer aloud to the good God. So they got

along, although they could not analyze their language. She knew no

geography. She could count her fingers, and the stars in the Southern

Cross. She had never seen Orion, or the stars in the Great Bear, or the


Oello was very young when she married a young kinsman, with whom she had

grown up since they were babies. Nobody knows much about him. But he

loved her and she loved him. And when morning came they were not afraid

to pray to God together,--and when night came she asked her husband to

forgive her if she had troubled him, and he asked her to forgive

him,--so that their worries and trials never lasted out the day. And

they lived a very happy life, till they were very old and died.

There is a bad gap in the beginning of their history. I do not know how

it happened. But the first I knew of them, they had left their old home

and were wandering alone on foot toward the South. Sometimes I have

thought a great earthquake had wrecked their old happy home. Sometimes I

have thought there was some horrid pestilence, or fire. No matter what

happened, something happened,--so that Oello and her husband, of a hot,

very hot day, were alone under a forest of laurels mixed with palms,

with bright flowering orchids on them, looking like a hundred

butterflies; ferns, half as high as the church is, tossing over them;

nettles as large as trees, and tangled vines, threading through the

whole. They were tired, oh, how tired! hungry, oh, how hungry! and hot

and foot-sore.

"I wish so we were out of this hole," said he to her, "and yet I am

afraid of the people we shall find when we come down to the lake side."

"I do not know," said Oello, "why they should want to hurt us."

"I do not know why they should want to," said he, "but I am afraid they

will hurt us."

"But we do not want to hurt them," said she. "For my part, all I want is

a shelter to live under; and I will help them take care of their

children, and

'I will spin their flax,

And weave their thread,

And pound their corn,

And bake their bread.'"

"How will you tell them that you will do this?" said he.

"I will do it," said Oello, "and that will be better than telling them."

"But do not you just wish," said he, "that you could speak five little

words of their language, to say to them that we come as friends, and not

as enemies?"

Oello laughed very heartily. "Enemies," said she, "terrible enemies, who

have two sticks for their weapons, two old bags for their stores, and

cotton clothes for their armor. I do not believe more than half the army

will turn out against us." So Oello pulled out the potatoes from the

ashes, and found they were baked; she took a little salt from her

haversack or scrip, and told her husband that dinner would be ready, if

he would only bring some water. He pretended to groan, but went, and

came in a few minutes with two gourds full, and they made a very merry


* * * * *

The same evening they came cautiously down on the beautiful meadow land

which surrounded the lake they had seen. It is one of the most beautiful

countries in the world. It was an hour before sunset,--the hour, I

suppose, when all countries are most beautiful. Oello and her husband

came joyfully down the hill, through a little track the llamas had made

toward the water, wondering at the growth of the wild grasses, and,

indeed, the freshness of all the green; when they were startled by

meeting a horde of the poor, naked, half-starved Indians, who were just

as much alarmed to meet with them.

I do not think that the most stupid of them could have supposed Oello an

enemy, nor her husband. For they stepped cheerfully down the path,

waving boughs of fresh cinchona as tokens of peace, and looking kindly

and pleasantly on the poor Indians, as I believe nobody had looked on

them before. There were fifty of the savages, but it was true that they

were as much afraid of the two young Northerners as if they had been an

army. They saw them coming down the hill, with the western sun behind

them, and one of the women cried out, "They are children of the sun,

they are children of the sun!" and Oello and her husband looked so as if

they had come from a better world that all the other savages believed


But the two young people came down so kindly and quickly, that the

Indian women could not well run away. And when Oello caught one of the

little babies up, and tossed it in her arms, and fondled it, and made it

laugh, the little girl's mother laughed too. And when they had all once

laughed together, peace was made among them all, and Oello saw where the

Indian women had been lying, and what their poor little shelters were,

and she led the way there, and sat down on a log that had fallen there,

and called the children round her, and began teaching them a funny game

with a bit of crimson cord. Nothing pleases savage people or tame people

more than attention to their children, and in less time than I have

been telling this they were all good friends. The Indian women produced

supper. Pretty poor supper it was. Some fresh-water clams from the lake,

some snails which Oello really shuddered at, but some bananas which were

very nice, and some ulloco, a root Oello had never seen before, and

which she thought sickish. But she acted on her motto. "I will do the

best I can," she had said all along; so she ate and drank, as if she had

always been used to raw snails and to ulloco, and made the wild women

laugh by trying to imitate the names of the strange food. In a few

minutes after supper the sun set. There is no twilight in that country.

When the sun goes down,

"Like battle target red,--

He rushes to his burning bed,

Dyes the whole wave with ruddy light,

Then sinks at once, and all is night."

The savage people showed the strangers a poor little booth to sleep in,

and went away to their own lairs, with many prostrations, for they

really thought them "children of the sun."

Oello and her husband laughed very heartily when they knew they were

alone. Oello made him promise to go in the morning early for potatoes,

and oca, and mashua, which are two other tubers like potatoes which grow

there. "And we will show them," said she, "how to cook them." For they

had seen by the evening feast, that the poor savage people had no

knowledge of the use of fire. So, early in the morning, he went up a

little way on the lake shore, and returned with strings of all these

roots, and with another string of fish he had caught in a brook above.

And when the savage people waked and came to Oello's hut, they found her

and her husband just starting their fire,--a feat these people had never

seen before.

He had cut with his copper knife a little groove in some soft palm-wood,

and he had fitted in it a round piece of iron-wood, and round the

iron-wood had bound a bow-string, and while Oello held the palm-wood

firm, he made the iron-wood fly round and round and round, till the pith

of the palm smoked, and smoked, and at last a flake of the pith caught

fire, and then another and another, and Oello dropped other flakes upon

these, and blew them gently, and fed them with dry leaves, till they

were all in a blaze.

The savage people looked on with wonder and terror. They cried out when

they saw the blaze, "They are children of the sun,--they are children of

the sun!"--and ran away. Oello and her husband did not know what they

said, and went on broiling the fish and baking the potatoes, and the

mashua, and the oca, and the ulloco.

And when they were ready, Oello coaxed some of the children to come

back, and next their mothers came and next the men. But still they said,

"They are children of the sun." And when they ate of the food that had

been cooked for them, they said it was the food of the immortals.

Now, in Oello's home, this work of making the fire from wood had been

called menial work, and was left to servants only. But even the princes

of that land were taught never to order another to do what they could

not do themselves. And thus it happened that the two young travellers

could do it so well. And thus it was, that, because they did what they

could, the savage people honored them with such exceeding honor, and

because they did the work of servants they called them gods. As it is

written: "He who is greatest among you shall be your servant."

And this was much the story of that day and many days. While her husband

went off with the men, taught them how he caught the fish, and how they

could catch huanacos, Oello sat in the shade with the children, who were

never tired of pulling at the crimson cord around her waist, and at the

tassels of her head-dress. All savage children are curious about the

dress of their visitors. So it was easy for Oello to persuade them to go

with her and pick tufts of wild cotton, till they had quite a store of

it, and then to teach them to spin it on distaffs she made for them from

laurel-wood, and at last to braid it and to knit it,--till at last one

night, when the men came home, Oello led out thirty of the children in

quite a grand procession, dressed all of them in pretty cotton suits

they had knit for themselves, instead of the filthy, greasy skins they

had always worn before. This was a great triumph for Oello; but when the

people would gladly have worshipped her, she only said, "I did what I

could,--I did what I could,--say no more, say no more."

And as the year passed by, she and her husband taught the poor people

how, if they would only plant the maize, they could have all they wanted

in the winter, and if they planted the roots of the ulloco, and the oca,

and the mashua, and the potato, they would have all they needed of them;

how they might make long fish-ways for the fish, and pitfalls for the

llama. And they learned the language of the poor people, and taught them

the language to which they themselves were born. And year by year their

homes grew neater and more cheerful. And year by year the children were

stronger and better. And year by year the world in that part of it was

more and more subdued to the will and purpose of a good God. And

whenever Manco, Oello's husband, was discouraged, she always said, "We

will do the best we can," and always it proved that that was all that a

good God wanted them to do.

It was from the truth and steadiness of those two people, Manco and

Oello, that the great nation of Peru was raised up from a horde of

savages, starving in the mountains, to one of the most civilized and

happy nations of their times. Unfortunately for their descendants, they

did not learn the use of iron or gunpowder, so that the cruel Spaniards

swept them and theirs away. But for hundreds of years they lived

peacefully and happily,--growing more and more civilized with every

year, because the young Oello and her husband Manco had done what they

could for them.

They did not know much. But what they knew they could do. They were not,

so far as we know, skilful in talking. But they were cheerful in acting.

They did not hide their light under a bushel. They made it shine on all

that came around. Their duties were the humblest, only making a fire in

the morning, cleaning potatoes and cooking them, spinning, braiding,

twisting, and weaving. This was the best Oello could do. She did that,

and in doing it she reared an empire. We can contrast her life with that

of the savages around her. As we can see a drop of blood when it falls

into a cup of water, we can see how that one life swayed theirs. If she

had lived among her kindred, and done at home these simple things, we

should never have heard her name. But none the less would she have done

them. None the less, year in and year out, century in and century out,

would that sweet, loving, true, unselfish life have told in God's

service. And he would have known it, though you and I--who are we?--had

never heard her name!

Forgotten! do not ever think that anything is forgotten!