The Worst of It

In warm weather —and it is hardly ever cold in their tropic valley —the men wear only a breech-clout, and the women a single garment generally made of flaming bandannas bought in the piece. They dress their long hair in curious ropes, and plaster the scalp with mud, tattoo the chin in wild patterns, and have no ornaments save fichus, which they make with great skill from tiny glass beads.

They have been practicing cremation from time immemorial, and were just having a funeral near East Bridge. The corpse, dressed in its best, was stretched on top of a huge pile of dry old ties from the railroad, and the chief mourner touched a torch to the heap of dry brush at the bottom. As the flames sprang aloft and hissed and roared, the mourners stood in a gloomy ring, chanting a wild refrain ; and as the savage fire and savage song went on, they threw upon the pyre from time to time all the earthly possessions of the deceased, and one by one their own garments and ornaments.

Passing the strange, jagged spires of peaks, which are called the Needles because two of them have natural eyelets, —though these are visible only from the canon, and not from the railroad, —I crossed the 1300-foot drawbridge, now abandoned for a fine new cantilever, a dozen miles below, and stood upon the there forbidding soil of California. A night at the rather pretty little railroad town of Needles, and I started off again into the grim Mojave Desert. It was the beginning of two hundred miles whose sufferings far outweighed all that had gone before . . .