Shoz-Dijiji, restless, unhappy, filled with bitterness against all men who were not Apaches, often brooding over the wrongs and justices inflicted upon his people, became a living scourge throughout the countryside.
Sometimes alone, again with Gian-nah-tah and other young braves, he raided shops and ranches and isolated cottages, or waylaid travellers upon the road.
He affected a design in face painting that was distinctive and personal; so that all who saw him knew him, even though they never had seen him before. He laid a broad band of white from temple to temple across his eyes—the remainder of his face, above and below the band, was blue.
Entering a small village alone, he would step into the little tienda and stand silently upon the threshold for a moment watching the effect of his presence upon the shop keeper and his customers. He derived pleasure from seeing the pallor of fear overspread their faces and hearing their mumbled prayers; he loved the terror in their voices as they voiced his name, “The Apache Devil!”
If they ran he let them go, but if they offered resistance he shot them down; then he took what he wanted and left. He did not kill women or children, nor did he ever mutilate the dead or torture the living; but others did—Apaches, Indians of other tribes, Mexicans—and The Apache Devil was held responsible for every outrage that left no eye-witness living to refute the charge.
In the year that they remained in Mexico the Apaches collected a considerable herd of horses and cattle by similar means and according to the same ethics that govern civilized troops in an enemy’s country. They considered themselves at war with all mankind, nor was there any sufficient reason why they should feel otherwise. For over three hundred years they had been at war with the white men; for over three hundred years they had been endeavoring to expel the invader from their domain. In the history of the world no more courageous defense of a fatherland against overwhelming odds is recorded, but the only accolade that history will bestow upon them is that which ratifies the titles, thieves and murderers, conferred upon them by those who ravished their land for profit.
It was late summer. The growing herd of the Apaches was becoming unwieldy. Scouts and raiding parties were almost daily reporting to Geronimo the increasing activities of Mexican troops, proof to the old War Chief that the Mexican government was inaugurating a determined campaign against him, which he realized must assuredly result in the eventual loss of their hard-earned flocks, since the tactics of Apache warfare depend, for success, chiefly upon the marvelous mobility of the savages. From the summit of a mountain in the Sierra de Sahuaripa range rose a tall, thin column of smoke. It scarcely wavered in the still air of early morning. Fed by trained hands, its volume remained almost constant and without break. From a distance it appeared a white pillar topped by a white cloud that drifted, at last, lazily toward the north. Fifty, a hundred miles away keen eyes might see it through the thin, clear air of Sonora. Caballero and peon in little villages, in scattered huts, in many a distant hacienda saw it and, cursing, looked to their weapons, prepared the better to guard their flocks and their women, for it told them that the Apaches were gathering; and when the Apaches gathered, let honest folk beware!
Other eyes saw it, savage eyes, the eyes for which its message was intended; and from plain and mountain painted warriors, scouting, raiding, turned their ponies’ heads toward the soft, white beacon; and thus the scattered members of the Be-don-ko-he and the Ned-ni joined forces in the Sierra de Sahuaripa and started north with the spoils of war scarcely ahead of the converging troops.
“For more than a year,” Geronimo had said to them during the council in which they had determined to leave Mexico, “we have been absent from the country of the pindah- lickoyee. In all this time we have not struck a blow against them. We have shown them that we are not at war with them but with the Mexicans. Let us return with our herds to our own country and settle down in peace. With what we have won we can increase our cattle and our horses to such an extent that we shall not have to go upon the war-trail again for a long time possibly never again. Thus we can live in peace beside the pindah-lickoyee. Let us not strike again at them. If our young men must go upon the war-trail, there is always Mexico. The Mexicans are our natural enemies. They were our enemies before the pindah-lickoyee came; I do not forget Kas-ki-yeh, where my wife, my mother, and my children were treacherously slain. Let not the young warriors forget Kas-ki-yeh either! Many were the women and the children and the warriors killed there that day while most of the fighting braves were peaceably trading in the nearby village.
“Perhaps now that we have obtained the means to guard against hunger we may live in peace in our own country with the white-eyed men. I have made big medicine and prayed to Usen that this thing may be. I am tired of fighting. I am tired of seeing my people killed in the hopeless struggle against the white-eyes.”
And so the two tribes came back to the reservation at San Carlos, bringing their great herd with them, and there was feasting and dancing and much tizwin was consumed.
The White Mountain Apaches, who had not gone out with Geronimo, profited however, for they had furnished many of the rifles and much of the ammunition that had aided in the success of the renegades; and they received their reward in the division of the spoils of war.
After the freedom and excitement of the war-trail it was difficult for the young braves to settle down to the monotony of reservation life. Herding cattle and horses was far from a thrilling occupation and offered little outlet for active, savage spirits; and it could as well be done by boys as by men.
The result was that they spent much time in gambling and drinking, which more often than not led to quarreling. Shoz-Dijiji suffered in a way, perhaps, more than the majority, for his was naturally a restless spirit which had not even the outlet afforded by strong drink, since Shoz- Dijiji cared nothing for this form of dissipation. Nausea and headaches did not appeal to him as particularly desirable or profitable. He found a certain thrill in gambling but most of all he enjoyed contests of skill and endurance. He challenged other braves to wrestle, jump, or run. The stakes were ornaments, ammunition, weapons, ponies, but as Shoz-Dijiji always won it was not long before he was unable to find an antagonist willing to risk a wager against him.
Perhaps his chief diversion was pony racing and many a round of ammunition, many a necklace of glass beads, magical berries, and roots, bits of the valued duklij came into his possession because of the speed of Nejeunee and other swift ponies of his string.
Shoz-Dijiji, gauged by the standards of Apachedom, was wealthy. He possessed a large herd, fine raiment, the best of weapons and “jewelry” that was the envy of all. Many a scheming mother and lovelorn maiden set a cap for him, but the Black Bear was proof against all their wiles.
Sometimes his father, Geronimo, or his mother, Sons-ee-ah-ray, reproached him, telling him that it was not fitting that a rich and powerful war chief should be without women to wait upon him. They told him that it was a reflection on them; but Shoz-Dijiji only shrugged his shoulders and grunted, saying that he did not want to be bothered with women and children. Only Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah knew the truth.
Just off the reservation was a place known locally as the Hog Ranch, though the only swine that frequented it were human; and while a single member of the family Suidae would have tended to elevate its standing in the community it was innocent of even this slight claim to decency.
Its proprietor was what is still known in the vernacular of the Southwest as a tinhorn. “Dirty” Cheetim had tried prospecting and horse stealing but either of these vocations were dependent for success upon a more considerable proportion of courage and endurance than existed in his mental and physical endowment.
His profits were derived through the exploitation of the pulchritude of several blondined ladies from the States and about an equal number of dusky senoritas from below the border, from cheating drunken soldiers and cowboys at cards, from selling cheap, adulterated whiskey to his white patrons openly and to Indians surreptitiously. It was whispered that he had other sources of revenue which Washington might have found interesting had it been in any measure interested in the welfare of the lndians, but how can one expect overworked Christian congressmen to neglect their electorate in the interests of benighted savages who have no votes?
However; it seemed strange to those who gave it any thought that such a place as “Dirty” Cheetim’s Hog Ranch should receive even the passive countenance of the Indian Agent.
Tall and straight, silently on moccasined feet, an Apache brave stepped through the doorway of the Hog Ranch. Pausing within he let his quick, keen glance pass rapidly over the faces of the inmates. The place was almost deserted at this hour of the day. Two Mexicans, an American cowboy, and a soldier were playing stud at a table in one corner of the room. Two other soldiers and two girls were standing at the bar, behind which one of “Dirty” Cheetim’s assistants was officiating. One of the soldiers turned and looked at the Indian.
“Hello! Black Bear!” he called. “Have a drink?”
Shoz-Dijiji looked steadily at the soldier for a moment before replying.
“No sabe!” he said, presently, his eyes moving to a closed door that led to a back room.
“He’s a damn liar!” said the soldier. “I’ll bet he savvies English as good as me.”
“Gee!” exclaimed one of the girls; “he’s sure a good lookin’ Siwash.” She looked up into Shoz-Dijiji’s face and smiled boldly as he approached them on his way across the room toward the closed door; but the face of the Indian remained expressionless, inscrutable.
“They don’t none of ’em look good to me,” said the other soldier. “This guy was out with Geronimo, and every time I lamp one of their mugs I think maybe it’s The Apache Devil. You can’t never tell.”
The first soldier took hold of Shoz-Dijiji’s arm as he was passing and stopped him; then from the bar he picked up a glass filled with whiskey and offered it to the Apache. , Shoz-Dijiji grunted, shook his head and passed on. The girl laughed.
“I reckon he’s got more sense than we have,” she said; “he knows enough not to drink ‘Dirty’s’ rot-gut.”
“You must be stuck on the Siwash, Goldie,” accused the first soldier.
“I might have a mash on a lot o’ worse lookin’ hombres than him,” she shot back, with a toss of her faded, golden curls.
Shoz-Dijiji heard and understood the entire conversation. He had not for nothing spent the months of Geronimo’s imprisonment at San Carlos in the post school, but not even by the quiver of an eye-lid did he acknowledge that he understood.
At the closed door, unembarrassed by the restrictions of an etiquette that he would have ignored had he been cognizant of it, he turned the knob and stepped into the room beyond without knocking.
Two men were there—a white man and an Indian. They both looked up as Shoz-Dijiji entered. This was the first time that Shoz-Dijiji had been in “Dirty” Cheetim’s Hog Ranch. It was the first time that he had seen the proprietor or known who “Dirty” Cheetim was; but he had met him before, and he recognized him immediately.
Instantly there was projected upon the screen of memory a sun scorched canyon, bowlder strewn, through which wound a dusty wagon road. At the summit of the canyon’s western wall a young Apache brave crouched hidden beneath a grey blanket that, from the canyon’s bottom, looked but another bowlder. He was watching for the coming of the soldiers of the pindah-lickoyee that he might carry the word of it back to Geronimo.
Presently three bearded men rode into view. The Apache gazed down upon them with contempt. His fingers, resting upon his rifle, twitched; but he was scouting and must forego this Usen-given opportunity. The men were not soldiers; so they were of no concern to Shoz-Dijiji, the scout.
Suddenly the Apache’s attention was attracted by a sound coming from the south, a rhythmical sound that announced the approach of a loping horse. Two of the three men drew quickly behind a great bowlder, the third behind another upon the opposite side of the road. Silence once more enveloped the seemingly deserted canyon.
The Apache waited, watching. The loping horse drew nearer. It entered the lower end of the canyon and presently came within range of Shoz-Dijiji’s vision. Its rider was a girl—a white girl. As she came abreast of the three whites they rode directly into the trail and barred her passage, and as she sought to wheel her horse one of them reached out and seized her bridle rein.
The girl reached for a six-shooter that hung at her hip, but another of the three had slipped from his saddle and run to her side. Now he grasped her wrist, tore the weapon from its holster, and dragged the girl to the ground. It was all done very quickly. Shoz-Dijiji watched. His hatred of the men mounted.
He heard the conversation that passed between the men and the girl and understood it—understood that the men were going to take the girl away by force. He saw one of them— the one that he was facing now in the back room of the Hog Ranch—jerk the girl roughly and order her to remount her horse.
Then the barrel of a rifle slid quietly from beneath the edge of a grey bowlder at the top of the canyon’s wall, there was a loud report that resounded thunderously, and the man whose hand lay upon Wichita Billings dropped in his tracks.
From that moment to this Shoz-Dijiji had thought “Dirty” Cheetim dead, yet here he was in the flesh, looking him straight in the eye and smiling. Shoz-Dijiji knew that Cheetim would not be smiling if he had recognized Shoz- Dijiji.
“How, John!” exclaimed the white man. “Mebby so you want red-eye, eh?”
In no slightest degree did Shoz-Dijiji register by any changed expression the surprise he felt at seeing this man alive, nor the hatred that he felt for him, nor the terrific urge he experienced to kill him. He looked at him just once, briefly, and then ignored him as he did his greeting and his question. Instead he turned to the Apache standing behind Cheetim.
It was Gian-nah-tah. In one hand he held a glass of whiskey, in the other a bottle. Shoz-Dijiji looked straight into the eyes of his friend for a moment, and those of Gian-nah-tah wavered and dropped beneath the steady, accusing gaze of the Black Bear; then the latter spoke in the language of the Shis-Inday.
“Gian-nah-tah, you are a fool!” said Shoz-Dijiji. “Of all the things that the white-eyed men have to offer the Apache only their weapons and their ammunition are of any value to us—all else is vile. And you, Gian-nah-tah, choose the vilest. You are a fool!
“Our own tizwin and the mescal of the Mexicans is bad medicine, but this fire-water of the white-eyed men is poison. To drink it is the madness of a fool, but even worse is the drinking of it in friendship with the white-eyed dogs.
“You are a fool to drink it—you are a traitor to drink with the enemies of your people. Put down the glass and the bottle, and come with me!”
Gian-nah-tah looked up angrily now. Already he had had a couple of drinks of the vile concoction, and they had had their effect upon. him.
“Gian-nah-tah is a warrior!” he exclaimed, “not a child. Who are you to tell Gian-nah-tah to do this, or not to do that, or to come or go?”
“I am his best friend,” said Shoz-Dijiji, simply.
“Then go away and mind your own business!” snapped Gian- nah-tah, and he raised the glass to his lips.
With the swift, soft sinuosity of a cat Shoz-Dijiji stepped forward and struck the glass from his friend’s hand and almost in the same movement seized the bottle and hurled it to the floor.
“Here, you damn Siwash!” cried Cheetim; “what the hell you think you’re doin’?” He advanced belligerently. Shoz-Dijiji turned upon the white man. Towering above him he gave the fellow one look that sent him cowering back. Perhaps it was fortunate for the peace of San Carlos that “Dirty” Cheetim had left his gun behind the bar, for he was the type of bad-man that shoots an unarmed adversary.
But Gian-nah-tah, Be-don-ko-he warrior, was not thus a coward; and his finer sensibilities were numbed by the effects of the whiskey he had drunk. He did not shrink from Shoz-Dijiji. Instead, he whipped his knife from its scabbard and struck a savage blow at the breast of his best friend.
Shoz-Dijiji had turned away from Cheetim just in time to meet Gian-nah-tah’s attack. Quickly he leaped aside as the knife fell and then sprang close again and seized Gian-nah- tah’s knife wrist with the fingers of his left hand. Like a steel vise his grip tightened. Gian-nah-tah struck at him with his free hand, but Shoz-Dijiji warded the blow.
“Drop it!” commanded the Black Bear and struck Gian-nah-tah across the face with his open palm. The latter struggled to free himself, striking futilely at the giant that held him.
“Drop it!” repeated Shoz-Dijiji. Again he struck Gian-nah- tah—and again, and again. His grasp tightened upon the other’s wrist, stopping the circulation—until Gian-nah-tah thought that his bones were being crushed. His fingers relaxed. The knife clattered to the floor. Shoz-Dijiji stooped quickly and recovered it; then he released his hold upon Gian-nah-tah.
“Go!” commanded the Black Bear, pointing toward the doorway.
For an instant Gian-nah-tah hesitated; then he turned and walked from the room. Without even a glance in the direction of Cheetim, Shoz-Dijiji followed his friend. As they passed the bar the girl called Goldie smiled into the face of Shoz-Dijiji.
“Come down and see me sometime, John,” she said.
Without a word or a look the Apache passed out of the building, away from the refining influences of white man’s civilization.
Sullenly, Gian-nah-tah walked to where two ponies were tied. From the tie-rail he unfastened the hackamore rope of one of them and vaulted to the animal’s back. In silence Shoz-Dijiji handed Gian-nah-tah his knife. In silence the other Apache took it, wheeled his pony, and loped away toward the Be-don-ko-he village. Astride Nejeunee Shoz-Dijiji followed slowly—erect, silent, somber; only his heart was bowed, in sorrow.
As Shoz-Dijiji approached the village he met Geronimo and two warriors riding in the direction of the military post. They were angry and excited. The old War Chief beckoned Shoz-Dijiji to join them.
“What has happened?” asked the Black Bear.
“The soldiers have come and driven away our herd,” replied Geronimo.
“Where are you going?”
“I am going to see Nan-tan-des-la-par-en,” replied Geronimo, “and ask him why the soldiers have stolen our horses and cattle. It is always thus when we would live at peace with the white-eyed men they will not let us. Always they do something that arouses the anger of the Shis-Inday and makes the young braves want to go upon the war-trail. Now, if they do not give us back our cattle, it will be difficult to keep the young men in peace upon the reservation—or the old men either.”
At the post Geronimo rode directly to headquarters and demanded to see General Crook, and a few minutes later the four braves were ushered into the presence of the officer.
“I have been expecting you, Geronimo,,’ said Crook.
“Then you knew that the soldiers were going to steal our herds?” demanded the War Chief.
“They have not stolen them, Geronimo,” replied the officer. “It is you who stole them. They do not belong to you. The soldiers have taken them away from you to return them to their rightful owners. Every time you steal horses or cattle they will be taken away from you and returned. You promised me once that you would not steal any more, but yet you went out and killed and stole.”
“We did not go upon the war-trail against the white-eyed men,” replied Geronimo. “We were going down into Mexico, and your soldiers attacked us and tried to stop us.”
“It was the Apaches who started the fight at Apache Pass,” Crook reminded him.
“It was the Apaches who fired the first shot,” corrected Geronimo, “but they did not start the fight. You started it by sending troops to stop us. We are neither fools nor children. We knew why those troops were marching to Apache Pass. Had they seen us first they would have fired the first shot. You cannot say that we started the fight just because our chiefs and our warriors are better soldiers than yours. You would have been glad enough to have surprised us, but you were not wise enough.”
Crook smiled. “You say you are not a fool nor a child, Geronimo,” he said. “Well, neither am I. You went out with a bad heart to kill innocent people and rob them. It got too hot for you in Mexico, and so you came back here and brought your stolen herds with you. You are no fool, Geronimo! and so I know you were not foolish enough to think that we would let you keep these cattle. I do not know why you did it, unless you just wanted to make more trouble.”
“I did not want to make trouble,” replied the chief. “We were at war with the Mexicans. We took the horses and cattle as spoils of war. They belong to us. They do not belong to you. They were not taken from your people but from Mexicans. Your own country has been at war with Mexico in the past. Did you return everything that you took from them at that time?”
“But we are not at war with them now. We are friends. You cannot steal from our friends. If we let you they will say that we are not their friends.”
“That is not true,” replied Geronimo. “The Mexicans are not fools, either. They know the difference between Apaches and white-eyed men. They know that it was the Apaches, with whom they are at war, who took their herds. They do not think that it was you. If you take the herds from us and return them to the Mexicans, both the Mexicans and the Apaches will think that you are fools. If you took them and kept them, that would be different. That is precisely what I, we did and what we would do again. You say that you do not want to be at war with the Apaches—that we are good friends! How then can you make me believe that it is right to take cattle from your friends?” Crook shook his head. “It’s no use, Geronimo,” he said. “How can we live if you take our herds from us?” demanded the Apache. “With these cattle and horses we were rich. We did not intend to kill them. We were going to breed them and thus become richer, so that we would not have to go out raiding again. It was our chance to live comfortably and in peace with the white-eyed men. Now you have taken this chance from us. We cannot live here and starve.”
“You do not have to starve,” replied Crook. “The government rations are ample to take care of you.”
“We do not get them. You know that we do not get them. The Agent robs us. Every man knows that. Now you rob us. I told you that I wished to live in peace with the white-eyed men, but I cannot control the young men when they learn that you will not return their cattle and horses. If they make trouble do not blame me. I did not do it. You did it. I have spoken!”
“There will be no trouble, Geronimo,” said Crook, “if you do not start it. I cannot give you back the cattle. Go back to your camp and tell your people that. Tell them that the next time they go out and kill and steal I shall not be as easy with them. The next time they will be punished, just as any murderers are. Do you hear?”
“Geronimo hears, but he does not understand,” replied the War Chief. “Usen seems to have made one set of laws for the Apaches and another for the white-eyed men. It is right for the white-eyed men to come into the country of the Apaches and steal their land and kill their game and shut the Apaches up on reservations and shoot them if they try to go to some other part of their own country; but it is wrong for the Apaches to fight with the Mexicans who have been their natural enemies since long before the white-eyed men came to the country. It is wrong for the Apaches to profit by their victories against their enemies.
“Yes, Geronimo hears; but he does not understand.”