“Shoz-Dijiji!” she exclaimed. “I am so glad to see you again.” The brave stopped and looked gravely into her face, listening to her words. “I am visiting with Mrs. Cullis. Won’t you come and see me?”
“No sabe,” said Shoz-Dijiji and brushed past her to rejoin his fellows.
A flush of mortification colored the face of Wichita Billings; and the fire of anger and resentment lighted her eyes, but the flush quickly faded and, as quickly, an expression of sorrow supplanted that of displeasure. For a moment she stood looking after the tall, straight form of the Apache as he walked toward his pony; and then, with a sigh, she resumed her way.
A white man, coming from the canteen, had witnessed the meeting between Shoz-Dijiji and Wichita Billings. He had recognized the girl immediately and the Indian as the same that had, a short time before, spoiled a sale for him and smashed a bottle of whiskey upon the floor of his back room.
He was surprised to see Wichita Billings at the post, and as she turned again in his direction he stepped quickly behind the corner of a building and waited there until she had passed.
The natural expression that mirrored in the face of “Dirty” Cheetim, whatever atrophied thing may have done questionable duty as his soul, was evil; but peculiarly unclean was the look in his eyes as he watched the girl walking briskly along the path that led to the officers’ quarters.
Presently his eyes wandered to the figure of the Apache brave riding across the parade on the pinto stallion, and his brows contracted in thought. Where had he seen that buck before? —a long time before. There was something mighty familiar about him—something that Cheetim had not noticed until he saw the Indian talking with Wichita Billings; but even so he failed to connect the associated ideas that had subconsciously aroused the suggestion of previous familiarity, and so, dismissing the matter from his mind, he went on about his affairs.
Geronimo rode back to the camp of the Be-don-ko-he in silence. It was as impossible for him to get the viewpoint of the white man as it was for the white man to get the viewpoint of the Apache. He felt that he had been treated with rank injustice and treachery. Geronimo was furious, yet his stern, inscrutable face gave no evidence of what was passing in his savage brain. He did not rant nor rave, raising his voice in loud oaths, as might a white man under stress of similar circumstance.
Geronimo dismounted before his hogan and turned to Shoz-Dijiji and the others who had accompanied him. “Tell the braves of the Be-don-ko-he that Geronimo is going away from San Carlos,” he said. “Perhaps they would like to come and talk with Geronimo before he goes.”
As the three braves rode away through the village Geronimo sat down before the entrance to his hogan. “Geronimo cannot live in peace with thieves and liars, Morning Star,” he said to his wife. “Therefore we shall go away and live as Usen intended that we should live. He never meant that we should live with the white-eyed men.”
“We are going on the war-trail again?” asked Sons-ee-ah- ray.
Geronimo shook his head. “No,” he replied. “If they will leave Geronimo alone he will not fight the pindah-lickoyee again. Geronimo wishes only to lead his own life in his own way far from any pindah-lickoyee. In that way only lies peace.”
“Sons-ee-ah-ray will be glad to leave San Carlos,” said the squaw. “She will be glad to go anywhere to get away from the white-eyed men. They are bad. Their women are bad, and they think because their women are bad that the Apache women are bad. The white-eyed men make bad talk to Sons-ee-ah-ray when she passes them on her way to the Agency. She will be glad not to hear this talk any more.
“Geronimo knows that Sons-ee-ah-ray, the mother of his children, is a good woman. Why, then, do the white-eyed men talk thus to her?”
The War Chief shook his head. “I do not know,” he said. “I do not understand the white-eyed men.”
When the warriors of the Be-don-ko-he gathered, many of the older men appeared apprehensive. They looked sad and worried but the young men were excited and gay. Many of the latter were already painting their faces, but when Geronimo saw this he frowned and shook his head.
“Geronimo is going away,” he said, “because he can no longer live under the conditions that the white-eyed men impose and still maintain his self respect; but he does not mean, as some of the young men seem to think, that he is going to take the war-trail against the pindah-lickoyee.
“With his family he is going up somewhere around Fort Apache and live in the mountains where he will not have to see any white-eyes.”
“We will go with you!” said many of the Be-don-ko-he.
“No,” remonstrated Geronimo. “If you go with me the Agent will say that Geronimo has gone out again with his warriors, but if only Geronimo and his own family go the Agent cannot say that Geronimo has gone upon the war-trail.
“If you come with me they will send soldiers after us; and then there will be war, and already there have been enough of us killed. Therefore Geronimo goes alone.
“Shoz-Dijiji, my son, will remain here for a while and learn if the white-eyed men are going to make trouble because Geronimo has left San Carlos. If they do, he will bring the word to me; and then I shall know what next to do; but I shall not return to San Carlos to be treated like a fool and a child—no, not I, Geronimo, War Chief of all the Apaches!”
And so that night Geronimo, with all his family except Shoz-Dijiji, rode silently northward toward Fort Apache; and at San Carlos the Indians, the Agent and the soldiers slept in peaceful ignorance of this event that was so soon to lead to the writing of one of history’s bloodiest pages. After Geronimo had left, Shoz-Dijiji sought out Gian-nah-tah with whom he had had no opportunity to speak since the moment of their altercation in the Hog Ranch. In the heart of the Black Bear was only love for this friend of his childhood; and while he knew that Gian-nah-tah had been very angry with him at the time, he attributed this mostly to the effect of the whiskey he had drunk, believing that when this had worn off, and Gian-nah-tah had had time to reflect, he would harbor no ill will.
Shoz-Dijiji found his friend sitting alone over a tiny fire and came and squatted down beside him. Neither spoke, but that was nothing unusual. Near by, before her hogan, a squaw was praying to the moon. “Gun-ju-le, klego-m-ay,” she chanted.
At a little distance a warrior cast hoddentin into the air and prayed: “Gun-ju-le, chil-jilt, Si-chi-zi, gun-ju-le, inzayu, ijanale,” Be good, O Night; Twilight, be good; do not let me die. Peace and quiet lay upon the camp of the Be-don-ko-he.
“Today,” said Shoz-Dijiji, “I recognized the white-eyed man who sells fire-water to the Apaches. He is the man who tried to steal the white-eyed girl that day that Gian-nah-tah and Shoz-Dijiji were scouting near the hogan of her father.
“I thought that I killed him that day; but. today I saw him again, selling fire-water to GIan-nah-tah. He is a very bad man. Some day I shall kill him; but I shall do it when no one is around to see, for the white-eyed fools would put me in prison as quickly for killing a bad man as a good.”
Gian-nah-tah made no reply. Shoz-Dijiji turned and looked into the face of his friend. “Is Gian-nah-tah still angry?” he asked.
Gian-nah-tah arose, turned around, and squatted down again with his back toward Shoz-Dijiji. The Black Bear shook his head sadly; then he stood up. For a moment he hesitated as though about to speak; but instead he turned, drew his blanket more closely about him, and walked away. His heart was heavy. During his short life he had seen many of his friends killed in battle; he had seen little Ish-kay-nay, his first love, die in his arms, slain by the bullet of a white man; he had seen the look of horror in the eyes of the white girl he had grown to love, when he had avowed that love; he had just seen his father and his mother driven by the injustices of the white conqueror from the society of their own kind; and now he had lost his best friend. The heart of Shoz-Dijiji, the Black Bear, was heavy indeed.
Wichita Billings was visiting in the home of Margaret Cullis at the post. The two were sitting in the modest parlor, the older woman sewing, the younger reading. Presently Wichita closed her book and laid it on the table.
“I can’t seem to get interested,” she said. “I don’t feel very ‘literary’ tonight.”
“You haven’t been yourself all day,” said Mrs. Cullis. “Aren’t you feeling well?”
“I feel all right, physically,” replied the girl, “but I’m blue.”
“O, nothing—I just feel blue. Didn’t you ever feel that way when there wasn’t any reason for it?”
“There usually is a reason.”
“I suppose so. Perhaps it’s in the air.” There was a silence that lasted a minute or two. Lieutenant King’s calling this evening.”
“I’m sure that shouldn’t make you blue, my dear girl,” exclaimed Margaret Cullis, laughing.
“Well, it doesn’t cheer me up much, because I know what he’s going to say; and I know what I’m going to answer. It’s always the same thing.”
“I can’t see why you don’t love him, Wichita. It would be a wonderful match for you.”
“Yes, for me; but not for him. His people would be ashamed of me,”
“Don’t be silly! There isn’t any man or any family too good for you—I doubt if there is any good enough for you.”
“You’re a dear, but the fact remains that they are stiff-backed Bostonians with more culture than there is in the whole state that I came from and a family tree that started as a seedling in the Garden of Eden, while I got most of my education out of a mail order catalog; and if I ever had a family tree it must have been blown away by a Kansas cyclone while my folks were fighting Indians.
“And speaking of Indians, whom do you think I saw today?”
Margaret Cullis looked up quickly. Was it the intonation of the girl’s voice as she spoke the name! The older woman frowned and looked down at her work again. “What did he have to say?” she asked.
“Oh, you didn’t see him to talk with?”
“Yes, but he wouldn’t talk to me. He just fell back on that maddening ‘No sabe’ that they use with strangers.”
“Why do you suppose he did that?” asked Mrs. Cullis.
“I hurt him the last time I saw him,” replied Wichita.
“Hurt one of Geronimo’s renegades! Child, it can’t be done.”
“They’re human!” replied the girl. “I learned that in the days that I spent in Geronimo’s camp while Chief Loco was out with his hostiles. Among themselves they are entirely different people from those we are accustomed to see on the reservation. No one who has watched them with their children, seen them at their games, heard them praying to Dawn and Twilight, to the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars as they cast their sacred hoddentin to the winds would ever again question their possession of the finer instincts of sentiment and imagination.
“Because they do not wear their hearts upon their sleeves, because they are not blatant in the declaration of their finer emotions, does not mean that they feel no affection or that they are incapable of experiencing spiritual suffering.”
“Perhaps,” said Margaret Cullis, “but you, who have lived in Indian country all your life, who have seen the heartless cruelties they inflict upon their helpless victims, who know their treachery and their dishonesty, cannot but admit that whatever qualities of goodness they possess are far outweighed by those others which have made them hated and feared the length and breadth of the Southwest.”
“For every wrong that they have committed,” argued Wichita, “they can point out a similar crime perpetrated upon them by the whites. O, Margaret, it is the old case again of the pot calling the kettle black. We have tortured them and wronged them even more than they have tortured and wronged us.
“We esteem personal comfort and life as our two most sacred possessions. When the Apaches torture and kill us we believe that they have committed against us the most hideous of conceivable crimes.
“On the other hand the Apaches do not esteem personal comfort and life as highly as do we and consequently, by their standards—and we may judge a people justly only by their own standards—we have not suffered as much as they, who esteem more highly than life or personal comfort the sanctity of their ancient rites and customs and the chastity of their women. From the time of the white man’s first contact with the Apaches he has ridiculed the one and defiled the other.
“I have talked with Shoz-Dijiji, and Geronimo, with Sons-ee-ah-ray, and many another Be-don-ko-he man and woman; they have laid bare their hearts to me, and never again can anyone convince me that we have not tortured the Apaches with as malignant cruelty as they have tortured us.”
“Why you are a regular little Apache yourself, Wichita,” cried Margaret Cullis. “I wonder what your father would say if he could hear you.”
“He has heard me. Don’t think for a minute that I am afraid to express my views to anyone.”
“Did he enjoy them and agree with you?”
“He did not. He did everything but tear his hair and take me out to the woodshed. You know Mason was killed about two months ago, and it had all the ear-marks of an Apache killing. Mason was one of Dad’s best friends. Now, every time he thinks or hears Apache he sees red.”
“I don’t blame him,” said Margaret Cullis.
“It’s silly,” snapped Wichita, “and I tell him so. It would be just as logical to hate all French-Canadians because Guiteau assassinated President Garfield.”
“Well, how in the world, feeling toward the Apaches as you do, could you have found it in your heart to so wound Shoz-Dijiji that he will not speak to you?”
“I did not mean to,” explained the girl. “It—just happened. We had been together for many days after the Chi-e-a-hen attacked the Pringe ranch and Shoz-Dijiji got me away from them. The country was full of hostiles, and so he took me to the safest place he could think of—the Be-don-ko-he camp. They kept me there until they were sure that all the hostiles had crossed the border into Mexico. He was lovely to me—a white man could have been no more considerate—but when he got me home again and was about to leave me he told me that he loved me.
“I don’t know what it was, Margaret—inherited instinct, perhaps—but the thought of it revolted me, and he must have seen it in my face. He went away, and I never saw him again—until today—three years.”
The older woman looked up quickly from her work. There had been a note in the girl’s voice as she spoke those last two words that aroused sudden apprehension in the breast of Margaret Cullis.
“Wichita,” she demanded, “do you love this—this Apache?”
“Margaret,” replied the girl, “you have been like a sister to me, or a mother. No one else could ask me that question. I have not even dared ask myself.” She paused. “No, I cannot love him!”
“It would be unthinkable that you would love an Indian, Wichita,” said the older woman. “It would cut you off forever from your own kind and would win you only the contempt of the Indians. A white girl had better be dead than married to an Indian.”
Wichita nodded. “Yes, I know,” she whispered, “and yet he is as fine as any man, white or red, that I have ever known.”
“Perhaps, but the fact remains that he is an Apache.”
“I wish to God that he were white!” exclaimed the girl.
A knock on the door put an end to their conversation, and Wichita arose from her chair and crossed the room to admit the caller. A tall, good looking subaltern stood smiling on the threshold as the door swung in.
“You’re prompt,” said Wichita.
“A good soldier always is,” said Mrs. Cullis. “That is equivalent to a medal of honor, coming from the wife of my troop commander,” laughed King as he stepped into the room.
“Give me your cap,” said Wichita, “and bring that nice easy chair up here beside the table.”
“I was going to suggest that we take a walk,” said King, “that is if you ladies would care to. It’s a gorgeous night.”
“Suits me,” agreed Wichita. “How about you, Margaret?”
“I want to finish my sewing. You young folks run along and have your walk, and perhaps Captain Cullis will be here when you get back. If he is we’ll have a game of euchre.”
“I wish you’d come,” said Wichita.
“Yes, do!” begged King, but Mrs. Cullis only smiled and shook her head.
“Run along now,” she cried gaily, “and don’t forget the game.”
“We’ll not be gone long,” King assured her. “I wish you’d come with us.”
“Sweet boy,” thought Margaret Cullis as the door closed behind them leaving her alone. “Sweet boy, but not very truthful.”
As Wichita and King stepped out into the crisp, cool air of an Arizona night the voice of the sentry at the guard house rang out clearly against the silence: “Number One, eight o’clock!” They paused to listen as the next sentry passed the call on: “Number Two, eight o’clock. All’s well!” Around the chain of sentries it went, fainter in the distance, growing again in volume to the final, “All’s well!” of Number One.
“I thought you said it was a gorgeous night,” remarked Wichita Billings. “There is no moon, it’s cloudy and dark as a pocket.”
“But I still insist that it is gorgeous,” said King, smiling. “All Arizona nights are.”
“I don’t like these black ones,” said Wichita; “I’ve lived in Indian country too long. Give me the moon every time.”
“They scarcely ever attack at night,” King reminded her.
“I know, but there may always be an exception to prove the rule.”
“Not much chance that they will attack the post,” said King.
“I know that, but the fact remains that a black night always suggests the possibility to me.”
“I’ll admit that the sentries do suggest a larger assurance of safety on a night like this,” said King. “We at least know that we shall have a little advance information before any Apache is among us.”
Numbers Three and Four were mounted posts, and at the very instant that King was speaking a shadowy form crept between the two sentries as they rode slowly in opposite directions along their posts. It was Shoz-Dijiji.
Though the Apache had demonstrated conclusively that Wichita Billings’ intuitive aversion to dark nights might be fully warranted, yet in this particular instance no danger threatened the white inhabitants of the army post, as Shoz-Dijiji’s mission was hostile only in the sense that it was dedicated to espionage.
Geronimo had charged him with the duty of ascertaining the attitude of the white officers toward the departure of the War Chief from the reservation, and with this purpose in view the Black Bear had hit upon the bold scheme of entering the post and reporting Geronimo’s’ departure in person that he might have first hand knowledge of Nan-tan-des-la-par-en’s reaction.
He might have come in openly in the light of day without interference, but it pleased him to come as he did as a demonstration of the superiority of Apache cunning and of his contempt for the white man’s laws.
He moved silently in the shadows of buildings, making his way toward the adobe shack that was dignified by the title of Headquarters. Once he was compelled to stop for several minutes in the dense shadow at the end of a building as he saw two figures approaching slowly. Nearer and nearer they came. Shoz-Dijiji saw that one was an officer, a war chief of the pindah-lickoyee, and the other was a woman. They were talking earnestly. When they were quite close to Shoz- Dijiji. the white officer stopped and laid a hand upon the arm of his companion.
“Wait, Wichita,” he said. “Before we go in can’t you give me some hope for the future? I’m willing to wait. Don’t you think that some day you might care for me a little?”
The girl walked on, followed by the man. “I care for you a great deal, Ad,” Shoz-Dijiji heard her say in a low voice just before the two passed out of his hearing; “but I can never care for you in the way you wish.” That, Shoz-Dijiji did not hear.
“You love someone else?” he asked. In the darkness he did not see the hot flush that overspread her face as she replied. “I am afraid so,” she said.
“Afraid so! What do you mean?”
“It is something that I cannot tell you, Ad. It hurts me to talk about it.”
“Does he know that you love him?”
“Is it anyone I know?”
“Please, Ad, I don’t like to talk about it.”
Lieutenant Samuel Adams King walked on in silence at the girl’s side until they reached Mrs. Cullis’ door. “I’m going to wait—and hope, Chita,” he said just before they entered the house.
Captain Cullis had not returned, and the three sat and chatted for a few minutes; but it was evident to Margaret Cullis that something had occurred to dash the spirits of her young guests, nor was she at a loss to guess the truth. Being very fond of them both; believing that they were eminently suited to one another, and, above all, being a natural born match maker, Margaret Cullis was determined to leave no stone unturned that might tend toward a happy consummation of her hopes.
“You know that Chita is leaving us in the morning?” she asked King, by way of inaugurating her campaign.
“Why, no,” he exclaimed, “she did not tell me.”
“I should have told you before you left,” said the girl. “I wouldn’t go without saying good-bye, you know.”
“I should hope not,” said King.
“She really should not take that long ride alone,” volunteered Mrs. Cullis.
“It is nothing,” exclaimed Wichita. “I’ve been riding alone ever since I can recall.”
“Of course she shouldn’t,” said King. “It’s not safe. I’ll get leave to ride home with you. May I?”
“I’d love to have you, but really it’s not necessary.”
“I think it is,” said King. “I’ll go over to headquarters now and arrange it. I think there’ll be no objections raised.”
“I’m leaving pretty early,” warned Wichita. “What time?”
“I’ll be here!”