Gian-nah-tah and several of the warriors who had accompanied Shoz-Dijiji in the pursuit of Cheetim and his unsavory company were already with Geronimo, and during the next two days other warriors and many women came silent footed into the camp of the Be-don-ko-he.
The Apaches were nervous and irritable. They knew that troops were out after them, and though the cunning of Shoz-Dijiji had sent the first contingent upon a wild goose chase toward Sonora the Indians were well aware that it could be but a matter of days before their whereabouts might be discovered and other troops sent to arrest them.
Among those that urged upon them the necessity of immediately taking the war-trail was Mangas, son of the great dead chief, Mangas Colorado; but Geronimo held back. He did not wish to fight the white men again, for he realized, pertraps better than any of them, the futility of continued resistance; but there were two forces opposing him that were to prove more potent than the conservatism of mature deliberation. They were Sago-zhu-ni, the wife of Mangas, and the tizwin she was brewing. It was in the early evening of May 16, 1885 that Shoz-Dijiji rode into the camp of Geronimo. The sacred hoddentin had been offered up with the prayers to evening, and already the Be-don-ko-he had gathered about the council fire. Tizwin was flowing freely as was evidenced by the increasing volubility of the orators.
Mangas spoke forcefully and definitely for war, urging it upon Na-chi-ta, son of old Cochise and chief of the Chihuicahui Apaches and ranking chief of all those gathered in the camp of Geronimo; but Na-chi-ta, good-natured, fonder of tizwin and pretty squaws than he was of the war-trail and its hardships, argued, though half-heartedly, for peace.
Chihuahua, his fine head bowed in thought, nodded his approval of the moderate counsel of Na-chi-ta; and when it was his turn to speak he reminded them of the waste of war, of the uselessness and hopelessness of fighting against the soldiers of the white men; and old Nanay sided with him; but Ulzanna, respected for his ferocity and his intelligence, spoke for war, as did Kut-le, the bravest of them all.
Stinging from the insults of the father of Wichita Billings, Shoz-Dijiji was filled with bitterness against all whites; and when Kut-le had spoken, the young war chief of the Be-don-ko-he arose.
“Geronimo, my father,” he said, “speaks with great wisdom and out of years filled with experience, but perhaps he has forgotten many things that have happened during the long years that the Shis-Inday have been fighting to drive the enemy from the country that Usen made for them. Shoz-Dijiji, the son of Geronimo, has not forgotten the things that he has seen, nor those of which his father has told him; they are burned into his memory.
“Geronimo is right when he says that peace is better than war for those who may no longer hope to win, and I too would speak against the war-trail if the pindah-lickoyee would leave us in peace to live our own lives as Usen taught us to live them. But they will not. They wish us to live in their way which is not a good way for Apaches to live. If we do not wish to they send soldiers and arrest us. Thus we are prisoners and slaves. Shoz-Dijiji cannot be happy either as a prisoner or as a slave, and so he prefers the war-trail and death to these things.
“Na-chi-ta speaks against the war-trail because there will be no tizwin there but, instead, many hardships. Shoz-Dijiji knew well the great Cochise, father of Na-chi-ta. Cochise would be angry and ashamed if he could have heard his son speak at the council fire tonight.
“Chihuahua speaks against war. Chihuahua thinks only of the little farm that the pindah-lickoyee are permitting him to use and forgets all the wide expanse of country that the pindah-lickoyee have stolen from him. Chihuahua is a brave warrior. I do not think that Chihuahua will long be happy working like a slave for the Indian Agent who will rob him of the sweat of his brow as he robs us all.
“Nanay is old and lives in memories of past war, trails when he fought with glory at the side of Victorio and Loco; his day is done, his life has been lived. Why should we young men, who have our own lives to live, be content to live upon the memories of old men. We want memories of our own and freedom, if only for a short time, to enjoy them as our fathers did before us.
“Ulzanna and Kut-le are brave men. They do honor to the proud race from which we all spring. They know that it would be better to die in freedom upon the war-trail against the hated pindah-lickoyee than to live like cattle, herded upon a reservation by the white-eyes.
“They think of the great warriors, of the women, of the little children who have been murdered by the lies and treachery of the pindah-lickoyee. They recall the ridicule that is heaped upon all those things which we hold most sacred. They do not forget the insults that every white-eyed man hurls at the Shis-Inday upon every occasion except when the Shis-Inday are on the war-trail. Then they respect us.
“Shall we wait here until they come and arrest and kill our chiefs, as Nan-tan-des-la-par-en has ordered them to do, or shall we take to the war-trail and teach them once more to respect us? I, Shoz-Dijiji, war chief of the Be-don-ko-he, speak for the war-trail. I have spoken.”
An old man arose. “Let us wait,” he said. “Perhaps the soldiers of the pindah-lickoyee will not come. Perhaps they will let us live in peace if we do not go upon the war-trail. Let us wait.” The tizwin had not as yet spoken its final word, and there were more who spoke against the war-trail than for it, and before the council was concluded many had spoken. Among the last was Sago-zhu-ni Pretty Mouth—the wife of Mangas, for the voice of woman was not unknown about the council fires of the Apaches. And why should it be? Did not they share all the hardships of the war-trail with their lords and masters? Did they not often fight, and as fiercely and terribly as the men? Were they not as often the targets for the rifles of the pindah-lickoyee? Who, then, had better right to speak at the councils of the Apaches than the wives and mothers of their warriors.
Sago-zhu-ni spoke briefly, but to the point. “Are you men, old women, or children?” she cried fiercely. “If you are old women and children, you will stay here and wait to receive your punishment; but if you are warriors, you will take, the war-trail, and then Nan-tan-des-la-par-en must catch you before he can punish you. May-be-so, you go to Sonora, he no catch you. I have spoken.”
Now Na-chi-ta, encouraged by tizwin and goaded by the reproaches of Shoz-Dijiji, spoke for war. Geronimo, his savage brain inflamed by the fumes of the drink, applauded Sago-zhu-ni and demanded the blood of every pindah-lickoyee.
With fiery eloquence he ranged back through the history of the Shis-Inday for more than three hundred years and reminded them of every wrong that white men had committed against them in all that time. He spoke for more than an hour, and while he spoke Sago-zhu-ni saw that no warrior suffered from lack of tizwin. Of all who spoke vehemently for the war-trail Shoz-Dijiji alone spoke out of a clear mind, or at least a mind unclouded by the fumes of drink, though it was dark with bitter hatred and prejudice.
When Geronimo sat down they voted unanimously for the war-trail; and the next morning they broke camp and headed south—thirty-four warriors, eight boys, and ninety-one women. Hair was slicked down with tallow, swart faces streaked with war paint, weapons looked to. Hoddentin was sprinkled on many a tzi-daltai of lightning riven pine or cedar or fir as copper warriors prayed to these amulets for protection against the bullets of the pindah-lickoyee, for success upon the war-trail.
Shoz-Dijiji, with Gian-nah-tah and two other warriors, rode in advance of the main party, scouting far afield, scanning the distances from every eminence. No creature stirred in the broad landscape before them that was not marked by those eagle eyes, no faintest spoor beneath their feet was passed unnoted.
The young war chief of the Be-don-ko-he was again the Apache Devil. His face was painted blue but for the broad band of white across his eyes from temple to temple; around his head was wound a vivid yellow bandana upon the front of which was fastened a silver disc in the center of which was mounted a single turquoise; small rings of silver, from each of which depended another of these valued gems, swung from the lobes of his ears; other bits of this prized duklij were strung in the yard-long necklace of glass beads and magical berries and roots that fell across the front of his brown, print shirt, which, with his heavy buckskin war moccasins and his G string, completed his apparel.
About his waist and across one shoulder were belts filled with ammunition for the revolver at his hip and the rifle lying across the withers of Nejeunee, and at his left side hung a pair of powerful field glasses that he had taken in battle from a cavalry officer several years before. From below the skirts of his shirt to the tops of his moccasins the Apache Devil’s bronzed legs were naked, as he seldom if ever wore the cotton drawers affected by many of his fellows. The bracelets of silver and brass that adorned his muscular arms were hidden by the sleeves of his shirt, a shirt that he probably soon would discard, being ever impatient of the confining sensation that clothing imparted.
Down into the mountains of southwestern New Mexico the Apaches marched, following trails known only to themselves, passing silently through danger zones by night, and established themselves among caves and canyons inaccessible to mounted troops.
Striking swiftly, raiding parties descended upon many an isolated ranch house both in Arizona and New Mexico, leaving behind horrid evidence of their ferocity as they rode away upon stolen horses from the blazing funeral pyres that had once been homes.
Scouts kept Geronimo informed of the location of the troops in the field against him; and the shrewd old war chief successfully avoided encounters with any considerable body of enemy forces, but scouting parties and supply trains often felt the full force of the strategy and courage of this master general of guerilla warfare and his able lieutenants.
It was during these days that the blue and white face of the Apache Devil became as well known and as feared as it was in Sonora and Chihuahua, for, though relentless in his war against the men of the pindah-lickoyee, Shoz-Dijiji killed neither women nor children, with the result that there were often survivors to describe the boldness and ferocity of his attacks.
Scouting far north for information relative to the movement of troops, Shoz-Dijiji one day came upon an Indian scout in the employ of the enemy; and having recognized him as an old friend he hailed him.
“Where are the soldiers of the pindah-lickoyee?” demanded Shoz-Dijiji.
“They cannot catch you,” replied the scout, grinning, “and so they are sending Apaches after you. Behind me are a hundred White Mountain and Cho-kon-en braves. They are led by one white-eyed officer, Captain Crawford. Tell Geronimo that he had better come in, for he cannot escape the Shis-Inday as he has escaped the pin-dah-lickoyee.”
“Why do you and the others go upon the war-trail against your own people?” demanded Shoz-Dijiji. “Why do you fight as brothers at the side of the enemy?”
“We take the war-trail against you because you are fools and we are not,” replied the scout. “We have learned that it is useless to fight against the pindah-lickoyee. We do not love them more than you; and if we could kill them all we would, but we cannot kill them all—they are as many as the weeds that grow among our corn and beans and pumpkins—for though we cut them down they come again in greater numbers than before, flourishing best in soil that is wet with blood.
“When you go upon the war-trail against the white-eyed men it only makes more trouble for us. Geronimo is a great trouble maker. Therefore we fight against him that we may live in peace.”
“Either your mouth is full of lies or your heart has turned to water,” said Shoz-Dijiji. “No Apache wants peace at the price of slavery, unless he has become a coward and is afraid of the pindah-lickoyee. Shoz-Dijiji has the guts of a man. He would rather die on the war-trail than be a reservatlon Indian. You have not even the guts of a coyote, which snarls and snaps at the hand of his captor and risks death to regain his freedom.”
“Be a coyote then,” sneered the scout, “and I will put your pelt on the floor of my hogan.”
“Here it is, reservation Indian,” replied the Black Bear. “Take It.”
Both men had dismounted when they met and were standing close and face to face. The scout reached quickly for his six-shooter, but the Apache Devil was even quicker. His left hand shot out and seized the other’s wrist, and with his right he drew from its scabbard the great butcher knife that hung at his hip.
The scout warded the first blow and grasped Shoz-Dijiji’s arm; and at the same instant tore his right arm free, but as he did so the renegade snatched the other’s gun from its holster and tossed it aside, while the scout, profiting by the momentary freedom of his right hand, drew his own knife, and the two closed in a clinch, each striving to drive his blade home in the body of his adversary.
At the time that their altercation had reached the point of physical encounter each of the men had dropped his hackamore rope with the result that Shoz-Dijiji’s horse, recently stolen from a raided ranch, took advantage of this God-given opportunity to make a break for freedom and home, while the scout’s pony, lured by the call of consanguinity, trotted off with the deserter.
Each of the combatants now held the knife-arm of the other and the struggle had resolved itself into one of strength and endurance, since he who could hold his grip the longer stood the greater chance for victory, the other the almost certain assurance of death.
They struggled to and fro, pushing one another here and there about the sandy dust of a parched canyon bottom. The painted face of the Apache Devil remained almost expressionless, so well schooled in inscrutability were his features, nor did that of the scout indicate that he was engaged in a duel to the death.
Two miles to the north a detachment of twenty White Mountain Apaches from Crawford’s Indian Scouts were following leisurely along the trail of their comrade. In twenty minutes, perhaps, they would come within sight of the scene of the duel.
It is possible that the scout engaged with Shoz-Dijiji held this hope in mind, for when it became obvious to him that he was no match in physical strength for his adversary he dropped his own knife and grasped the knife arm of his foe in both hands.
It was a foolish move, for no sooner did the Apache Devil regain the freedom of his left hand than he transferred his weapon to it and before his unfortunate antagonist realized his danger Shoz-Dijiji plunged the blade between his ribs, deep into his heart.
Stooping over the body of his dead foe Shoz-Dijiji tore the red band that proclaimed the government scout from his brow and with a deft movement of his knife removed a patch of scalp. Then he appropriated the ammunition and weapons of his late adversary and turned to look for the two ponies. Now, for the first time, he realized that they were gone and that he was afoot far from the camp of Geronimo, probably the sole possessor of the information that a hundred scouts were moving upon the stronghold of the War Chief.
A white man might doubtless have been deeply chagrined had he found himself in a similar position, but to the Apache it meant only a little physical exertion to which he was already inured by a lifetime of training. The country through which he might pass on foot by the most direct route to Geronimo’s camp was practically impassable to horses but might be covered by an Apache in less time than it would have required to make the necessary detours on horseback. However, Shoz-Dijiji would have preferred the easier method of transportation, and so he regretted that he had ridden the new pony instead of Nejeunee, who would not have run away from him.
Knowing that other scouts might be near at hand, Shoz-Dijiji placed an ear to the ground and was rewarded by information that sent him quickly toward the south. Clambering up the side of the canyon, he adjusted the red band of the dead scout about his own head as he climbed, for he knew that eyes fully as keen as his own were doubtless scanning the horizon through powerful field glasses at no great distance and that if they glimpsed the red band they would not hasten in pursuit.
He grinned as he envisaged the anger of the scouts when they came upon the dead body of their scalped comrade, and the vision lightened the dreary hours as he trotted southward beneath the pitiless sun of New Mexico.
Late in the afternoon Shoz-Dijiji approached a main trail that led west to Fort Bowie and which he must cross, but with the caution of the Apache he reconnoitered first.
From the top of a low hill the trail was in sight for a mile or two in each direction and to this vantage point the Black Bear crept. Only his eyes and the top of his head were raised above the summit of the hill, and these were screened by a small bush that he had torn from the ground and which he held just in front of him as he wormed his way to the hilltop.
Below him the trail led through a defile in which lay scattered huge fragments of rock among which the feed grew thick and rank, suggesting water close beneath the surface; but it was not these things that caught the eyes and interest of the Apache Devil, who was already as familiar with them as he was with countless other square miles of New Mexico, Arizona, Chihuahua, and Sonora, or with the wrinkles upon the face of his mother, Sons-ee-ah-rav.
That which galvanized his instant attention and interest was a cavalryman sitting upon a small rock fragment while his horse, at the end of a long riata, cropped the green feed. Shoz-Dijiji guessed that here was a military messenger riding to or from Fort Bowie. Here, too, was a horse, and Shoz-Dijiji was perfectly willing to ride the rest of the way to the camp of Geronimo.
A shot would dispose of the white-eyed soldier, but it would, doubtless, also frighten the horse and send him galloping far out of the reach of Apache hands; but Shoz-Dijiji was resourceful.
He quickly cached the rifle of the scout, for the possession of two rifles might raise doubts that two six-shooters would not; he adjusted the red scout band and with a bandana carefully wiped from his face the telltale war paint of the Apache Devil. Then he arose and walked slowly down the hillside toward the soldier, who sat with his back toward him. So silently he moved that he was within four or five feet of the man when he halted and spoke.
The soldier wheeled about as he sprang to his feet and drew his pistol, but the sight of the smiling face of the Indian, the extended hand and the red band of the government scout removed his fears instantly.
“Nejeunee, nejeunee,” Shoz-Dijiji assured him, using the Apache word meaning friend, and stepping forward grasped the soldier’s hand.
Smiling pleasantly, Shoz-Dijiji looked at the horse and then at the riata approvingly.
“You belong Crawford’s outfit?” inquired the soldier.
“Me no sabe,” said Shoz-Dijiji. He picked up the riata and examined it. “Mucho bueno!” he exclaimed.
“You bet,” agreed the cavalryman. “Damn fine rope.”
The Apache examined the riata minutely, passing it through his hands, and at the same time walking toward the horse slowly. The riata, a braided hair “macarthy,” was indeed a fine specimen, some sixty feet in length, of which the soldier was pardonably proud, a fact which threw him off his guard in the face of the Indian’s clever simulation of interest and approval.
When Shoz-Dijiji reached the end of the rope which was about the horse’s neck he patted the animal admiringly and turned to the soldier, smiling enthusiastically. “Mucho bueno,” he said, nodding toward the horse.
“You bet,” said the trooper. “Damn fine horse.”
With his back toward the white man, Shoz-Dijiji drew his knife and quickly severed the rope, holding the two ends concealed in his left hand. “Mucho bueno,” he repeated, turning again toward the soldier, and then, suddenly and with seeming excitement, he pointed up the hill back of the trooper. “Apache on dahl!” he shouted—“The Apaches are coming!”
Quite naturally, under the circumstances, the soldier turned away to look in the direction from which the savage enemy was supposed to be swooping upon him, and as he did so the Apache Devil vaulted into the saddle and was away. The great boulders strewing the floor of the canyon afforded him an instant screen and though the soldier was soon firing at him with his pistol he offered but a momentary and fleeting target before he was out of range, carrying away with him the cavalryman’s carbine, which swung in its boot beneath the off stirrup of the trooper’s McClellan.
Shoz-Dijiji was greatly elated. He knew that he might have knifed the unsuspecting pindah-lickoyee had he preferred to; but a victory of wits and cunning gave him an even greater thrill of satisfaction, for Apache to the core though he was, the Black Bear killed not for the love of it but from a sense of duty to his people and loyalty to the same cause that inspired such men as Washington and Lincoln—freedom.