Down into Sonora they went, raiding and killing as they passed through the terror stricken country, but moving swiftly and avoiding contact with the enemy. In the mountains west of Casa Grande Geronimo went into camp again, and from this base raiding parties took relentless toll throughout the surrounding country.
In the mountains above Casa Grande Pedro Mariel, the woodchopper, felled trees, cut them into proper lengths which he split and loaded upon the backs of his patient burros. This he did today as he had done for many years. With him now was Luis, his nineteen year old son. Other woodchoppers, joining with the Mariels for company and mutual protection, camped and worked with them. In all there were a dozen men—hardy, courageous descendants of that ancient race that built temples to their gods upon the soil of the Western Hemisphere long before the first show boat stranded on Ararat.
As the sound of their axes rang in the mountains, a pair of savage eyes set in a painted face looked down upon them from the rim of the canyon in which they labored. The eyes were the eyes of Gian-nah-tah, the Be-don-ko-he Apache. They counted the number of the men below, they took in every detail of the nearby camp, of the disposal of the men engaged in felling new trees or cutting those that had been felled. For a half hour they watched, then Gian-nah-tah withdrew, silently as a shadow. The Mexicans, unsuspecting, continued at their work, stopping occasionally to roll a cigaret or pass some laughing remark. Luis Mariel, young and light hearted, often sang snatches of songs which usually concerned senoritas with large, dark eyes and red lips, for Luis was young and light hearted.
An hour passed. Gian-nah-tah returned, but not alone. With him, this time, were a dozen painted warriors, moving like pumas—silently, stealthily. Among them was Shoz-Dijiji, the Apache Devil. Down the canyon side they crept and into the bottom below the woodchoppers. Spreading out into a thin line that crossed the canyon’s floor and extended up either side they advanced slowly, silently, hiding behind trees, crawling across open spaces upon their bellies. They were patient, for they were Apaches—the personification of infinite patience.
Luis Mariel sang of a castle in Spain, which he thought of vaguely as a place of many castles and beautiful senoritas somewhere across a sea that was also “somewhere.” Close beside him worked his father, Pedro; thinking proudly of this fine son of his.
Close to them cruel eyes looked through a band of white out of a blue face. The Apache Devil, closest to them, watched the pair intently. Suddenly a shot rang above the ringing axes. Manuel Farias clutched his breast and crumpled to the ground. Other shots came in quick. succession, and then the air was rent by wild Apache war-whoops as the savages charged the almost defenseless woodchoppers.
Luis Mariel ran to his father’s side. Grasping their axes they stood shoulder to shoulder, for between them and whatever weapons they had left in camp, were whooping Apaches. Some of the other men tried to break through and reach their rifles, but they were shot down. Three surrendered. A huge warrior confronted Pedro and Luis.
“Pray,” said Pedro, “for we are about to die.” He was looking at the face of the warrior. “It is the Apache Devil!”
“Who is that?” demanded the Indian, pointing to the lad.
“He is my oldest son,” replied Pedro, wondering.
“Put down your axes and come here,” ordered the Apache. “You will not be harmed.”
Pedro was not surprised to hear the Indian speak in broken Spanish, as most Apaches understood much and spoke a little the language of their ancient enemies; but he was surprised at the meaning of the words he heard, surprised and skeptical. He hesitated. Luis looked up at him, questioningly.
“If we lay down our axes we shall be wholly unarmed,” said Pedro.
“What difference does it make?” asked Luis. “He can kill us whether we have axes in our hands or not—they will not stop his bullets.”
“You are right,” said Pedro and threw down his axe. Luis did likewise and together they approached the Apache Devil. “May the Holy Mary protect us!” whispered the father.
The other Mexicans, having been killed or captured, Gian- nah-tah and the balance of the braves came running toward Pedro and Luis; but Shoz-Dijiji stepped in front of them and raised his hand.
“These are my friends,” he said. “Do not harm them.”
“They are enemies,” cried one of the warriors, excited by blood and anticipation of torture. “Kill them!”
“Very well,” said Shoz-Dijiji quietly. “You may kill them, but first you must kill Shoz-Dijiji. He has told you that they are his friends.”
“Why does Shoz-Dijiji protect the enemy?” demanded Gian- nah~tah.
“Listen,” said Shoz-Dijiji. “Many years ago Shoz-Dijiji was hunting in these mountains. He was alone. He often saw this man felling trees, but he did not harm him because the Apaches were not upon the war-trail at that time. A tree fell upon the man in such a way that he could not free himself. He must have died if no one came to help him. There was no one to come but Shoz-Dijiji.
“Shoz-Dijiji lifted the tree from him. The man’s leg was broken. Shoz-Dijiji placed him upon one of his burros and took him to Casa Grande, where he lived.
“You all remember the time when we made the treaty of peace with the people of Casa Grande and while we were celebrating it the Mexican soldiers came and attacked us. They made us prisoners and were going to shoot us.
“This man came to look at the captives and recognized Shoz-Dijiji. He begged the war chief of the Mexicans to let me go, and he took me to his home and gave me food and set me free. It was Shoz-Dijiji who was able to release all the other Apache prisoners because of what this man did. The other here is his son.
“Because of what his father did for Shoz-Dijiji neither of them shall be killed.We shall let them take their burros and their wood and go back in safety to their home. I have spoken.”
“Shoz-Dijiji speaks true words when he says that these two shall not be harmed,” said Gian-nah-tah. “Let them go in peace.”
“And look at them well,” added Shoz-Dijiji, “that you may know them and spare them if again you meet them.” He turned to Pedro. “Get your burros and your wood and go home quickly with your son. Do not come again to the mountains while the Apaches are on the war-trail, for Shoz-Dijiji may not be always near to protect you. Go!”
Bewildered, stammering their thanks, Pedro and Luis hastened to obey the welcome mandate of the savage while Shoz-Dijiji’s companions fell to with savage ardor upon the hideous business that is the aftermath of an Apache victory.
Uninterested, Shoz-Dijiji stood idly by until the Mariels had hastily packed their few belongings and departed, leaving their wood behind them. No longer did his fellows ridicule or taunt Shoz-Dijiji for his refusal to join them in the torture of their captives or the mutilation of the dead. His courage had been proved upon too many fields of battle, his hatred of the enemy was too well known to leave any opening for charges of cowardice or disloyalty. They thought him peculiar and let it go at that. Perhaps some of the older braves recalled the accusation of the dead Juh that Shoz-Dijiji was no Apache but a white-eyed man by birth; but no one ever mentioned that now since Juh was dead, and it was well known that he had died partly because he had made this charge against the Black Bear.
Back in the camp of the renegades Gian-nah-tah and the others boasted loudly of their victory, exhibited the poor spoils that they had taken from the camp of the woodchoppers, while the squaws cooked the flesh of one of the burros for a feast in celebration. Perhaps they were off their guard, but then, even Homer is charged with carelessness.
Just as a bullet had surprised the camp of the woodchoppers earlier in the day, so a bullet surprised the camp of the renegades. A little Indian boy clutched his breast and crumpled to the ground. Other shots came in quick succession, and then the air was rent by wild Apache war whoops. Apache had surprised Apache. Perhaps no other could have done it so well.
As Crawford’s Scouts charged the camp of Geronimo, the renegades, taken completely off their guard, scattered in all directions. Pursued by a part of the attacking force, Geronimo’s warriors kept up a running fight until all the fighting men and a few of the women and children had escaped; but a majority of the latter were rounded up by the scouts and taken back to Crawford’s camp, prisoners of war. Only the dead body of a little boy remained to mark the scene of happy camp, of swift, fierce battle. In the blue sky, above the silent pines, a vulture circled upon static wings.
That night the renegades gathered in a hidden mountain fastness, and when the last far flung scout had come they compared notes and took account of their losses. They found that nearly all of their women and children had been captured. Of Geronimo’s family only Shoz-Dijiji remained to the old War Chief. Sons-ee-ah-ray was a captive.
When their brief council was concluded, Geronimo arose. “Above the water that falls over the red cliff in the mountains south of Casa Grande there is a place that even the traitors who hunt us for the pindah-lickoyee may find difficult to attack. If you start now you will be almost there before the rays of chigo-na-ay light the eastern sky and reveal you to the scouts of the enemy. If Geronimo has not returned to you by the second darkness he will come no more. Pray to Usen that he may guide and protect you. I have spoken.” The War Chief. turned and strode away into the darkness.
Shoz-Dijiji sprang to his feet and ran after him. “Where do you go, Geronimo?” he demanded.
“To fetch Sons-ee-ah-ray from the camp of the enemy,” replied Geronimo.
Two other braves who had followed Shoz-Dijiji overheard. One of them was Gian-nah-tah.
“Shoz-Dijiji goes with Geronimo to the camp of the enemy;” announced the Black Bear.
Gian-nah-tah and the other warrior also announced their intention of accompanying the War Chief, and in silence the four started off single file down the rugged mountains with Geronimo in the lead. There was no trail where they went; and the night was dark, yet they skirted the edge of precipice, descended steep escarpment, crossed mountain stream on slippery boulders as surely as man trods a wide road by the light of day.
They knew where Crawford’s camp lay, for Gian-nah-tah had been one of the scouts who had followed the victorious enemy; and they came to it while there were yet two hours before dawn.
Crawford had made his camp beside that of a troop of United States Cavalry that had been scouting futilely for Geronimo for some time, and in addition to the Indian Scouts and the cavalrymen in the combined camps there were a number of refugees who had sought the protection of the troops. Among them being several Mexican women and one American woman, the wife of a freighter.
Never quite positive of the loyalty of the Indian scouts, Crawford and the troop commander had thought it advisable to post cavalrymen as sentries; and as these rode their posts about the camp the four Apaches crept forward through the darkness.
On their bellies, now, they wormed themselves forward, holding small bushes in front of their heads. When a sentry’s face was turned toward them they lay motionless; when he passed on they moved forward.
They had circled the camp that they might approach it up wind, knowing that were their scent to be carried to the nostrils of a sentry’s horse he might reveal by his nervousness the presence of something that would warrant investigation.
Now they lay within a few paces of the post toward which they had been creeping. The sentry was coming toward them. There was no moon, and it was very dark. There were bushes upon either side of him, low sage and greasewood. That there were four more now upon his left than there had been before he did not note, and anyway in ten minutes he was to be relieved. It was this of which he was thinking—not bushes.
He passed. Four shadowy patches moved slowly across his post. A moment later he turned to retrace his monotonous beat. This time the four bushes which should now have been upon his right were again upon his left. His horse pricked up his ears and looked in the direction of the camp. The horse had become accustomed to the scent of Indians coming from the captives within the camp, but he knew that they were closer now. However, he was not startled, as he would have been had the scent come from a new direction. The man looked casually where the horse looked—that is second nature to a horse-man—then he rode on; and the four bushes merged with the shadows among the tents.
The American woman, the wife of the freighter, had been given a tent to herself. She was sleeping soundly, secure in the knowledge of absolute safety, for the first time in many weeks. As she had dozed off to sleep the night before she had hoped that her husband was as comfortable as she; but, knowing him as she had, her mind had been assailed by doubts. He had been killed by Apaches a week previously.
She was awakened by a gentle shaking. When she opened her eyes she saw nothing as it was dark in the tent; but she felt a hand upon her arm, and when she started to speak a palm was slapped across her mouth.
“Make noise, gettum killed,” whispered a deep voice. “Shut up, no gettum killed.”
The hand was removed. “What do you want?” whispered the woman. “I’ll keep shet up.”
“Where is the wife of Geronimo?” pursued the questioner.
“I dunno,” replied the woman, sullenly. “Who are you—one o’ them Injun Scouts? Why don’t you go ask some other Injun? I dunno.”
“May-be-so you find out pronto. Me Apache Devil. She my mother. You tellum damn pronto or Apache Devil cut your damn fool throat. Sabe?”
The woman felt the edge of a knife against the flesh at her throat.
“She’s in the next tent,” she whispered hastily.
“You lie, me come back and kill,” he said, then he bound her hands and feet and tied a gag in her mouth, using strips torn from her own clothing for these purposes.
In the next tent they found Sons-ee-ah-ray, and a few minutes later five bushes crossed the post that four had previously crossed.
In the new camp south of Casa Grande the renegades found peace but for a few days, and then came Mexican troops one morning and attacked them. The skirmishing lasted all day. A few Mexican soldiers were killed; and at night the Apaches, having sustained no loss, moved eastward into the foothills of the Sierra Madres.
A few more days of rest and once again the Mexican troops, following them, attacked; but the Apaches had not been caught unawares. Their women and children were sent deeper into the mountains, while the warriors remained to hold the soldiers in check.
During a lull in the fighting Geronimo gathered several of his followers about him. “The Mexicans now have a large army against us,” he said. “If we stand and fight them many of us will be killed. We cannot hope to win. It is senseless to fight under such circumstances. Let us wait until our chance of victory is greater.”
The others agreed with the War Chief, and the renegades withdrew. Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah were sent to ascertain the strength of the troops against them and their location, while the main body of the renegades followed the squaws to the new camp.
It was very late when Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah rejoined their fellows. They came silently into camp after having been challenged and passed by savage sentries. They wore grave faces as they approached Geronimo. The War Chief had been sleeping; but he arose when he learned that his soouts had returned, and when he had had their report he summoned all the warriors to a council.
“Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah, with the speed of the deer, the cunning of the fox, and the vision of the eagle, have gone among the enemy and seen much. Let Shoz-Dijiji tell you what he told Geronimo.”
“For many days,” said Shoz-Dijiji, “we have been pressed closely by the enemy. First by the Scouts of the pindah-lickoyee, then by the warriors of the Mexicans. Wherever we go, they follow. We have had no time to hunt or raid. We are almost without food. Usen has put many things in the mountains and upon the plains for Apaches to eat. We can go on thus for a long time, but I do not think we can win.
“These things you should know. We are but a few warriors, and against us are the armies of two powerful nations. Shoz-Dijiji thinks that it would be wise to wait a little until they forget. In the past they have forgotten. They will forget again. Then the Apaches may take up the war trail once more or remain in peaceful ways, hunting and trading.
“Today Gian-nah-tah and Shoz-Dijiji saw soldiers in many places all through the mountains. There were soldiers of the Mexicans, there were soldiers of the pindah-lickoyee, there were the Apache Scouts of Crawford. They are all waiting to kill us. Perhaps we can escape them, perhaps we cannot. It would be foolish to attack them. We are too few, and our brothers have turned against us.”
“How many soldiers did you see?” asked Na-chi-ta.
“Perhaps two thousand, perhaps more,” replied Shoz-Dijiji. “There are infantry and cavalry, and cannon mounted on the backs of mules.”
“Chihuahua thought Shoz-Dijiji wished only to fight against the pindah-lickoyee,” said Chihuahua. “He made big talk before we went on the war-trail after we left San Carlos. Has Shoz-Dijiji’s heart turned to water?”
“I do not know,” said Shoz-Dijiji. “I think it has not turned to water, but it is very sad. Shoz-Dijiji learned at his mother’s breast to love nothing better than fighting the enemies of the Shis-Inday, but he did not learn to love to fight his own people. I think it made his heart sick that day that he saw White Mountain firing upon White Mountain, Cho-kon-en upon Cho-kon-en. That is not war, that is murder.
“Every man’s hand is against us, but that Shoz-Dijiji did not mind. What he does mind is to know that our own hands are against us, too.”
“Shoz-Dijiji has spoken true words,” said Kut-le. “It sickens the heart in the breast of a warrior to see brother and cousin fighting against him at the side of his enemies.
“We know that we are surrounded by many soldiers. We cannot fight them. Perhaps we can escape them, but they will follow us. It will be hard to find food and water, for these things they will first try to deprive us of.
“I think that we should make peace with our enemies. I have spoken.”
Thus spoke Kut-le, the bravest of the renegades. Savage heads nodded approval.
“Let us go to the camp of the white-eyed soldiers in the morning,” suggested one, “and lay down our weapons.”
“And be shot down like coyotes,” growled Geronimo. “No! Geronimo does not surrender. He makes peace. He does not stick his head in a trap, either. We will send a messenger to Crawford to arrange a parley with Nan-tan-des-la-par-en. The heart of Crawford is good. He does not lie to the Shis-Inday. By the first light of Chigo-na-ay Shoz-Dijiji shall go to the kunh-gan-hay of the scouts and carry the message of Geronimo to Crawford. If he promises to protect us from the soldiers of the pindah-lickoyee and the Mexicans, we will accompany him north and hold a peace parlay with Nan- tan-des-la-par-en.” He turned toward Shoz-Dijiji. “You have heard the words of Geronimo. When dawn comes go to Crawford. You will know what to say to him.”