For sixteen hours they marched with but a single brief rest, and it was again dark when they went into camp.
Water and a little food revived their spirits. There was even laughter, low pitched lest it reach across the night to the ears of an enemy.
Shoz-Dijiji squatted upon his haunches chewing upon a strip of jerked venison that was both dirty and “high” and that not only pleased his palate but gave him strength, renewing the iron tissue of his iron frame. Less fastidious, perhaps, than a civilized epicure in the preparation and serving of his food, yet, savage though he was, he appreciated the same delicate flavor of partial decay.
As he ate, a tall warrior came and stood before him. It was Gian-nah-tah. Shoz-Dijiji continued eating, in silence.
“At the kunh-gan-hay beside the soldiers of Nan-tan-des-la-par-en,” commenced Gian-nah-tah, presently, “the poisoned water of the pindah-lickoyee spoke through the mouth of Gian-nah-tah, saying words that Gian-nah-tah would not have said.” He stopped, waiting.
“Shoz-Dijiji knew that Gian-nah-tah, his best friend, did not speak those words,” replied Shoz-Dijiji. “It was the bad spirits that the white man puts into his strong water to make trouble between men. Gian-nah-tah is a fool to be tricked thus by the pindah-lickoyee.”
“Yes,” agreed Gian-nah-tah, “I am a fool.” Shoz-Dijiji scratched some criss-cross lines upon the ground where he squatted. With a bit of stick he scratched them. “These,” he said, “are the troubles that have come between Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah—the bad talk—the bad thoughts.” With his palm he smoothed the ground. “Now they are gone,”he said. “Let us forget them.” He offered Gian-nah-tah a piece of venison, and his friend squatted beside him.
“Do you think the soldiers of the white-eyed men will follow us?” asked Gian-nah-tah.
Shoz-Dijiji shook his head. “I do not know,” he’replied. “I offered hoddentin to the winds and to the night, and I prayed that Usen would make the hearts of the pindah-lickoyee good that they might return to their own country and leave us in peace.
“I asked the tzi-daltai that Nan-ta-do-tash blessed for me if the white-eyed soldiers were pursuing us, but I have received no answer.”
“Nan-tan-des-la-par-en said that if we did not come with him he would tollow us and kill us all if it took fifty years,” reminded Gian-nah-tah.
Shoz-Dijiji laughed. “That is just talk,” he said. “Anyone can make big talk. For over three hundred years we have been fighting the pindah-lickoyee; and they have not killed us all, yet. Some day they will, but it will take more than fifty years. You and I shall have plenty of fighting before the last of the Shis-Inday is killed.”
“I do not know,” said Gian-nah-tah. “A spirit came to me while I slept the first night that we camped near the soldiers of Nan-tan-des-la-par-en. It was the spirit of my father. He said that he had waited a long time for me. He said that pretty soon I would come. I asked him when; but just then I awoke, and that frightened him away. Perhaps it will be tomorrow—who knows?”
“Do not say that, Gian-nah-tah,” said Shoz-Dijiji. “Already have I seen too many of my friends go. One hundred and thirty four we were when we went out from San Carlos less than twelve moons ago. Today we are thirty eight. The others are dead, or prisoners of the pindah-lickoyee. The heart of Shoz-Dijiji is sad, as are the hearts of all Apaches. The hand of every man is against us—even the hands of our brothers. We must not think of death. Gian-nah-tah and Shoz-Dijiji must live for one another. Surely Usen will not take everything that we love from us!”
“Usen has forgotten the Apache,” said Gian-nah-tah, sadly.
For a month the renegades rested and recuperated in the high sierras, and then one day a scout brought word to Geronimo that he had sighted three troops of United States Cavalry as they were going into camp a day’s march to the north.
Geronimo shook his head. “They are always talking of peace,” he said, “and always making war upon us. They will not leave us alone.” He turned to Shoz-Dijiji. “Go to the camp of the pindah-lickoyee and try to talk with some of their scouts. Take Gian-nah-tah with you. Do not trust too much in the honor of the scouts, but learn all that you can without telling them anything.”
Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah arose. “That is all?” asked the young war chief of the Be-don-ko-he.
“That is all,” replied Geronimo. The soft rustle of their war moccasins faded into silence. The night swallowed them. Geronimo sat with bowed head, his eyes upon the ground. A girl looked after them and sighed. Then she cast hoddentin in the direction they had gone and whispered prayers for the safety of one of them. Also she prayed that some day she would be the mother of warriors and that Gian-nah-tah would be their father.
In four hours the two warriors covered the distance that it would take a troop of cavalry all of the following day to cover; but they travelled where no horse might travel, over trails that no cavalryman knew. They trod in places where only mountain sheep and Apaches had trod before.
Quiet lay upon the camp of —th Cavalry. Three weary sentries; softly cursing because they must walk their posts to save their horses, circled the lonely bivouac. At a little distance lay the camp of the Apache scouts. The dismal voice of an owl broke the silence. It came from the summit of a low bluff south of the camp. At intervals it was repeated twice.
One of the sentries was a rookie. “Gosh,” he soliloquized, “but that’s a lonesome sound!”
Once more came the eerie cry—this time, apparently, from the camp of the scouts.
Number One sentry was a veteran. He stepped quickly from his post to the side of his top sergeant, who lay wrapped in a sweaty saddle blanket with his head on a McClellan.
“H-s-st! McGuire!” he whispered.
“Wot the’ ell?” demanded the sergeant, sitting up.
“Hostiles! I just heard ’em signalling to our Siwashes—three owl calls and an answer.”
The sergeant came to his feet, strapping his belt about his hips. He picked up his carbine. “Git back on your post an’ keep your ears unbuttoned,” he directed. “I’ll mosey out that way a bit an’ listen. Maybe it was a owl.”
Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah crept silently down the face of the bluff and approached the camp of the scouts. There was no moon, and light clouds obscured the stars. It was very dark. A figure loomed suddenly before them. “Who are you?” it demanded in a whisper that could not have been heard ten feet away.
“We are Be-don-ko-he,” replied Shoz-Dijiji. “We bring a message from Geronimo.”
“What is it?”
“He wants the soldiers to go back to their own country and leave him alone. He is not fighting the pindah-lickoyee. If they will go away he will not again raid in Arizona or New Mexico.”
“You are Shoz-Dijiji;” said the scout, “I am glad you came. We have word for Geronimo and all that are with him. His fight is hopeless. He had better come in. If he does, perhaps they will not kill him. If he stays out he is sure to be killed. Every one of his warriors will be killed. Tell him to come in.”
“Why do you think we will be killed? They have not killed us yet, and they have been trying to ever since we were born.”
“Now they will,” insisted the scout, “for they have offered to pay fifty dollars for the head of every warrior that is brought in and two thousand dollars for the head of Geronimo. There are Apaches who would kill their own fathers for fifty dollars.”
“You do not kill us,” said Shoz-Dijiji, “and our heads are worth one hundred dollars.”
“Give thanks to Usen, then, that he sent me to meet you and not another,” replied the scout.
“What are the plans of the pindah-lickoyee?” asked Shoz-Dijiji.
“Their orders are to get Geronimo and all his band. The Mexicans are helping them. It was the Mexicans who invited them down here to catch you.”
“They shall pay,” growled Shoz-Dijiji. “So old Nan-tan-des-la-par-en will pay fifty dollars for my head, eh?” said Gian-nah-tah. “Very well, I shall go and get his head for nothing.”
“It was not Nan-tan-des-la-par-en,” said the scout. “He is no longer war chief of the pindah-lickoyee. They have taken him away and sent another. His name is Miles. It is he who has offered the money for your heads. He has ordered out many soldiers to follow you and catch you. Here there are three troops of the —th Cavalry; Lawton is coming with Apache scouts, cavalry, and infantry. As fast as men and horses are tired they will send fresh ones to replace them. A few men cannot fight against so many and win. That is why so many of us have joined the scouts. It is not that we love the white-eyed ones any better than you do. We know when we are beaten—that is all. We would live in peace. By going out you make trouble for us all. We want to put an end to all this trouble.”
“I, too, like peace,” said Shoz-Dijiji; “but better even than peace I like freedom. If you are content to be the slave of the pindah-lickoyee that is your own affair. Shoz-Dijiji would rather be forever on the war-trail than be a slave. If you are men you will leave the service of the white-eyes and join Geronimo.”
“Yes,” said Gian-nah-tah, “take that message to our brothers who have turned against us.”
“Come!” said Shoz-Dijiji, and the two warriors turned back toward the camp of Geronimo.
1st Sergeant McGuire, “K” Troop, —th Cavalry’ strolled back to his blankets. On the way he paused to speak to Number One. “The next time you hear a owl,” he said, “you just telegraph President Cleveland and let me sleep.”
Chigo-na-ay was an hour high when Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah stood again before the rude hogan of Geronimo deep hid upon the rough breast of the Mother of Mountains. The old war chief listened in silence while they narrated with primitive fidelity every detail of their interview with the scout.
“Fifty dollars for the head of a warrior, two thousand dollars for the head of Geronimo!” he exclaimed. “It is thus that they offer a bounty for the heads of wolves and coyotes. They treat us as beasts and expect us to treat them as men. When they war among themselves do they offer money for the head of an enemy? No! They reserve that insult for the Apache.
“They will win because Usen has deserted us. And when they have killed us all there will be none to stop them from stealing the rest of our land. That is what they want. That is why they make treaties with us and then break them, to drive us upon the war-trail that they may have an excuse to kill us faster. That is why they offer money for our heads.
“Oh, Usen! What have the Shis-Inday done that you should be angry with them and let their enemies destroy them?”
“Do not waste your breath praying to Usen,” said Gian-nah-tah. “Pray to the God of the pindah-lickoyee. He is stronger than Usen.”
“Perhaps you are right,” said Geronimo, sadly. “He is a wicked God, but his medicine is stronger than the medicine of Usen.”
“I,” said Shoz-Dijiji, “shall pray always to the god of my fathers. I want nothing of the pindah-lickoyee or their god. I hate them all.”
A brave, moving at an easy run, approached the camp and stopped before Geronimo.
“Soldiers are coming,” he said. “Their scouts have followed the tracks of Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah.”
“Only Apaches could trail us,” said Geronimo. “If our brothers had remained loyal and taken the war-trail with us the pindah-lickoyee could not conquer us in a thousand rains.”
“There is a place where we can meet them,” said the brave who had brought the word, “and stop them.”
“I know,” replied Geronimo. He called four warriors to him. “Take the women and the boys,” he said, “and cross over the summit to the burned pine by the first water. Those of us who live will join you there after the battle.”
Stripped to breech-cloth and moccasins, eighteen painted savages filed silently through the rough mountains. A scout preceded them. Behind Geronimo walked the Apache Devil, his blue face banded with white. Stern, grim, terrible men these—hunted as beasts are hunted, retaliating as only a cornered beast retaliates—asking no quarter and giving none.
Equipped by civilization with the best of weapons and plenty of ammunition and by nature with high intelligence, courage, and shrewdness they had every advantage except that of numbers over any enemy that might take the field against them.
They stopped the —th Cavalry that day as they had stopped other troops before and without the loss of a man, and with the coming of night had vanished among the rocks of their beloved mountains and rejoined their women in the new camp by the burned pine at the first water beyond the summit.
Stern, grim, relentless, the cavalry pursued. Cooperating with them were the troops of Governor Torres of Sonora. The renegades were hard pressed. Skirmishes were of almost daily occurrence now. And then Lawton came with his hand picked force of seasoned veterans.
It was May again. For a year this handful of savage warriors and women and children had defied, eluded, and ofttimes defeated the forces of two civilized nations. The military strategy of their leader had been pitted against that of a great American general and proved superior. A score of West Pointers had exhausted their every resource and failed, but they were at last nearing their goal—victory seemed imminent. Miles and Lawton would receive the plaudits of their countrymen; and yet, if the truth were known, Miles and Lawton might have continued to pursue Geronimo and his band to the day of their deaths, and without success, had it not been that Apache turned against Apache.
The Shis-Inday may date the beginning of the end from the day that the first Indian Scouts were organized.
Hunted relentlessly, given no opportunity to rest because their every haunt, their every trail, their every hiding place was as well known to the scouts who pursued them as it was to themselves, they found themselves at last practically surrounded.
With no opportunity to hunt they were compelled to kill their ponies for sustenance until at last only Nejeunee was left.
Geronimo sat in council after a day of running battle.
“The warriors of the pindah-lickoyee and the Mexicans are all about us,” he said. “If we can break through and cross the mountains into Chihuahua perhaps we can escape them. Then we must separate and go in different directions. They will hear of us here today and there tomorrow. They will hurry from one place to another. Their horses will become tired and their soldiers footsore. Their force will be broken up into small parties. It will be easier for us to elude them. Tonight we shall move east. A camp of the enemy lies directly in our path, but if we can pass it before dawn we shall be in mountains where no cavalry can follow and tomorrow we shall be in Chihuahua.
“There is one pony left. Its meat will carry us through until we can find cattle in Chihuahua.”
There was silence. Every warrior, every woman knew that Shoz-Dijiji had repeatedly refused to permit the killing of the little pinto stallion for food.
“Nejeunee is more than a war pony,” Shoz-Dijiji had once said to Geronimo. “He is my friend. I will not eat my friend. Nor permit anyone to eat my friend.”
Glances stole around the circle in search of Shoz-Dijiji. He was not there.
Up toward the camp of the enemy—the camp that stood between the renegades and Chihuahua—a painted warrior rode a pinto stallion. A gentle May wind blew down to the nostrils of the man and his mount. To Nejeunee it carried the scent of his kind from the picket line of the —th Cavalry. He pricked up his ears and nickered. Shoz-Dijiji slid from his back, slipped the primitive bridle from about his lower jaw and slapped him on the rump.
“Good-bye, Nejeunee,” he whispered; “the pindah-lickoyee may kill you, but they will not eat you.”
Slowly the Apache walked back toward the camp of his people. Like the stones upon the grave of Ish-kay-nay, many and heavy, his sorrows lay upon his heart.
“Perhaps, after all,” he mused, “Gian-nah-tah is right and Usen has forgotten the Apaches. I have prayed to him in the high places; I have offered hoddentin to him upon the winds of the morning and the evening; I have turned a deaf ear to the enemies who bring us a new god. Yet one by one the friends that I love are taken from me. Oh, Usen, before they are all gone take Shoz-Dijiji! Do not leave him alone without friends in a world filled with enemies!”
“Where is Shoz-Dijiji?” demanded Geronimo, his blue eyes sweeping the circle before him. “Gian-nah-tah, where is Shoz-Dijiji?”
“Here is Shoz-Dijiji!” said a voice from the darkness; and as they looked up, the war chief of the Be-don-ko-he stepped into the dim, flickering light of their tiny fire. “Shoz-Dijiji,” said Geronimo, “there is but one pony left. It is Nejeunee. He must be killed for food. The others are all gone.”
“Nejeunee is gone, also,” said Shoz-Dijiji.
“I have told you many times that no one would ever eat Nejeunee while Shoz-Dijiji lived. I have taken him away. What are you going to do about it?”
Geronimo bowed his head. “Even my son has turned against me,” he said, sadly.
“Those are not true words, Geronimo,” replied Shoz-Dijiji. “Nejeunee was more to me than a great war pony. When Shoz-Dijiji was a youth and Nejeunee a colt, Shoz-Dijiji broke him. Little Ish-kay-nay rode upon his back. It was Ne-jeunee that was tied before the hogan of her father. It was Nejeunee that Ish-kay-nay led to water and fed the next morning. Nejeunee has carried me through many battles. His fleet feet have borne me from the clutches of many an enemy. He has been the friend of Shoz-Dijiji as well as his war pony. Now he is old and yet there is not a fleeter or braver pony in the land of the Shis-Inday. He deserves better of me than to be killed and eaten.
“Geronimo says that Shoz-Dijiji has turned against him. Every day Shoz-Dijiji offers his life for Geronimo, and all that he has asked in return is the life of his friend.”
“Say no more,” said Na-chi-ta, the son of Cochise. “Let Shoz-Dijiji have the life of his friend. We have been hungry before—we can be hungry again. It does not kill an Apache to be hungry. We are not pindah-lickoyee.”