The War Chief

Chapter I


Edgar Rice Burroughs

NAKED but for a G-string, rough sandals, a bit of hide and a buffalo headress, a savage warrior leaped and danced to the beating of drums. Encircling fires, woman-tended, sent up curling tongues of flame, lighting, fitfully, sweat- glistening shoulders, naked arms and legs.

Distorted shadows, grotesque, mimicking, danced with the savage and his fellows. Above them, dark and mysterious and weirdly exaggerated by the night, loomed the Grampian Hills.

Rude bows and arrows, stone-shod spears, gaudy feathers, the waving tails of animals accentuated the barbaric atmosphere that was as yet uncontaminated by the fetid breath of civilization—pardon me!—that was as yet ignorant of the refining influences of imperial conquest, trained mercenaries and abhorrent disease.

Here was freedom. Agricola was as yet un-born, the Wall of Antoninus unbuilt, Albion not even a name; but Agricola was to come, Antoninus was to build his wall; and they were to go their ways, taking with them the name of Albion, taking with them freedom; leaving England, civilization, inhibitions.

But ever in the seed of the savage is the germ of savagery that no veneer of civilization, no stultifying inhibitions seem able ever entirely to eradicate. Appearing sporadically in individuals it comes down the ages—the germ of savagery, the seed of freedom.

As the Caledonian savages danced through that long-gone night, a thousand years, perhaps, before the prototypes of Joseph Smith, John Alexander Dowie and Aimee Semple McPherson envisaged the Star of Bethlehem, a new sun looked down upon the distant land of the Athapascans and another scene—American Indian savages.

Naked but for a G-string, rough sandals, a bit of hide and a buffalo headdress, a savage warrior moved silently among the boles of great trees. At his heels, in single file, came others, and behind these squaws with papooses on their backs and younger children tagging at their heels.

They had no pack animals, other than the squaws, but they had little to pack. It was, peraps, the genesis of that great trek toward the south. How many centuries it required noone knows, for there were no chroniclers to record or explain that long march of the Apaches from northwest Canada to Arizona and New Mexico, as there have been to trace the seed of the Caledonian savage from the Grampian Hills to the New World.

The ancestors of Jerry MacDuff had brought the savage germ with them to Georgia from Scotland in early colonial days, and it had manifested itself in Jerry in two ways—filled him with a distaste for civilization that urged him ever frontierward and mated him with the granddaughter of a Cherokee Indian, in whose veins pulsed analogus desires.

Jerry MacDuff and Annie Foley were, like nearly all other pioneers, ignorant, illiterate, unwashed. They had nothing of the majesty and grandeur and poise of their savage forebears; the repressive force of civilization had stifled everything but the bare, unlovely germ of savagery. They have little to do with this chronicle, other than to bring Andy MacDuff into the world in a dilapidated wagon somewhere in Missouri in the spring of 1863, and carry him a few months and a few hundred miles upon the sea of life.

Why Jerry MacDuff was not in one army or another, or in jail, in 1863, I do not know, for he was an able-bodied man of thirty and no coward; but the bare fact is that he was headed for California along the old Santa Fe trail. His pace was slow, since dire poverty, which had always been his lot, necessitated considerable stops at the infrequent settlements where he might earn the wherewith to continue his oft-interrupted journey.

Out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the MacDuffs turned south along the Rio Grande toward the spot where the seeds of the ancient Caledonian and Athapascan warriors were destined to meet again for the first time, perhaps, since they had set out upon opposite trails from the birthplace of humanity in the days when ferns were trees, and unsailed seas lashed the shores of continents that are no more.

Changed are the seas, changed are the continents, changed the mortal envelope that houses the germ of humanity that alone remains unchanged and unchangeable. It abode in the breast of Go-yat-thlay, the Apache and, identical, in the breast of Andy MacDuff, the infant white.

Had Andy’s forebears remained in Scotland Andy would doubtless have developed into a perfectly respectable caddie before he became a; God-fearing, law-abiding farmer. Back of him were all the generations of civilization that are supposed to have exerted a refining influence upon humanity to the end that we are now inherently more godlike than our savage ancestors, or the less-favored peoples who have yet to emerge from savagery.

Back of Go-yat-thlay there was no civilization. Down through all the unthinkable ages from the beginning the savage germ that animated him had come untouched by any suggestion of refinement—Go-yat-thlay, born a Ned-ni Apache in No-doyohn Canyon, Arizona, in 1829, was stark savage. Already, at thirty-four, he was war chief of the Be-don-ko-he, the tribe of his first wife, Alope, which he had joined after his marriage to her. The great Mangas Colorado, hereditary chief of the Be-don-ko-he, thought well of him, consulted him, deferred to him upon occasion; often sent him out upon the war trail in command of parties of raiders.

Today Go-yat-thlay was thus engaged. With four warriors he rode down the slopes of Stein’s Peak range, dropped into a hollow and clambered again almost to the top of an eminence beyond. Here they halted and Go-yat-thlay, dismounting, handed his reins to one of his fellows. Alone he clambered noiselessly to the summit, disturbing no smallest pebble, and lying there upon his belly looked down upon a winding, dusty road below. No emotion that he may have felt was reflected in those cruel, granitic features.

For an hour he had been moving directly toward this point expecting that when he arrived he would find about what he was looking down upon now—a single wagon drawn by two mules, a dilapidated wagon, with a soiled and much-patched cover.

Go-yat-thlay had never before seen this wagon, but he had seen its dust from a great distance; he noted its volume and its rate of progress, and he had known that it was a wagon drawn by two mules, for there was less dust than an ox-drawn vehicle would have raised, since oxen do not lift their feet as high as horses or mules, and, too, its rate of progress eliminated oxen as a possible means of locomotion. That the wagon was drawn by mules rather than horses was but a shrewd guess based upon observation. The Apache knew that few horses survived thus far the long trek from the white man’s country.

In the mind of Go-yat-thlay burned a recollection of the wrongs that had been heaped upon his people by the white man. In the legends of his fathers had come down the story of the conquests of the Spaniards, through Coronado and the priests, three-hundred years before. In those days the Apache had fought only to preserve the integrity of his domain from the domination of an alien race. In his heart there was not the bitter hatred that the cruelty and injustice and treachery of the more recent American invaders engendered.

These things passed through the mind of the Apache as he looked down upon the scene below; and too, there was the lure of loot. Mules have value as food, and among the meager personal belongings of the white emigrants there was always ammunition and often trinkets dear to the heart of the savage.

And so there were greed and vengeance in the heart of Go-yat-thlay as he watched the wagon and Jerry MacDuff and Annie, but there was no change in the expression upon the cruel and inscrutable face.

The Indian drew himself down below the crest of the sun-scorched hill, out of sight of the unsuspecting whites, and signaled to his companions. Three of them crept upward toward him; the fourth, remaining, held the ponies of the others. He was a youth undergoing preparation for admission to the warrior class.

Go-yat-thlay spoke to the three. Separating, the four bucks crept to the hilltop. The mules plodded through the dust; their brown hides were streaked with it and by little rivulets of sweat.

Jerry MacDuff stuffed a large portion of fine cut inside his cheek and spat copiously at nothing in particular. Annie Foley relit her pipe. They seldom spoke. They had not spoken for many hours; they were never to speak again.

Almost before the report of the first shot reached his ears Jerry MacDuff heard a soft plop and saw Annie crumple and lurch forward. As he reached out to catch her a slug struck him in the left shoulder and he lurched to the ground on the right side of the wagon as Annie, dead now, slipped softly and silently beneath the left front wheel. The mules brought up suddenly by this unexpected obstacle, and being unurged, stopped.

When the warriors reached the scene, Jerry was trying to drag himself upward to the wagon box from whence he could reach his rifle. Go-yat-thlay struck him over the head with the butt of a Yauger and Jerry sank back into the soft dust of the road.

The sun shone down out of a blue sky; a Sabbath peace lay upon the scene; a great, white lily bloomed beside the road, mute evidence of the omnipotence of the Creator.

Jerry lay upon his back close beside the wagon. Go-yat-thlay detached a broken stake from the wagon and, with a shovel that was strapped to the side, drove it through Jerry and into the ground. Jerry groaned, but did not regain consciousness—then. For the first time the expression upon the face of the Be-don-ko-he underwent a change—he smiled.

One of his fellows called him to the opposite side of the wagon, where Annie lay, and pointed to the dead woman’s sun-tanned face and straight, black hair, and the high cheek bones that her Cherokee grandsire had bequeathed her.

“Indian,” he said to Go-yat-thlay.

The war chief nodded.

A second Indian emerged from the wagon, where he had been rummaging. He was grinning broadly. By one foot he held up for their inspection wee Andy MacDuff, whom he was about to swing heavily against the nearest iron tire when Go-yat-thlay stopped him with a gesture and holding out his hand received the descendant of one, long dead, who had been equally as savage as he. From northwestern Canada and from the Grampian Hills the seeds had met at last.

Wee Andy had seemingly inherited, through his mother, more Indian blood than flowed in her veins; at least he looked more an Indian than she, with his round face, his big, dark eyes, his straight, black hair.

Go-yat-thlay thought him an Indian; upon no other hypothesis can be explained the fact that instead of destroying him the savage chief carried him back to the hogans of his own people, notwithstanding the grumblings of Juh, who had wished to brain the spawn of the pindah lickoyee.

Thus, in the dome-shaped, thatched brush hut of Go-yat-thlay, in the arms of Sons-ee-ah-ray, his youngest squaw, ended the life history of Andy MacDuff and began that of a nameless, little Indian baby.

That night to the camp of the Be-don-ko-he and the Ned-ni came a runner from the headquarters of the Rio Mimbres. For over a hundred miles he had come on foot, across parched desert burning beneath the fiery rays of Chigo-na-ay, and over rugged mountains that no horse could travel, in sixteen hours.

Moccasins, of heavy buckskin with the toes turned up at right angles and terminating in a disc an inch and a quarter in diameter that formed a part of the rawhide sole, protected his feet and legs from the sharp stones and the cactus; a narrow head band of Apache-tanned doeskin kept his long, black hair from falling across his eyes; these and a G-string were his apparel. Some parched corn and dried meat that he had carried he had eaten on the way and he had drunk a little water from a bottle improvised from a piece of the large intestine a horse. The only weapon that he carried was a knife.

His body glistening in the firelight, he stood before the warriors who had quickly gathered at his coming. He glanced about the circle of grim faces surrounding him. His eyes, passing over the features of Juh, Chief of the Ned-ni, and Mangas, the eighteen-year-old son of the chief of the Be-don-ko-he, stopped at last upon those of Go-yat-thlay, the Yawner.

“Bi-er-le the Cho-kon-en bring bad news to the Be-don-ko-he,” he announced; “from Fort McLane he brings word that Mangas Colorado, Chief of the Be-don-ko-he, is dead.”

From among the squaws and children gathered behind the warriors arose anguished wails—the wives and children of Mangas Colorado had heard.

“Tell the Be-don-ko-he how their chief died,” said Go-yat-thlay.

“The hearts of the white-eyes are bad,” continued Bi-er-le. “With smiles upon their lips the soldiers of the great White Father came to your camp, as you know, and invited your chief to a council.

“With four warriors he went, trusting to the honor of the pindah lickoyee, who are without honor; and when they had come to the fort, where there are many soldiers, the five were seized and thrust into a hogan with strong doors and iron bars at the windows, and at night soldiers came and killed Mangas Colorado.

“Cochise, Chief of the Cho-kon-en, heard of this and sent Bi-er-le to his friends the Be-don-ko-he, for his heart grieves with the hearts of his friends. Great was the love of Cochise for Mangas Colorado. This word, too, he sends to the Be-don-ko-he: wide is the war trail; many are the warriors of the Cho-kon-en; filled are their hearts with rage against the pindah lickoyee; if the Be-don-ko-he take the war trail for revenge the warriors of Cochise will come and help them.”

A savage rumble of approval rolled round the circle of the warriors.

“Cochise takes the words of Juh from his mouth.” Thus spoke the Chief of the Ned-ni. “Juh, with his warriors, will take the war trail with the Be-don-ko-he against the white-eyes.”

That night the warriors of the Be-don-ko-he sat in council, and though Mangas, son of Mangas Colorado, the dead chief, was present, Go-yat-thlay was elected chief, and the next morning smoke signals rose from mountain peaks a hundred miles apart. Go-yat-thlay was calling his allies to him and Cochise, the great chief of the Chihuicahui Apaches, was answering the call; and bloody were the fights that followed as the relentless avengers, following the example of the foe, took toll of innocent and guilty alike.

But of all this wee Andy MacDuff recked naught. His big, brown eyes surveyed the world from the opening in his tsoch, in which he rode fastened securely to the back of Sons-ee-ah-ray. He gurgled and smiled and never cried, so that Morning Star and Go-yat-thlay were very proud of him and he was made much of as are all Apache babies.

Back and fourth across New Mexico and Arizona, beneath blistering sun, enduring biting cold, drenched by torrential rains, Andy jounced about upon the back of Morning Star and laughed or crowed or slept as the spirit moved him, or in camp, his tsoch suspended from the bough of a tree swayed gently with the soft evening winds.

During that year his little ears became accustomed to the cry of the coyote at night, the sudden ping of the white man’s bullets, the wild war whoops of his people, the death shrieks of men, and of women, and of children; and the next year he made his first descent upon Old Mexico.

Upon that raid, in 1864, the Be-don-ko-he brought back live cattle for the first time; but it was gruelling work, caring for the wounded and keeping the cattle from straying, for the Apaches were on foot; so the following year Go-yat-thlay organized a mounted raid into Sonora; but this time the women and children were left at home. However, Wee Andy was busy learning to walk, so he did not care.

The War Chief - Contents    |     Chapter II - Shoz-Dijiji

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