The War Chief

Chapter III


Edgar Rice Burroughs

ANOTHER YEAR rolled around. Once again were the Be-don-ko-he, the Cho-kon-en and the Ned-ni camped together and with them were the Chi-hen-ne, with Victorio, old Nanay and Loco. Together they had been raiding in Chihuahua and Sonora. It had been a prosperous year for the tribes, a year rich in loot; and for little Shoz-Dijiji it had been a wonderful year. Bright, alert, he had learned much. He had won a name and that had helped him too, for the other boys looked up to him and even the great chiefs took notice of him.

Cochise had developed a real affection for the stalwart youngster, for he saw in a lad who could face fearlessly a renowned chief such as Juh was, even at that time, a potential leader of his people in the years to come.

Often the old war chief talked to Shoz-Dijiji of the exploits of his people. He told him of the many wars with the Comanches and the Navajos, of raids upon the villages of the Pimos and the Papagos; and he filled his heart with yearning to emulate the glorious deeds of the great warriors who had made terrible the name of the Apaches, the Shis-Inday, the Men of the Woods, from the Arkansas River in Colorado on the north, south to Durango, Mexico, more than five hundred miles below the border; and from the California line on the west to San Antonio, Texas, on the east—an empire as large as Europe.

“And of all this, I, Cochise, am war chief,” cried the old warrior. “Soon you will be a brave. So fight that you will fill our enemies with fear and our warriors with admiration so that, perhaps, you some day may be war chief of all the Apaches.”


It was May. Flowers starred the rolling pasture land, green with grama grass on which the ponies were fattening after the grueling months of raiding south of the border. The braves loafed much about the camp, smoking and gambling. The squaws and the children tilled a little patch of ground, and once again some of the women brewed tizwin, for there was to be a great dance before the tribes scattered to their own countries. The crushed corn had been soaked and was fermenting; the mescal was roasting upon hot stones in its pit; a Yuma squaw, a prisoner of war, was making a paste of soaked maize in a metate. The paste she patted into thin, round cakes and baked.

Little Ish-kay-nay watched her, for she loved tortillas and wished to learn how to make them. Ish-kay-nay was eleven, very dirty, almost naked and entirely lovely. Her lithe young body approximated perfection as closely as may anything mortal. Her tangled hair fell over a mischievous, beautiful face from which laughing eyes, serious now, watched intently every move of the Yuma. The long, black lashes and the arched brows had not yet been plucked, for Ish-kay-nay still had three years of childhood before her. Her name means boy, and to see her romp and play was all that was necessary to make one understand why she was given that name.

Night had come. The sacrificial hoddentin had been offered to the evening and to the moon. The dancing, the feasting, the drinking commenced. Among the dancers moved the medicine men, the izze-nantan of the Apaches, tossing hoddentin, mumbling gibberish, whirling their tzi-ditindes to frighten away the evil spirits.

That night the braves got gloriously drunk. Perhaps the medicine of the izze-nantan was good medicine, for the Mexican soldiers who had come up out of the south to raid them made camp a few miles away instead of attacking that night. Had they done so the flower of the six tribes of the Apaches would have been wiped out, for even Cochise, the war chief, lay unconscious in the grip of the tizwin.

The following day the braves were tired and cross. They lay around the camp and there was much quarreling. Cochise was very sick. Go-yat-thlay, Victorio, Juh, Hash-ka-ai-la, Chief of the White Mountain Apaches, and C0-si-to, Chief of the Chi-e-a-hen, foregathered and discussed the wisdom of immediately separating the tribes before there was an open break. Well they knew the savage followers. Not for long could the tribes associate without squabbles, brawls and bloody duels. Tomorrow, at the latest, they decided, each tribe would take up its trail to its own hunting grounds.

Shoz-Dijiji, tiring of play with the other children, took his bow and arrows and his lance and started up the ridge above camp. Today he was a scout under orders from Cochise. The enemy was thought to be close and because Shoz-Dijiji had the eyes of itza-chu, the eagle, and was as brave as shoz-litzogue, the yellow bear, Cochise had sent him out alone to discover the whereabouts of the foe. Thus dreamed Shoz-Dijiji as he moved silently and swiftly up the steep mountain, taking advantage of every cover, noiseless, invisible. Thus learned Shoz-Dijiji the ways of his people—the ways of the Apache.

From the headwaters of the Gila far south into the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico, Shoz-Dijiji already knew every canyon, every peak, every vantage point. He knew where water ran or stood the year round; he knew where it stood after each rain and for how long; he knew where one might discover it by scratching in the bed of a dry stream, and where one must dig deep for its precious boon. This was but a fraction of the countless things that Shoz-Dijiji knew about his own country. He knew nothing about Latin or Greek; he had never heard of Rome or Babylon; but he could take care of himself better at eleven than the majority of white men can at their prime and he had learned more useful things from actual experience than the white boy ever learns.

Therefore, this day, though he played, he played with judgment, with intelligence. He did not just fare forth and make believe that he was scouting for an enemy—he did scout. He moved to the best position within a radius of fifty miles, and when he reached it he knew just where to look for an enemy; he knew the trails they must follow to reach his people’s camp; and the first thing that he saw when he looked toward the south, toward Sonora, toward the land of their hereditary enemies, brought a wave of savage exultation surging through his brown body.

There, on the plain, twenty miles away, moving steadily toward the camp of the Shis-Inday was a long column of dust. All the six tribes lay unsuspecting below him, so it would not be Apaches that were advancing toward them, and if it were not Apaches it must be an enemy. His eyes were keen, but the column was enveloped in dust; however, he was confident from the formation that he was looking at a body of mounted troops.

For just an instant longer he watched them, while he revolved in his mind the plan of action best to follow. The enemy was ten miles south of camp, Shoz-Dijiji was ten miles north. They were mounted but it would take them longer to ascend the rocky trail than it would take Shoz-Dljiji to descend the mountain and give the warning; otherwise he would have resorted to smoke signals to apprise his people of their danger. That he might still do, but the enemy would see the signals, too, and know that the Indians were near and aware of their presence. Shoz-Dijiji pictured instead a surprise ambush in a narrow canyon just below the Apaches’ camp.

Already he was leaping swiftly down the mountain side. Speed, now, meant everything and he was less careful of concealment, yet neither did he entirely neglect it, for to the Apache it was second nature. He did not fear detection by the main body of the enemy, but he knew that they might have scouts far out in front, though his keen eyes had seen nothing of them. With streaming hair the boy flew down the steep declivity, as trailless as the Mountains of the Moon. If he could reach camp ten minutes ahead of the enemy his people would be saved. He knew that he could do so; there was no guess work about it.

The warriors were, for the most part, sleeping off the effects of the tizwin. Some were gambling. Others were still quarreling. The squaws, as usual, were working, caring for their babies, cooking food, preparing hides, gathering firewood; carrying water. The bosom friends, Victorio and Go-yat-thlay, were emerging from the shelter of Cochise, who was still very sick, when Shoz-Dijiji bounded into camp and ran directly to the two chiefs.

“Soldiers!” he said, and pointed down toward the plain. “From the mountain top Shoz-Dijiji saw them. There are many soldiers and they come on horses. There is yet time, if you make haste, to hide warriors on either side of the canyon before the pindah lickoyee pass through.”

The chiefs asked him a few brief questions, then they ran quickly through the camp calling the warriors to arms. There was little noise, but there seemed to be a great deal of confusion. The squaws gathered up their few belongings preparatory to taking to the mountains if hard pressed. The warriors caught up their weapons and gathered around their chiefs; the Be-don-ko-he around Go-yat-thlay; the Chi-hen-ne, or Warm Springs Apaches, around Victorio; the Chi-e-a-hen to Co-si-to; the White Mountain Apaches to Hash-ka-ai-la; the Ned-ni to Juh; and the Chc-kon-en, or Chihuicahui, to Na-chi-ta, the son of Cochise.

There was hasty daubing of paint on swart faces as the chiefs led them out from camp to take the places that Go-yat-thlay, acting war chief, had allotted to each tribe. Stripped to loin cloth, moccasins and head band or kerchief the fighting men of the Apaches moved silently down among the cedars to their positions. Ahead of them Go-yat-thlay had sent scouts to ascertain the position of the enemy and before the warriors reached the place of ambush one of these had returned to say that the soldiers were but a mile from the lower mouth of the canyon.

There was ample time to dispose of his forces to the best advantage and this Geronimo did like the able war chief that he was. Swiftly, silently the savage defenders moved into position and in five minutes both sides of the canyon’s rim were bristling with unseen weapons-bows, with arrows of quartz and iron, lances similarly shod, ancient Mississippi Yaugers, Spencer carbines, Springfield rifles, six-shooters from the house of Colt; filled cartridge belts were strapped around slim waists, or carried across broad shoulders.

Behind the advance line there were reserves; in camp were the old men and the boys, left to guard the women and the children; though the women were often as savage fighters as their men.

From the bottom of the canyon there was no sign of all this. A soft wind soughed through the cedars and the pines; there was no other sound. Only the trees and the birds and the squirrels, it seemed, inhabited this sylvan world.

The scouts of the enemy, wary, entered the canyon. They were but a short distance in advance of the main body which consisted of a company of Mexican cavalry, well mounted, well armed, well officered; veteran Indian fighters, they were, to the last man.

Go-yat-thlay waited until that last man was well inside the jaws of death, then he raised his carbine to his shoulder and fired. It was the signal. Mingling with the staccato of the rifle fire were the war whoops of the Apaches, the commands of the officers, curses; the moans and screams of the wounded. There was no cover for the troops as the Apaches were firing down upon them from above. Terrified horses, riderless, or unmanageable from pain or fright, added to the confusion wrought by the unexpected attack. Courageous as they might be the Mexicans had no chance, and that their officers realized this at the first volley was apparent by the effort they made to extricate as large a part of their force from the trap as was humanly possible.

With six or eight troopers the commander opened fire on the hidden foe, aiming at the spurts of smoke that alone revealed the position of the Indians, and thus reduced their fire while the bulk of his command turned and raced for the mouth of the canyon, where the braves that Geronimo had placed advantageously against this very emergency fired down upon them from both sides of the rim of the canyon’s lower end.

Like sheep they went to the slaughter, only a few escaping, while the handful that had remained to offer their fellows this meager chance for life were wiped out to the last man.

Shoz-Dijiji, slipping away from the camp, had sneaked to a vantage point from which he might witness the battle, and as he watched his heart filled with pride at realization of the superior generalship and strategy of his savage sire. His blood leaped to the excitement of the moment and his brown fingers itched to draw the bow against the enemy.

He saw the rout of the Mexicans and he joined the rush of yelling, whooping braves that swarmed down the sides of the canyon to dispatch the wounded and loot the dead. In his path a wounded Mexican raised himself upon one elbow and Shoz-Dijiji shot him through the throat. As the trooper sank to earth again the lad drew his hunting knife and scalped him, and his eyes blazed with the deep fire of what was almost religious exaltation as he consummated this act in the Apaches’ sacred drama—war.

All about him the warriors were torturing the living and mutilating the dead and Shoz-Dijiji watched, interested; but he did not follow their examples in these things. Why he did not, he could not have told. He felt neither pity nor compassion, for he had been taught neither one nor the other by precept or example. Deep within him, perhaps, there was forming, nebulously, the conviction that in after years guided him in such matters, that it added nothing to the luster of a warrior’s fame to have the blood of the defenseless upon his weapons.

He could kill with savage delight, but he took no joy in the sufferings of his victims; and in this respect he was not the only exception among his fellows to the general rule that all Apaches took delight in inflicting diabolical sufferings upon the helpless. This was not the first time that he had seen Mexican soldiers fight, and having found them fearless and worthy foes he had conceived for them that respect which every honorable fighting man feels for a brave antagonist. To have killed one, then, was a high honor and Shoz-Dijiji was filled with justifiable pride as he viewed the dripping trophy of his prowess.

Geronimo, blood-spattered, grim, terrible, saw him and smiled, and passed on to send a small party after the retreating Mexicans who had escaped, that he might be assured that there was not a larger party of the enemy to the south, or that the others did not turn back to seek revenge.

The grim aftermath of an Apache victory completed, the victorious warriors, laden with loot and bearing a few scalps, returned, exulting, boasting, to the camp, where the women and children greeted them with shrill cries of praise.

That night there was feasting and dancing—the scalp dance—and the loot was divided.

The following day four of the tribes withdrew to separate camps short distances apart, leaving only the Be-don-ko-he and the Cho-kon-en in the main camp, and there they waited until the trailers had returned and reported that the Mexicans had crossed the border in retreat; then they scattered to their own hunting grounds.

Cochise was yet very ill and so Geronimo held his tribe with the Cho-kon-en, for to him the old war chief was as a second father. He exhorted Nakay-do-klunni and Nan-ta-do-tash, the medicine men, to exert their utmost powers in behalf of the old warrior; but though they made their best medicine Cochise grew weaker day by day. And then one day he called Geronimo to him where he lay in his rude shelter upon blankets and furs.

“My son,” said the old chief, “the spirits of the white men that he has killed are clamoring for the life of Cochise. Nakay-do-klunni and Nan-ta-do-tash cannot make medicine strong enough to drive away the spirits of the white-eyes.

“Send then for all the great chiefs of the Apaches. Tell them to come and help Nakay-do-klunni and Nan-ta-dc-tash frighten away the spirits of the pindah lickoyee, for they fear our war chiefs more than they do our izze-nantan. Go, Geronimo, or Cochise will surely die.”

And so Geronimo sent runners to the four tribes, summoning Nanay and Victorio and Loco, Hash-ka-ai-la, Co-si-to and Juh; and they all came and with Geronimo and the warriors of the Be-don-ko-he and the Cho-kon-en they sat before the wigwam of Cochise and while some beat upon hides stretched over sticks they all chanted songs that would fill the spirits of the white-eyed men with fear and drive them from the body of their war chief.

They sat in a circle about a large fire beside which lay Cochise. Nakay-do-klunni and Nan-ta-do-tash, wearing the sacred izze-kloth and elaborate medicine headdress, danced in a circle about the sick man and the fire. The bodies of the izze-nantans were painted a greenish brown and upon each arm was a yellow snake with the heads toward the shoulder blades.

Upon the breast of Nakay-do-klunni was painted a yellow bear and on his back were zig-zag lines denoting lightning, while Nan-ta-do-tash had lightning upon both back and breast. Dancing, bending low to right and left, forward and back, spinning first in a circle upon the left foot and then around again in the opposite direction upon the right, they voiced a weird whistling sound. Now Nan-ta-do-tash advanced toward Cochise and sprinkled hoddentin upon his arms and legs in the form of a cross and as he backed away to resume the dancing Nakay-do-klunni took his place beside the dying chieftain and made similarly the mystic symbol upon his head and breast.

For six weeks Cochise lay ill and for nearly all of this time the warriors and medicine men, working in relays and assisted by the women and the children, sought continuously by day and by night to frighten away the malevolent spirits by incantation and by noise.

Shoz-Dijiji added his bit, for he was fond of Cochise in whom he had always found an understanding as well as a powerful friend. Genuine was the sorrow of the lad in the sickness of his friend, and often he went alone into the mountains and prayed to Usen, asking him to let Cochise live; but not all the big medicine of the greatest of living izze-nantans, or even the love of a little boy could avail, and so it was that early in June, 1874, Cochise, the war chief of all the Apaches, went out upon the long, last trail.

All that night there was wailing and chanting and the beating of drums and early in the morning Geronimo and Victorio who had closed the dead chief’s eyes after he had died, came and painted his face afresh as for the war trail. They dressed him in his best buckskin shirt and moccasins and wrapped him in his finest blanket, while outside the rude shelter the tribes gathered to do honor for the last time to a wise and courageous leader.

The warriors and the women were arrayed in their finest: fringed buckskin and silver and bead work; heavy earrings of turquoise and silver; necklaces of glass beads, berries and turquoise, some of them a yard long, fell, a dozen or more perhaps, over a single deep, savage chest. The chiefs and the izze-nantans wore gorgeous war bonnets or medicine headdresses and each grim face was made more terrible by the pigments of the warpath. And always there was the wailing and the sound of the es-a-da-ded.

Apart from the others sat a boy, dry-eyed and silent, sorrowing for the loss of a kindly, gentle friend. In the mind of Shoz-Dijiji, who could not recall the time when he had not known the great chief, the name of Cochise suggested naught but courage, wisdom, honor and loyalty. Shocked and angry would he have been could he have sensed the horror that that grim name aroused in the breasts of the pindah lickoyee.

Three warriors came, each leading one of Cochise’s best ponies, and two stalwart braves raised the dead chieftan and lifted him astride that one which had been his favorite, in front of Chief Loco, who held the corpse in an upright position.

They bore his arms before him as they started for the grave, the procession led by four great chiefs, Geronimo, Victorio, Nanay and Juh, with the balance of his people trailing behind the two ponies that were led directly in rear of the dead chief.

Juh, glancing back, saw a lad fall into the procession directly behind the last pony and a fierce scowl made more terrible his ugly, painted face. He halted the funeral cortege and the other chiefs turned and looked at him questioningly.

“Only those of the blood of the Shis-Inday may follow a great chief to his last resting place,” he announced. The others grunted acknowledgment of the truth of that statement. “Shoz-Dijiji, the son of a white-eyed man, follows the war ponies of Cochise,” said Juh, angrily. “Send him away!”

The inscrutable blue eyes of Geronimo regarded the chief of the Ned-ni, but he did not speak. His hand moved to the hilt of his knife, that was all.

“Cochise himself proclaimed the boy an Apache,” said Nanay. “That is enough.”

“Let the boy come to the grave of his friend,” said Victorio. “Cochise loved him. He is, too, as good an Apache as you or I. Did he not warn the tribes and save them from the Mexicans. With my own eyes I, Victorio, saw him slay and scalp. Let him come!”

“Let him come!” said Nanay.

“He is coming,” announced Geronimo as he resumed the march toward the grave.

With a scowl Juh fell in behind the chief of the Be-don-ko-he and the procession took up again its winding way along the trail toward the burial place, the mourners chanting in wailing tones the deeds of valor of the dead chief as they bore him into the mountain fastness.

For twelve miles they marched until they came to a new-made grave, hill-hidden from the eyes of foemen. It was a large grave with its sides walled up with stone to a height of three feet. Upon its floor they laid thick blankets and upon these they laid Cochise, wrapped in his two finest; beside him they placed his weapons and his most cherished belongings; across his breast was his izze-kloth, or sacred medicine cord, and inside his buckskin shirt they tucked an amulet, a tzi-daltai, made of lightning riven wood, carved and painted by the chief himself and blessed by a great izze-nantan.

Then across the grave they laid poles of mescal, resting upon the stone walls, and over these they placed blankets to keep the dirt which they now shoveled in from falling upon the corpse. Mixed with the dirt were many stones, that the coyotes might not disturb the chief’s last sleep.

During the last rites the wailing of the mourners rose and fell, merging with the drums and the chants and cries of the medicine men; and then his three ponies were led away to the northwest in the direction of the Grand Canyon three hundred miles away. At two hundred yards one of them was shot, and another a mile from the grave and the third, the favorite war pony of the dead chief, still another mile farther on, that he might be well mounted on his way to the Spirit Land.

Sorrowfully the tribes turned back toward camp, where the blood relatives of Cochise destroyed all their belongings and the tribe all its provisions, so that for forty-eight hours thereafter they were without food, for such is the custom of the Apaches.

Cochise, war chief of all the Apaches, was dead. Cochise, war chief of all the Apaches, was yah-ik-tee.

The War Chief - Contents    |     Chapter IV - The New War Chief

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