The War Chief

Chapter VII


Edgar Rice Burroughs

ONE DAY as Shoz-Dijiji squatted beside Geronimo listening to the great chief’s tales of the war trail a runner came and stopped before them.

“Geronimo,” he said, “I am sent by the officers of the white soldiers. They want you to come to their camp. They have sent a runner to Victorio also, and he is coming.”

“What do the chiefs of the white soldiers want of Geronimo and Victorio?” demanded the chief.

“I do not know,” replied the runner.

“Perhaps they are calling a council,’, suggested Geronimo.

“Perhaps,” replied the runner, an Apache scout in the service of the government.

“Tell them Geronimo will come,” said the chief, and the scout turned and trotted away, disappearing among the trees below the camp.

“Fetch my pony, Shoz-Dijiji,” said Geronimo.

“And mine?” asked the youth.

Geronimo smiled and grunted an affirmative and the lad was gone after the two ponies. When he returned Gerommo was ready and together they rode down the mountainside in the direction of the little town near which the soldiers were camped.

Early the following morning they saw a small band of Indians moving in the same direction as were they, and evidently toward the camp of the white soldiers which lay beside the village of Hot Springs which they could already see in the distance.

“Victorio,” grunted Geronimo, nodding his head.

Shoz-Dijiji nodded. However the two approached the other party, as their trails converged, with careful wariness, and it was not until they had actually recognized individual members of the band and been recognized in turn that they finally joined them.

The two chiefs rode together, exchanging occasional monosyllables, but for the greater part of the time in silence. Shoz-Dijiji took the station befitting a youth among warriors and rode in the rear and the dust. At the edge of town the party was met by soldiers, two companies of scouts, and before Geronimo or Victorio could realize their intentions the party was surrounded, disarmed and arrested. Surprised, chagrined and angry the Apaches were conducted to military headquarters, and for the first time Shoz-Dijiji came into close contact with the pindah lickoyee.

Closely surrounded by armed soldiers the Apaches were herded into a tent where several officers were seated behind two camp tables. Ignoring his guards Geronimo strode forward and faced the officers across the tables.

“Why have the soldiers done this to Geronimo and his friends?” he demanded. “You sent for Geronimo as a friend and he came as a friend. Is this the way to treat a friend?”

The senior officer turned to a Mexican standing near him. “What does he say?” he demanded.

The Mexican, in turn, addressed a half-breed squatting at his side. “What does he say?” he asked in Spanish. The half-breed translated Geronimo’s words into Spanish and the Mexican translated them into English for the senior officer.

“Tell him it is because he left Apache Pass without permission,” replied the officer. “Ask him why he did this,” and again the Mexican translated the officer’s words into Spanish and the half-breed translated them from Spanish to Apache. Thus the entire proceedings were carried out Perhaps the translations were accurate—perhaps not. At any rate the principals in the matter did not know.

Geronimo mused over the question before he replied. Then he addressed himself directly to the senior officer, ignoring the interpreters. “I do not think that I ever belonged to those soldiers at Apache Pass,” he said, “or that I should have asked them where I might go. This is my country. I have lived here all my life. It is the country that Usen gave to the Apaches when he created them. It has always belonged to us. Why should we ask the soldiers of the white-eyes for permission to go from one part of our own country to another part?

“We have tried to live in peace with the white-eyes. We even tried to stay at Apache Pass when they asked us to do so; but the white-eyes do not know the ways of the Apaches as do the chiefs of the Apaches. They did not know what they asked. The six tribes of the Apaches cannot all live together in peace. The young men quarrel. This we knew would happen, yet we tried to live together because we were told that it was the wish of the Great White Chief.

“Some of the young men got drunk on whiskey that was sold to them by a white-eyed man. They fought and some were killed. We, who are the chiefs of our people, we, who are responsible for their welfare and happiness, held a council and there we all agreed that the tribes could no longer live in peace together.

“The Chi-hen-ne and Be-don-ko-he have always been friendly and so Victorio and I quietly withdrew together with our people. We did not think this was wrong. Our hearts were not wrong. That is all. Geronimo has spoken. Now let us return to our homes.”

The officer questioned Victorio and several other Indians. He asked about each one present and Shoz-Dijiji heard himself mentioned, heard the half-breed say that he was but a youth and not yet a warrior, for Shoz-Dijiji understood some Spanish. Now he realized that it would be advantageous to understand the language of the pindah lickoyee as well.

The proceedings did not last long. The officers issued some orders to the soldiers and the Apaches were herded from the tent. Geronimo and seven other Apaches were taken to the guardhouse and placed in chains. Victorio and the others, including Shoz-Dijiji, were released; but the youth did not wish to leave his father. With that mixture of timidity and courage which often marks the actions of creatures of the wild in the presence of white men, Shoz-Dijiji, keeping at a distance, followed Geronimo to the guardhouse.

He saw the Indians disappear within, he saw the door closed. He wondered what they were going to do with his father and his friends, these white-eyed men whose actions he could no more understand than he could their language. He crept to a window and looked in. His pupils dilated with horror at the thing he saw; they were placing great chains upon Geronimo, upon the chief of the Be-don-ko-he, upon the war chief of all the Apaches, and fastening him to the wall like a wild beast.

Shoz-Dijiji shuddered. The humiliation of it! And the hideous injustice. Savage that he was, Shoz-Dijiji sensed keenly and felt acutely the injustice, for he knew that Geronimo did not know why he was being punished. He knew that the soldiers had said that it was because he had left Apache Pass, but to Shoz-Dijiji as well as to Geronimo, that was worse than no reason at all since they both knew that it had been the right thing to do.

Shoz-Dijiji, through the window, heard Geronimo ask the soldiers why he was being chained in the guardhouse; but they did not understand him. One, who was quite a joker, mimicked the old war chief, making the other soldiers laugh, thus demonstrating beyond cavil the natural superiority of the white race over these untutored children of the wild who sat now in majestic silence, their immobile faces giving no hint of the thoughts that passed within their savage brains, or the sorrows within their hearts.

Doubtless, had their positions been reversed, the Apaches would have tortured the soldiers; but it is a question as to whether they could have inflicted upon the white men any suffering more real, more terrible, than are imprisonment and ridicule to an Indian.

As Shoz-Dijiji watched through the guardhouse window, his whole being was so occupied by the numbing terror of what he saw within that he did not hear the approach of a white soldier from his rear, nor was he conscious of any other presence about him until a heavy hand was laid upon his shoulder and he was wheeled roughly about.

“What the hell are you doing here, you dirty Siwash?” demanded the trooper, and at the same time he gave Shoz-Dijiji a shove that sent him sprawling in the dust.

Shoz-Dijiji did not understand the white man’s words. He did not understand why he had been attacked. All he knew was that, his heart filled with sorrow, he had been watching the humiliation of his father; but as he arose slowly from the dust he became conscious of a new force within him that crowded sorrow into the background—a deep, implacable hatred of the pindah lickoyee. Through level eyes, his face an imperturbable mask, he looked at the white soldier and saw that he was heavily armed. About the guardhouse were other armed soldiers. Shoz-Dijiji turned and walked away. Apache-like he bided his time.


In the camp of his people Shoz-Dijiji took up again his accustomed life, but he was not the same. The last vestige of youth had fallen from him. Quiet, serious, even morose he was, and more and more often did he spend nights and days upon end in the high places, praying and making big medicine, that he might be strong against the enemies of his people.

He talked with Gian-nah-tah about the wrongs that the pindah lickoyee would inflict upon the Shis-Inday. He visited Victorio and talked much with that savage, terrible old warrior, for Shoz-Dijiji wanted to know “why.” No one seemed to be able to enlighten him. Usen had made this country for the Apaches, of that they were all quite sure; but why Usen had sent the white-eyes, no one could tell him. Victorio thought that Usen had nothing to do with it; but that some bad spirits who hated Usen were really responsible.

“The bad spirits have sent the white-eyed men to kill the Apaches,” he explained, “so that Usen will have no one to guard him. Then they will be able to kill Usen.”

“Then we should kill the enemies of Usen,” said Shoz-Dijiji.

“It is right to kill them,” said Victono. “Do they not kill us?”

Shoz-Dijiji knew that they did. He knew that when he was hunting, deep in his own country, he had ever to keep an alert eye open for wandering white men—hunters, prospectors, cowboys, soldiers—scarce one of whom but would shoot him first and inquire into his friendliness afterward, if at all.

In primitive places news travels with a celerity little short of miraculous. Thus it was that the day that Geronimo was transferred to the guardhouse at San Carlos the fact was known to the Be-don-ko-he in their hidden camp, deep in inaccessible mountains. Shoz-Dijiji spoke to Morning Star, wife of Geronimo, the only mother he had ever known.

“Sons-ee-ah-ray,” he said, “I, Shoz-Dijiji, go to be near my father, Geronimo. The hearts of the pindah lickoyee are bad. Perhaps they have taken him away to kill him.”

“Go!” said Morning Star. “If the pindah lickoyee harm Geronimo return quickly and bring the word. Then, if the hearts of the Apache braves have not turned to water, they will go upon the war trail and drive the white-eyed men from the land of the Shis-Inday forever. If they do not, then the squaws will spit upon them and take their weapons from them and go upon the war trail in their places.”

So Shoz-Dijiji set out alone and afoot for the fort at San Carlos. Deep in his heart was a purpose that he had not confided to Morning Star or to any other, not even to Ish-kay-nay when he had bid her farewell. In the high places Shoz-Dijiji had had much opportunity for thought and for reflection, and more and more during those solitary hours among the silent rocks and the murmuring pines there had been borne into his consciousness a realization of the fact that he had first vaguely comprehended at the trial of Geronimo at Hot Springs, that his people were handicapped in their struggle against the white-eyed oppressor by their inability to understand his language.

Shoz-Dijiji had recalled the night that he had lain close beside the parked wagon train of the Mexican freighters and overheard their plans for the ensuing days, and because he knew their language it had been possible for his people to profit by what he heard. How great might be his advantage upon similar occasions in the conflict with the whites, if he understood their tongue, he thoroughly realized. Imbued with this thought as well as a desire to be near his father and learn more of what the whites intended for Geronimo, the youth made his lonely way toward San Carlos.

With a handful of parched corn, a few strips of jerked venison and a primitive water bottle of horse gut, he trotted silently along his untracked way. Always alert for signs of the enemy, no sound escaped his trained ears; no broken twig, no down-pressed bunch of grass, no turned stone escaped his watchful eyes; and all that he saw he read as quickly and as accurately as we read the printed page; but with this difference, possibly—Shoz-Dijiji understood what he read.

Here he saw where klij-litzogue, the yellow snake, had passed through the dust of the way an hour before; there was the spoor of shoz-lickoyee; and in the bottom of a parched canyon he saw signs of the pindah lickoyee. Two days before a white man had ridden down this canyon toward the plain upon the back of a mare with a white right hind foot and a black tail. All this Shoz-Dijiji read quickly from a spoor so faint that you or I would not have noticed it at all. But then, it was Shoz-Dijiji’s business to know, as it is our business to know that if we ignore certain traffic signals at a crowded corner we may land in the receiving hospital.

On the second day Shoz-Dijiji crept to the summit of a low divide and looked down upon the frontier post of San Carlos, upon the straw-thatched buildings of adobe brick, upon the winding Gila and upon the straggling villages of the reservation Indians, and that night he slipped silently down among the shadows and merged with his people. There were many tribes there, but among them were Apaches whom Shoz-Dijiji knew, and these he sought, seeking word of Geronimo first. They told him that the chief was still chained in a guardhouse, but that he was well. What the white-eyes intended doing with him they did not know.

Shoz-Dijiji asked many questions and learned many things that night. With the braves he laughed at the white fools who fed the Apaches between raids while the blood of other white men was scarce dry upon them, and, who, while feeding them, sought to cheat them out of the bulk of the rations the Great White Chief had sent them; thus increasing their contempt for the whites, arousing their anger against them, and spurring them on to further outbreaks.

“Our women and our children are hungry,” complained an old warrior, “and yet they will neither give us passes to go out on the hunting trail or issue us sufficient rations to sustain us. We see the agent growing rich and fat upon the money that should buy us beef. We see our war chief and our friends chained in prison. To make us content they wish to give us shovels and hoes and make us do the work of squaws. They wish us to go to school and learn the strange language of the white-eyes.

“We are men, we are warriors; it is not fit that men and warriors should do these things. It is our land, not theirs. Usen gave it to us and he gave the white-eyes other lands. Why do they not stay in the land that Usen gave them, as we have? We do not want them here.”

Shoz-Dijiji heard a great deal of such talk, for the Indians, discontented, aired their grievances freely among themselves. They talked of little else, and the young bucks spoke continually of war. These matters did not, however, greatly excite Shoz-Dijiji. He knew that when the time came there would be war. There always was. What interested him more was the statement of the old warrior that the white-eyed men wished his people to learn their language. He spoke often upon this subject, asking many questions.

“You wish to learn the language of the pindah lickoyee?” demanded a scarred warrior who talked the loudest and the longest about war.

“Yes,” admitted Shoz-Dijiji.

“That is labor,” sneered the warrior. “The men of the Apaches do not labor. You should have been a squaw.”

“The men of the Apaches make their own weapons wherewith to fight the enemies of their people, do they not?” inquired Shoz-Dijiji.

“That is the work of men, of warriors,” exclaimed the other.

“The language of the white-eyes can be turned into a weapon against them if we understand it,” said the youth. “Now they use it against us. That I saw at Hot Springs when Geronimo and the other warriors were made prisoners. It was all done with the talk of the white-eyes; no other weapon did they use. Had I known how to use that weapon—had Geronimo, or any other of us known—we might have defeated them, for we had the right upon our side.”

“Shoz-Dijiji makes good talk,” said an old man. “At the post they have a school where they wish us to send our children and to come ourselves to learn their language. There are but three children in this school and they are all orphans. If they had had parents they would not have been permitted to go. The pindah lickoyee will be glad to have you come.”

And so it was that Black Bear attended the school of the pindah lickoyee and learned their strange language. He stayed and worked in the school after the class was dismissed that he might ask questions of the teacher and learn more rapidly. His teacher, the wife of an officer, pointed to him with pride and told her friends that the example set by Black Bear would probably do more toward pacifying and civilizing the Apaches than all the soldiers in the United States Army could accomplish.

“If they understand us they will learn to respect and love us,” she said; “and they cannot understand us until they understand our language.”

And to his people Shoz-Dijiji said: “The pindah lickoyee are fools and their tongue is the tongue of fools; but it is well to know it. Already I have learned things about them that otherwise I could never have known, and when I take the war trail against them as a man there will be no arrow in my quiver with which I can inflict more harm upon them than with this—my knowledge of their language.”

For three months Shoz-Dijiji attended school regularly, studied diligently, learned quickly. His teacher was transported into raptures whenever she had occasion to mention him in the presence of her friends, and that was often, as the topics of conversation at a frontier army post are meager at the best. Her husband was skeptical, as were all of the older officers.

“He’s an Indian,” they said, “and the only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

Thus understandingly, sympathetically, has the Indian question been approached by many army men, and by practically all of the civilians of the frontiers. To have said: “He is an Indian. He stands in the way of our acquisition of his valuable possessions. Therefore, having no power to enforce his rights and being in our way, we will destroy him,” would have been no more ruthless than the policy we adopted and cloaked with hypocrisy. It would have had the redeeming quality of honesty, and would have been a policy that the Apaches could have understood and admired.

One morning Shoz-Dijiji did not come to school. He never came again. His teacher made diligent inquiry which always ended against the dead wall of an Indian, “No savvy.” She did not connect Black Bear’s disappearance with the release of Geronimo from the guardhouse the previous afternoon, because she did not know that Black Bear was Geronimo’s son.

She knew nothing about Black Bear. From her he had learned all that he sought to learn; from him she had learned nothing; for which there is just one good and sufficient reason—Black Bear was an Apache. Of all the great Indian tribes that have roamed North America none has been in contact with white men longer than the Apache, and of none is there less known.

Ugly, morose, vengeful, Geronimo came back to his people, and that same night they slipped away toward the south. Every member of the tribe was mounted and their meager belongings, their store of provisions, were packed upon the backs of spare ponies.

Shoz-Dijiji was happy. The three months spent at San Carlos under the petty restrictions of a semi-military regime had seemed an eternity of bondage to his free, wild nature. Now again he could breathe, out in the open where there were no fences, no walls, as far as the eye could reach, and the air was untainted by the odor of white men.

He looked up at the moon-silvered mountains and out across the dim, mysterious distance of the plain. He heard the old, familiar voices of the night, and her perfumes were sweet in his nostrils. He drank deep of it, filling his lungs. He wanted to leap into the air and dance and shout; but he only sat stolidly astride his pony, his face reflecting nothing of all that filled his heart.

Travelling by night, hiding by day, Geronimo led his people to a hidden valley, deep in the mountains, far from the trails and settlements of the pindah lickoyee. There they lived in peace and security for a long time, making occasional journeys into Mexico to trade, or to neighboring Indian tribes for the same purpose.

Shoz-Dijiji grew taller, stronger. Few warriors of the Be-don-ko-he could hurl a lance as far as he, and none could send an arrow with greater accuracy to its goal; he could out-run and out-jump them all, and his horsemanship brought a gleam of pride to the cruel, blue eyes of Geronimo.

The long period of peace broke down the discipline of the tribe and even astute old Geronimo nodded. An individualist in the extreme sense of the word, an Apache takes orders from no one except as it suits him to do so. Their chiefs are counsellors; they may not command. Only the war chiefs in time of battle or upon the war trail are vouchsafed anything approaching absolute authority. It is the ambition of every youth to become a warrior so that he may do whatever he wishes to do, without let or hindrance.

Thus lived the tribe in the dangerous insecurity and laxity of peace. No longer did the keen eyes of scouts watch the trails leading away into the lands of their enemies. For days at a time the ponies pastured without a guard.

It was upon such a day, following a successful hunt, that the warriors were dozing about the camp. Gian-nah-tah and Shoz-Dijiji, tiring of the monotony, had wandered away into the hills. They were moving quietly along, seeing everything, hearing everything, when the son of Geronimo stopped suddenly and raised his hand. Like a golden bronze by a master hand they stood motionless and silent. Faintly from afar came the rolling of distant thunder, scarcely heard. But Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah knew that it was not thunder. Just for an instant they stood there listening and then both dropped almost simultaneously to the ground, pressing ears against the turf.

Shoz-Dijiji was the first to leap to his feet. “Return to camp, Gian-nah-tah,” he said, and tell Geronimo what we have heard.”

“What is it, Shoz-Dijiji? asked the other.

“The herd has been stampeded. They are running away from camp—south, toward Chihuahua. Only enemies would run it off. Tell Geronimo that the Mexicans have raided us.”

Gian-nah-tah wheeled about and raced down the mountainside, while Shoz-Dijiji clambered straight up toward a lofty point that would afford him a wide view of the country toward the south. His ear had told him that the ponies were running wildly; therefore they must be frightened. Nothing in these hills could so frighten those ponies as could mounted men urging them rapidly from the rear—that Shoz-Dijiji knew. The diminishing volume of the sound had told him that the ponies were moving away from him, toward the south. The rest was, of course, but shrewd inference.

From the summit he sought he could see nothing but a cloud of dust receding down a canyon, and so he moved on after the retreating herd. For three hours he followed without catching a glimpse of ponies or thieves until he came out into the foothills and overlooked the plain beyond. Far out toward the south he saw just what he had expected to see, all the ponies and mules of the Be-don-ko-he. Driving them was a detachment of Mexican troopers and in their rear rode the balance of the company.

To follow was useless. He turned and trotted back toward camp. Halfway up the canyon he met Geronimo and some twenty braves already on the trail. Gian-nah-tah was with them. Shoz-Dijiji told Geronimo what he had seen, and when the party resumed the pursuit, not being forbidden, he fell in behind with Gian-nah-tah.

“Two more battles and we shall be warriors,” whispered Shoz-Dijiji.

Far behind the mounted troopers, dogged, determined, trailed the twenty—grim and terrible.

The War Chief - Contents    |     Chapter VIII - Vacqueros and Warriors

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