The War Chief

Chapter IX


Edgar Rice Burroughs

THERE WAS rejoicing in the camp of the Be-don-ko-he when the war party returned with its spoil. Victorio and Juh were there with a hunting party of Chi-hen-ne and Ned-ni and they joined in the jubilation, the feasting and the drinking and in the council of the warriors that was held in the open, the braves sitting in a circle about a small fire while Geronimo, eloquent with tizwin, narrated the exploits of his party, his style fettered by no embarrassing restraint of modesty.

To Shoz-Dijiji he gave full credit for the stealing of the horses of the Mexicans, pointing out that while no fight ensued this exploit was fully as much to the youth’s credit as any engagement with arms, since it required craft, cunning and bravery of a high order. He expatiated upon Shoz-Dijiji’s strength and courage in his duel with the mounted vaquero, and in his peroration called upon the council to vote Shoz-Dijiji’s admission to the warrior class.

When he had sat down others arose and spoke of the valor of the candidate, of his prowess upon the war trail, his skill and tirelessness in the chase, of his exemplary conduct during his novitiate. Victorio spoke for him and many another noted warrior, and then Juh arose, sullen, scowling.

“Chiefs and warriors of the Shis-Inday,” he said, “a warrior is known not alone by the things that he does but by those that he fails to do. The names of Delgadito, Mangas Colorado, Cochise, Victorio, Geronimo and Juh strike terror to the hearts of their foes.

“The enemy is filled with fear and ready to retreat at the mention of these names. Why? Because all these warriors made death or capture so horrible that the hearts of all their enemies turn to water before a weapon is raised in combat. Upon this fact more than upon their bravery and skill rests their great value to the Shis-Inday.

“One who is afraid to torture is a coward and unfitted to be a warrior. Such is Shoz-Dijiji. His heart is as soft as a woman’s breast. To most of us Shoz-Dijiji is known best by his continued refusal to torture. Even as a child he joined not with the other children in torturing the birds and animals which they snared, and never once upon the war trail has he inflicted pain upon a wounded or prisoner enemy. I, Juh, will not vote to make Shoz-Dijiji a warrior.”

After he had resumed his seat there was silence around the council fire for several minutes. Then Geronimo arose. In his heart was murder, but in his cruel features, schooled to obey his will, there was no hint of it.

“Juh, Chief of the Ned-ni, knows that a single voice raised against Shoz-Dijiji now will prevent him from being admitted to the warrior class until he has undergone another trial upon the war trail. Geronimo knows that the words of Juh are not prompted by loyalty to the Shis-Inday as much as they are by hatred of Shoz-Dijiji. This is not the act of a brave warrior or a great chief. Such things bring strife among the Shis-Inday. Does Juh wish to change his words before it is too late?”

The chief of the Ned-ni sprang to his feet. “Juh has spoken,” he cried. “Juh does not change his words. Let Shoz-Dijiji change his ways to the ways of a warrior and Juh will, perhaps, speak differently at another council.”

“The laws of the Shis-Inday were made by Usen,” said Geronimo, “and they may not be lightly changed. The words have been spoken and not recalled. Shoz-Dijiji must go again upon the war trail and prove himself once again fit to become a warrior. I, Geronimo, war chief of the Apaches say these words. He sat down.”

However keen the disappointment of Shoz-Dijiji when he was told of the action of the council, he received the information with the stolid indifference of an Indian, though within his breast the fires of his hatred for Juh burned with renewed fury. Ish-kay-nay, understanding, spoke words of praise and comfort, and Gian-rah-tah applied vile, obscene Apache epithets to the great chief Juh-when he was sure that no Ned-ni might overhear him.

Ish-kay-ray had a suggestion to make. “Upon the next raid, Shoz-Dijiji,” she advised, “do not kill. Torture the living, mutilate the dead. Show them that your heart is strong.”

“Never!” exclaimed Shoz-Dijiji. “If for no other reason, because Juh wishes me to, I will not do it.”

“Why do you not torture?” asked Ish-kay-nay. “You are brave—everyone knows that—so it cannot be that you are afraid.”

“I see no sense in it,” replied the young brave. “It gives me no pleasure.” He paused. “Isb-kay-nay, l cannot explain why it is and I have never told any one before, but when I see warriors torturing the helpless wounded and the defenseless prisoner, mutilating dead men who have fought bravely, something comes into my heart which is not pride of my people. I am ashamed, Ish-kay-nay, of even my own father, Geronimo.

“I do not know why. I only know that I speak true words without understanding them. I know that I am no coward; but I should not be so sure of that had I plunged a red hot king bolt into a screaming white woman, as I have seen Juh do, and laughed at her agonies of death.”

“If you feel pity for the enemy you are weak,” said Ish-kay-nay, sternly.

“I do not feel pity,” replied Shoz-Dijiji. “I care not how much they suffer. I only know that it gives me no pleasure to watch them and that I do not think that it shows bravery to raise a weapon against any creature which cannot inflict harm upon you in return, except in the chase, where any man may kill for food.”

“Perhaps Shoz-Dijiji is right,” said Ish-kay-nay “I had never thought of it in this way before.”

“I know I am right, and I shall not torture if I never become a warrior!”

But he had not a great while to wait before his chance came. Living, as the Apache did, in constant danger of attack by the soldiers of two civilized powers as well as by raiding parties of hostile Indian tribes, he found it expedient, in the interest of survival, to maintain constant, unflagging watchfulness. To this end Geronimo, however safely he might consider his village hidden, kept scouts almost constantly in the field.

To this duty, one in which he delighted, Shoz-Dijiji was often detailed. It sent him alone into the solitudes that he loved, to play in stern reality the games of his childhood. It kept him always hard and fit for the war trail—the ultimate hope and ambition of the warrior. It practiced him continually in the wood and plain craft in which he already excelled.

Sometimes, astride Nejeunee, he covered prodigious distances in a day, but oftener, on foot, he also covered prodigious distances. Forty, fifty, at times a hundred miles of barren land would unroll beneath his steady jog in a single day. His great lungs pushed out his giant chest. The muscles of his mighty legs might, it almost seemed, turn a bullet, so hard were they. He was a man now, by the standards of the Apache, except for the fact that he had not yet been admitted to the warrior class.

Among the Be-don-ko-he he was looked upon with respect and admiration, for they knew that it was only the hatred of Juh that prevented him from being a warrior. Upon the war trail and in the chase he had proved himself all that a warrior should be, and he carried himself with the restraint and dignity of a chief. Ish-kay-nay was very proud of him, for it was no secret in the tribe that when Shoz-Dijiji became a warrior his pony would be tied before her tepee, nor was there one who believed that she would wait the full four days before leading it to water and feeding it.

Afoot, fifty miles from camp, Shoz-Dijiji was scouting. A few miles ahead in the hills there was water and toward this he was making his way one mid-afternoon. A blistering sun poured down upon him, the superheated earth and rocks of the trail gave it back in searing intensity. The country he had crossed had been entirely waterless, and so it was that Shoz-Dijiji looked forward to the little spring hidden in these seemingly arid hills, a spring known only to his people, sacred to the Apaches.

Suddenly there was wafted to the Indian’s nostrils the faintest suggestion of an acrid odor and simultaneously he vanished from the landscape, so quickly did he react to this tenuous hint of danger. A greasewood hid him from the direction down which a barely moving current of air had wafted this certain indication of the presence of man. From straight ahead it came, from the direction in which he was going. Where there was smoke there was man and man would not be making a fire in this vicinity elsewhere than beside the water where Shoz-Dijiji was planning to quench his thirst.

From beneath the greasewood his keen eyes looked out toward the low hill behind which lay the water, and now he saw thin smoke arising. So little was the smoke that Shoz-Dijiji almost felt that it had been made by Indians, yet, too, he knew that near the water there was little wherewith to make a fire, and so, perchance, the pindah lickoyee, who ordinarily make great fires, foolishly, had been forced to make a small fire from want of fuel. Therefore he could not be sure whether Indians or whites were concealed behind that little hill. If they were the former, and Apaches, well and good, but if they were not, then they were enemies, for every man’s hand is against the Apache.

Shoz-Dijiji, with the patience that is only an Indian’s, lay silent, motionless for hours. As he lay he broke branches from the greasewood, which chanced to be an unusually large bush, until at last he had gathered enough to form quite a respectable screen. Then, having seen or heard no further signs of life from beyond the hill, he crawled forward a few inches, keeping the screen before him. Again he lay motionless for a while, watching, before he advanced a short distance.

This he kept up for a full hour, during which he had covered the distance to the foot of the hill and up its slope almost to the summit. Now he could hear voices, and they told him that he was approaching the camp of white men—three of them.

Shoz-Dijiji felt the heat of just anger surge through him. What right had these aliens at the water hole of the Shis-Inday? For a thousand thousand years had this spring been hidden away from the sight of man, just where Usen had placed it for the use of the six tribes. That three white-eyed men should camp beside it, quench their thirst, cook their food, sleep and move on, aroused, of itself, no resentment in the heart of Shoz-Dijiji; it was the foregone conclusion of the aftermath that caused his apprehension and his determination to prevent the natural sequences of this event.

He and his people had seen the pindah lickoyee “discover” their hidden springs and water holes many times before in the past. In ones or twos or threes the white-eyed men had stumbled upon these gifts of Usen to his people in the arid places, and presently a trail was beaten to them and many of the white-eyed ones came, and the birds and the game were frightened away. Often a fence was built around the water and a white man with bushy whiskers, and dirt in his ears, guarded it, a rifle in one hand, a bottle of whiskey in the other, making other white men pay for the water, keeping the Indians away from it entirely.

Warriors of the Be-don-ko-he, fathers of his playmates, had been shot by such men when they had sought to quench their thirst at springs from which they had drunk since childhood, and that their fathers had used before them beyond the memory of man. Such were the thoughts that filled the heart of Shoz-Dijiji as he crept toward the summit of the hill that hid the usurpers from his view.

At last his eyes looked down upon the scene beyond, burning pits of hate in which there lived no slightest spark of aught but loathing and contempt. The Comanche, the Navajo, the bear, the snake might awaken admiration in the breast of the Apache, but the white man, never!

He saw three bearded men sprawled upon the ground. One of them was frying bacon above a small fire. Two burros, thin, dejected, stood with drooping heads. A third was stretched upon the ground, exhausted. Their packs lay in disorder all about. The men appeared to be weak. Shoz-Dijiji read their story at a glance.

Lost in this waterless wasteland, they had found the spring by accident just in time to save themselves from death. He noted their sunken cheeks and eyes; he saw their feeble movements. But there was no answering pity in his heart. In his mind, however, there arose vividly the recollection of a white soldier wantonly hurling him to the ground, and of his words, the meaning of which he had learned at San Carlos: “What the hell are you doing here, you dirty Siwash?” A shudder ran through the frame of Shoz-Dijiji then, as it always did at recollection of the humiliation of that moment at Hot Springs.

He noted carefully every detail of the scene below him. He saw that the men, with scarce the strength to carry their own weight, had transferred everything to the packs of the burros, even including their rifles and revolvers, and these lay now at a little distance from them, entangled in the piles of carelessly down-thrown tools, bedding and provisions that go to make up the outfits of prospectors.

Shoz-Dijiji withdrew three arrows from his quiver and placed them between his fingers, he grasped his bow and arose to his full height. Silently, majestically he strode down toward the white men. He was almost upon them before he who was watching the bacon discovered him. The others had been lying with closed eyes. The white man gave a cry of alarm, that cry that had sent the chill of fear along countless white spines for three hundred years “Apaches!” and staggered weakly in an effort to reach his rifle.

“What the hell are you doing here, you dirty white-eyes?” demanded Shoz-Dijiji in English; but he did not wait for a reply—the soldier who had thrown him to the ground at Hot Springs had not and he had learned his technique from the white soldier. Instead, his bow string twanged and an iron-shod arrow pierced the heart of the prospector. The two remaining whites sprang to defend themselves, one seizing a hand axe, the other the hot frying pan, the only weapons within their reach. With swift rapidity two more arrows leaped from the mesquite bow.

With the hand axe Shoz-Dijiji made assurance of death doubly sure, then he scalped the three, selected from their persons and their packs everything that could prove of value to an Apache, packed the loot upon the two stronger burros, quenched his thirst and, leading the animals, moved on into the hills for about two miles. Here he cached in a small cave everything but a single rifle, a six-shooter and a belt of ammunition, which he appropriated to his own immediate use, turned the burros loose and started back toward the camp of his people, fifty miles away.

Travelling in the lesser heat of the night, taking short cuts across open valleys that he must avoid in the light of day, Shoz-Dijiji made rapid progress, arriving in camp about two o’clock the following morning, some eight hours after he had left his loot cached in the mountains.

When he awoke, well after midday, he exhibited his newly acquired arms, boasted of his exploit, and showed the three bloody scalps as proof of his prowess.

“I, myself, Shoz-Dijiji,” he said, “crept alone upon the camp of the pindah lickoyee. There were three of them, but Shoz-Dijiji knows not the word fear. In the broad light of chigo-na-ay he walked down into the camp of the white-eyes and slew them. He took much loot and hid it in a cave in the mountains. Here are the scalp locks of the white-eyed men. Here are the weapons of one of them.”

Geronimo grunted approvingly. Victorio fingered the rifle of the dead prospector enviously. Juh was not there. With his Ned-ni he had returned to his own country. To Shoz-Dijiji came an inspiration.

“There are two more rifles in the cave in the mountains,” he said; “one for Geronimo and one for Victorio, and there are presents for many braves and their women. If Geronimo speaks the words Shoz-Dijiji will return with ponies and fetch these things for his friends.”

Geronimo nodded. “Go,” he said, “and take Gian-nah-tah with you. He can help.” So that very night Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah set out upon their ponies with two led animals upon which to pack the loot; and Geronimo said to Victorio: “Shoz-Dijiji took the war trail and slew three of the enemies of his people. If he returns with loot he has proved that he is fit to be a warrior. We will hold a council and vote again.”

“Yes,” agreed Victorio, “if he returns with many presents we will make him a warrior. Juh is not here.”

Three days later Shoz-Dijiji and Gian-nah-tah returned. The former turned over all the loot, except one rifle, a revolver and ammunition for himself, to Geronimo to distribute, announcing that he was going that very night to the high places to pray to Usen, to make big medicine and to prepare himself to become a warrior. His words and manner carried a definite inference that he fully expected to be admitted to the council of warriors before he returned. Geronimo laid his hand upon the shoulder of his son and there were both pride and affection in the gesture.

“When Shoz-Dijiji returns from the high places,” he said, “he will be a warrior, or there will be a new chief of the Be-don-ko-he, for Geronimo will be dead.”

But Geronimo did not die, and when Shoz-Dijiji returned after two days of prayer he found himself a warrior. The first great ambition of his life was achieved and now the road lay clear to any heights to which he might aspire. He was his own master, free to go and come as inclination prompted.

He could take a squaw, or as many of them as he could afford. Though he had but three ponies, which were scarcely enough to compensate any fond father for the loss of the least attractive of daughters, he was in no way down-hearted. The girl of his choice would unquestionably command several times three ponies, but Shoz-Dijiji knew that he would win her and he was happy. He had no thought in his heart for any other mate. Ish-kay-nay would never have a rival in the affections of Shoz-Dijiji. Unquestionably he would take other squaws as the years passed, thus lightening the domestic burdens of Ish-kay-nay, since nothing less could be expected of an important and prosperous warrior who had a name and dignity to uphold. Ish-kay-nay would expect at least this much consideration, and she would be ashamed if he proved too poor a provider or too penurious a mate to support an establishment commensurate with the social standing of her family and his; but that would come later—at first they would be alone.

Shoz-Dijiji had not seen Ish-kay-nay alone for a long time, but tonight he found her and together they wandered into the forest and sat upon the bole of a fallen tree. He held one of her hands in his and putting an arm about her slim, young shoulders he drew her to him. “My father is very angry,” confided Ish-kay-nay.

“Why?” asked Shoz-Dijiji.

“Because I did not feed and water the pony of Juh, chief of the Ned-ni.”

“You do not love Juh,” stated Shoz-Dijiji emphatically.

“I love only Shoz-Dijiji,” whispered the girl, snuggling closer to the bronze chest. “But the father of Ish-kay-nay knowing that Juh is a powerful chief thinks that it would be best for him if his daughter belonged to Juh.

“He speaks often to me about it and he grows angry when I refuse. Juh came last time to our village to make talk to my father of this matter. My father talked to me, but still I would not listen. When he told him, Juh was very angry and said that he knew who I was waiting for, but that I would wait forever as he would see that Shoz-Dijiji never became a warrior.

“Of course such talk is foolish talk and my father knew it and that sooner or later you must become a warrior, for he is not blind to the fact that you are already mighty upon the war trail and a great hunter; but he sought to find another way to discourage Ish-kay-nay. He said that he would demand so many ponies from you that you would be an old man before you could gather them, and that unless I wanted a warrior before it was too late I had better let him send for Juh again.”

“I will get the ponies,” said Shoz-Dijiji.

“If you cannot, I will run away with you,” said Ish-kay-nay.

Shoz-Dijiji shook his head. “I do not have to run away with my squaw,” he said proudly. “I will take her before all men and give her father as many ponies as he demands.”

“If it takes a long time Ish-kay-nay will wait,” announced the girl, simply. Then, as though moved by a disturbing reflection, “But what if Ish-kay-nay waits so long that she is old and wrinkled? Then Shoz-Dijiji will not want her.”

The young brave laughed and pressed her closer. “Shoz-Dijiji will always want Ish-kay-nay,” he insisted, “even though she be as wrinkled and old as Tze-go-juni, the medicine woman of the Cho-kon-en; but Ish-kay-nay will not have to wait so long as that, for tomorrow morning she will find Nejeunee tied before her tepee.

“Poor Nejeunee! Always has he been fed and watered promptly when he was not running free upon the range. He will be sad when he sees chigo-na-ay rise and set four times while he stands thirsting for water and hungering for good grama grass.” He bent and looked quizzically into the girl’s face, half revealed by the rays of klego-na-ay filtering softly silver through the spreading branches of the pines.

Ish-kay-nay looked up and smiled. “Nejeu-nee shall be fed and watered at dawn,” she told him.

“No,” he said, “Ish-kay-nay must wait at least two days, lest the girls and the women make fun of her and think her immodest, or too anxious to have a warrior.”

The girl threw her head up haughtily. “No one will dare say that of Ish-kay-nay,” she cried fiercely. “Nor will anyone think it. Does not every one know that I can have Juh, or any of a dozen of the bravest warriors of the Be-don-ko-he, Cho-kon-en, the Ned-ni or the Chi-hen-ne? Is it any secret that Shoz-Dijiji loves me, or that I love Shoz-Dijiji? Such foolishness is for fools.”

“Ish-kay-nay will be the mother of war chiefs,” said Shoz- Dijiji proudly.

“And Shoz-Dijiji will be their father,” replied the girl.

The War Chief - Contents    |     Chapter X - Wichita Billings

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