Following the bed of the wash he came near sundown to a place where the mesquite grew thick upon the bank. Here he stopped and dug a hole down through the sand, into moisture, then deeper, making a small basin, into which water filtered very slowly. While the basin filled he occupied himself. Finding a stout mesquite stick he hunted about until he had discovered a pile of twigs and leaves and earth, heaped in seeming disorder among the stems of a large bush. With his stick he beat and belabored the pile. Frightened, hurt, several pack rats emerged, bewildered. These he struck with his club, collecting four; then he returned to the hole he had dug in the sand. Now it contained a cupful of water. With his drinking reed he drew the liquid into his mouth.
Rubbing two sticks together he made a tiny fire beneath the edge of the bank and cooked the pack rats. When he had eaten them there was more water in the basin and again he drank. Carefully he filled the hole that he had made, put out his fire and buried the ashes with the hides and remnants of his repast until there was no sign that an Apache had stopped here to eat and drink. As dusk turned to dark he struck off across the plain toward the purple mountains.
An hour before dawn he was skirting the village of Casas Grandes when he heard voices ahead of him, where no voices should have been at this hour of the night. Stealthily he crept forward to investigate, wormed his way to the top of a little rise of ground and looked down upon a camp of Mexican soldiers. All but the guard were sleeping. A noncommissioned officer was changing sentries and as each was relieved a few words were spoken—these were the voices that he had heard.
Shoz-Dijiji was not looking for Mexican soldiers. They were the last people in the world he cared to meet; and so he gave the camp a wide berth and continued toward the mountains. At dawn he laid up beneath a bush at the top of a low, rocky foothill and slept. Just before noon he was awakened by the thud of horses’ feet. Cautiously he peered through the branches of the bush in the direction from which the sound came and saw a patrol of Mexican cavalry riding toward the mountains.
There were three men in the patrol and they were riding directly toward the hill upon the summit of which he lay observing them. He could see from their actions that they did not suspect his presence and that they were following no trail. It was merely a patrol and there were doubtless others out in various directions; it was only chance that had placed him directly upon their post. They would make their circuit and they would return to camp, well pleased if they discovered nothing to delay them, for there were senoritas and a cantina in Casas Crandes and soldiers are soldiers the world over.
Shoz-Dijiji watched them coming. They were handsome men, almost as dark as he, and they sat their horses with an easy grace that bespoke their descent from long lines of vaqueros. The Apache almost had it in him to envy them their gay uniforms and their trappings, but he was too proud to accord them even his envy.. He knew that they were brave men and fierce men and that should they discover him, mounted as they were and armed with carabinas, there was a chance that he might never drive fifty ponies before the tepee of the father of Ish-kay-nay; that never again might he sit in the cool of the evening beneath the pines that pray, soft-voiced, to Usen, with Ish-kay-nay at his side.
Yes, they were coming directly up the hill! They would ride close beside the bush that hid him now, but would no longer hide him then. Behind him, up toward the great mountains, were other bushes and many rocks. Before they saw him he might run quickly and gain other cover. Perhaps, in this way, he might elude them entirely, letting them pass on upon their business before he resumed his way. Shoz-Dijiji was not looking for Mexican soldiers.
Bent double, running swiftly, keeping the bush he had quit always between himself and the enemy, the Black Bear scurried for new cover, and reached it. They had not seen him—yet. But still they were coming toward him. Again he raced for a new place of concealment, but this time he scarce believed himself that the Mexicans would be so blind as not to discover him, nor were they.
Their sudden shouts shattered the quiet of the noonday; a carabina barked and a bullet ricocheted from a great boulder just as Shoz-Dijiji leaped to shelter behind it.
Shoz-Dijiji whipped out his Colt and fired twice above the top of his rocky breastwork. A horse fell and the three Mexicans scattered for shelter—not because they were cowards, but because they were versed in the guerrilla warfare of their savage foe.
As they scattered, Shoz-Dijiji raced for new shelter, nearer the mountains that were his goal, and again he was fired upon. One of the soldiers was exposed as Shoz-Dijiji turned toward them. Ah, if he had his rifle! But he had no rifle and so he fired with his six-shooter, and though he missed he made all three withdraw behind rocks and bushes, and again he moved quickly to a new location.
For an hour this running fight continued until the Black Bear succeeded in attaining a hilltop so thickly strewn with boulders that he could lie in comparative safety and hold his fortress. If he could but hold it until darkness had come there would be no further need for apprehension; but when he saw one of the soldiers creeping warily back toward the two remaining horses that they had left where the fight commenced he guessed that new trouble lay in store for him, and so he concentrated his fire upon this man.
The other Mexicans, however, had no mind to see their fellow slain and their plan frustrated, so they, in turn, concentrated their fire upon Shoz-Dijiji. Bullets flew thick and fast, pattering upon boulders, plowing into soft earth, ricocheting, whistling, screaming, and the soldier won safely out of range of Shoz-Dijiji’s Colt, reached the horses, mounted one of them, and galloped off toward Casas Grandes.
The Apache glanced at the sun, quickly computed the distance to Casas Grandes and the remaining hours of daylight and reached the conclusion that reinforcements would arrive long before dark. His ammunition was running low. Three miles away the mountains offered him sanctuary. It was better to run for them now with only two carabinas firing at him than to wait until there were perhaps fifty. He emptied his six-shooter rapidly at the cover behind which the enemy lay; then he reloaded and fired twice again, after which he rose quickly and, bending low, ran for the mountains, zigzagging, dodging, twisting. Bullets whinged past him; bullets spattered him with dirt and gravel; there were bullets everywhere but where Shoz-Dijiji was.
His mind definitely determined upon a plan of action, the Apache did not deviate from it. He passed many places where he might have found shelter and stopped the pursuit, but he ran on, trusting to his speed and the excitement of the soldiers to preserve him from their bullets. He adopted the tactics of the hunted coyote, turning quickly at right angles to his line of retreat where brush grew that would hide him for a moment from his pursuers.
When he emerged again it was to the right or left of where he had disappeared and once again were the soldiers required to relocate their target. Occasionally he turned and fired at them as he ran, which further disconcerted them. When he reached the dense brush at the foot of the first mountain mass he knew that the Mexicans had lost him, and they knew it, too. Reeking with sweat, caked with dust, hot, thirsty, cursing mellifluously, the soldiers squatted, their backs against great rocks, rolling cigarrillos while they waited for reinforcements.
From a high place upon the side of the mountain, Shoz-Dijiji saw them and grinned. He also saw many horsemen galloping toward the hills from Casas Grandes. Again he grinned.
That night he slept in safety deep within the Mother Mountains, far up the side of a mighty peak in a little crevice where a spring rose and sank again before it reached the precipice. Only God, the mountain goat and the Apache had knowledge of this place.
It was cold there and Shoz-Dijiji was almost naked. He was uncomfortable, of course, but the Apache is above discomfort when the call of the war trail sounds. Burning heat by day or freezing cold by night are to him but a part of the game. He does not complain, but prides himself upon his strength to withstand hardship that would destroy the morale of any other warrior in the world, beat him down, weaken him, kill him.
For two weeks Shoz-Dijiji sought his chance to approach the hacienda of the rich Mexican who owned the splendid horses that were known from one end of Mexico to the other; but always there were the soldiers. They seemed to know the purpose of his coming, for patrols appeared to hover constantly about the vicinity of the noble herd, so that the Black Bear had no opportunity for reconnaissance.
Of course they did not know, and it was only chance and the regal hospitality of the rich Mexican that kept them so often and so long where Shoz-Dijiji wished they were not. He fretted and chafed at the delay for the time was almost come when he should be back with the fifty ponies for the father of Ish-kay-nay. Soon the moon would be full again and if he had not come Ish-kay-nay might think him dead.
In Sonora a savage chieftain had been raiding with a handful of his fierce warriors. Now he was slinking northward bearing his loot on stolen mules. It was Juh, chief of the Ned-ni; cruel, relentless Juh; Juh the Butcher. He crossed the Sierra Madre and dropped down into Chihuahua just above Janos. Mexican herders saw him and word was sent to the officer in command of the troops camped by Casas Grandes. Thus did Juh, unguessing, befriend Shoz-Dijiji, for the soldiers broke their camp and rode away toward Janos, leaving the field clear for the Black Bear.
The soldiers did not catch Juh, for that wily old villain pushed on by night and by day until the boundary lay south of him. Then he turned west and entered Arizona and the domain of Na-chi-ta, son of Cochise—the domain of the Ch-kon-en. Here, he had heard, Geronimo was camped with his Be-don-ko-he. There was a very good reason that never left the determined mind of Juh why he wanted to visit the Be-don-ko-he, for he had not relinquished the hope that he might yet win Ish-kay-nay, nor did he care by what means, being as little concerned by questions of ethics as are most white men.
One day his party came upon a little pinto stallion feeding upon the sparse vegetation in the bottom of a coulee, a pinto stallion that looked up and nickered when he caught the familiar scent spoor of his master’s people, and then came limping toward them.
Juh recognized Nejeunee and wondered. When the animal followed along with them he made no effort to turn it back, and so he came to the camp of Geronimo with the war pony of Shoz-Dijiji limping in the rear.
The finding of Nejeunee lame and at a distance from the camp of the Be-don-ko-he had set Juh to thinking. It might mean any one of a number of things but particularly it suggested the likelihood of Shoz-Dijiji’s absence; for a good war pony is cherished by its owner, and it seemed improbable that if Shoz-Dijiji was with the tribe that he would have permitted his pony to remain thus at the mercy of the first band of raiders, white or red, that might chance upon it. Unquestionably, Shoz-Dijiji had ridden his pony from camp and something, equally unquestionable, had happened to the pony. Perhaps at the same time something had happened to Shoz-Dijiji.
Juh sought the father of Ish-kay-nay and renewed his importuning of the old warrior for the hand of his daughter, nor did he mention Shoz-Dijiji, but he learned all that he wished to know—that Ish-kay-nay had accepted the advances of his rival and that the latter had gone to find the fifty ponies that the old man had demanded.
“He promised Ish-kay-nay that he would return with the full moon,” said the old man, “but the time is almost gone and nothing has been heard of him. Perhaps he will not return.”
Cunning, unscrupulous, Juh seized upon his opportunity. “He will not return,” he said. “Shoz-Dijiji is dead.” The old man looked pleased. “In Sonora he was killed by the Mexicans. There we were told that a young warrior had been killed while attempting to drive off a bunch of horses. We did not know who he was until we found his pony. It was lame. We brought it with us. Talk with the girl. If she will feed and water my pony, come to me. Juh will give the father of Ish-kay-nay fifteen ponies.”
“The other was to have given me fifty,” said the old man.
Juh laughed. “That was talk,” he said. “How could he give you fifty ponies when he had but three? I have fifteen ponies; that is better than fifty that do not exist.”
“You have more than fifteen ponies,” the old man reminded him.
“Yes, I have many more, and I am a great chief. Juh can do many things for the father of Ish-kay-nay.”
“Twenty-five ponies,” suggested the other, preferring twenty-five ponies to the chance that Juh would forget the less concrete suggestion of future obligation.
“Fifteen ponies and five mules,” said Juh.
“Twenty-five ponies. The girl is a good daughter. My heart will be heavy with sorrow when she is gone.”
“Twenty ponies and five mules,” snapped Juh with finality, turning upon his heel.
“And a rifle,” added the father of Ish-kay-nay.
“And a rifle,” acquiesced the chief of the Ned-ni.
“And ammunition,” exclaimed the old man, hurriedly; but the deal was made on the basis of twenty ponies, five mules and a rifle.
Ish-kay-nay, sitting beneath the shade of a tree, was sewing pretty beads upon a bit of buckskin, using an awl and deer sinew. She hummed contentedly to herself as she planned for the future—the long, happy future with Shoz-Dijiji. She would make many pretty things for them both and for their tepee. Later she would make other pretty things, tiny things, for future war chiefs. Her father found her thus.
“Shoz-Dijiji will not return,” he said.
She looked up at him quickly, sensing a new note in a statement that she had already heard many times since her lover had departed. Heretofore the statement had implied only hope, now it was redolent of sweet relief.
“Why?” she asked.
“He is dead.”
The heart of Ish-kay-nay went cold and numb within her, but the expression upon her face underwent no change. “Who says so?” she demanded.
“Either Juh lies, or he has himself slain Shoz-Dijiji,” said the girl.
“Juh does not lie, nor has he slain Shoz-Dijiji.” Then he told her all that Juh had told him. “I am an old man,” he continued. “I have not long to live. Before I die I would see my daughter, whom I love, safe with a great warrior. Juh is a great warrior. He will treat you well. He has many women and you will not have to work hard. If he ties his pony before our tepee Ish-kay-nay will lead it to water and feed it?”
“I do not believe that Shoz-Dijiji is dead,” she said.
“If you did, would you go to Juh?”
“I would not care what became of me if Shoz-Dijiji were dead.”
“He is dead,” said the old man.
“The moon is not yet full,” urged Ish-kay-nay.
“If Shoz-Dijiji has not returned when next klego-na-ay rides across the heavens will Ish-kay-nay listen with favor to the words of Juh?”
“If Shoz-Dijiji has not returned then,” she said wearily, “Juh may tie his pony before our tepee. Then Ish-kay-nay will know what to do. She does not give her answer before.”
This word the old man bore to Juh and the two had to be satisfied with it, though Juh, knowing Ish-kay-nay of old, would have preferred something more definite as he had no stomach for another public rebuff.
Day after day early morning found an Apache girl standing solitary and sad upon a commanding mountain looking ever with straining eyes out toward the south—looking for a mighty figure, a loved figure, a figure that never came. Sometimes she stood there all day long, watching, waiting.
She hated to go to the tepee of her father, for the old man talked always of Juh and of her duty, of the honor of being the squaw of a great chief; and so she crept there late at night and hid in her blankets, feigning sleep, sleep that would not come. Often she went to another tepee where an aging man and an aging woman sat silent and sorrowing, to the tepee of Geronimo went Ish-kay-nay, mingling her voiceless agony with theirs.
One day old Nakay-do-klunni, the Izze-nan-tan, rode into camp of the Be-don-ko-he and Ish-kay-nay went to him, asking if he could learn from the spirits the truth about her lover; but Nakay-do-klunni was full of another matter and put her off, though not without a thought for business. Perhaps later, he told her, but it would require big medicine and that was expensive. She offered him her little treasures and he promised to see what he could do about it.
When she told her father what she had done he went to Juh and, later, Juh went to Nakay-do-klunni; but Nakay-do-klunni was full of another matter, though he did manage to lay it from his mind temporarily when Juh mentioned a pair of field glasses and a Colt with a mother-of-pearl grip.
“Send the girl to my tepee in the morning,” he said to Juh, for that night he was too full of this other matter, and when the evening meal had been eaten and the warriors had gathered to smoke and make talk Nakay-do-klunni told them strange things.
“I had a dream,” he said in a voice that all might hear. “The spirits of many izze-nan-tans came and spoke to me and with them were the spirits of all the war chiefs of the Apaches who are yah-ik-tee. And the izze-nantans gave me the power to raise the dead and make them live, and the war chiefs said that they would gather together the spirits of all the warriors who were dead and bring them to the Tonto Basin on a certain day, and that Geronimo, the war chief of all the Apaches, must come there and bring all the living warriors of the six tribes: the warriors of the Be-don-ko-he, of the Chi-hen-ne, of the Sierra Blanca, of the Chi-e-a-hen, of the Cho-kon-en, of the Ned-ni.
“When they are all gathered, the living and the dead, I, Nakay-do-klunni, Izze-nantan of the Shis-Inday, will make the dead warriors to live again so that their numbers will be as the needles upon the pine trees; when they take the war trail the earth will shake and when they raise the war cry the heavens will be rent asunder.
“Upon that night there will be a great feast and a great dance and Nakay-do-klunni will make strong medicine that will turn the bullets of our enemies from the breasts of our warriors; and upon the next day we will take the war path against the white-eyes and they will all be killed and the Shis-Inday will again hold undisputed sway over the country that Usen gave them.
“These are true words and to prove it Na-kay-do-klunni will teach the Be-don-ko-he the dance that the spirits of the warriors and their women taught Nakay-do-klunni, the dance that all the peoples of the Shis-Inday will dance upon the great night before they take the war trail against the white-eyes.
“The day is near. Seven times will the sun rise and no more before the day comes when the Shis-Inday will be rid forever of the hated white-eyes and all their kind. Then will the buffalo and the deer and the antelope come back to the country of the Shis-Inday from which the white-eyed men have driven them, and we shall live again as we did in the days of our fathers. I have spoken. Come and I will show you the dance, the spirit dance of your dead.”
Arranging the warriors and the women in files radiating from a common center, at which he stood, and facing him, so that the formation resembled the spokes of a fellyless wheel of which the izze-nantan was the hub, he started the dancing while two old sub-chiefs beat upon es-a-da-deds. As they danced Nakay-do-klunni chanted weird gibberish and scattered the sacred hoddentin upon the dancers in prodigal profusion and the drummers beat with increasing rapidity.
Occasionally a wild cry would break from the lips of some dancer and be taken up by others until the forest and the mountains rang with the savage sounds. Until morning came and many had dropped with exhaustion the dance continued. The Be-don-ko-he had worked themselves into a frenzy of religious fanaticism, just as had the Cho-kon-en, the Chi-hen-ne and the other tribes that Nakay-do-klunni had visited, just as the old izze-nantan had known that they would.