He glared fiercely at Ish-kay-nay. “What do you want?” he snapped.
“To know if Shoz-Dijiji lives and will return;” she said.
Her words reminded the medicine man of something, of a pair of field glasses and a pearl-handled Colt, and he relaxed. “Sit down,” he mumbled. “Nakay-do-klunni make medicine, talk with spirits, you wait.”
Ish-kay-nay sat down. The medicine man opened a beaded buckskin bag and took forth some pieces of lightning-riven wood, a root, a stone, a piece of turquoise, a glass bead and a square bit of buckskin upon which colored designs had been painted. All the time he mumbled strange words that Ish-kay-nay only knew were sacred, all powerful and terrible. Nakay-do-klunni did not know even this much about them.
He sprinkled hoddentin upon the potent paraphernalia of his wizardry, upon Ish-kay-nay, upon himself; he tossed it to the four winds. Then he pointed toward a bag that Ish-kay-nay clutched in her hand, and grunted. The girl understood, opened the bag and displayed a few bits of the blue-green dukliji, some colored beads—her treasures. Wide-eyed, tearless, she looked at Nakay-do-klunni, wondering, hoping that this would be enough to insure strong medicine from the great izze-nantan—if her all would be enough to bring her word of Shoz-Dijiji, of her lover.
Nakay-do-klunni scraped it all into his palm, examined it, dropped it into his own bag, then he closed his eyes and sat in silence, as though listening. For several minutes he sat thus and Ish-kay-nay was greatly impressed by this evidence of supernatural power, for was not Nakay-do-klunni even now in communication with the spirits? When he opened his eyes and looked at her little Ish-kay-nay came as near swooning as it is possible to conceive of an Apache. Her lips parted, panting, she awaited the verdict.
“Shoz-Dijiji not come back,” announced Nakay-do-klunni. He waited impressively for a moment “Shoz-Dijiji dead!” He started to give her the harrowing details, as explained to him by Juh, but the girl had risen and was walking away. What did Ish-kay-nay care for the details? It was enough to know that Shoz-Dijiji was dead, that he would not come back, that she was never to see him again.
Her face betrayed nothing of the terrifying, withering emotion that scorched her brain. Erect, proud, almost majestic, the little Indian girl walked out of the camp of the Be-don-ko-he and took her sorrow with her. Far up into the mountains she took it, to a place that she and Shoz-Dijiji had known together. Until night she lay there where none might see her, her supple frame racked by sobs, giving herself wholly to her grief; nor all during the long night did she move, but lay there in the awful silence of the mountain, smothering her moans in its rocky bosom.
When she returned to camp in the morning her eyes were swollen, but dry. Her father was waiting for her, anxiously, for suicide, though rare, was not unknown among the Apaches. He told her that upon the second day the tribe was setting out for the Tonto Basin country; that there was going to be war and that all the pindah lickoyee would be killed. Everything would be different then with the Shis-Inday and Juh would be a very great chief indeed, for all the dead Ned-nis would come back and join the tribe. He urged upon her the necessity for immediately accepting the advances of the chief.
Ish-kay-nay was apathetic. She did not care what happened to her now. Without Shoz-Dijiji there could be no happiness. It might then as well be Juh as another. It would please her father. Listlessly she gave her assent. That night the war pony of the chief of the Ned-ni was tethered before her tepee, and when the tribe broke camp to go to Tonto Basin and upon the war trail Juh rode off alone with Ish-kay-nay, up into the hills.
In the foothills near Casas Grandes Shoz-Dijiji lay watching the herd of the rich Mexican for several days after the troops withdrew, for, being an Apache, he must reconnoiter carefully, painstakingly, before he struck. At night he crept down and watched and listened and planned very close to the corral where the horses were and the house where the vaqueros slept, until he knew the habits and the customs of the men and saw that they had not changed since last he had been there.
Then came the night that he had chosen for the venture. In the silence of the midnight he crept down to the corral, a high-walled enclosure built to protect its valued contents from such as he. Heavy gates, strongly barred and padlocked would have defied the best efforts of several men. This Shoz-Dijiji well knew and so he did not bother with them. When the time came they would open.
He moved directly to the far side of the corral, as far from the sleeping quarters of the vaqueros as possible, and waited there, listening. Satisfied, he leaped and seized the top of the wall, making no noise. In equal silence he drew himself up and very gently lowered his body to the ground inside. The horses nearer him became restless. One of them snorted. Shoz-Dijiji whispered soothingly soft Spanish words. All the time he stood very still and presently the animals quieted.
In half an hour they were accustomed to his presence, were becoming accustomed to his scent. A few approached, sniffing him. Gradually he commenced moving toward the nearest. It walked away, but did not appear to be terrified. For hours Shoz-Dijiji worked patiently. All depended upon his ability to get close to one horse quickly and without terrifying it; but it was almost dawn before he succeeded and quite dawn before he was able to loop a rope about its lower jaw.
It was only a short time thereafter that he heard the vaqueros moving about Shoz-Dijiji grinned. With all their care there was this one vulnerable point in their daily routine; it consisted in the fact that they were accustomed to turn the herd from the corral before they saddled their own horses that were kept in a smaller enclosure nearby the main corral. The horses went at once to water, close to the hacienda and in plain view, and by the time they had drunk the vaqueros were saddled ready to drive them out onto the range. All this Shoz-Dijiji knew.
Shoz-Dijiji smelled the breakfasts cooking and the aroma of tobacco. Then he heard someone at the gates. It would be one man, always had been; there was no need of more than one to unlock and swing the portals. The gates swung aside. The horses, crowding, jostling one another, went through with heads well raised, effectually blocking from the view of the single vaquero anything that might have been transpiring in the corral behind them, he had been seeking to discover; but he was seeking to discover nothing. He was only concerned with the business of inhaling his cigarrillo and digesting his breakfast.
Many times had he done this same letting out of the horses of a morning. There was nothing about it and never had been anything about it to focus upon it any interested attention—least not until this morning. Even at first he did not know what an interesting thing was going on there right in the corral almost under his nose, for the horses’ heads were held high and he could not have seen beyond them had he looked; furthermore he did not look. So he did not see that a war chief of the Be-don-ko-he, the son of the war chief of all the Apaches, had slipped a naked leg over the back of a bright bay gelding and was lying close along the animal’s side.
Most of the horses were out of the corral when the vaquero was startled to hear a war whoop almost in his ears—a war whoop that was immediately followed by the crack of a revolver. The horses were startled, too. Snorting and with heads even higher than before, the last of them rushed through the gateway, terrified. Behind them, whooping, firing a revolver, came a terrifying thing. They broke first into a gallop and then into a mad run, but still the shrieking, howling creature clung to their rear or flank, circling them, turning them, heading them toward the north.
As it passed the startled vaquero he caught a fleeting glimpse of a moccasined foot and a painted face and he drew his six-shooter, but he dared not fire; for did he not know the high value that his master placed upon these dearly beloved animals of his, and could he shoot without endangering some of them? Instead he turned and ran to notify his fellows, but he met them running toward him, attracted by the whoops and the shots. Already the herd was hidden by its own dust cloud.
“Apaches!” shouted the vaquero, but did not need to be told that—they had that dread cry before. “Fifty of them,” shouted the man, running toward the small corral where their mounts were confined.
By the time they had saddled and bridled and ridden out the dust cloud was far away, and though they pursued it they were, as experienced Indian fighters should be, keenly on the lookout for an ambuscade. Knowing that there had been fifty warriors in the party that had run off their stock, it was only natural that they should expect a part of that number to lie in wait for them along the way. Of necessity this slowed down the pursuit, but Shoz-Dijiji did not slow down, he kept the herd at top speed as long as he could do so; and even after it tired and was no longer terrified he pushed it hard along the trail that he had chosen.
The horses had been without water since the previous day and they had run for many miles under the ever-increasing heat of the sun. Now it poured down upon them. They were choked with dust and reeked sweat, and the terrible thing behind them would not let them turn back toward water; but presently, toward noon the thing happened that Shoz-Dijiji knew would happen, so carefully does the Apache plan each smallest detail.
Far ahead, miles and miles away, lay water on the trail that Shoz-Dijiji had thus purposely selected, and somehow the horses knew that it was there as horses seem always to know. No longer did the Apache have difficulty in keeping the great herd upon the right trail, in preventing it from turning back. On the contrary his own mount, having carried him half a day, found difficulty in keeping pace with its fellows.
How he took them, alone and unaided, across weary, dusty, burning miles, through scorching deserts and rugged mountains equally scorching, along a trail beset by enemies, pursued by wrathful vaqueros, would well have been the subject of a deathless epic had Shoz-Dijiji lived in the days of Homer.
Rests found him always where there were water and grass, sometimes at the end of a long day, or again at the close of a long night; for Shoz-Dijiji, more tireless than the horses, could travel twenty hours on end, and more if necessary. He caught fleeting moments of sleep while the horses watered and fed, always lying on the trail behind them that they must disturb him if they turned back; and turn back they did on more than a single occasion, causing the Apache many an hour of hard and perilous riding; but he was determined to bring them through without the loss of a single horse if that was humanly possible of accomplishment. He would give the father of Ish-kay-nay fifty horses and he would still have fifty for himself, and fifty such horses as these would make Shoz-Dijiji a rich man.
He thought all of the time about Ish-kay-nay. How proud she would be! For Shoz-Dijiji appreciated well and fully the impressiveness of his exploit. If he had been acclaimed as a great warrior before, this would go far toward establishing him as one of the greatest. Forevermore mothers would tell their children of the bravery and prowess of Shoz-Dijiji, nor was he either mistaken or overvain. Shoz-Dijiji had indeed performed a feat worthy of the greatest heroes of his race.
Already he had crossed the boundary and was safe in the country of the Cho-kon-en, and all that last night he urged the tired horses on that he might reach camp in the morning. His arms and his heart ached for Ish-kay-nay—little Ish-kay-nay, the playfellow of his child-hood, the sweetheart of today, the mate of the morrow.
Toward dawn he came to water and let the herd drink. He would rest it there for an hour and then push on, reaching camp before the excessive heat of this early September day had become oppressive. Quenching his own thirst and that of the horse he rode, Shoz-Dijiji lay down to sleep, his crude bridle rein tied to his wrist.
The horses, tired and footsore, were quiet. Some of them browsed a little upon the dried, yellow grasses; many lay down to rest. The sun rose and looked down upon the little mountain meadow, upon the drowsing horses and the sleeping man.
Another looked down, also—a tall, gaunt man with cheeks like parchment and a mustache that had once been red, but was now, from over exposure to the Arizona sun, a sickly straw color. He had a reddish beard that was not yet old enough to have bleached. Upon the blue sleeves of his jacket were yellow chevrons. Sergeant Olson of “D” Troop looked down and saw exactly what the sun saw—an Apache buck, habited for the war trail, asleep beside a bunch of stolen stock. Sergeant Olson needed but a glance to assure his experienced cavalry eye that these were no Indian cayuses.
He withdrew below the edge of the hill from which he had been reconnoitering and transmitted a gesture of silence toward other men dressed in blue who sat their horses below him, and beckoned to an officer who quickly rode upward and dismounted. Presently the officer shared the secret with Sergeant Olson and the sun. He issued whispered orders and forty men rode down a narrow ravine and crossed a ridge into the canyon below Shoz-Dijiji. The sun, crossing the withers of Shoz-Dijiji’s horse, shone upon the warrior’s face and he awoke. He arose and mounted his horse.
Sergeant Olson, looking down from above, watched him. If he went down the canyon, all right; if he went up, all wrong—there were no soldiers up the canyon. Shoz-Dijiji circled the herd and started it up the canyon. This did not suit Sergeant Olson; anyhow, the only good Indian is a dead Indian. The noncommissioned officer drew his army Colt from its holster, took accurate aim and fired. Who could blame him?
Two days before his bunkie had been shot down in cold blood at Cibicu Creek by an Apache scout who was in the service and the uniform of the United States. He had seen Captain Hentig murdered, shot in the back, by another scout named Mosby; he had seen Bird and Sondergros, and Sullivan, and others killed; and, he smiled even then at the recollection, he had seen Ahrens, a ‘D’ Troop bugler, put three bullets into the head of that old devil, Nakay-do-klunni. Sergeant Olson called him Bobbydoklinny. Tough old buzzard, he was! Those three forty-fives in his cabezas hadn’t killed him, and Smith, another ‘D’ Troop sergeant, had found him crawling about on the ground after dark and had finished him with an axe—good old Smith!
Shooting down at a considerable angle from a considerable distance above one’s target is difficult. No, shooting down is not difficult, but hitting your target is. Sergeant Olson missed. With an oath he stood up and commenced firing rapidly and Shoz-Dijiji, seeing him immediately, returned the fire. Sergeant Olson emitted an explosive oath and dived forward upon the brow of the hill. There he lay, very quiet, while Shoz-Dijiji urged his horse up the steep canyon side opposite. It is the Apache’s first instinct when surprised to seek some rugged, inaccessible spot from which he can survey without being surveyed, and always a place difficult or impossible for horses.
From the top of the hogback Shoz-Dijiji looked over at Sergeant Olson, who had not moved. He saw no other soldiers there, but he knew where there was one soldier there were others, usually many of them. He cocked his ears. Ah, what was that? From down the canyon came unmistakable evidence of the clumsy approach of clumsy white-eyes. They made enough noise, thought Shoz-Dijiji, to have been a great army, but he knew that they were not. All the members of the six tribes including their women and children could have passed along this same trail with a tenth the commotion—only the soft swish of their moccasined feet.Shoz-Dijiji hid his horse on the far side of the hogback and crept back to watch. He saw the soldiers come, and hate and disappointment surged through him in hot, savage waves as he watched them round up his hundred horses and drive them back down the canyon, while a detachment from the troop followed upward in search of Indians.
Others went up the opposite side of the canyon to look for Olson; and as they found him Shoz-Dijiji mounted his horse below the edge of the hogback and rode down toward the valley, paralleling the course taken by the soldiers and his horses, loath to give them up, hoping against hope that some circumstance might give him the opportunity to win them back, ready to risk his life, if need be, for the price of Ish-kay-nay and happiness.
Bitter were the thoughts of Shoz-Dijiji as he followed the troopers who had stolen his herd, for by the hoary standards of the Apache, ages old, it was theft and the herd was his. Had he not taken it by virtue of courage and cunning, winning it fairly? Had the soldiers been taking his herd for themselves there would have been less anger in the heart of Shoz-Dijiji, for he could accord to others the same rights that he demanded for himself, but they were not.
Experience had taught him that the fool white-eyes took stock from the Indians and tried to return it to those from whom the Indians had taken it, profiting in no way. Therefore he believed that they did so purely for the purpose of persecuting the Indians, just as they had taken their water and their lands and ruined their hunting grounds, which was, in the sight of Usen and his children, but a part of the plan of the pindah lickoyee to exterminate the Shis-Inday.
Did not all men know that the thing the pindah lickoyee called government had hired many hunters to exterminate the buffalo and all other game, thus forcing the Indians to remain on the reservations and beg for rations or starve? Bitter were the thoughts of Shoz-Dijiji as he followed the troopers down toward the plain.
From behind a knoll near the mouth of the canyon the Black Bear saw the soldiers of “D” Troop drive the horses out upon the plain and toward the north. As he knew all the vast domain of his people Shoz-Dijiji knew this plain, knew it as he knew the wrinkles in the face of Sons-ee-ah-ray, knew the route the soldiers would take across it, knew the windings of the dry wash that cut deeply through it from the canyon’s mouth. He waited where he was until a rise of ground hid him from the troopers entering the plain below. Cautiously the Apache rode down into the wash and along its dry, sandy bottom where the steep, high banks hid him from the sight of the soldiers. Where the wash took a broad sweep to the east he urged his mount to a run. The sand beneath its feet gave forth no dust nor any sound.
The soldiers, moving in a more direct line, were drawing away from him as Shoz-Dijiji raced, a silent shadow, toward the destination he had chosen. The wash turned toward the north and then again in a westerly direction, making a wide curve and coming again very close to the trail along which the soldiers were driving Shoz-Dijiji’s herd. Toward this point the Apache was racing, in his mind a bold plan, such a plan as only an Apache mind might conceive—of all warriors the most cautious, also, of all warriors, the most fearless when emergency demanded fearlessness.
Other warriors might pit themselves gallantly and gloriously against great odds in defense of the weak, in furtherance of some lofty ideal or for the honor of a flag; but it remained for an Apache, armed with a six-shooter, a knife, a bow and some arrows, to seriously conceive the idea that he might successfully attack ten fully armed cavalrymen for the sake of some captured loot! But perhaps we are unfair to Shoz-Dijiji, for was there not also Ish-kay-nay?
Where the trail came again close to the wash there was a way up its steep side to the plain above, a way that Shoz-Dijiji knew. It had been made by range stock crossing at this point. When the last of the soldiers had passed it they were startled by aloud Apache whoop and the bark of a six-shooter. Yelling, firing, Shoz-Dijiji charged straight toward the rear of the herd, straight toward the ten mounted troopers. The horses broke into a gallop, frightened by the yells and the shots. The soldiers, sure that there must be other hostiles hiding in the wash, fired at Shoz-Dijiji and then turned their attention toward the point where they expected the main force of the enemy to develop, toward the wash. Shoz-Dijiji, still yelling, drew away behind the racing herd.
But only for a moment were the troopers disconcerted by the suddenness, by the sheer effrontery of the attack. A sergeant raised his carbine to his shoulder, his mount, well-trained, stood motionless as its rider slowly dropped the sights upon the bright bay gelding, already a long shot for a sharpshooter, even at a fixed target.
The sergeant pressed the trigger. There was a puff of smoke from the black powder and the bright bay gelding lurched heavily to the ground, turning a complete somersault, hurling its rider far ahead. Over and over rolled Shoz-Dijiji, still clinging to his precious six-shooter, and came to his feet unhurt. A quick glance showed him the herd well out of his reach. No chance there to gain a new mount. To the rear he saw ten angry cavalrymen spurring toward him, firing as they came.
Shoz-Dijiji was trained to think quickly, and as the bullets hurled up spurts of dust about him he vanished again into the wash that had given him up.