The Be-don-ko-he knew of the attack upon San Carlos Agency which resulted in the killing of Sterling, chief of Indian Scouts, and several other whites; knew that Chief Loco, successor to the dead Victorio, had joined the hostiles with all his Chi-hen-ne, men, women and children, and that the whole band was heading south toward Mexico.
They had news of the fight in Horse Shoe Canyon, and learned of the killing of Yuma Bill and three Yuma scouts and three soldiers in that fight; followed the flight of the hostiles along the rough crest of Stein’s Peak Range, down into the San Simon Valley, and from there into the Chiricahua Mountains; knew that they had scattered there, only to meet at another point; saw them safely all the way through Whitewater Canyon, across the mountains, down Animas Valley toward Guadalupe Pass, and near there across into Mexico.
Shoz-Dijiji kept Wichita posted on all that transpired, but he would not start back with her toward her home until he was sure that the last of the hostiles was out of the country, for they had scattered twice and he was not sure that all had crossed the border. Too, there was the danger from the troops, but that was secondary because it menaced only himself. She tried to tell him that he would be safe from the soldiers as long as he was with her, for when she had told them that he had rescued her from the hostiles they would not only be friendly but would reward him, but he shook his head.
“They kill Shoz-Dijiji first; ask you about him after,” he said.
They were sitting beneath the shade of a tree upon the shoulder of the mountain, over-looking the camp of the Be-don-ko-he. In the distance they could see the wide plain stretching to other mountains.
The girl had noticed that Shoz-Dijiji always seemed to be where he could see to a great distance when he rested or rather idled, for he never seemed to be in the need of rest. Sometimes he scanned the horizon through a pair of field glasses. Finally he touched the glasses to call her attention to them.
“You know who belong these?” he asked.
She shook her head.
“Your lover,” he said, laughing.
“My lover!” she exclaimed. “What do you mean? I have no lover.”
He looked at her intently for a moment. “You no love King?” he asked.
It was her turn to laugh. “He is only a friend,” she said. “Are those his glasses?”
“You no love him?” he insisted.
“Of course not.”
“Shoz-Dijiji know that, he kill him that time,” he said, quite simply.
Impulsively she laid a hand upon his arm. “Oh, Shoz-Dijiji,” she cried, “why do you want to kill everyone? You are such a good man. Why don’t you put away your weapons and come in to the reservation?”
“Shoz-Dijiji does not want to kill everyone,” replied the brave. “Shoz-Dijiji does not want to kill you. If Shoz-Dijiji put away his weapons, no hunt, no fight; what for he live? Be reservation Indian?” There was a wealth of unveiled contempt in his yoice. “Let agent cheat him, starve him? Let white man laugh at him, make fun of him? No!”
“But they would help you, Shoz-Dijiji. I would help you.”
“Yes, you would help me; but you would always feel sorry for me because I am an Indian. I do not want the help of the white-eyes. I do not think that they would help me. Have they ever helped the Indian? What can they give the Indian that Usen has not already given him? Only, they take away what Usen has given.
“What has the pindah lickoyee better than the Shis-Inday? Is he braver? Is he more honest? Can he teach the Indian how and where to find food and clothing? No, the pindah lickoyee would starve where the Indian grows fat. He would go naked where the Indian finds more clothing than he needs. Has he more sense? He has none. See what he has done to this country.
“Before he came there was plenty for all, but like a fool he set out to kill every living thing that Usen had put here. He robs the Indian of his food, but also he robs himself of food—food that cost only a little effort to obtain—food that, hunted as the Indian knows how to hunt, always increased in numbers.
“What has he done for us? He is trying to take away from us the ways of our fathers—our dances, our medicine men, everything that we hold sacred; and in return he gives us whiskey and shoots us wherever he finds us. I do not think the pindah lickoyee are such good men that they can tell the I ndian how to be good.
“Around every post and agency the white men are always trying to ravish our women. The women of the Apache are good women. When they are not we cut off their noses. How many Apache women have you ever seen whose noses had been cut off? Do you think we want to come and live beside such men? Do you think there is anything that they can teach us that is better than our fathers taught us?
“You think it is bad to kill. Yes, it is bad to kill; but it is better to kill like men and braves, openly and upon the war trail, than to kill by lies. Our people are told great lies to get them to come into the reservations, and there they are starved; and if they leave the reservation to hunt for food for their women and children, without a pass from the agent who is robbing them, then the soldiers come and shoot them.
“No, Shoz-Dijiji never be reservation Indian!”
“I am sorry,” she said. “I never thought of it from your side. I can see that in some ways you are right; but in others you are wrong. All white men are not bad.”
“All Indians are not bad,” he replied quickly, “but the pindah lickoyee treat them all alike—bad.”
For some time they sat in silence, the Apache watching the girl’s face, his own expressionless.
What was psssing behind that granitic mask? Once he extended a hand toward her as though to touch her, then he drew it back quickly and sprang to his feet.
“Come!” he said, almost roughly. “We go back to camp.”
Two days later Geronimo and Shoz-Dijiji thought that it would be safe to return Wichita to her home, and the young war chief and the girl set out upon the long journey, which was but a repetition of that which had ended at the camp of the Be-don-ko-he.
During the journey Wichita could not but notice that the brave scarcely let his eyes leave her face, a thing of which she had had a growing consciousness for at least two days before they left the camp. Had she not come to trust him so implicitly she would have found it difficult not to have acknowledged something of nervous apprehension as she felt his gaze constantly upon her; but he took no other liberties with her—just looked at her through those steady, inscrutable eyes.
Every journey must have an end and at last the two stood upon the very hill above her father’s ranch where they had stood upon another occasion. Shoz-Dijiji drew rein and dismounted. “I will wait here until you are safe in the house of your father,” he said.
“You are not coming down with me?” she exclaimed, surprised.
“I want you to, Shoz-Dijiji. I want my father to know you, and thank you for what you have done for me,” she insisted.
“Me no go,” he replied. The girl became suddenly conscious of a feeling almost of panic. Was she never to see Shoz-Dijiji again, this good friend, this best of friends? She realized, and the realization came as a distinct shock, that this man of another race had suddenly filled a great emptiness in her life—an emptiness the existence of which she had never before realized—and that life was going to be very different without him. Already she felt a great loneliness creeping over her.
She was standing beside him and now, she turned and came close, putting her two palms upon his breast. “Please, Shoz-Dijiji,” she begged. “Please come down—I do not want you to go away.”
The contact of her hands upon him broke the iron will of the Apache. The habitual mask behind which he hid his emotions dropped away—it was a new Shoz-Dijiji into whose face the girl looked. He seized her in his arms and pressed her close; his lips covering hers.
She struck at his great chest and sought to push him away; she held her head from him and he saw the horror in her eyes. Then it was that he released her.
“Shoz-Dijiji sorry,” he said. “For days he fight the great fire burning in his brain, burning up his heart. Shoz-Dijiji thought he was strong; he did not know how much stronger is love—until you touched him. But you are right. You are white—Shoz-Dijiji is Apache. White girl could not love Apache. That is right.” He vaulted to the back of Nejeunee. “Shoz-Dijiji sorry. Good-bye!”
She watched him ride away and the panic and the loneliness gripped her like fingers of flesh and blood that sought to choke life and love and happiness from her. She saw him disappear beyond a hill to the south and she took a step after him, her hands outstretched in dumb pleading for his return that her lips had not the courage to voice aloud. She stood thus for a minute and then her arms dropped limply to her side and she turned back toward her father’s house.
A few steps she took and then she wheeled suddenly about and extended her arms again, in supplication.
“Shoz-Dijiji!” she cried, “Shoz-Dijiji, come back!”
But Shoz-Dijiji, war chief of the Be-don-ko-he, did not hear.