There, beside her grave he spent two days and two nights—days of mourning, nights of prayer. There he killed the pony he had ridden, that Ish-kay-nay might find a mount ready to carry her to the spirit world. This he did, though she was no warrior, nor a great chief, because to Shoz-Dijiji she was more than either. All the hoddentin he possessed he had sprinkled upon her before he covered her dear form, and with her he had buried his most sacred things: his tzi-daltai and his phylactery of buckskin with its precious contents, even the izze-kloth that Nan-ta-do-tash had blessed for him.
Upon the third day, alone, on foot, with no medicine to protect him from evil spirits or from the weapons or machinations of his enemies, he emerged from the hills, cruel, relentless, stark savage, and turned his face toward the south upon the trail of Juh. For two days he had been without food and for one without water, yet he did not suffer. Forgotten were the sufferings of the flesh in the greater anguish of the soul. Terrible were the days that followed. Scant was food, scant was water; long and hideous were the marches, with only hate and vengeance to buoy his spirits, to goad on his flagging muscles. He lashed his legs with switches of mesquite until they bled; he ate lizards and snakes and prairie mice; he drank stinking water when he drank at all, for there were soldiers everywhere, at every spring and water hole, upon every trail, and he must go on, for beyond the soldiers was Juh, somewhere to the south, somewhere in that vast labyrinth of mountain and desert. No turned stone, no bent twig, no downpressed bit of grass escaped his eye, and each told its story of the passing of the Apaches, of the pursuit of the soldiers. He passed through the line of troops at last, not a difficult thing for an Apache in such rough country as this, and the spoor of the Ned-ni became plainer. He pushed on and discovered soldiers once more ahead of him. Their trail came in from the northeast and he could see that they had been moving rapidly, without pack animals. That night he passed them, a single troop of lean, gaunt fighting men, and he saw them cross the international boundary and enter Mexico.
By dawn he was a good ten miles in advance of them when he became aware of something moving just ahead of him. He saw it dimly from the bottom of a swale as it topped the rise above him. He moved even more cautiously than before, but the figure ahead made no noise either. It was a man on foot and Shoz-Dijiji knew that it must be an Indian; but there were enemies among the Indians as well as among the white men. This might be a Navajo scout and if it were—a terrible expression of cruel anticipation crossed the features of the Black Bear, the nearest he had come to smiling for many a bitter day.
When dawn came suddenly upon them Shoz-Dijiji was looking down from another hilltop upon the figure of an Indian. It was an Apache, but the red head band proclaimed him a scout in the service of the pindah lickoyee; also the quick eyes of Shoz-Dijiji discovered that the man was an old acquaintance from the White Mountain tribe. The Black Bear hailed him. The scout turned with ready carbine, but Shoz-Dijiji was behind a boulder. “Do not shoot,” he said. “It is Shoz-Dijiji, the Be-don-ko-he. “The other lowered the muzzle of his carbine and Shoz-Dijiji stepped from behind the boulder. “Where is Juh?” demanded Shoz-Dijiji. The other pointed toward the south. “There are Ned-ni a few miles ahead,” he said, “but Juh is not with them. I talked with them two days ago. I am going to talk with them again. The soldiers will not stop this time at the border. They have orders to follow Juh and Geronimo until they catch them, no matter where they go. This I was going to tell the Ned-ni.”
“You are going to join the warriors against the white-eyes?” asked Shoz-Dijiji.
The man shook his head. “No. I return to tell the fool white chief that the Ned-ni have gone in another direction.”
“Good!” said Shoz-Dijiji. “But you need not go on. I will tell the Ned-ni where the soldiers are and what orders they have been given. Perhaps they will wait and meet the soldiers. There is a place where the trail runs between the steep walls of a canyon. There the soldiers will be cautious against an attack, but just beyond, where it looks safe again they will be off their guard and there the Ned-ni might wait for them—if you will lead them there. Eh?”
“I will lead them there,” he said. Shoz-Dijiji trotted on and the White Mountain Apache turned back to lead the hated white men, that he served, into an ambush. Shocking! Dishonorable! Disgraceful! Yes, of course; but many a civilized man wears a decoration today for betraying the confidence of the enemy. It makes a difference who does it—that is all.
Before noon Shoz-Dijiji overtook the Ned-ni and delivered his message after first discovering that Juh was not with them. They were surprised to see him, for there were many of them who really believed that he was dead. There were only eight warriors and about twice as many women and children. The latter the sub-chief sent ahead while the warriors he disposed in strategic positions at the point where the ambush was to occur, and along their trail came “B” Troop of the -th Cavalry, protected by the Apache scouts ahead and upon the flanks. With his troop rode Lieutenant Samuel Adams King, eager for his first brush with the hostiles, his stay at the Billings ranch having been abruptly terminated the very night that Wichita had led the ewe-necked roan out to Shoz-Dijiji. An hour later a courier had come with orders for Lieutenant King to rejoin the troop with his detachment, and there had followed days of hard riding in an effort to intercept the hostiles before they crossed the boundary into Mexico.
Lieutenant King had preferred the company of Wichita Billings to futile scouting after Indians that one never saw, but this was different. For two days they had been hot on the trail of the renegades, with an engagement constantly imminent, and the young blood of the subaltern coursed hot in anticipation of a brush with the enemy. For four years he had slaved and sweat at the Point in preparation for this, and he prayed now that he would not be cheated out of it at the last minute by the dirty, sneaking Siwashes. Gad! If the cowards would only stand and fight once!
Nasty place for an ambush, thought Lieutenant King, as the troops entered a narrow, steep-walled canyon. Good thing the “old man” had sent flankers along the crest on either side.
Beastly dusty! Rotten idea, to make the second lieutenant ride in rear of the outfit. Some day; he would revise Regulations—lots of things wrong with them. He could see that already and he had only joined up a few weeks before. Now, this was better. They were through that canyon and the dust had a chance to blow somewhere else than down his throat, up his nose and into his eyes.
Crack! Pin-n-ng! Crack! Crack! Pin-n-ng! “Left front into line! Gallop! March! Charge!” The high voice of the “old man “rose shrilly above the crack of the hostile rifles, the wild Apache war whoops, the cursing of men, the screams of hit horses.
A ragged, yelling line of blue galloped among the great boulders from behind which the nine warriors poured their deadly fire, and as the hostiles fell back to other cover the captain dismounted his troop and sent one platoon in on foot while the horses were withdrawn to better cover. It was no place for cavalry action—that is why the sub-chief had chosen it.
Lieutenant King found himself crawling along on his belly from rock to rock. Bullets spit at him. He raised himself occasionally and fired, though he seldom saw anything to fire at—a puff of smoke—a bronze shoulder—once a painted face. He was at the left of the line and he thought that by moving farther to the left he could pass the hostiles’ right and reach a position where he could enfilade them. Obsessed by this idea, overwhelmed by the sheer joy of battle, he forgot everything else. The men of his own command no longer existed. He was fighting alone. It was his first fight and he was having the time of his young life. He worked his way rapidly ahead and to the left.
From the right of the line his captain caught a fleeting glimpse of him and shouted after him. “Mister King!” he screamed. “Where in hell are you going? Come back here, you blankety, blank, blank fool!” But in his heart the old man thrilled with pride as Mister King crawled on toward the hostile line, the commands of his superior lost in the din of the engagement and the excitement of the moment.
Just ahead of him King saw two large rocks, each capable of sheltering a couple of men. They stood about two feet apart and if he could reach them they would offer him almost perfect protection from the enemy’s fire while at the same time they commanded his right flank.
What Lieutenant King did not see was the painted savage crouching behind the one farthest to the left, nor did he know that this same warrior had been patiently watching and awaiting his advance.
Reaching the opening between the two King crawled cautiously on, his eyes, his whole attention turning to the right toward the position of the enemy. He had reached a position where he could look around behind the right-hand rock and see several of the warriors lying behind other sheltering boulders to his right; and at that instant a heavy body fell upon him, while simultaneously the captain gave the command to charge.
The troopers leaped to their feet and, yelling like the Apaches themselves, stumbled forward among the thick strewn boulders. King’s carbine was torn from his grasp. He struggled to free himself from the clutching fingers and the great weight upon him, and managed to turn over onto his back. Glaring down upon him were two savage eyes set in a hideously painted face. A great butcher knife hovered above his breast. He could hear the shouts of his fellows drawing nearer.
The knife halted, poised in mid-air. He saw the Apache stare intently into his face for an instant and then look up in the direction from which the soldiers were charging. The lieutenant struggled, but the man who held him was a giant in strength. King recalled that some fool had told him that one white man was a match for ten Indians. He wished that he might relinquish his present position to his informant.
Suddenly the brave yanked him to his feet as easily as though King had been a little child, and the officer saw two of the men of his own platoon running toward them. Backing slowly up the hillside the warrior kept King directly in front of him. The other hostiles had fallen back rapidly, leaving two of their number dead. There was only one other Apache retreating up the hillside with King’s captor and he was above them now and moving swiftly.
The troopers dared not fire on the brave who was dragging King away with him for fear of hitting the officer, and when the other Apache reached the hilltop and found shelter he opened fire on them, forcing them to cover. A moment later King was dragged over the brow of the hill close to where the other Indian was covering the retreat of his fellow. Here he was relieved of his field glasses and cartridge belt, his carbine and revolver having already been appropriated by his captor.
“Now you kill him?” asked the Ned-ni of Shoz-Dijiji.
“No,” replied the Be-don-ko-he.
“Take him along and kill him slow, by and by?” suggested the other.
“No kill,” snapped Shoz-Dijiji with finality.
“Why?” demanded the Ned-ni, an ugly look distorting his painted face. “Juh right. Shoz-Dijiji’s heart turn to water in face of pindah lickoyee. Good! I kill him.” He turned his rifle toward King. There was a flash and a burst of flame and smoke; but they did not come from the rifle of the Nedni. He was dead.
King had understood no word of what had passed between the two Apaches, and he had only seen that one of them had prevented the other from killing him, but that he did not understand either. No other eyes than his had seen Shoz-Dijiji kill the Ned-ni, for the hill hid them from the sight of all others upon the field of battle. Now his captor turned toward him.
“You savvy white girl, Billings ranch?” he demanded.
King nodded, puzzled. “She like you,” continued the Apache. “Me friend white girl. No kill her friend. You savvy?”
“Well, I’ll be damned!” ejaculated Lieutenant King. “How did you know me? I never saw you before.”
“No, but I see you. Apache see everything, know everything. You see white girl again you tell her Shoz-Dijiji no can return her pony. Him dead.”
“No, pony. I am Shoz-Dijiji,” and he tapped his chest proudly. “Pony dead.”
“You tell her by and by. Shoz-Dijiji no can send her pony back; he send back her white-eyed lover instead. You savvy?”
“Why, I’m not her—well, I will be damned!”
“Now I go. You move—Shoz-Dijiji shoot. This time he kill. You savvy?”
“Yes, go ahead; and you needn’t think I’ll try to get you after what you’ve done for me,” and he glanced at the dead Ned-ni beside them. “But, say, before you go won’t you tell me how and where and when you got a pony from Wichita Billings?”
“Me no savvy,” stated Shoz-Dijiji, and turning, he leaped swiftly down the hillside to disappear a moment later from the sight of the astonished subaltern.
As Shoz-Dijiji had vanished among the hills so had the other warriors, and as the commanding officer reassembled his troop a crestfallen second lieutenant walked down a hillside and approached his captain. The “old man” was furious at himself because he had ridden directly into an ambush, because he had lost some good men and several horses, but principally because the hostiles had slipped through his fingers with the loss of only two of their number. And so he vented his spleen upon the unfortunate King, who had never guessed until that moment how much contempt, sarcasm and insult could be crowded into that single word Mister.
He was relieved of duty and ordered into arrest, released and returned to duty, three times in the ensuing fifteen minutes after he rejoined the troop. His spirit was raw and sore, and he conceived for his superior a hatred that he knew would survive this life and several lives to come; but that was because he had been but a few weeks under the “old man.” Before that campaign was over Lieutenant King would have ridden jubilantly into the mouth of Hell for him. But just then he did not know that his captain’s flow of vitriolic invective and censure but masked the fear the older man had felt when he saw the youth’s utter disregard of danger leading him straight into the jaws of death.
The old captain knew a brave man when he saw one and he knew, too, that the steadying influence of experience in. active service would make a great Indian fighter of such as his second had proven himself to be, and in the depth of his heart he was very proud of the boy, though he would have rather his tongue had been cut out than to admit it in words. It was his way to win loyalty by deeds, with the result that his men cursed him—and worshipped him.
In the light of what Lieutenant King had heard of the character and customs of Apaches he found it difficult to satisfactorily explain the magnanimity of the very first one it had been his fortune to encounter. He found his preconceived estimate of Apache character hanging in mid-air with all its props kicked from under it, and all he could do was wonder.
Shoz-Dijiji was wondering, too. He knew that he had not acted upon impulse and perhaps that was why his action troubled him in retrospect. He tried to be sorry that he had not slain the hated pindah lickoyee, yet, when he thought of the happiness of the white girl when she learned that her lover had been spared, he was glad that he had not killed him. Too fresh was the wound of his own great grief to permit him to be callous to the possible grief of another in like circumstance, and in this case that other was a friend who had been kind to him. Yes, Shoz-Dijiji was satisfied that he had done right. He would have no regrets. As for the Ned-ni—well, he had earned death by his insult.
Following the fight with “B” Troop the little band of Ned-ni broke up once again into still smaller parties and scattered by ones and twos, so that there remained nothing in the way of a trail for the soldiers to follow. Shoz-Dijiji moved directly south into the Sierra Madre, searching for Juh. To every familiar haunt of the Apache went the silent, terrible figure, searching, ever searching; his sorrowing heart like lead in his bronze breast, his soul a torment of consuming fires of hate.
From many a commanding peak he scanned the country north and south, east and west, through the field glasses he had taken from the young officer, and then one day he came upon the spoor of an Apache in the soft earth beside a bubbling spring. You or I might not have been able to discern that a man had stepped there, but Shoz-Dijiji saw the dim print of an Apache war moccasin. He plucked some of the down-pressed grass and breaking it knew from the condition of the juices within that a man had stood there on the preceding day, and then he sought and quickly found the direction of the other’s trail, leading toward the south.
Not again, no matter where it went, did Shoz-Dijiji lose sight of the spoor of him whom he followed. Early the next morning he left it momentarily while he ascended a peak and scanned the mountains to the south. Ah, at last! In the distance, tenuous, vapory blue, almost invisible rose a tiny waft of smoke. Indians! Apaches, doubtless. Ned-ni, perhaps. Juh! Be good, O Usef! Let it be Juh!
It was noon when Shoz-Dijiji passed silently and unseen the sentries of the Ned-ni and stalked majestically into the camp. His quick eyes took in every detail of the scene. He saw two of Juh’s squaws and several of his children, but Juh he did not see. But Juh must be near. His long search was ended.
Warriors gathered about him, asking many questions; surprised to see him in the flesh, whom they had thought dead. He told them of the fight withthe white soldiers, of the scattering of the balance of the hostiles; that the troops might be following them down into Mexico. He did not ask for Juh; that was not his way. He waited. Perhaps Juh would come soon, but he was impatient. A terrible thought smote him.
“Were many of the Ned-ni killed when you fought the white-eyes?” he asked.
“No,” they told him, “two warriors, whose bodies we brought along and buried, and a squaw was missing.” They did not mention her name. Seldom do the Apaches call their dead by name. But there was no need—Shoz-Dijiji knew that they spoke of Ish-kay-nay.
“Was she killed by the soldiers?” asked Shoz-Dijiji.
“We do not know. Juh would not return to find out.”
“Juh—he is not here,” remarked Shoz-Dijiji, casually. That was as near as he would come to asking where Juh was.
“He is hunting in the mountains,” said a warrior, waving an informatory hand in the direction of a rugged ridge above the camp.
Shoz-Dijiji walked away. He could not wait. He went from shelter to shelter, talking, but only to throw off suspicion, for he knew that some of them must guess why he was here. When he could, he slipped away among the trees and moved rapidly up the shoulder of the ridge, diagonally that he might cross the spoor of the man he sought, nor had he long to go before he picked up the imprint of a great moccasin, such a moccasin as Juh might wear.
A human tiger, then, he tracked his prey. Up rugged mountainsides ran the trail, across rocky hogbacks where none but an Apache eye might trace it, down into dank ravines and up again along the bold shoulder of a mighty peak. It was there that Shoz-Dijiji heard something moving just beyond the curve of the mountain ahead of him.
He stopped and listened. The thing was approaching, already he had interpreted it, the sound of moccasined feet moving through low brush. Shoz-Dijiji waited. Two seconds, three, five. The figure of a man loomed suddenly before him. It was Juh. The end of the hate-trail had been reached. Juh was returning to camp.
The chief saw and recognized Shoz-Dijiji instantly. He was armed with bow and arrows and a knife. Shoz-Dijiji carried these and a revolver in addition. The carbine he had cached before he entered the Ned-ni camp.
“What does the Be-don-ko-he here?” demanded Juh.
“I, Shoz-Dijiji, have come to kill a great liar. I have come to kill a great coward who cannot protect his women. I have come to kill Juh.”
“You cannot kill Juh,” said the older man. “Strong is the medicine of Juh. The bullets of the white-eyes cannot enter the body of Juh—they will bounce back and kill you. Nakay-do-klunni made this medicine himself. Go away, before it kills you.”
“Nakay-do-klunni is dead,” replied Shoz-Dijiji. “His medicine is no good.”
“What he made for Juh is good.”
“Shoz-Dijiji will throw away all his weapons except his knife,” said the young warrior. “Let Juh do likewise. Then, with his knife Shoz-Dijiji will cut the vile heart of Juh out of his breast.”
Juh was a big, strong man. He was afraid of no one in a hand-to-hand encounter, so the other’s proposal met with instant approval. With a sneer he tossed aside his bow and arrows and Shoz-Dijiji similarly discarded all his weapons but his knife. Like great fighting cats the two drew closer. Juh taunted and insulted his adversary, after the code Apachean. He applied the vilest epithets to which he could lay his naturally vile tongue to the mother of Shoz-Dijiji, to his father, to his grandmother, to his grandfather, to all his forebears back to the first one, whose dam, according to Juh, had been a mangy coyote; then he vilified the coyote.
Shoz-Dijiji, grim, terrible, silent, crept stealthily toward his lifelong enemy. Juh mistook his silence for an indication of fear. He rushed upon the son of Geronimo thinking to bear him down by the suddenness and weight of his bull-like charge. His plunging knife was struck aside and the two closed, but Shoz-Dijiji gave back no single step. With as great effect Juh might have charged one of the ancient pines that soughed above them.
Each seeking to sink his blade in the flesh of the other, they surged and strained to and fro upon the rocky shoulder of the mountain. Below them yawned an abyss whose sheer granite wall dropped straight a thousand feet to the jagged rocks that formed the debris at its base.
“Pihdah lickoyee,” growled the Ned-ni. “Die, son of a white-eyed man!”
Shoz-Dijiji, the muscles rolling beneath his copper hide, forced his knife hand, inch by inch, downward upon the straining, sweating warrior. Juh tried to break away, but a mighty arm held him—held him as he had been bound with thongs of rawhide.
In his efforts to escape, Juh dragged his antagonist nearer and nearer the edge of that awful precipice waiting silently behind him. Juh did not see, but Shoz-Dijiji saw, and did not care. Rather than permit his enemy to escape the Black Bear would go over with him—to death; perhaps to oblivion, perhaps to Ish-kay-nay. What did it matter? Closer and closer came the sharp point to the breast of Juh. “Speak the truth, Juh, for you are about to die.” Shoz-Dijiji spoke for the first time since the duel had begun. “Say that Shoz-Dijiji is no pindah lickoyee.”
“Juh speaks the truth,” panted the other; “You are white.” The Ned-ni, straining with every ounce of strength that he possessed, slowly pushed away the menacing blade. He surged suddenly to the right, almost hurling them both to the ground. It was then that he realized how close they had been to the edge of the abyss. A pebble, struck by his foot, rolled a hand breadth and dropped over the edge. Juh shuddered and tried to draw away, but Shoz-Dijiji, determined never to relinquish his hold until his enemy was dead, even if he must die with him, dragged him relentlessly to the verge again. There they toppled for an instant, Juh trying to pull back and the Black Bear straining to precipitate them both to the rocks below. Now Shoz-Dijiji’s feet were upon the very edge of the precipice and his back was toward it. His time had come! Surging backward he threw his feet out over the abyss, bringing all his weight into his effort to drag Juh over with him. The chief of the Ned-ni, seeing death staring him in the face, voiced a single, piercing, horrified shriek and hurled himself backward. For an instant they rocked back and forth upon the brink, and then Juh managed to take a backward step and, for the second, they were saved.
Heaving, straining, dripping sweat that ran down their sleek bodies in rivulets, these men of iron who scarce had ever sweat before—so lean their thews and fatless—struggled, turning, twisting, until once again they stood upon the verge of eternity. This time it was Juh whose back was toward the awful gulf.
Now Shoz-Dijiji was seeking to push him over the edge. So rapt had each been in this pushing and pulling toward and away from the verge that one might have thought each had forgotten the rigid knife-hand clasped in the grip of the other. Perhaps they had, momentarily; but it was Shoz-Dijiji who remembered first. With a twisting, sudden wrench, he tore his wrist free from Juh’s grasp.
“Die, Ned-ni!” he growled, glaring into the eyes of his foe. He drove his blade deep into the breast of Juh. “Die! Ish-kay-nay is avenged!”
Again and again the blade sank deep into the heart of the Chief of the Ned-ni, his arms dropped limp, he reeled and tried to speak, to beg for mercy. Then it was that Shoz-Dijiji, the Be-don-ko-he, put both palms against the bloody chest of his antagonist and pushed him backward. Screaming, Juh toppled from the rocky ledge and, turning and twisting, his body fell down, down to the jagged rocks a thousand feet below.