Read CHAPTER VI of Wolfville Nights, free online book, by Alfred Lewis, on

With the Apache’s Compliments.

“Ondoubted,” observed the Old Cattleman, during one of our long excursive talks, “ondoubted, the ways an’ the motives of Injuns is past the white man’s findin’ out. He’s shore a myst’ry, the Injun is! an’ where the paleface forever fails of his s’lootion is that the latter ropes at this problem in copper-colour from the standp’int of the Caucasian. Can a dog onderstand a wolf? Which I should remark not!

“It’s a heap likely that with Injuns, the white man in his turn is jest as difficult to solve. An’ without the Injun findin’ onusual fault with ’em, thar’s a triangle of things whereof the savage accooses the paleface. The Western Injuns at least for I ain’t posted none on Eastern savages, the same bein’ happily killed off prior to my time the Western Injuns lays the bee, the wild turkey, an’ that weed folks calls the ‘plantain,’ at the white man’s door. They-all descends upon the Injun hand in hand. No, the Injun don’t call the last-named veg’table a ‘plantain;’ he alloodes to it as ‘the White Man’s Foot.’

“Thar’s traits dominant among Injuns which it wouldn’t lower the standin’ of a white man if he ups an’ imitates a whole lot. I once encounters a savage one of these blanket Injuns with feathers in his ha’r an’ bein’ idle an’ careless of what I’m about, I staggers into casyooal talk with him. This buck’s been East for the first time in his darkened c’reer an’ visited the Great Father in Washin’ton. I asks him what he regyards as the deepest game he in his travels goes ag’inst. At first he allows that pie, that a-way, makes the most profound impression. But I bars pie, an’ tells him to su’gest the biggest thing he strikes, not on no bill of fare. Tharupon, abandonin’ menoos an’ wonders of the table, he roominates a moment an’ declar’s that the steamboat now that pie is exclooded ought to get the nomination.

“‘The choo-choo boat,’ observes this intelligent savage, ’is the paleface’s big medicine.’

“‘You’ll have a list of marvels,’ I says, ’to avalanche upon the people when you cuts the trail of your ancestral tribe ag’in?’

“‘No,’ retorts the savage, shakin’ his head ontil the skelp-lock whips his y’ears, an’ all mighty decisive; ‘no; won’t tell Injun nothin’.’

“‘Why not?’ I demands.

“‘If I tell,’ he says, ‘they no believe. They think it all heap lie.’

“Son, consider what a example to travellers is set by that ontootered savage? That’s what makes me say thar be traits possessed of Injuns, personal, which a paleface might improve himse’f by copyin’.

“Bein’ white myse’f, I’m born with notions ag’in Injuns. I learns of their deestruction with relief, an’ never sees one pirootin’ about, full of life an’ vivacity, but the spectacle fills me with vain regrets. All the same thar’s a load o’ lies told East concernin’ the Injun. I was wont from time to time to discuss these red folks with Gen’ral Stanton, who for years is stationed about in Arizona, an’ merely for the love he b’ars to fightin’ performs as chief of scouts for Gen’ral Crook.

“‘Our divers wars with the Apaches,’ says Gen’ral Stanton, ’comes more as the frootes of a misdeal by a locoed marshal than anything else besides. When Crook first shows up in Arizona this is in the long ago an’ starts to inculcate peace among the Apaches, he gets old Jeffords to bring Cochise to him to have a pow-wow. Jeffords rounds up Cochise an’ herds him with soft words an’ big promises into the presence of Crook. The Grey Fox which was the Injun name for Crook makes Cochise a talk. Likewise he p’ints out to the chief the landmarks an’ mountain peaks that indicates the Mexican line. An’ the Grey Fox explains to Cochise that what cattle is killed an’ what skelps is took to the south’ard of the line ain’t goin’ to bother him a bit. But no’th’ard it’s different; thar in that sacred region cattle killin’ an’ skelp collectin’ don’t go. The Grey Fox shoves the information on Cochise that every trick turned on the American side of the line has done got to partake of the characteristics of a love affair, or the Grey Fox with his young men in bloo his walk-a-heaps an’ his hoss-warriors noomerous as the grass, they be will come down on Cochise an’ his Apaches like a coyote on a sage hen or a pan of milk from a top shelf an’ make ’em powerful hard to find.

“‘Cochise smokes an’ smokes, an’ after considerin’ the bluff of the Grey Fox plenty profound, allows he won’t call it. Thar shall be peace between the Apache an’ the paleface to the no’th’ard of that line. Then the Grey Fox an’ Cochise shakes hands an’ says “How!” an’ Cochise, with a bolt or two of red calico wherewith to embellish his squaws, goes squanderin’ back to his people, permeated to the toes with friendly intentions.

“’Sech is Cochise’s reverence for his word, coupled with his fear of the Grey Fox, that years float by an’ every deefile an’ canyon of the Southwest is as safe as the aisles of a church to the moccasins of the paleface. Thus it continyoos ontil thar comes a evenin’ when a jimcrow marshal, with more six-shooters than hoss sense, allows he’ll apprehend Cochise’s brother a whole lot for some offense that ain’t most likely deuce high in the category of troo crime. This ediot offishul reaches for the relative of Cochise; an’ as the latter bein’ a savage an’ tharfore plumb afraid of captivity leaps back’ard like he’s met up with a rattlesnake, the marshal puts his gun on him an’ plugs him so good that he cashes in right thar. The marshal says later in explanation of his game that Cochise’s brother turns hostile an’ drops his hand on his knife. Most likely he does; a gent’s hands even a Apache’s has done got to be some’ers.

“‘But the killin’ overturns the peaceful programmes built up between the Grey Fox an’ Cochise. When the old chief hears of his brother bein’ downed, he paints himse’f black an’ red an’ sends a bundle of arrows tied with a rattlesnake skin to the Grey Fox with a message to count his people an’ look out for himse’f. The Grey Fox, who realises that the day of peace has ended an’ the sun gone down to rise on a mornin’ of trouble, fills the rattlesnake skin with cartridges an’ sends ’em back with a word to Cochise to turn himse’f loose. From that moment the war-jig which is to last for years is on. After Cochise comes Geronimo, an’ after Geronimo comes Nana; an’ one an’ all, they adds a heap of spice to life in Arizona. It’s no exaggeration to put the number of palefaces who lose their ha’r as the direct result of that fool marshal layin’ for Cochise’s brother an’ that Injun’s consequent cuttin’ off, at a round ten thousand. Shore! thar’s scores an’ scores who’s been stood up an’ killed in the hills whereof we never gets a whisper. I, myse’f, in goin’ through the teepees of a Apache outfit, after we done wipes ’em off the footstool, sees the long ha’r of seven white women who couldn’t have been no time dead.

“‘Who be they? Folks onknown who’s got shot into while romancin’ along among the hills with schemes no doubt of settlement in Californy.

“’With what we saveys of the crooelties of the Apaches, thar’s likewise a sperit of what book-sharps calls chivalry goes with ’em an’ albeit on one ha’r-hung o’casion I profits mightily tharby, I’m onable to give it a reason. You wouldn’t track up on no sim’lar weaknesses among the palefaces an’ you-all can put down a stack on that.

“‘It’s when I’m paymaster,’ says the Gen’ral, reachin’ for the canteen, ‘an’ I starts fo’th from Fort Apache on a expedition to pay off the nearby troops. I’ve got six waggons an’ a escort of twenty men. For myse’f, at the r’ar of the procession, I journeys proudly in a amb’lance. Our first camp is goin’ to be on top of the mesa out a handful of miles from the Fort.

“‘The word goes along the line to observe a heap of caution an’ not straggle or go rummagin’ about permiscus, for the mountains is alive with hostiles. It’s five for one that a frownin’ cloud of ’em is hangin’ on our flanks from the moment we breaks into the foothills. No, they’d be afoot; the Apaches ain’t hoss-back Injuns an’ only fond of steeds as food. He never rides on one, a Apache don’t, but he’ll camp an’ build a fire an’ eat a corral full of ponies if you’ll furnish ‘em, an’ lick his lips in thankfulness tharfore. But bein’ afoot won’t hinder ’em from keepin’ up with my caravan, for in the mountains the snow is to the waggon beds an’ the best we can do, is wriggle along the trail like a hurt snake at a gait which wouldn’t tire a papoose.

“‘We’ve been pushin’ on our windin’ uphill way for mighty likely half a day, an’ I’m beginnin’ so dooms slows is our progress to despair of gettin’ out on top the mesa before dark, when to put a coat of paint on the gen’ral trouble the lead waggon breaks down. I turns out in the snow with the rest, an’ we-all puts in a heated an’ highly profane half-hour restorin’ the waggon to health. At last we’re onder headway ag’in, an’ I wades back through the snow to my amb’lance.

“’As I arrives at the r’ar of my offishul waggon, it occurs to me that I’ll fill a pipe an’ smoke some by virchoo of my nerves, the same bein’ torn and frayed with the many exasperations of the day. I gives my driver the word to wait a bit, an’ searchin’ forth my tobacco outfit loads an’ lights my pipe. I’m planted waist deep in the mountain snows, but havin’ on hossman boots the snow ain’t no hardship.

“‘While I’m fussin’ with my pipe, the six waggons an’ my twenty men curves ‘round a bend in the trail an’ is hid by a corner of the canyon. I reflects at the time though I ain’t really expectin’ no perils that I’d better catch up with my escort, if it’s only to set the troops a example. As I exhales my first puff of smoke and is on the verge of tellin’ my driver to pull out this yere mule-skinner is settin’ so that matters to the r’ar is cut off from his gaze by the canvas cover of my waggon a slight noise attracts me, an’ castin’ my eye along the trail we’ve been climbin’, I notes with feelin’s of disgust a full dozen Apaches comin’. An’ it ain’t no hyperbole to say they’re shore comin’ all spraddled out.

“‘In the lead for all the deep snow, an’ racin’ up on me like the wind, is a big befeathered buck, painted to the eyes; an’ in his right fist, raised to hurl it, is a 12-foot lance. As I surveys this pageant, I realises how he’pless, utter, I be, an’ with what ca’mness I may, adjusts my mind to the fact that I’ve come to the end of my trails. He’pless? Shore! I’m stuck as firm in the snow as one of the pines about me; my guns is in the waggon outen immediate reach; thar I stands as certain a prey to that Apache with the lance as he’s likely to go up ag’inst doorin’ the whole campaign. Why, I’m a pick-up! I remembers my wife an’ babies, an’ sort o’ says “Goodbye!” to ’em, for I’m as certain of my finish as I be of the hills, or the snows beneath my feet. However, since it’s all I can do, I continyoos to smoke an’ watch my execootioners come on.

“‘The big lance Injun is the dominatin’ sperit of the bunch. As he draws up to me he’s fifty foot in advance of the others he makes his lance shiver from p’int to butt. It fairly sings a death song! I can feel it go through an’ through me a score of times. But I stands thar facin’ him; for, of course, I wants it to go through from the front. I don’t allow to be picked up later with anything so onfashionable as a lance wound in my back. That would be mighty onprofessional!

“’You onderstands that what now requires minutes in the recital don’t cover seconds as a play. The lance Injun runs up to within a rod of me an’ halts. His arm goes back for a mighty cast of the lance; the weepon is vibrant with the very sperit of hate an’ malice. His eyes, through a fringe of ha’r that has fallen over ’em, glows out like a cat’s eyes in the dark.

“We stands thar I still puffin my pipe, he with his lance raised an’ we looks on each other I an’ that paint-daubed buck! I can’t say whatever is his notion of me, but on my side I never beholds a savage who appeals to me as a more evil an’ forbiddin’ picture!

“’As I looks him over a change takes place. The fire in his eyes dies out, his face relaxes its f’rocity, an’ after standin’ for a moment an’ as the balance of the band arrives, he turns the lance over his arm an’ with the butt presented, surrenders it into my hand. You can gamble I don’t lose no time in arguin’ the question, but accepts the lance with all that it implies. Bringin’ the weepon to a ‘Right Shoulder’ an’ with my mind relieved, I gives the word to my mule-skinner who’s onconscious of the transactions in life an’ death goin’ on behind his back an’ with that, we-all takes up our march an’ soon comes up on the escort where it’s ag’in fixed firm in the snow about a furlong to the fore. My savages follows along with me, an’ each of ’em as grave as squinch owls an’ tame as tabby cats.

“’Joke? no; them Apaches was as hostile as Gila monsters! But beholdin’ me, as they regyards it for they don’t in their ontaught simplicity make allowance for me bein’ implanted in the snow, gunless an’ he’pless so brave, awaitin’ deestruction without a quiver, their admiration mounts to sech heights it drowns within ’em every thought of cancellin’ me with that lance, an’ tharupon they pays me their savage compliments in manner an’ form deescribed. They don’t regyard themse’fs as surrenderin’ neither; they esteems passin’ me the lance as inauguratin’ a armistice an’ looks on themse’fs as guests of honor an’ onder my safegyard, free to say “How!” an’ vamos back to the warpath ag’in whenever the sperit of blood begins to stir within their breasts. I knows enough of their ways to be posted as to what they expects; an’ bein’, I hopes, a gent of integrity, I accedes to ’em that exact status which they believes they enjoys.

“‘They travels with me that day, eats with me that evenin’ when we makes our camp, has a drink with me all ’round, sings savage hymns to me throughout the night, loads up with chuck in the mornin’, offers me no end of flattery as a dead game gent whom they respects, says adios; an’ then they scatters like a flock of quail. Also, havin’ resoomed business on old-time lines, they takes divers shots at us with their Winchesters doorin’ the next two days, an’ kills a hoss an’ creases my sergeant. Why don’t I corral an’ hold ’em when they’re in my clutch? It would have been breakin’ the trooce as Injuns an’ I onderstands sech things; moreover, they let me go free without conditions when I was loser by every roole of the game.’”