Axidava

The Story Of A Bad Indian

Malita was a half-breed, the daughter of an old squaw. She had spent several years at the Indian school in Phœnix, and had proved herself an apt pupil. Later she went to work on Simmons’ Ranch. She was a very pretty, healthy looking girl, and one day Morgan Jones, the hunter and trapper, asked her to marry him. She went with him to his cabin near the Reservation and settled down.

Jones was a devil-may-care sort of chap, who, when he had a little money, came to the straggling one-horse town near the Reservation, drank considerable whiskey, and amused himself by running his pony up and down the one street, firing off his gun, and shouting at the top of his voice. This was Jones’ idea of a good time, and his method of contributing his share to the sanguinary ornamentation of the embryo metropolis.

Malita made Jones a good wife, and attended to his creature comforts to the best of her ability, and when Jones returned to the cabin in an inebriated condition she soothed him, and put him to bed, looking upon such incidents as a matter of course. For a year or more they lived contentedly, and a little boy was born to them.

On the Reservation lived an Indian named Tixinopa, a splendid specimen of a savage athlete, and the most noted runner and hunter in his tribe. Like many of his race, while hating the white man, he loved the white man’s fire-water, and it made him surly and quarrelsome. He was a natural leader, and often, at night, he spoke with fiery eloquence of the wrongs of his race, sowing the seeds of unrest and rebellion.

Tixinopa was the only cloud which disturbed the domestic horizon of the Jones family. He haunted the vicinity of the cabin, and was continually asking Malita for whiskey and tobacco when Jones was away, until at last Jones intimated to him gently that his presence was, to say the least, undesirable. Being a child of the woods and hills, he did not have at his command a large vocabulary of diplomatic phrases to enable him to do this politely, in fact, he was blunt.

In describing the interview to Malita afterwards he said:

“I told him if he cum around here any more I’d smash his head, an’ he grunts an’ draws himself up this a-way, and looks ugly and says, ‘he’s a big Injun,’ and I told him to go to hell!”

For some time Tixinopa kept away from the cabin, but one day he appeared and demanded whiskey. He was half drunk, and his bloodshot eyes blinked at Malita as he swayed unsteadily in the doorway.

“No, Tixinopa, there is no whiskey.”

Tixinopa’s eyes grew ugly. “You lie, you half-breed squaw; but be it so, I will take the boy away until you remember where it is.”

So saying he lifted the baby by the arm and swung him on to his shoulder. The child cried out with pain from its twisted arm. Malita’s heart sunk with a dreadful fear.

“Give the child to me, Tixinopa, do not be so rough; see, you have hurt him.”

She tried to take the boy, but Tixinopa pushed her away roughly and she fell to the ground. Up she sprang and threw herself upon him, trying to get the boy, and in the struggle she scratched his face slightly, so that the blood came. With a curse he struck her full in the face with his clinched fist and she fell as if dead, and lay with her hands twitching feebly.

“Take your half-breed brat,” he hissed, throwing the baby roughly on the ground beside her. He turned to walk away, but something in the motionless form of the child caused him to look again, and he saw that his little head lay doubled under his arm in a way that could only mean one thing—a broken neck.

Malita rose unsteadily to her feet and looked about in a dazed way until her gaze rested upon the little body of her dead baby; the next instant she was striking and cutting at Tixinopa, screaming like a mad thing.

The attack was so sudden and fierce that, trained athlete and fighter as he was, Tixinopa received a deep cut on the shoulder and a slight one on the arm before he succeeded in grasping her wrist, and twisting the knife from her. Then, seizing her by the hair, he drew her to him and drove the knife twice into her breast, throwing her to the ground, where she lay gasping her life away in broken sobs.

Tixinopa stood for a moment looking at Malita and was quite still. His arm pained him and he held up his hand and watched the blood dripping from his fingers. Then he took a self-cocking revolver from his belt and fired shot after shot into the bodies of the dead baby and the dying mother. Twice the hammer clicked on an empty shell before he ceased to pull the trigger, and he slowly turned away, pushing his empty pistol into his belt. As he did so he found himself face to face with Jones, but a different Jones than the one he had known. This Jones’ face was white and drawn, and looked years older than the other Jones. The hand which held a pistol pointed at him shook unsteadily. A minute, perhaps two minutes, passed, and still the two men faced each other; then an evil light came into Tixinopa’s eyes, and his hand slid slowly towards the handle of his knife, to be instantly smashed by a bullet from Jones’ pistol. Another shot and the other arm was broken at the elbow. Neither man had spoken, but now Tixinopa began a low, wild chant. Raised to his full height, with his broken arms hanging by his sides, he chanted the death song of his people, the same song which had been sung by his father, and his father’s father, and for generations past by all the dying warriors of his tribe.

“Tixinopa,” the voice was a husky whisper, “for her sake I won’t torture yer as I would like ter,—God give me strength to keep from doin’ it!—but I’m afeared He won’t unless I kill yer quick. All I hope is that if there is a hell, your black soul will roast in it for ever and ever, amen!”

The muzzle of the pistol was now within a few inches of the naked breast; still the low, wild chant went on, the bronze figure standing as if turned to stone. Then another shot and the chant stopped.

*

Ten minutes later a horseman rode slowly into the desert. To his left, as he crossed the half-dry bed of the alkali stream, two Indian boys were skinning a rabbit alive and laughing at its agony. From afar back on the other side of the valley he heard the strains of the “Star Spangled Banner” played by the pride of the Reservation—the Indian band!

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