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Darkness had settled down upon the wide mesquite flat, smoothing off all irregularities, hiding outlines until the tallest thickets were but deeper shadows merging into the lesser shades of the open places. Only one object showed, a Sibley tent glowing from the light within.

Under the flaming yellow stars it stood out luminous, marking the exact center of an enormous circle; a circle roofed by the radiantly flecked heavens, bounded by mountains which rose against the sky-line, abrupt as a wall, black as ink. In the different segments of this far-flung ring the peaks of the Chiracahuas, the Grahams, the Dragoons, and the Galiuros betrayed their ranges by varying outlines.

But to the eye they all formed portions of one huge circumference, whose center was a glowing point, the Sibley tent.

On the translucent walls of canvas there was a weird design of black shadows, a design which was constantly shifting and taking on new shapes. And as the shadows moved, sometimes with grotesque effect and swiftly, sometimes slowly, voices filtered through the gleaming cloth to mingle with the whispering of the night wind in the bear-grass, the dull stamping of tethered horses, the intermittent jingling of bitt-chains and the steady soft footfalls of two sentries.

The voices changed as often as the shadows on the tent-wall; now it was the abrupt, clipping speech of a white man and now the deep, inflectionless bass of an Indian. But most often it was the droning monotone of the post interpreter, uttering his translations in English or in the tongue of the Apache.

Of what was taking place within those luminous walls of canvas, official records still exist; and of what followed there are whole volumes of further records in Washington. Dry reading in themselves, they hold the meat of a remarkable story, a story whose colorful narration has been given by its own main characters and thus has come down among the true chronicles of the old-timers.

On that evening in 1859 two groups of men faced one another, and the lantern which hung on the center-pole of the Sibley tent shone down on their faces, revealing the growing passion in their eyes. One of the groups was composed of soldiers, wearing the blue uniforms, the queer straight-visored caps, and the huge wide-topped boots which our cavalry used during those times; a guard of sunburnt troopers under a hard-bitten nom-com.; and standing a pace or so ahead of them, a young second lieutenant fresh from West Point: Lieutenant Bascom, a stranger in a strange, harsh land, just a little puzzled over the complications which he saw arising here, but dead sure of himself and intolerant of the men with whom he was treating. That intolerance showed in his stare as he regarded them.

There were half a dozen of the Apaches, chiefs every one of them, a ragged group clad in a mixture of their native garb and cast-off clothes of the white man; frowzy hair hanging to their shoulders and bound round at the brows by soiled thin turbans. But they stood erect and there was a dignity in the way they held their heads back, a dignity in their immobility of feature and in their slow, grave speech. It was the dignity of men who knew that they were leaders of their people; who felt themselves on entire equality with the leader of the white man’s warriors; who felt the gravity of this occasion where they had been invited into conference with this blue-clad representative of a mighty government. Their head man was Cochise.

Like Lieutenant Bascom, he stood a pace ahead of his followers, a lean Apache, with a thinner face than most of his tribesmen and a remarkably high forehead. And as he looked into the eyes of the young man in blue who had just come from the far cities of the east coast there began to come into his own eyes the shadow of suspicion. The talk went on; the interpreter droned out one answer after another to his speeches, and that shadow in the eyes of Cochise deepened.