The Indian Agent for New Mexico had scarcely entered upon his new duties, when trouble came. A branch of the Apaches became restless and committed a number of outrages on citizens. Stern measures only would answer and a force of dragoons were sent against them. They dealt them a severe blow, killing one of their most famous chiefs, besides a considerable number of warriors.
Instead of quieting the tribe, it rather intensified their anger, though they remained quiescent for a time through fear. Not long after, Carson was notified that a large party of the tribe were encamped in the mountains, less than twenty miles from Taos. He decided at once to supplement the work of the sword with the gentle arguments of peace.
This proceeding on the part of the Indian Agent is one deserving of special notice, for it shows no less the bravery of Carson than it does the philanthropic spirit which actuated him at all times in his dealings with the red men. Alas, that so few of our officials today deem his example worth their imitation.
The venture was so dangerous that Carson went alone, unwilling that any one else should run the risk. When he arrived at their encampment, he made his way without delay to the presence of the leaders, whom he saluted in the usual elaborate fashion, and then proceeded to state the important business that took him thither.
Nearly every warrior in camp recognized the short, thickset figure and the broad, pleasant face when they presented themselves. They knew he was one of the most terrible warriors that ever charged through a camp of red men. He had met them many a time in fierce warfare, but he always fought warriors and not papooses and squaws. He was the bravest of the brave and therefore they respected him.
But he was a truthful and just man. He had never lied to them, as most of the white men did, and he had shown his confidence in them by walking alone and unattended into the very heart of their encampment. They were eager to rend to shreds every pale face upon whom they could lay hands, but "Father Kit" was safe within their lodges and wigwams.
Carson made an admirable speech. He at first caused every serpent-like eye to sparkle, by his delicate flattery. Then he tried hard to convince them that their hostility to the whites could result only in injury to themselves, since the Great Father at Washington had hundreds and thousands of warriors whom he would send to replace such as might lose their lives. Then, when he made known that the same Great Father had appointed him to see that justice was done them, they grinned with delight and gathering around, overwhelmed him with congratulations.
The Agent insisted that they should prove their sincerity by pledging to follow the line of conduct he had lain down, and they did so with such readiness that a superficial observer would have declared the mission a complete success.
But Kit Carson thought otherwise. He knew the inherent treachery of the aboriginal nature, and his estimate of Apache loyalty was the true one. The most that he was warranted in feeling was the hope that those furious warriors would be less aggressive than had been their custom. Though they had expressed a willingness to make any agreement which he might propose, yet it was their very willingness to do so which caused his distrust. Had they been more argumentative and more tenacious of their rights, their sincerity might have been credited.
The Agent could have secured their consent almost to any agreement, but the sagacious official asked as little as he could.
"And I don't believe they mean to keep even that agreement," he muttered, as he bade the effusive sachems and warriors goodbye and made his way back to Taos.