Not another word was said. The question had been submitted to the arbitrament of chance and the New Englander had lost, and that, too without any suspicion on his part of the little trick played upon him.
Before resorting to the last opportunity, Long slipped through the back room and ascertained the outlook there. He was surprised at the result. Hardly a native was visible. It looked indeed as if they were working their way round to the front, and that some scheme of attack had been agreed upon by the leaders from that point.
The Professor's survey confirmed the theory of his friend. The Murhapas were more plentiful than ever. They appeared to be marshalling along the bank of the Xingu, where there were so many that it was impossible to count the heads and shoulders rising above the slope.
Waggaman was not in sight, though there could be no doubt that he was the inspiring spirit in the movement. All the indications were that a rush had been agreed upon. Should it be permitted to come off unopposed in its incipiency, it would be all up with the men who had defended themselves so bravely thus far.
"I will begin at the head of the row," said the Professor, "and you at the foot; make every shot tell."
"All right; begin!"
The fusillade was opened the same instant. Both men fired rapidly, and, though they could not pause to make their aim as sure as they wished, and though it is not to be supposed that every shot was effective, yet the execution was dreadful.
Arms were seen flung spasmodically upwards, figures leaped clear off the ground and then fell back out of sight, shrieks and shouts filled the air, and still the crack of the Winchesters continued without intermission.
One gratifying feature of the fearful scene was that the warriors began flocking around to the front, though they kept well back, as if to avoid the murderous discharge. These new arrivals not only afforded additional targets to the riflemen, despite their furious efforts to screen themselves, but proved that the scheme of the defenders was working as they desired: the natives were swarming from the rear to the front.
"Off with you; don't wait!" commanded the Professor.
"Good-bye!" was all that Jared Long said, as he darted from the side of his gallant friend and vanished.
Professor Grimcke took a few seconds to refill his magazine, when up went his Winchester again and the furious discharges seemed to be more rapid than before.
It would naturally be supposed that if the assailants saw that both of the white men had concentrated their fusillade at the front, they would make a dash to the rear. That, it may be said, would be the second step in the programme. It was calculated that the sudden volleys of the rifles would draw all the natives thither, and then, after learning what had taken place, a large part of them would rush back again.
The New Englander had been gone only a few minutes, when the Professor saw evidences that the second step was about to be taken. The savages were beginning to move back to the rear, though at a greater distance then from the building than before.
All at once Grimcke ceased firing. While looking sharply out of the door, he mechanically refilled the magazine of his rifle from his stock of cartridges which was running low.
"Now or never!" he said to himself, and then, turning, he ran swiftly through the two rooms to the rear door, through which he bounded without a moment's hesitation.
He expected his flight would be announced by a series of shouts and a storm of poisoned javelins. He held his breath, and, as the seconds passed, began wondering whether there was a possibility after all of successfully following the footsteps of his friend.
He was encouraged by the sounds of the deafening tumult from the front of the house. The Murhapas had swarmed into the front-room, proving that they had decided upon making the very rush of which the defenders stood in such dread.
This, although only a momentary diversion, was immeasurably in favor of the daring attempt of the flying fugitive.
Lest the reader may pronounce the escape of these two white men incredible, we hasten to explain that which, if left unexplained, would warrant such disbelief on the part of our friends.
The individual who gave the wild scheme an ending that otherwise it never could have had, was Ziffak, the head chieftain of the Murhapas. He proved to be the all-potent factor in the terrible problem.
From what has been related about these strange inhabitants of the Matto Grosso, it need not be said that they were too cunning, if left to themselves, to allow a door to stand open for their intended victims to escape, after penning them in such a trap.
Ziffak was the shrewdest member of the Murhapa tribe and much more fitted to be its ruler than King Haffgo. After bidding good-bye to the lovers, he hastened back to the middle of the village, where he arrived after the first disastrous repulse given his people by Professor Grimcke.
It took the fellow but a few moments to grasp the situation. He told no one of the death of Burkhardt, but busied himself in learning precisely how matters stood. Had he dared to do so, he would have ordered a cessation of the attack, but the latter was made by the direct orders of King Haffgo, and Ziffak was not the chieftain to butt his head against a stone wall, by an open defiance of his royal brother's authority.
The assault was under the direction of Waggaman himself. The king from his own door, where he could not be reached by any bullet of the defenders, was watching the futile assault with an impatience and anger that could hardly be restrained. His soul became like a volcano, as he saw his brave warriors fall back, with many of them biting the dust. Had not the traditions of his country forbade such a proceeding, he would have placed himself at the head of the natives and led the decisive charge.
Seeing how it was at the front, Ziffak cautiously made his way to the rear. There were few warriors there, and he instinctively felt that if his white friends were to get off at all, it must be through the rear opening.
While intently debating with himself what he could do to help them, he stealthily slipped down to where the large boat was lying under the bank. No one was near it, for the attention of all was concentrated on the fight under way. Unobserved, he shoved the craft out into the stream and saw it drift with the current.
Returning to the rear of the besieged building again, he formed the plan of getting the warriors to the front and then dashing back and helping them out. This was a wild scheme, and involved great personal risk to himself, for he was sure to be punished for rendering aid whose discovery was inevitable.
At the very moment he was about to make the attempt, Grimcke and Long gave him unexpected help by opening their united fire from the front upon the warriors marshalling for the decisive charge.
This afforded him just the pretext he wanted, to order the Murhapas to hasten to the other side of the building to assist in what was in contemplation there, though, even with such a movement under way, it will be seen that the right place for a portion of the savages was at the rear, in order to head off the very thing that was attempted.
Thus it was, that, while the two explorers were congratulating themselves on the success of their clever scheme, they never suspected that its success was due to their giant friend, who kept himself so well in the background that neither of them caught sight of him.
Having got his men away, Ziffak slipped back with the purpose of carrying out the rest of the plan he had formed; but before he could reach the rear entrance, he caught sight of Professor Grimcke running like a deer toward the woods.
Ziffak was puzzled, not knowing that his friend had preceded him, and he dashed into the building to hurry him out. As he came in at one door, Waggaman and the Murhapas swarmed in at the other, and pandemonium was let loose.
The certainty of another murderous fire from the rifles of the defenders caused some lagging at the threshold, but those in the rear forced those at the front forward, and the next moment the mob was inside.
Still there was no sound of firearms, though, the savages were crowding into both apartments. Some one kicked the ashes from the embers, and the blaze which followed made known the astounding fact that both of the white men had fled.
Ziffak seemed to be in a towering rage because such a blunder had been made, and called upon the fleetest runners to follow him.
Out of the door he went as if shot from the throat of a columbiad, with a procession of sinewy-limbed warriors at his heels. All ran as fast as they could, though none were his equal in fleetness.
It need hardly be said that Ziffak took mighty good care that he did not pursue the course of Professor Grimcke, and presumably that of his companion who preceded him. Instead of aiming for the woods, he diverged toward the river, and seemed to find it necessary to shout and yell every second or two at the top of his voice.
His followers may have imagined he was laboring under uncontrollable rage or deemed it necessary to keep their courage up to the highest point by such means; but the two fugitives who had joined each other in the woods, and were picking their way with the utmost care, held a strong suspicion that the prodigious shouts were intended for their special benefit. At any rate, they accepted them as such, and took pains to continue their flight in a different course from that of the howling Murhapas.
It did not require Ziffak long to find out that the fugitives were irrecoverably gone, and he came back with his report to the king.
There he was met by astounding news. Burkhardt
had been slain by a poisoned javelin, and Ariel, the beloved daughter
of the ruler, had been seen in full flight toward the enchanted
lake in the company of the execrated white man, Ashman. Pursuit
was to be organized at once, and, though Ziffak was to take part,
yet the chosen warriors were to be led by the king in person.
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