Haffgo, king of the Murhapas, intended to keep his promise to Ziffak, so far as permitting the explorers to remain in his village until the morrow, at which time he intended that the men should be allowed to go in safety.
But the barbarian was very similar to some of us whose resentment grows with reflection. When he recalled the admiring glances of the handsome young member of the company towards his beloved Ariel, his anger became intense, fanned by the strong suspicion that the princess herself felt some interest in the stranger.
At this critical time, Waggaman put in an appearance. The ruffian was shrewd enough to see his opportunity, and it took him but a few minutes to rouse him to the exploding point. He determined that every one of the whites should die, and he ordered the assault which has already been described.
As has been explained, the king kept within his home, while the attack was under way; but since he resided adjoining the structure which was assaulted, he was aware of every phase of the progress.
His rage has been hinted at because of the repulse of his warriors directly under his own eyes; but when he came to learn that the youth against whom his resentment burned so hotly was not within the building; that the two who had fought so bravely had escaped with their native helpers; that his own daughter the princess was absent; that she had been seen fleeing with the white youth in the direction of the enchanted lake: - when all this became known to the ruler, it may be said that his fury was such that no language could do it justice. It is not impossible that the despot felt thus himself, for, without pausing to give utterance to a few of his imaginings, he made instant preparations to follow the couple to the region which he never permitted a white man to look upon.
A native woman had seen the princess pass up the side of the river, followed a few minutes later by the young man. Her curiosity led her to watch them. She saw the two meet and stand for some time in loving converse. Then one of the white men stole behind them and was about to fire his dreadful weapon, when Ziffak hurled his terrible javelin which pinned him to the ground. Then the native woman hastened to the palace to tell the news, but she could not gain the chance for some time. When the king turned upon his brother for an explanation of what he had done, Ziffak was prepared. It was the intention of Burkhardt to shoot not the white man but the princess herself, because she had refused his love. He heard Burkhardt mutter those words to himself and it was because of those words that Ziffak drove his javelin through his body.
King Haffgo looked sharply at his kinsman when he made this unblushing response, but his doubts if there were any quickly vanished, when he recalled the impetuosity with which he had attacked the defenders in the house and the vigor of his pursuit and his evident indignation and chagrin at the escape of the two white men. No, Ziffak might talk plainly with his royal brother, but when the time for action came he was a true Murhapa, who knew only his duty to his king.
Besides, the little flurry between the two had helped to clear away the fogs of misunderstanding as the lightning often purifies the murky atmosphere. The pursuit of the lovers was quickly organized, for they now occupied the thoughts of the king to the exclusion of everything else. Grimcke and Long could not be far off, and a vigorous hunt was likely to discover one or both of them, but the king gave orders that no attempt of the kind should be made. It was his intention to leave the village for an indefinite time, and he wished every one of his warriors to remain while he was absent. It cannot be said that he was afraid of such an insignificant force, but there was a strong vein of superstition in his nature, which caused a vague fear of the men that had escaped him with such wonderful cleverness. Individuals who could do that sort of thing, were capable of doing things still more marvellous, and to use homely language, King Haffgo was taking no chances.
The party in pursuit numbered just ten persona including the king, Ziffak, Waggaman, and the very pick of the tribe. They were all splendid fellows, fit to be the body-guard of a king, who, when he laid aside the robes of cumbrous dress he was accustomed to wear, and arrayed himself similarly to the warriors, proved himself no mean leader of such a party.
Any one looking upon the little company would have been most impressed by the fact that there were nine dusky barbarians, half naked and as black as Africans, under the guidance of a man as fair as any European; and yet, as the reader knows, the most prominent warrior of the party was the brother of that king, dusky, tall and a giant in stature.
A tribe living in a country as well watered as the Matto Grosso, is sure to be well provided with the means of navigation, though the explorers, when they first reached the neighborhood of the rapids, deemed there was an unusual absence of such craft. A canoe, longer even than that used by our friends in ascending from the Amazon, was carried a short distance down the bank and launched in the Xingu. Five of the warriors seized their long paddles and swung them with the skill of veterans. They were accustomed to that kind of work, and sent the craft up the current with much greater speed than would have been suspected, even by those accustomed to see such work.
Two of the dusky occupants were furnished with bows and arrows, while Waggaman carried his rifle. Thus every species of weapon known to the Murhapas was in the boat.
King Haffgo sat at the stern, his brow dark and threatening, his arms folded and his lips set. His thoughts were too deep for utterance and no one ventured to disturb him. Though the pale countenance was outwardly calm, yet a volcano was raging in that breast, hot and furious enough to burst out and consume the barbarian.
Just in front of him, Ziffak was facing toward the prow, directing the actions of the crew, though for a time little of that was required of him. Waggaman was at the prow, silent, glum, scowling. He did not speak for a long while, but, now and then, glanced at Ziffak. When he did so, he was pretty sure to find the black eyes of the head chieftain fixed upon him.
The two thoroughly distrusted each other. Waggaman knew why that javelin had been driven through the body of his associate and, though the convict felt little sorrow for the loss of his companion, yet he hated the chieftain with a deadly hatred, well aware as he was that the feeling was thoroughly reciprocated by Ziffak.
Whether King Haffgo suspected the truth cannot be known, nor is it of importance to know. All the energy of his nature was concentrated in the emotion of fury against Fred Ashman, who had committed the unparalleled presumption of robbing him of his daughter; and even against that lovely maiden he was so incensed that he stood ready to bury his spear in her snowy bosom.
Though it may have seemed strange to Ashman that Ziffak had ordered him to make all haste to the enchanted lake, instead of starting on a direct flight through the woods, returning to the Xingu at a lower point, yet the sagacious chieftain had the best of reasons for his course, as will soon appear.
Had Ashman fled through the forest, the fact would have been discovered at daybreak, if not before, and such a vigorous pursuit would have been pressed as to render escape out of the question. There was a possibility of outwitting Haffgo by the flight to the lake, though it was remote enough to cause the giant warrior to shudder when he reflected upon it.
That which caused Ziffak regret was, that he had not paused long enough before parting from the couple, to arrange a better understanding with them. As it was, he was mostly in the dark concerning their movements, and greatly handicapped by the necessity of appearing to be the devoted ally of his royal brother.
Under the powerful propulsion of the five paddles, the long narrow canoe sped swiftly up the Xingu, and, sooner than even Ziffak anticipated, it turned into the narrow stream leading to the enchanted lake. Along this it sped like a swallow until the huge rock with its sentinel came in sight.
It was here that King Haffgo, for the first time, showed some interest in his surroundings. He scanned the massive rock closely and manifestly was surprised that the guard did not rise to his feet and challenge them.
Observing that the figure remained motionless, he commanded the craft to approach the rock. This was silently done, the boat halting with the prow touching the mass of black stone.
Still the sentinel moved not, all unaware of his peril. One keen glance showed he was committing the unpardonable sin of sleeping at his post.
Rising quickly to his feet, the king stood upright for an instant, and then, with a furious exclamation, drove the javelin which he snatched from the hands of one of the warriors through the breast of the unfaithful servant, who uttered but a single groan as he perished by the hands of his master and sovereign.
Then Haffgo commanded one of his men to take his place. The fellow instantly sprang from the boat and took his station on the rock, as the successor of him who had died so ignominiously. Little fear of his falling asleep on his post.
A minute later the boat shot out upon the moonlit surface of the enchanted lake. There the occupants used their eyes for all they were worth, the craft making a partial circuit of the sheet of water. There was a possibility that the fugitives were there, though it was slight. Many places afforded a landing, where they might have found temporary shelter, but nothing was seen of the boat, and Haffgo ordered the oarsmen to pass through the tunnel leading to the underground lake.
This was speedily effected, and the large boat debouched into the wonderful body of water, so brilliantly illuminated by the glare from the burning mountain on the western side.
Instinctively every eye was cast in that direction, but nothing rewarded the scrutiny. Then the vision swept along the shores, every portion of which, as will be remembered, was in plain view.
Almost at the same moment; Ziffak uttered
an excited exclamation, and pointed to the northern shore. As
the gaze of every one was directed thither, they caught sight
of the craft for which they were so eagerly hunting.
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