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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDo And Dare: A Brave Boy's Fight For Fortune - Chapter 30. A Terrible Moment
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Do And Dare: A Brave Boy's Fight For Fortune - Chapter 30. A Terrible Moment Post by :shoki Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :1611

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Do And Dare: A Brave Boy's Fight For Fortune - Chapter 30. A Terrible Moment


Melville's purchase comprised not only the cottage, but its contents, pictures and books included. This was fortunate, for though Herbert, who was strong, and fond of outdoor sports, such as hunting and fishing, could have contented himself, Melville was easily fatigued, and spent at least half of the day in the cabin. The books, most of which were new to him, were a great and unfailing resource.

Among the articles which Falkland left behind him were two guns, of which Herbert and Melville made frequent use. Herbert had a natural taste for hunting, though, at home, having no gun of his own, he had not been able to gratify his taste as much as he desired. Often after breakfast the two sallied forth, and wandered about in the neighboring woods, gun in hand. Generally Melville returned first, leaving Herbert, not yet fatigued, to continue the sport. In this way our hero acquired a skill and precision of aim which enabled him to make a very respectable figure even among old and practiced hunters.

One morning, after Melville had returned home, Herbert was led, by the ardor of the chase, to wander farther than usual. He was aware of this, but did not fear being lost, having a compass and knowing his bearings. All at once, as he was making his way along a wooded path, he was startled by hearing voices. He hurried forward, and the scene upon which he intruded was dramatic enough.

With arms folded, a white man, a hunter, apparently, stood erect, and facing him, at a distance of seventy-five or eighty feet, was an Indian, with gun raised, and leveled at the former.

"Why don't you shoot, you red rascal!" said the white man. "You've got the drop on me, I allow, and I am in your power."

The Indian laughed in his guttural way; but though he held the gun poised, he did not shoot. He was playing with his victim as a cat plays with a mouse before she kills it.

"Is white man afraid?" said the Indian, not tauntingly, but with real curiosity, for among Indians it is considered a great triumph if a warrior can inspire fear in his foe, and make him show the white feather.

"Afraid!" retorted the hunter. "Who should I be afraid of?"

"Of Indian."

"Don't flatter yourself, you pesky savage," returned the white man, coolly, ejecting a flood of tobacco juice from his mouth, for though he was a brave man, he had some drawbacks. "You needn't think I am afraid of you."

"Indian shoot!" suggested his enemy, watching the effect of this announcement.

"Well, shoot, then, and be done with it."

"White man no want to live?"

"Of course I want to live. Never saw a healthy white man that didn't. If I was goin' to die at all, I wouldn't like to die by the hands of a red rascal like you."

"Indian great warrior," said the dusky denizen of the woods, straightening up, and speaking complacently.

"Indian may be great warrior, but he is a horse thief, all the same," said the hunter, coolly.

"White man soon die, and Indian wear his scalp," remarked the Indian, in a manner likely to disturb the composure of even the bravest listener.

The hunter's face changed. It was impossible to reflect upon such a fate without a pang. Death was nothing to that final brutality.

"Ha! White man afraid now!" said the Indian, triumphantly--quick to observe the change of expression in his victim.

"No, I am not afraid," said the hunter, quickly recovering himself; "but it's enough to disgust any decent man to think that his scalp will soon be dangling from the belt of a filthy heathen like you. However, I suppose I won't know it after I'm dead. You have skulked and dogged my steps, you red hound, ever since I punished you for trying to steal my horse. I made one great mistake. Instead of beating you, I should have shot you, and rid the earth of you once for all."

"Indian no forget white man's blows. White man die, and Indian be revenged."

"Yes, I s'pose that's what it's coming to," said the hunter, in a tone of resignation. "I was a 'tarnal fool to come out this mornin' without my gun. If I had it you would sing a different song."

Again the Indian laughed, a low, guttural, unpleasant laugh, which Herbert listened to with a secret shudder. It was so full of malignity, and cunning triumph, and so suggestive of the fate which he reserved for his white foe, that it aggravated the latter, and made him impatient to have the blow fall, since it seemed to be inevitable.

"Why don't you shoot, you red savage?" he cried. "What are you waiting for?"

The Indian wished to gloat over the mental distress of his foe. He liked to prolong his own feeling of power--to enjoy the consciousness that, at any moment, he could put an end to the life of the man whom he hated for the blows which he felt had degraded him, and which he was resolved never to forget or forgive. It was the same feeling that has often led those of his race to torture their hapless victims, that they may, as long as possible, enjoy the spectacle of their agonies. For this reason he was in no hurry to speed on its way the fatal bullet.

Again the Indian laughed, and, taking aim, made a feint of firing, but withheld his shot. Pale and resolute his intended victim continued to face him. He thought that the fatal moment had come, and braced himself to meet his fate; but he was destined to be disappointed.

"How long is this goin' to last, you red hound?" he demanded. "If I've got to die, I am ready."

"Indian can wait!" said the savage, with a smile of enjoyment.

"You wouldn't find it prudent to wait if I were beside you," said the hunter. "It's easy enough to threaten an unarmed man. If some friend would happen along to foil you in your cowardly purpose---"

"White man send for friend!" suggested the Indian, tauntingly.

Herbert had listened to this colloquy with varying emotions, and his anger and indignation were stirred by the cold-blooded cruelty of the savage. He stood motionless, seen by neither party, but he held his weapon leveled at the Indian, ready to shoot at an instant's warning. Brought up, as he had been, with a horror for scenes of violence, and a feeling that human life was sacred, he had a great repugnance to use his weapon, even where it seemed his urgent duty to do so. He felt that on him, young as he was, rested a weighty responsibility. He could save the life of a man of his own color, but only by killing or disabling a red man. Indian though he was, his life, too, was sacred; but when he threatened the life of another he forfeited his claim to consideration.

Herbert hesitated till he saw it was no longer safe to do so--till he saw that it was the unalterable determination of the Indian to kill the hunter, and then, his face pale and fixed, he pulled the trigger.

His bullet passed through the shoulder of the savage. The latter uttered a shrill cry of surprise and dismay, and his weapon fell at his feet, while he pressed his left hand to his wounded shoulder.

The hunter, amazed at the interruption, which had been of such essential service to him, lost not a moment in availing himself of it. He bounded forward, and before the savage well knew what he purposed, he had picked up his fallen weapon, and, leveling it at his wounded foe, fired.

His bullet was not meant to disable, but to kill. It penetrated the heart of the savage, and, staggering back, he fell, his face distorted with rage and disappointment.

"The tables are turned, my red friend!" said the hunter, coolly. "It's your life, not mine, this time!"

At that moment Herbert, pale and shocked, but relieved as well, pressed forward, and the hunter saw him for the first time.

"Was it you, boy, who fired the shot?" asked the hunter, in surprise.

"Yes," answered Herbert.

"Then I owe you my life, and that's a debt Jack Holden isn't likely to forget!"

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