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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Land Of Mystery - Chapter 12. To The Death
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The Land Of Mystery - Chapter 12. To The Death Post by :AuthorityHost Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :July 2011 Read :1454

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The Land Of Mystery - Chapter 12. To The Death

CHAPTER XII. TO THE DEATH

It was at this juncture that Jared Long, peering out from the shadow of the wood, observed a larger log than any he had yet noticed, sweeping by within a short distance of shore.

It was without any branches, except a few near the top, but there seemed to be a number of big knots projecting from the upper side. He counted seven and they were all of the same size. Furthermore, unless he was mistaken, the huge tree, from some cause, was working closer to land.

_Suddenly one of the knots moved_!

The sentinel uttered an exclamation, for the startling truth flashed upon him with the quickness of lightning.

Each apparent knot was the head of a native!

With amazing coolness, the New Englander brought his Winchester to a level, and _bang, bang, bang_, he shattered three of the knots in quick succession.

He would not have stopped the frightful work even then, had not the other targets disappeared.

Awaking to their danger, the warriors, dropped down so low in the water that the log intervened between them and the deadly marksman.

Still the tree with its terrible load was approaching land. The natives were swimming toward shore and pushing it in front of them.

Long stepped back and roused the professor, placing his mouth so close to his ear that he was able to apprise him of what was going on, without being heard by their enemies.

Grimcke bounded to his feet, rifle in hand.

"We'll take them as they come out!" he replied, instantly grasping the situation.

The log was drifting lower down at the same time that it neared the land. Determined to confront the savages the instant they came forth, the explorers hurried along the edge of the wood, so as to be on the spot when the landing should be made. It was well they did so, for a more astounding discovery than the first, instantly followed the movement.

More than one of the trees that had floated by carried its human freight, and nearly a score of savages were crouching in the edge of the river, so flat on their faces that not one was visible from the spot where the sentinel was standing a moment before.

The natives, with a cunning that was never suspected, had crossed the Xingu above the rapids, where, as they knew, such a proceeding would not be anticipated by the explorers. Then, stealthily making their way to the bottom of the rapids, they first launched a number of trees and logs until, as may be said, the white man on guard should become so accustomed to them that they would cause no distrust.

If he should be tempted to scrutinize the first, he would learn that nothing was amiss and would let the rest go by unquestioned.

As a result, the natives had floated past the canoe and under the very nose of the sentinel without his detecting it.

The savage who swung the torch on the other side of the river probably meant it as a command for the daring raiders to make no further delay in their attack.

The group lying against the shore must have been puzzled by the sudden bombardment from the edge of the wood. They were so disconcerted, that instead of springing to their feet and charging upon the two defenders of the camp, half of them turned about, and diving deep into the stream, began furiously swimming for the other shore.

They must have concluded that there was a hitch somewhere in the programme, and the time for disappearing had arrived.

The other half, however, leaped to their feet, and, brandishing their spears and yelling at the top of their voices, ran swiftly in the direction of the whites, who were still firing their Winchesters.

"Get behind a tree!" shouted the professor, who had a wholesome dread of the poisoned weapons, and who lost no time in availing himself of the nearest shelter.

But he did not cease to use his rifle. The cartridges in his magazine were running low, and it was necessary to exercise care in aiming, for a few precious seconds must be consumed in extracting an additional supply from the belt at his waist.

But Jared Long declined to follow the sensible advice and example of his friend. Scorning to seek shelter, even from such terrible weapons, he blazed away, making nearly every shot tell.

It was not until he saw a knot of savages working round with a view of getting behind him, that he fell back a few paces, though still exposed. The wonder was that he had not already been pierced by more than one of the fatal missiles.

Suddenly he was jerked almost off his feet. The impatient professor had seized his arm and yanked him behind the tree at his side in spite of himself.

The New Englander would have been a zany to expose himself again, after being provided in this summary fashion with a shield.

But he, too, had about emptied the magazine of his Winchester. Although he could have brought out more cartridges from his belt in a twinkling, he coolly leaned his rifle against the tree and whipped out his revolver.

"After that is emptied," he reflected, "my knife is left."

The action of the natives suggested that it was their wish to take both the men prisoners instead of killing them. They had done too much to be let off with such an easy death: they were wanted for torture.

But, in making such a contract, it may be said that the assailants found it exceedingly difficult to deliver the goods.

They might as well have tried to seize and hold a couple of diminutive volcanoes, as to lay hands on the men whose supply of fire and death seemed without limit.

In the midst of the frightful struggle, with the shrieking figures falling, dashing forward and retreating, as if in wild bewilderment, Quincal rushed out of the wood with a shout brandishing his spear and making straight for the ferocious savages.

With a daring and strength that surprised the latter no more than it did his white friends, he drove the head of the weapon sheer through one of the assailants, who went over backward with a screech that drowned all other noises.

Quincal still grasped his weapon with both hands, and with amazing power, extricated it, as his victim fell, and turned upon the others.

But, by this time, he was surrounded and his fate was sealed.

Anxious to save the brave fellow, the professor and Long emptied their revolvers among his enemies, but were unable to scatter them until the fellow sank to the ground, pierced deep and fatally in a dozen places by the poisoned javelins.

Instinctively, the two white men filled their magazines from their belts, as quickly as they could, and by the time Quincal was no more, they opened again on the savages.

The latter had already lost fearfully, and this renewed assault was more than they could stand. If, instead of trying to make the white men prisoners, they had contented themselves with hurling their spears, when they first sprang from the ground, nothing could have saved Grimcke and Long.

Now, when they launched the missiles, it was too late. The white men were each protected by the trunk of a large tree, and standing back in the shadow, their faces could not be seen. The only way of locating them was by the flash of their guns.

They sent a shower of the javelins into the wood, and then were seized with that strange, aimless panic which sometimes comes over the bravest men in the crisis of a conflict. The survivors made a wild break for the river, into which they sprang as far as they could leap, diving deep, swimming as far as possible beneath the surface, then coming up an instant for breath and diving again.

The blood of the Professor and the American was at fever heat. They felt it wrong to show mercy, after what had taken place, and were in no mood for any further weakness of that nature.

Both ran down to the edge of the stream, and, standing almost in the water, took deliberate aim at every black head as it rose to the surface. They kept popping up here and there, at varying distances, only to drop out of sight again, the instant the swimmer caught breath; but in many instances, when they went down the second or third time, they did not come up again.

Professor Grimcke and Jared Long were throwing away no ammunition.

Finally, the dark forms began rising from the river on the other shore, where they darted into the wood, fearful of the dreadful messengers which followed them even there.

The repulse was decisive and there was little fear of the attack on the camp being renewed that night.

The shocking evidences of the disastrous repulse were on every hand, with the body of poor Quincal lying at the feet of the assailant whom he had slain, and with nearly a score of dusky bodies stretched in every conceivable attitude.

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