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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Land Of Mystery - Chapter 15. Ziffak
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The Land Of Mystery - Chapter 15. Ziffak Post by :irubu Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :July 2011 Read :1707

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The Land Of Mystery - Chapter 15. Ziffak


Fred Ashman was so startled by hearing the giant native utter his submission in unmistakable English, that he came near dropping his leveled Winchester to the earth in sheer amazement.

He had not dreamed that the savage understood a word of that tongue, but judged from his own posture, with his weapon pointed at him, that the other knew when an enemy had "the drop" on him. Even if such were the fact, he counted upon a desperate resistance, and was prepared to give the fellow his quietus by a shot from his rifle.

The savage held his ponderous javelin in his hand, but made no effort to use it. His black eyes were fixed on the face of the handsome American, and he could not have failed to note the expression of bewilderment and wonder caused by the words that had just dropped from his dusky lips. Indeed, Ashman fancied he detected something akin to a smile lighting up the forbidding countenance.

It may be said that the young explorer for the moment felt himself in the position of the man who drew an elephant in a lottery--he didn't know what to do with his prize. It had come to him so unexpectedly that he was bewildered.

But he was quick to rally from his dazed condition. The fact that the giant had shown such a knowledge of the English tongue suggested the possibility not only of obtaining important information, but of making a friend of this personage, who must possess great influence among his people.

True, the events of the afternoon and evening were against anything in the nature of comity or good will, but no harm could come from an attempt to bring about an understanding between the people and the explorers that had become involved in such fierce conflicts with them.

"Drop that spear!" commanded Ashman.

"I have surrendered," said the savage, in a low, coarse voice; "and Ziffak does not lie."

Nevertheless, while the words were passing his lips, he unclosed his right hand and allowed the implement to fall to the ground.

"Is your weapon poisoned?" asked Ashman, still mystified by the extraordinary situation and hardly knowing what to say.

"Your man in the wood was pierced by one of our spears; ask him."

"Such a warrior as Ziffak does not need to tip his weapons with poison," said Ashman, glancing significantly at the carcass of the puma. "It is cowardly to use such means against your enemies."

The savage shook his head and an ugly flash appeared in his eyes.

"Do not the whites from the Great River use fire to slay the natives before they can come nigh enough to use their spears?"

"But they have no wish to use them against your people; we would be their friends, and it pains us to do them harm; we would not have done so had they not compelled us."

Ziffak stood a moment as motionless as a statue, with his piercing black eyes fixed with burning intensity on the white man. The latter would have given much could he have read his thoughts, of which an intimation came with the first words that followed.

"Waggaman and Burkhardt told our people that if we allowed the white folks to come into our country, they would bring others and slay all our men, women and children."

"Who are Waggaman and Burkhardt?" asked the explorer, uncertain whether he was awake or dreaming.

"They have lived with the Murhapas for years; they are white men, but they are our friends."

Ashman recalled the story told by Bippo and his companions earlier in the evening. It must be that the names mentioned belonged to those two mysterious individuals, who beckoned them across the Xingu. For some reason of their own, they wished to keep all others of their race out of the country.

It was plain that Ziffak was a remarkable person and the explorer determined to use every effort to win his good will.

"Waggaman and Burkhardt have told you lies; we are your friends."

"Why do you not stay at home and leave us alone?"

"We expect to go back, after ascending the river a short distance further; nothing would persuade us to live here, and, as I have told you, we would not harm any person if they would leave us alone."

Ziffak seemed on the point of saying something, but checked himself and held his peace, meanwhile looking steadily at the man who had made him a prisoner in such clever style.

Ashman resolved on a rash proceeding.

"Take up your spear again, Ziffak; go back to your people, and, if you believe what I say, tell them my words, and ask them to give us a chance to prove that we mean all I have uttered."

"My people know nothing about you," was the strange response.

"You heard but a few minutes ago the sounds of guns and the shouts from the direction of the rapids, which show they were fighting."

"Those people are not mine," said the native; "but they are my friends, and I fight for them."

"From what you said, you are a Murhapa?"

Ziffak nodded his head in the affirmative.

"Where do they live?"

He extended his hand and pointed up the river.

"One day's ride above the rapids and you reach the villages of the Murhapas. There live Waggaman and Burkhardt; they came many years ago. I am a chieftain, and they rule with me."

"It was from them you learned to speak my tongue?"

Ziffak again nodded his head, adding:

"Many of my people speak it as well as I."

"Tell me, Ziffak, why, if your home is so far above the rapids, you are here among these people, whose name I do not know?"

"They are Aryks; they have much less people than the Murhapas, and are our slaves. Some days ago word was brought to us that a party of white men were making their way up the Xingu. Waggaman and Burkhardt and I set out to learn for ourselves and to stop them. They went down the other side of the river and I came down to the Aryk village. I roused them to kill you before you could pass above the rapids, but we were able to slay only one of them."

"And it was a sad mistake that you did that; for he was a good man, who wished you no evil. Where are Waggaman and Burkhardt?"

The native shook his head. He had picked up his spear, but made no movement toward taking his departure. Ashman hoped he would not, for everything said not only convinced him of the first importance of gaining the fellow's confidence, but encouraged him in the belief that he was fast doing so. He resolved to leave no stone unturned looking to that end.

"Why did not your two white friends help you in the fight, to keep us from going further up the Xingu?"

"_Maybe they did_," replied Ziffak, with a significant glance up stream, which left no doubt that he referred to the conflict that had taken place there while the couple were talking on the margin of the river.

"I don't believe it," Ashman hastened to say, hopeful that such was the case; for, with two white men and their firearms, the peril of his friends must have been greatly increased.

"Why do you seek to enter our country?" asked the dusky giant, after a brief pause.

"We want to learn about your people; but I pledge you we wish not to harm a hair of their heads."

It was not to be expected that a savage who has heard nothing else for years except that any penetration of his territory by white men meant destruction, could give up that belief simply on the pledge of one of the race accused.

But it was equally clear that this particular savage was favorably disposed toward Ashman. It may have been that his good will was won by the neat manner in which he had got the best of Ziffak, the most terrible warrior ever produced by that people. A brave man respects another brave man.

"Why did Waggaman and Burkhardt visit your villages and make their home with you for so many years?"

"I do not know," replied Ziffak, with another shake of his head; "but they have proven they are friends. They do not want to go back to their people, who are all bad."

The thought occurred to Ashman, though he did not express it, that the strange white men were criminals. They may have escaped from the diamond mines, which were at no great distance, and naturally preferred the free, wild life of the interior to the labor and tyranny which the miserable wretches condemned to service in those regions undergo.

"Ziffak," said the explorer, lowering his weapon, "will you walk back to the camp of my people? You have my promise that no harm shall be offered you by any one."

The herculean native nodded his head, and the strange couple started up the bank in the direction of the camp, which was now as silent as though not a hostile shot had been fired, or a savage blow been struck.

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