knew the other’s impetuous temper, and by wearing out his patience reckoned on obtaining a sure and tolerably easy victory.And it seemed as if he would gain the result of his reasoning even sooner than he expected. Bristling with rage, literally smarting with the indignity recently put upon him, Carhayes abandoned the defensive. With a sudden rush, he charged his antagonist, and for a few moments nothing was heard but the clash of hard-wood in strike and parry. Hlangani was touched on the shoulder, while Carhayes got a rap on the knuckles, which in cold blood would have turned him almost sick with pain. But his blood was at boiling point now, and he was fighting with the despairing ferocity of one who has no hope left in life. He pressed his gigantic adversary with such vigour and determination that the other had no alternative but to give way.The fun was waxing fast and furious now. The warriors crowding in nearer and nearer, pressed forward in breathless attention, encouraging their champion with many a deep-toned hum of applause when he scored or seemed likely to score a point. The few women then in the kraal stood on tiptoe, trying to peer over the heads and shoulders of the armed men. Even the chiefs and councillors condescended to show considerable interest in this impromptu tournament, while Eustace Milne, animated by various motives, watched its progress narrowly.For a few moments it really seemed that the white man would prove the victor. Before the impetuosity of his furious attacks Hlangani was constrained to give way more and more. A Beserk ferocity seemed to have taken possession of Carhayes. His eyes glared through the blood and dust which clung to his unwashen visage. Every hair of his beard seemed to bristle and stand upright, like the mane of a wild boar. His chest heaved, and the dexterity with which he whirled his kerrie around his adversary’s ears—always quick to ward the latter’s blows from himself—was wonderful to behold.Crash—scroosh! The blow told. A sound as of the crunching of bone. Hlangani staggered back half a dozen paces, the blood pouring from a wound in his skull. It was a blow that would probably have shattered the skull of a white man.
concealed in the long grass. Down it came, plunging heavily forward on its nose, and shooting its rider over its head.A deafening roar of exultation went up from the pursuers as they flung themselves upon Carhayes. Still, half-stunned as he was, the desperate pluck of the unfortunate man caused him to make an effort to rise. Only an effort though. As he rose to his knees he was beaten to the ground in a moment beneath the savage blows of the kerries of his assailants.Eustace heard the crash of the fall, and turning his head, in spite of the deadly risk he ran in suffering his attention to wander from his own course even for a second, he took in the whole scene—the crowd of whooping, excited barbarians, clustering round the fallen man, assegais and kerries waving in the air, then the dull, sickening sound of blows. And even in that moment of deadly peril, his own fate as hopeless as that of the slain man, a thrill of fierce exultation shot through him. Fortune had once more played into his hands. Eanswyth was his. He had got his second chance. This time it was out of his power to throw it away even had he wished to do so. Still—the mockery of it! It had come too late.Meanwhile, Payne and Hoste, being the best mounted, had obtained some little start, but even upon them the extended lines of the fierce pursuers were beginning to close.“Now, George—both together! Let ’em have it!” yelled Hoste, pointing his revolver at the foremost of a mass of Kafirs who were charging in upon them on his side. The ball sped. The savage, a tall, sinewy warrior, naked as at his birth save for a collar of jackals’ teeth and a leather belt round his waist, leaped high in the air and fell stone dead, shot through the heart. At the same time Payne’s pistol spoke, and another barbarian fell, his knee shattered by the bullet. Crack! and down went another while in the act of poising his assegai for a fling.“Up-hill work, but nearly through!” cried Payne as he dropped another of the pursuers in his tracks. The frightened steeds, with ears thrown back and nostrils distended, tugged frantically at their bits as they tore along, but the agile barbarians seemed to keep pace with them,though they refrained from again attempting to close. But now they began to throw their assegais. One of these grazed Payne’s shoulder and stuck fast in the ground in front, quivering nervously. Another scored the flank of Hoste’s horse, causing the poor animal to snort and bound with the sharp pain. Another stuck into Payne’s boot, while a fourth hit Hoste fair between the shoulders, but having been hurled at long range and being withal a somewhat blunt weapon, it failed to penetrate the stout cord jacket.“Devilish good shot, that,” remarked the target. “But I say, George, where are the other fellows?”“Dunno! It’s a case of every man for himself now, and all his work cut out at that.”All this had been the work of but a few minutes, and now the brow of the hill was reached. A furious and bitter curse burst from the pair.For on the plain beneath, converging upon their line of flight in such wise as to meet and utterly cut them off, extended two strong bodies of the enemy. These had circled round the hill, while the fugitives had been forced to the top of it, and now they would join hands before the latter could hope to pass through the rapidly closing circle.“Through them, George. It’s our only show!” cried Hoste. And with the reins gripped in his left hand and his revolver in his right, he sat down to his saddle for the last and final charge. It was a wildly exciting moment —the issues, life or death.The lines were rapidly closing in. With maddened yells and assegais uplifted, the Kafir warriors were straining every effort to complete that fatal circle. A few yards more—twenty—ten! it was done. They were hemmed in.But the headlong, dashing valour of the two men stood them well. Not a moment did they pause. With a wild shout Hoste put his horse straight at a huge barbarian who strove to stop him—knocking the savage sprawling, and through the opening thus breached the two
horsemen shot like an arrow from the bow, and having the advantage of a down-hill course they left the fierce and yelling crowd behind in a trice. Far from safe were they yet. A hole concealed in the grass—a strained sinew—a hundred unforeseen circumstances—and they would be at the mercy of their merciless foes.And now the latter began to open fire upon them, and the crackle of the volley behind mingled with the ugly hum of missiles overhead and around.“Allamaghtaag! My horse is hit!” exclaimed Payne, feeling the animal squirm under him in a manner there was no mistaking.“So?” was the concerned reply. “He’s got to go, though, as long as you can keep him on his legs. If we can’t reach the river, or at any rate the thick bush along it, we’re done for.”They turned their heads. Though beyond the reach of their missiles now, they could see that the Kafirs had by no means relinquished the pursuit. On they came—a dense, dark mass streaming across the plain— steady of cruel purpose—pertinacious as a pack of bloodhounds. Hoste’s steed was beginning to show ominous signs of exhaustion, while that of his companion, bleeding freely from a bullet hole in the flank, was liable to drop at any moment. And the welcome bush was still a great way off— so, too, was the hour of darkness.Meanwhile Eustace, spurring for dear life, realised to the bitter full that the terrible event which, in spite of himself, he had so ardently desired, could be of no benefit to him now. For he knew that he was doomed. Nothing short of a miracle could save his life—which is to say, nothing could. The very earth seemed to grow enemies. Behind, around, in front, everywhere, those cat-like, sinuous forms sprang up as if by magic. Suddenly his bridle was seized. A mass of warriors pressed around him, assegais raised. Quick as thought he pointed his revolver at the foremost, and pressed the trigger; but the plunging of his horse nearly unseated him, and the ball whistled harmlessly over the Kafir’s shoulder. At the same time a blow on the wrist knocked the weapon from his grasp.He saw the gleam of assegai points, the deadly glare of hatred in the sea of rolling eyes closing in upon him. Then a tall warrior, springing like a leopard, struck full at his heart with a large, broad-bladed assegai.It was done like lightning. The flash of the broad blade was in his eyes. The blow, delivered with all the strength of a powerful, muscular arm, descended. A hard, numbing knock on the chest, a sharp, crashing pain in the head—Eustace swayed in his saddle, and toppled heavily to the earth. And again the fierce death-shout pealed forth over the wild veldt, and was taken up and echoed in tones of hellish exultation from end to end of the excited barbarian host.The night has melted into dawn; the dawn into sunrise. The first rays are just beginning to gild the tops of the great krantzes overhanging the Hashi. At the foot of one of these krantzes lies the motionless figure of a man. Dead? No, asleep. Slumbering as if he would never wake again.There is a faint rustle in the thick bush which grows right up to the foot of the krantz—a rustle as of something or somebody forcing a way through—cautiously, stealthily approaching the sleeper. The latter snores on.The bushes part, and a man steps forth. For a moment he stands, noiselessly contemplating the prostrate figure. Then he emits a low, sardonic chuckle.At the sound the sleeper springs up. In a twinkling he draws his revolver, then rubs his eyes, and bursts into a laugh.“Don’t make such a row, man,” warns the new arrival. “The bush may be full of niggers now, hunting for us. We are in a nice sort of a hole, whichever way you look at it.”“Oh, we’ll get out of it somehow,” is Hoste’s sanguine reply. “When we got separated last night, I didn’t know whether we should ever see each other again, George. I suppose there’s no chance for the other two fellows?”“Not a shadow of a chance. Both wiped out.”“H’m! Poor chaps,” says Hoste seriously. “As for ourselves, here we are, stranded without even a horse between us; right at the wrong end of the country; hostile niggers all over the shop, and all our fellows gone home. Bright look out, isn’t it!”“We are two fools,” answers Payne sententiously.Chapter Twenty Four.A Dark Rumour in Komgha.There was rejoicing in many households when it became known in Komgha that the Kaffrarian Rangers had been ordered home, but in none was it greater than in that run conjointly by Mrs Hoste and her family and Eanswyth Carhayes.The satisfaction of the former took a characteristically exuberant form. The good soul was loud in her expressions of delight. She never wearied of talking over the doughty deeds of that useful corps; in fact, to listen to her it might have been supposed that the whole success of the campaign, nay the very safety of the Colony itself, had been secured by the unparalleled gallantry of the said Rangers in general and of the absent Hoste in particular. That the latter had only effected his temporary emancipation from domestic thrall in favour of the “tented field” through a happy combination of resolution and stratagem, she seemed quite to have forgotten. He was a sort of hero now.Eanswyth, for her part, received the news quietly enough, as was her wont. Outwardly, that is. Inwardly she was silently, thankfully happy. The campaign was over—he was safe. In a few days he would be with her again—safe. A glow of radiant gladness took possession of her heart. It showed itself in her face—her eyes—even in her voice. It did not escape several of their neighbours and daily visitors, who would remark among themselves what a lucky fellow Tom Carhayes was; at the same time wondering what there could be in such a rough, self-assertive
specimen of humanity to call forth such an intensity of love in so refined and beautiful a creature as that sweet wife of his—setting it down to two unlikes being the best mated. It did not escape Mrs Hoste, who, in pursuance of her former instinct, was disposed to attribute it to its real cause. But exuberant as the latter was in matters non-important, there was an under-vein of caution running through her disposition, and like a wise woman she held her tongue, even to her neighbours and intimates.Eanswyth had suffered during those weeks—had suffered terribly. She had tried to school herself to calmness—to the philosophy of the situation. Others had returned safe and sound, why not he? Why, there were men living around her, old settlers, who had served through three former wars—campaigns lasting for years, not for months or weeks— their arms, too, consisting of muzzle-loading weapons, against an enemy more daring and warlike than the Kafirs of to-day. These had come through safe and sound, why not he?Thus philosophising, she had striven not to think too much—to hope for the best. But there was little enough in that border settlement to divert her thoughts from the one great subject—apart from the fact that that one subject was on everybody’s tongue, in everybody’s thoughts. She had found an interest in the two young girls, in reading with them and generally helping to improve their minds, and they, being bright, well-dispositioned children, had appreciated the process; had responded warmly to her efforts. But in the silent night, restless and wakeful, all sorts of grisly pictures would rise before her imagination, or she would start from frightful dreams of blood-stained assegais and hideous hordes of ochre-painted barbarians sweeping round a mere handful of doomed whites standing back to back prepared to sell their lives dearly.Every scrap of news from the seat of war she had caught at eagerly. She had shuddered and thrilled over the account of the battle with Shelton’s patrol and its stirring and victorious termination. Every movement of the Kaffrarian Rangers was known to her as soon as it became public property, and sometimes before; for there were some in an official position who were not averse to stretching a point to obtain such a smile of welcome as would come into the beautiful face of Mrs Carhayes, if they confidentially hinted to her a piece of intelligence justcome in from the front and not yet made known to the general public. She had even tried to establish a kind of private intelligence department of her own among some of the Kafirs who hung around the settlement, but these were so contradictory in their statements, and moreover she began to suspect that the rascals were not above drawing pretty freely upon their imaginations for the sake of the sixpences, or cast-off clothes, or packets of coffee and sugar, with which their efforts were invariably rewarded. So this she discontinued, or at any rate ceased to place any reliance on their stories.She had heard from her husband once or twice, a mere rough scrawl of half a dozen lines, and those chiefly devoted to explaining that camp life—made up as it was of patrols and horse guards and hunting up the enemy—left no time for any such trivial occupations as mere letter-writing. She had heard from Eustace oftener, letters of great length, entertaining withal, but such as all the world might read. But this in no wise troubled her now, for she understood. Eustace was far too cautious to intrust anything that the world might not read to so uncertain a means of transit as was then at his disposal. Express-riders might be cut off by the enemy in the course of their precarious and sometimes extremely perilous mission; occasionally were cut off.A few days now and she would see him again, would hear his voice, would live in the delight of his presence daily as before. Ah, but—how was it to end? The old thought, put far away into the background during the dull heartache of their separation, came to the fore now. They would go back to their home, to Anta’s Kloof, and things would be as before. Ah, but would they? There lay the sting. Never—a thousand times never. Things could never be as they were. For now that her love for the one had been awakened, what had she left for the other? Not even the kindly toleration of companionship which she had up till then mistaken for love. A sentiment perilously akin to aversion had now taken the place of this. Alas and alas! How was it to end?The return of the Kaffrarian Rangers became a matter of daily expectation. Preparations were made for their reception, including a banquet on a large scale. Still they came not.
Then an ugly report got wind in Komgha—whispered at first. A disaster had befallen. Several men belonging to the expected corps had been killed. They had constituted a patrol, report said—then a shooting party straying from the main body. Anyway, they had been cut off by the enemy and massacred to a man. It was only the Moordenaar’s Kop affair over again, people said.Later the rumour began to boil down a little. Only four men had come to grief as reported. They had left the main body to get up a bushbuck hunt on the banks of the Bashi. They must have crossed the river for some reason or other, probably in pursuance of their hunt; anyhow, they were surprised by the Kafirs and killed. And the missing men were Hoste, Payne, Carhayes, and Eustace Milne.The rumour spread like wildfire. The excitement became prodigious. Men stood in eager knots at the street corners, at the bars, everywhere, each trying to appear as if he knew more about it than his fellows; each claiming to be a greater authority upon the probabilities or improbabilities of the case than all the rest put together. But all were agreed on one point —that the errand of breaking the news to those most concerned was the duty of anybody but themselves. And three of the unfortunate men were married; two of their wives—now widows, alas—being actually resident in the place, within a stone’s throw, in fact. It was further agreed that, by whoever eventually performed, the longer this duty could be deferred the better. Further information might arrive any moment. It would be as well to wait.For once, public opinion was sound in its judgment. Further information did arrive, this time authentic, and it had the effect of boiling down rumour considerably—in fact, by one-half. The four men had set out and crossed the Bashi into the Bomvana country, as at first stated. They had been attacked by the Kafirs in overwhelming numbers, and after a terrible running fight Hoste and Payne had escaped. Their horses had been mortally wounded and themselves forced to lie hidden among the thick bush and krantzes along the Bashi River for two nights and a day, when they were found in a half-starved condition by a strong patrol of the Rangers, which had turned back to search for them. The other two men were missing, and from the report of the survivors no hope could be
entertained of their escape. In fact, their fate was placed beyond the shadow of a doubt, for the Rangers had proceeded straight to the scene of the conflict, and though they did not discover the bodies—which the jackals and other wild animals might have accounted for meanwhile— they found the spots, not very far apart, where both men had been slain, and in or near the great patches of dried-up blood were fragments of the unfortunate men’s clothing and other articles, including a new and patent kind of spur known to have belonged to Milne.This was better. The killed had been reduced from four to two, the number of widows from three to one. Still, it was sufficiently terrible. Both men had lived in their midst—one for many years, the other for a shorter time—and were more or less well-known to all. This time the news was genuine, for three of the Rangers themselves had ridden in with all particulars. The sensation created was tremendous. Everybody had something to say.“Tell you what it is, boys,” a weather-beaten, grizzled old farmer was saying—haranguing a gathering of idlers on the stoep of the hotel. “There’s always something of that sort happens every war. Fellers get so darn careless. They think because Jack Kafir funks sixty men he’s in just as big a funk of six. But he ain’t. They reckon, too, that because they can’t see no Kafirs that there ain’t no Kafirs to see. Jest as if they weren’t bein’ watched every blessed step they take. No, if you go out in a big party to find Jack Kafir you won’t find him, but if you go out in a small one, he’ll be dead sure to find you. You may jest bet drinks all round on that. Hey? Did you say you’d take me, Bill?” broke off the old fellow with a twinkle in his eye as he caught that of a crony in the group.“Haw, haw! No, I didn’t, but I will though. Put a name to it, old Baas.”“Well, I’ll call it ‘French.’ Three star for choice.”The liquid was duly brought and the old fellow, having disposed of two-thirds at a gulp, resumed his disquisition.“It’s this way,” he went on. “I’m as certain of it as if I’d seen it. Them oxen were nothin’ more or less than a trap. The Kafirs had been watchingwho swerved quickly, but not quickly enough, and the blade of the assegai descended, inflicting an ugly wound in the man’s side. Dropping to the ground again, the daring assailant ducked in time to avoid the revolver bullet aimed at him, and gliding in among the fleeing cattle, escaped before the infuriated frontiersman could get in another shot. So quickly did it all take place that, except the wounded man himself, hardly anybody knew what had happened.“Hurt, Thompson?” sung out Hoste, seeing that the man looked rather pale.“No. Nothin’ to speak of, at least. Time enough to see to it by andby.”As he spoke the horse of another man plunged and then fell heavily forward. The poor beast had been mortally stricken by one of the enemy’s missiles, and would never rise again. The dismounted man ran alongside of a comrade, holding on by the stirrup of the latter.“Why, what’s become of the Bomvana?” suddenly inquired someone.They looked around. There was no sign of their guide. Could he have been playing them false and slipped away in the confusion? Even now the enemy might be lying in wait somewhere in overwhelming force, ready to cut off their retreat.“By Jove! There he is!” cried another man presently. “And—the beggar’s dead!”He was. In the confusion of the attack they had forgotten their guide, who must have fallen into the hands of the enemy, and have been sacrificed to the vengeance of the latter. The body of the unfortunate Bomvana, propped up in a sitting posture against a tree by his slayers in savage mockery, presented a hideous sight. The throat was cut from ear to ear, and the trunk was nearly divided by a terrible gash right across it just below the ribs, while from several assegai stabs the dark arterial blood was still oozing forth.
“Faugh!” exclaimed Hoste with a grimace of disgust, while two or three of the younger men of the party turned rather pale as they shudderingly gazed upon the sickening sight. “Poor devil! They’ve made short work of him, anyhow.”“H’m! I don’t wonder at it,” said Shelton. “It must be deuced rough to be sold by one of your own men. Still, if that chap’s story was true he was the aggrieved party. However, let’s get on. We’ve got our work all before us still.”They had. It was no easy matter to drive such an enormous herd through the thick bush. Many of the animals were very wild, besides being thoroughly scared with all the hustling to and fro they had had— and began to branch off from the main body, drawing a goodly number after them. These had to be out-manoeuvred, yet it would never do for the men to straggle, for the Kafirs would hardly let such a prize go without straining every effort to retain it. Certain it was that the savages were following them in the thick bush as near as they dared, keenly watching an opportunity to retrieve—or partially retrieve—the disaster of the day.Cautiously, then, the party retreated with their spoil, seeking a favourable outlet by which they could drive their unwieldy capture into the open country; for on all sides the way out of the valley was steep, broken, and bushy. Suddenly a shout of warning and of consternation went up from a man on the left of the advance. All eyes were turned on him—and from him upon the point to which he signalled.What they saw there was enough to send the blood back to every heart.Chapter Nineteen.The Last Cartridge.This is what they saw.Over the brow of the high ridge, about a mile in their rear, a darkmass was advancing. It was like a disturbed ants’ nest—on they came, those dark forms, swarming over the hill—and the sun glinted on assegai blades and gun-barrels as the savage host poured down the steep slope, glancing from bush to bush, rapidly and in silence.“I’m afraid we shall have to give up the cattle, lads, and fight our way out,” said Shelton, as he took in the full strength of the advancing Kafirs. “Those chaps mean business, and there are too many of them and too few of us.”“We’ll make it hot for ’em, all the same,” said Carhayes, with a scowl. “I have just put two more nicks on my gun-stock—not sure I oughtn’t to have had four or five, but am only certain of two—Hallo! That’s near.”It was. A bullet had swept his hat off, whirling it away a dozen yards. At the same time puffs of smoke began to issue from the hillside, and the twigs of the bushes beyond were sadly cut about as the enemy’s missiles hummed overhead—but always overhead—pretty thickly. At first, the said enemy was rather chary of showing himself, although they could see groups of red figures flitting from bush to bush, and the whigge of bullets and potlegs became more and more unpleasantly near, while from the slope above jets of smoke and flame kept bursting forth at all points.The plan of the whites was to make a running fight of it. While one-half of the patrol drove on the cattle, the other half was to fight on foot, covering their comrades’ retreat, but always keeping near enough to close up, if necessary.“Now, boys—let ’em have it!” cried Shelton, as a strong body of the enemy made a sudden rush upon their left flank to draw their attention, while another party, with a chorus of shouts and deafening whistles, and waving their assegais and karosses, darted in between the cattle and their captors, with the object of separating and driving off the former.A volley was discharged—with deadly effect, as testified by the number who fell, wounded, maimed, or stone dead. The rest rushed on, gliding in among the fleeing cattle—whistling and yelling in a frenzy of excitement.
“Keep cool, boys, and fire low,” cried Carhayes—who was in command of the dismounted party—as a crowd of Kafirs suddenly started up on their rear, and, with assegais uplifted, threatened a determined charge. “Now!”Again there was a roar, as the whole fire was poured into the advancing mass. Even the horses, steady, trained steeds as they were, began to show restiveness, terrified by the continuous crash of firing and the fierce yells of the savages. Then, without pausing to reload, every man discharged his revolver into the very thick of the leaping, ochre-smeared warriors. It was too much. The latter wavered, then dropped into cover.But the respite was only a temporary one. Changing his tactics, the fierce foe no longer attempted an open coup de main, but taking advantage of the bush he pressed the handful of whites who formed the rear guard so hotly as to force them to close up on their comrades, in order to avoid being entirely surrounded and cut off from the latter. But however bad had been their marksmanship earlier in the day, while excited and practising at the two fleeing Kafirs at long range, our frontiersmen were now in a different vein. There was nothing wild about their shooting now. Steady of eye, and cool of brain, they were keenly alive to every opportunity. Directly a Kafir showed his head he was morally certain to receive a ball through it, or so uncomfortably close as to make him feel as if he had escaped by a miracle, and think twice about exposing himself a second time.Meanwhile the cattle were being driven off by the enemy, and indeed matters had become so serious as to render this a mere secondary consideration. From the bush on three sides a continuous fire was kept up, and had the Kafirs been even moderately decent shots not a man of that patrol would have lived to tell the tale; but partly through fear of exposing themselves, partly through fear of their own fire-arms, to the use of which they were completely unaccustomed, the savages made such wild shooting that their missiles flew high overhead. Now and then, however, a shot would take effect. One man received a bullet in the shoulder, another had his bridle hand shattered. Several of the horses were badly wounded, but, as yet, there were no fatalities. The enemy,confident in the strength of his overwhelming numbers, waxed bolder— crowding in closer and closer. Every bush was alive with Kafir warriors, who kept starting up when and where least expected in a manner that would have been highly disconcerting to any but cool and determined men.But this is just what these were. All hope of saving the spoil had been abandoned. The frontiersmen, dismounted now, were fighting the savages in their own way, from bush to bush.“This is getting rather too hot,” muttered Shelton, with an ominous shake of the head. “We shall be hemmed in directly. Our best chance would be for someone to break through and ride to the camp for help.” Yet he hesitated to despatch anyone upon so dangerous a service.Just then several assegais came whizzing in among them. Two horses were transfixed, and Hoste received a slight wound in the leg.“Damn!” he cried furiously, stamping with pain, while a roar of laughter went up from his fellows, “Let me catch a squint at John Kafir’s sooty mug! Ah!”His piece flew to his shoulder—then it cracked. He had just glimpsed a woolly head, decked with a strip of jackal’s skin, peering from behind a bush not twenty yards away, and whose owner, doubtless, attracted by the laughter of those devil-may-care whites, had put it forward to see what the fun was about. A kicking, struggling sound, mingled with stifled groans, seemed to show that the shot had been effective.“Downed him! Hooray!” yelled Hoste, still squirming under the smart of the assegai prick in his calf. “Charge of loepers that time—must have knocked daylight through him!”Taking advantage of this diversion, a tall, gaunt Kafir, rising noiselessly amid a mass of tangled creepers, was deliberately aiming at somebody. So silent had been his movements, so occupied were the other whites, that he was entirely unperceived. His eye went down to the breech. He seemed to require a long and careful aim.