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Chapter VI The Warning

ONCE more George returned to take a look down upon the camp. His recent adventure had made him too long neglect to watch for the arranged signal; but one glance as he reached the side of the hill was sufficient. There was the blanket hanging on the bush; but hardly had he seen and marked it than the girl came up and removed it. No time was now to be lost; so, calling Jamie to him, and followed by Blucher, he started off to the place of rendezvous, in order to take up a good position for his proposed ambush. On the way he took the opportunity of explaining to his son all that would be required of him, and on reaching the appointed spot, they at once concealed themselves.

Eumerella had found it much more difficult to arouse the attention of Opara than she had at all expected. After trying various schemes, she only at last succeeded by telling him the truth partially. She told him at first just as much as was necessary to attract his notice, and, when this was done, she began to foster his vanity and excite his cupidity. She told him casually how she had met the whites in the bush; then, when she found he listened eagerly to her tale, she went on to comment upon the stupid way in which they travelled, and the ease with which such a warrior as Opara might, by his skill and courage, surprise and overcome so blind an enemy. After

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a time he at last rose excited to his feet, and expressed his determination to undertake the adventure. Eumerella joined Opara just as he was on the point of setting out, and, managing to delay him a few minutes longer by some unimportant details, followed him to the spot where the track of the white man was to be picked up.

“Here it was,” she said, as she reached his side, “that I saw the whites last night. And look, here are the tracks!”

“Good!” exclaimed Opara. “We will follow them down, but first we must hide your blanket; and here, in these clusters of scrub, there are good places for the purpose,” and he looked round as though desirous of selecting the thickest.

“Here is one that no eye can pierce,” said Eumerella; “let Opara enter it and see if it be secure.”

One glance was sufficient to satisfy Opara that this was precisely the place he required, and the young girl, divesting herself of the blanket, handed it to the black. He had taken it from her, and was in the act of rolling it up, when he received a blow on the back of his head that laid him senseless on the earth.

“You have performed your part of the agreement well,” said George, “and may depend upon me when the time comes to perform mine. I have been successful beyond all I could ever wish. You do not know,” he cried in bitter triumph, “that I hold in my hands all three of my foes, and that before you brought Opara here, I had already secured Macomo and Atare!”

“What, Macomo!” and her tone of surprise had also much of incredulity in it.

“Macomo himself. The tall chief with the three eagle feathers!” affirmed George coolly. “Only a few

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minutes before you gave the signal an accident threw him in our way, and we made a prisoner of him.”

“If, then, you hold these two, it will be necessary that I should likewise be made a prisoner, and wounded heavily also, when I am taken into their presence. Their quick eyes and wits are not to be deluded like those of this brainless log at my feet, and there must be nothing left to my feigning, or it will be observed. Strike, then, and strike hard, if you would save me!” and she presented her head to receive the blow that she asked from George.

Having done as Eumerella desired, and lightly bound her, they bore off the still insensible Opara to the spot they had selected for holding their conclave; and, laying him down, they returned for the girl, who by this time had so far recovered sensibility as to be able to stagger along with some assistance. She was placed by the side of Opara, with instructions to simulate unconsciousness until the time came when her services should be required.

Over these, Jamie, armed with a tomahawk, and aided by Blucher, mounted guard; whilst George brought Macomo from the place where he had been bound, and lashed him to the tree at the foot of which Opara was lying. The chief could scarcely refrain from expressing aloud his astonishment at seeing one of his tribe lying bleeding and apparently dead at his feet. He was at a loss to understand the meaning of the white man in thus making a captive of him and in slaying his warriors. But when Atare was brought forth, something like a gleam of the truth flashed across his mind, especially when, with the aid of this idea, he was enabled to recognise in the body before him the third participant in that deed of blood which he so well remembered. Now, for

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the first time, there came upon him some misgivings with regard to the intentions of his captor.

Jamie now brought water, and went through the ceremony of recovering Eumerella. She played her part admirably, and awakened no suspicion in the minds of either chief. With Opara the task of recovery was somewhat more difficult, and it was not until more than a half-hour had elapsed that they ultimately succeeded in bringing him to such a state as to be dimly comprehensive of what was going on. Seated immediately below Macomo and Atare, he stared stupidly round, his dull mind being as yet unable to comprehend what connection there was between them and the stern white who confronted them—a connection that his companions had gleaned from the first glance.

And now George walked forward and stood in front of his prisoners, and then, addressing Eumerella, he said: “Girl, you understand the words of the white man, which these of your countrymen do not. I have made you prisoner in order that you should tell them, as near as you can, the words I speak. It is for their benefit that they should know fully who I am and what my objects are. Now, tell them this!”

He paused, and Eumerella at once, with great volubility, told them, not only what George had said, but also dwelt upon the hardship to herself that she should be nearly killed, and then taken prisoner, merely because she could say a few words of the whitefellow's talk.

“And now,” resumed George, “ask them if they know this dog.”

George watched them as the question was put, and he knew from the look they cast upon the animal that they recognised him. They made no answer, however.

“That dog,” he continued, “was the faithful guardian

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of my house. He was present when you, devils as you are, invaded that home and made it desolate, for he knows you, each of you. He it was that first brought me the news of the wicked deed you had committed.”

After this had been conveyed to them by the girl, he said: “Ask them if they know this boy.”

Atare had been previously informed who he was; otherwise Opara was the only one amongst them who could know and recognise the boy. His attention had been so much devoted to George that he had not spared much of it for Jamie. Now, however, he turned round upon the lad, and looked him in the face with blank wonder. Jamie returned the stare with interest, and with an expression in his eyes that boded no good. At last a full recollection of the struggle, the blow, and the wound came back upon him, as he looked into that face, changed as it was. Macomo contented himself by a sneering smile of cool contempt.

“It was upon this boy,” George went on, “that the valour of a savage warrior was exercised. He was the foe that the bravery of Opara selected. It was this boy who was cut down by yon powerful chieftain, who has valour and skill enough to capture women and to slay children, but is no better than a blind pup when he comes face to face with men. It was this boy whom you two buried, but whom I withdrew from the grave and restored to life, to join with me in hunting you down, and in carrying out my project of vengeance. And now ask them if they know who I am.”

To this question, as repeated by Eumerella to the blacks, Macomo disdained to make an answer, but with a look of insolent defiance he returned the fierce, vengeful glance of George. Atare hung his head in silence; whilst

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Opara raised his eyes to George's face in utter bewilderment.

“Tell them, if they have not already guessed it,” he continued, in a voice hoarse with suppressed excitement, “that I am the husband of that woman whom they so cowardly and cruelly murdered; that I am the father of those babes whom they so foully butchered. Tell them that I am he who has been searching them out amongst the tribes from the day on which they did their bloody deed; never halting, never stopping, never turning aside from my one settled purpose. Now I have found them, now that I have them in my power, ask them what they think they deserve at my hands.”

Macomo alone answered boldly to this speech, as conveyed to them by Eumerella. “Let the white man take his vengeance. We are warriors. We know what it is to fall into the hands of an enemy. We have no fear. Let him not waste his breath in words. We are ready!”

A cold, cruel smile curled around the lips of George as this speech was translated to him by the girl. “No,” he said; “tell them that I am not now about to take their lives. When I have said all I wish to say, I shall set them at liberty once more, to roam at large over the open forest and the wide bush!”

When this was told them, even Macomo could not help uttering an exclamation of astonishment, although he could scarcely give credit to the correctness of the announcement.

“But tell them also,” George resumed, “that the same eye that has traced them out, and has followed and found them where they thought themselves secure and beyond the reach of discovery, will still be upon them; and that the same hand that has already fallen upon them and made them captive, tearing them out of the

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very midst of their tribe, will always be over them, and ready to fall upon them when the time for so doing shall have come. Their lives are forfeited. When the day and the hour I have fixed shall arrive, one by one they must fall by my hand.”

Macomo smiled incredulously as this was told him. He had too much confidence in his own strength and cunning to have much dread of the threats of the white.

George remarked the smile, and read its meaning. “I see Macomo smiles,” he continued; “but let him look at me, and regard me well, for from this day forth in me he sees his destiny. Unseen by him, my eye shall never be off him; and to make him feel more bitterly how dread is the vengeance I now take, and how great is the misery to which I consign him, tell him that he shall be the last of the three to perish, and that his blood shall not be shed until I shall have broken down and crushed that proud spirit, as he by his crime has broken down mine, and that he shall not die until I have first made him a byword— a scorn and a reproach to his people, and until he who is now the great warrior of his tribe shall be less regarded than the feeblest gin!”

Macomo drew himself up proudly, as if such a thing were impossible.

“Macomo will see,” George went on. “He shall see what a white man can do in the way of vengeance, and how miserably your murders will compare with my great revenge. Fiends! Dogs! Devils! Had you no hearts! Is there nothing of humanity about you but your forms! Could you murder in cold blood those little innocents who never did you harm! Could not their little pleading voices move you to one spark of pity, or their angel faces beget one thought of mercy in your iron hearts! Could you not have spared me one—only one little one! Bloody,

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heartless butchers! But, as you have dealt by me and mine, so, by Heaven! will I deal with you and yours. The men of your tribe shall be thinned, scattered, and destroyed by fire and flood, and by the spears of your enemies. Your women and children shall die off miserably by hunger and thirst—by pestilence and slaughter. And when a blow of this kind falls upon your tribe, remember the hand that inflicts it will be mine.”

He paused, and noted with savage satisfaction that his words had had some effect, even upon Macomo. He then resumed: “I have sworn it! Yes, and this boy, whom you thought you had slain, has also sworn it! And the oath we have taken is, that, on every recurring anniversary of that dread deed of blood, one of the black hands that aided in the slaughter, reft from the lifeless body of the murderer, shall be laid as a death sacrifice upon the lonely grave where now sleep your victims.”

Having paused long enough to allow this to be translated to them as carefully as it was possible to do under the circumstances, and having noted the different effects the announcement produced upon the three savages, he concluded: “Now I shall leave you. I shall take this girl with me”; and he had been careful throughout not to mention her name, so that the blacks should have no suspicion of complicity on her part; “but only for such a distance as will enable me to baffle any pursuit you may set on foot. Then she shall return to you, and set you at liberty. You need not seek me, for you will not find me, until a misfortune is about to come on your tribe; then you will see me too soon for yourselves. Think now on my words, and on the fate that hangs over you. When the day and hour arrive, it will inevitably fall on you, and let that thought, and the evils that you will see your

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tribe suffering through you, make you in reality the dogs and cowards that you already are in heart.”

So saying, and without turning another look upon them, in a stern voice he ordered Eumerella to follow him, and strode hastily away from the spot. Jamie looked after his father, and then at the three captives, as though he doubted the wisdom of letting them off so easily. However, obedience had been so drilled into him that he was not now prepared to show insubordination. Still, he could not resist the temptation of going up to Opara, and shaking his tomahawk in the face of the savage, so closely as to risk damaging the small portion of nose that his former blow had left, he vengefully hissed out at him—“You first!”