I could hear the plunge of it, and struggled towards it. I was long past taking any care. I stumbled and slipped along the hill-side, my breath labouring, and a moaning at my lips from sheer agony and weakness. If an arrow sped between my ribs I would still reach the water, for I was determined to die with my legs in its flow.
Suddenly it was before me. I came out on a mossy rock above a deep, clear pool, into which a cascade tumbled. I knelt feebly on the stone, gazing at the blue depths, and then I lifted my eyes.
There on a rock on the other side stood my enemy.
He had an arrow fitted to his bow, and as I looked he shot. It struck me on the right arm, pinning it just above the elbow. The pistol, which I had been carrying aimlessly, slipped from my nerveless hand to the moss on which I kneeled.
That sudden shock cleared my wits. I was at his mercy, and he knew it. I could see every detail of him twenty yards off across the water. He stood there as calm and light as if he had just arisen from rest, his polished limbs shining in the glow of the sun, the muscles on his right arm rippling as he moved his bow. Madman that I was, ever to hope to contend with such dauntless youth, such tireless vigour! There was a cruel, thin-lipped smile on his face. He had me in his clutches like a cat with a mouse, and he was going to get the full zest of it. I kneeled before him, with my strength gone, my right arm crippled. He could choose his target at his leisure, for I could not resist. I saw the gloating joy in his eyes. He knew his power, and meant to miss nothing of its savour.
Yet in that fell predicament God gave me back my courage. But I took a queer way of showing it. I began to whimper as if in abject fear. Every limb was relaxed in terror, and I grovelled on my knees before him. I made feeble plucks at the arrow in my right arm, and my shoulder drooped almost to the sod. But all the time my other hand was behind my back, edging its way to the pistol. My fingers clutched at the butt, and slowly I began to withdraw it till I had it safe in the shadow of my pocket.
My enemy did not know that I was left-handed.
He fitted a second arrow to his bow, while his lips curved maliciously. All the demoniac, pantherlike cruelty of his race looked at me out of his deep eyes. He was taking his time about it, unwilling to lose the slightest flavour of his vengeance. I played up to him nobly, squirming as if in an agony of terror. But by this time I had got a comfortable posture on the rock, and my left shoulder was towards him.
At last he made his choice, and so did I. I never thought that I could miss, for if I had had any doubt I should have failed. I was as confident in my sureness as any saint in the mercy of God.
He raised his bow, but it never reached his shoulder. My left arm shot out, and my last bullet went through his brain.