At this critical moment a flash from a thicket revealed the weapon of some hidden enemy, who thus escaped facing the gaze that none could encounter; and Esmo fell, struck dead at once by the lightning-shot. The assassin sprang up, and I recognised the features of Endo Zampta. Confounded and amazed, the Zveltau broke and fell backward, hurrying Eveena away with them. Enabled by size and strength to extricate myself at once, I stood at bay with my back against the rocks on our left, a projection rising as high as my knee assisting to hinder the enemy from entirely and closely surrounding me. I had thrown aside at the moment of the attack the mantle that concealed my sash and star; and I observed that another Chief had done the same. It was he who, occupying at the trial the seat on Esmo’s left, had shown the strongest disposition to mercy, and now displayed the coolest courage amid confusion and danger.
“Rally them,” I cried to him, “and trust the crimson blade [cold steel]. These hounds will never face that.”
The enemy had rushed forward as our men fell back, and I was almost in their midst, thus protected to a considerable extent from the lightning projectile, against which alone I had no defence. Hand to hand I was a match for more than one or two of my assailants, though on this occasion I wore no defensive armour, and they were clad in shirts of woven wire almost absolutely proof against the spear in hands like theirs.
To die thus, to die for her under her eyes, leaving to her widowed life a living token of our love—what more could Allah grant, what better could a lover and a soldier desire? There was no honour, and little to satisfy even the passion of vengeance, in the sword-strokes that clove one enemy from the shoulder to the waist, smote half through the neck of a second, and laid two or three more dead or dying at my feet. If the weight of the sword were lighter here than on Earth, the arm that wielded it had been trained in very different warfare, and possessed a strength which made the combat so unequal that, had no other life hung on my blows, I should have been ashamed to strike. As I paused for a moment under this feeling, I noted that, outside the space half cleared by slaughter and by terror, the bearers of the lightning gun were forming a sort of semicircle, embarrassed by the comrades driven back upon them, but drawing momentarily nearer, and seeking to enclose before firing the object of their aim. They would have shattered my heart and head in another instant but that—springing on the projecting stone of which I have spoken, which raised her to my level—Eveena had flung her arms around me, and sheltered my person with her own. This, and the confusion, disconcerted the aim of most of the assailants. The roar and flash half stunned me for a moment;—then, as I caught her in my left arm, I became aware that it was but her lifeless form that I clasped to my breast. Giving her life for mine, she had made mine worse than