“Would that I could have you by my side all through this fight. There is an inspiration in your very gentleness that could make me do prodigious deeds of valor. But, good-by, Tennys! I’ll be back for lunch to-morrow!” he cried as he dashed away. He could look into those swimming eyes no longer and restrain a certain impulse that was trying to force him into the liberation of an entirely unnecessary bit of sentiment.
“Good-by, Hugh! Don’t be careless. What will the Reserves be worth to me if you are killed? I shall pray for you, Hugh—every minute of this awful night I shall pray for you.”
“God bless you,” he called back from Velvet Valley, his brain whirling with the wish that he had kissed her and the fear of the result had he made the attempt.
A few minutes later he sent his jacket back to the temple. It was his most valued possession. Had he seen the look of tenderness in her eyes as she hold up the worn, blue jacket; had he seen her kiss the blue cloth impulsively, he would have been thrilled to the bone. But had he been there to observe the startled, mystified blush that rose to her brow when she found that she had really kissed his coat, he might have been as perplexed as she over the unusual act.
With heart beating violently and nerves strung to their highest tension, Ridgeway led the way to the river. He was as confident of victory as if he were returning from the pass with the result out of doubt. Reaching the river, his men plunged into the water and swam across, not waiting for the canoes. He and the king were rowed over, meeting the swimmers as they came up from the bank, dripping and puffing. Again the march was resumed, and within fifteen minutes the band was at the foot of the hills. Here Hugh called a halt.
With Pootoo and a dozen men he went forward to take a look down the long gorge. All torches were extinguished and absolute silence was enforced. The scouting party failed to hear a sound except the cries of night birds and their own heavy breathing. All nature seemed to be resting for the struggle that was to come.
Six fleet fellows were sent over the hills to skirt the edge of the pass for its full length, a mile or more. They were to wait at the opposite end until the enemy revealed its approach and then hurry back with the alarm. Returning to the waiting army, Hugh and the king began the work of assigning the men to their places. Two hundred were stationed in the trenches and behind the breastworks at the mouth of the pass, ready to intercept those of the enemy who succeeded in escaping the boulders and spears from the hilltops. These men stacked their spears behind them and then, at the command of the king, who had been instructed by the Izor, laid themselves upon the ground to sleep. This was an innovation in warfare so great that open rebellion was threatened. The novices in civilized and scientific fighting were fully convinced that the enemy was nowhere in sight and that they would be called when the proper moment came.