Then came the manning of the four hundred boulders on the top of the hills. All along the line of heavy rocks men were stationed with instructions to roll them into the pass when the signal was given, Both sides of the pass were lined with these boulders, The king was as near in ecstasies over the arrangements as one of his nature could possibly be. He prostrated himself a dozen times before the wonderfully clever genius who was in command, twice bumping his head against exceedingly hard rocks that he had been unable to see when he began his precipitous collapse to reverence.
It was after midnight before the army in ambush was ready for the conflict. Hugh was amazed to find the men cool and submissive, obeying every order that he managed in some way to convey to them. With everything in readiness there was nothing to do but to wait for the crisis, so he threw himself on the grass at the top of the highest point on the ridge near the opening to the valley, and tried to sleep.
While he reclined there, thinking of a sweet-faced woman and her Reserves, fully eighteen hundred warriors were stealthily coming up from the sea. Six wakeful sentinels were waiting for them.
THE LADY TENNYS RESERVES
The night passed. One, two, three o’clock went by on the trip to sunrise. Hugh dozed at times despite the strain on his nerves. When at last he arose to stretch himself, he saw the faint gray meeting and mingling with the black in the skies, and knew that the crisis was almost at hand.
Swiftly, silently through the darkness came six forms, hurrying from the distant end of the pass with the alarm. They sped into the presence of the king and Hugh just as the first gleam of light began to make itself visible in the east. The messengers had seen the enemy, by that time entering the pass from the north. In an instant Hugh’s little army was in a state of wild perturbation. One could have heard the gnashing of teeth had he walked among the groups receiving final orders from King Pootoo. Silence reigned again—the silence of death.
Something that sounded like the heavy breathing of a man came to the ears of the waiters. It was the sweep of naked feet over the pebbly, sandy bottom of the pass, the cautious movement of bodies through the air, sounds growing plainer until they resembled the rustling of grass through which a snake is gliding. To Hugh the intense moments seemed like hours. Would they never come to view? Would the ambush succeed? Why were they so slow? He could have gone ten miles while they were covering the scant mile, he swore in his fever of anxiety.
At last the king pointed excitedly down the dark gulch, and, for the first time, Ridgeway realized that he was facing an enemy in battle. His eyes did not blink, so intently were they glued upon the dim, uncertain objects that moved in the distance. The sword at his side was gripped in a fierce but unconscious grasp. He placed his hand over his throbbing heart; a damp chill seemed to break through every pore in his body.