“In five minutes this place will be hell!” he muttered, and the king looked at him inquiringly.
Slowly the moving mass resolved itself into a thousand entities, swarming towards the opening at the end of the pass. It required all of his coolness and self-possession to control the wild impulse to begin the fight long before the proper moment. To his surprise, not one of his men moved from his position.
In advance of the main body of invaders was a small detachment of scouts. Hugh saw that they would reach the trenches ahead of the army and that the trap would be revealed. His heart almost failed him as he looked down upon that now distinguishable mass crowding up through the gorge. There seemed to be thousands of them, strapping, fierce, well-armed savages. Their spears looked not unlike a field of dancing cornstalks.
It was necessary to check the little advance guard before the plans could go amiss. Ridgeway, suddenly calm and deliberate, despatched the king with instructions to have his men spear the scouts as they came up, driving them back. Pootoo wriggled stealthily to the breastworks below, reaching the position a few moments ahead of the Oolooz squad. Perhaps one hundred yards behind this detail came the swarm of battle men. There was something in the advance that suggested a cat stealing upon an unsuspecting bird.
By this time it was quite light, although sunrise was half an hour away. In the gray, phantom-producing gloom Hugh could see his own men behind the boulders, awaiting his command. A sudden shriek broke on the stillness, causing him to leap as if some one had struck him violently. Then there was a succession of yells and the rushing of feet. He glanced nervously toward the trenches. A dozen Oolooz men were flying back toward the main body, while not a sign of Pootoo or his men was visible. They had delivered a few spears and had dropped back into the trench.
The main body in the pass swayed and jammed in the effort to halt, but the rear pushed forward so clamorously that the whole mass rolled up the ravine fairly into the death trap before it began to understand the meaning of the yells and the sudden retreat of the scouts.
“Now is the time,” thought the American. His tall form sprang from behind the tree at the edge of the little cliff. His white face was whiter than ever, his eyes flashed, his long frame quivered. Up went his sword arm and loud came the cry from his lips:
As if by magic two long rows of immutable boulders wabbled for a second and then thundered down the hillside, while ten score of wild, naked human beings sent up yells of horrid glee to the unveiling dome above.