For an instant there was a death-like silence. Then Eli began to count:
The words fell like strokes of a hammer upon an anvil. Eli intended to shoot. He was a man of his word. He made no threat that he was not prepared to execute, and Indian Jake knew that Eli would shoot on the count of ten.
Still Indian Jake made no move save that the little hawk eyes had narrowed to slits. He did not drop his gun. From all the indications, he did not hear Eli’s count.
True to his threat, Eli’s rifle rang out with the last word of his count.
THE END OF ELI’S HUNT
Indian Jake, quick as a cat, had thrown himself upon the ground with Eli’s last count. Like the loon that dives at the flash of the hunter’s gun, he was a fraction of a second quicker than Eli. Now, lying prone, his rifle at his shoulder, he had Eli covered, and the chamber of Eli’s rifle was empty.
“Drop that gun!” he commanded.
Eli, believing in the first instant that Indian Jake had fallen as the result of the shot, was taken wholly by surprise. He stood dazed and dumb with the smoking rifle in his hand. He did not at once realize that the half-breed had him covered. His brain did not work as rapidly as Indian Jake’s. His immediate sensation as he heard Indian Jake’s voice was one of thankfulness that, after all, there was no stain of murder on his soul. Even yet he had no doubt Indian Jake was wounded. He had taken deadly aim, and he could not understand how any escape could have been possible.
“Drop that gun!” Indian Jake repeated. “I won’t count. I’ll shoot.”
Eli’s brain at last grasped the situation. Indian Jake was grinning broadly, and it seemed to Eli the most malicious grin he had ever beheld. He did not question Indian Jake’s determination to shoot. It was too evident that the half-breed, grinning like a demon, was in a desperate mood. Eli dropped his rifle as though it were red hot and burned his hands.
“Step out here!” Indian Jake, rising to his feet, indicated an open space near the tent.
Eli did as he was told.
“Shake the ca’tridges out of your bag on the ground!”
Eli turned his cartridge bag over, and the cartridges which it contained rattled to the ground.
“Turn your pockets out!”
A turning of the pockets disclosed no further ammunition.
Indian Jake took Eli’s rifle from the ground, emptied the magazine, and placed the rifle in the tent.
“Where’s your boat?” he asked.
“Just down here.”
“You go ahead. Show me.”
Eli guided Indian Jake to the boat, and while he remained on the bank under threat of the rifle, the half-breed went through his belongings in the boat in a further search for ammunition. Satisfied that there was none, he replaced the things as he had found them, and was grinning amiably when he rejoined Eli upon the bank.