“I—I am all right,” stammered Carl courageously, but he bit his lips until they bled, and swayed so violently in the saddle that Keela slid to the ground in alarm.
“Put your arms about my shoulders—so!” she commanded imperiously. “You will fall! Philip surely could not know how ill you are. Can you get down?”
With an effort Carl dismounted and fell forward on his knees.
“You must sleep for a while,” said Keela. “I will build a fire. We can breakfast here and rest as long as you like.” She took a blanket from his saddle and spread it on the ground.
Carl crept on hands and knees to the Indian blanket and lay very still. A drowsiness numbed his senses. When he awoke after a brief interval of restless slumber, it was not yet daylight, though the sky in the east was softly streaked with color. The moon hung low.
A fire crackled in the center of a clearing. The horses were tethered to a tree. Keela was off somewhere with bow and arrow to hunt their breakfast.
Now suddenly as he lay there, tired and apathetic, Carl was conscious of a face leering from among the trees close at hand, a dark, thin-lipped foreign face with eyes black with hate and malicious triumph. There was a horse hitched to a tree in the thicket beyond. In that instant Carl knew that the Houdanian had furtively followed the camp of the traders into the wilds of the Everglades, spurred on by the fierce command of Ronador. But he did not move. A terrible apathy made him indifferent to the knife of the assassin. He had had his day of masterful torment back there in the attic of the farm, he told himself. Now he must pay. The knife would quiet this unbearable agony in his head.
Themar met his eyes, smiled evilly and raised his knife. But the weapon fell suddenly from his hand. With an ominous hum an arrow whizzed fiercely through the trees and anchored in the flesh above his heart.
Themar stumbled and fell forward on his face. Like the stricken moose who seeks to press his wound against the earth, he drove the arrow home to his heart. He sobbed, and choked and lay very still, a scarlet wound dying his flannel shirt.
Carl’s horrified eyes turned slowly to the west.
Keela was coming through the trees, proud eyes fierce with terrible anger; halting beside the dead man, she spurned him with moccasined foot.
The tense, droning string in Carl’s head whirred again—and snapped. He lay in a heavy stupor, dozing fitfully until the moon climbed high again above the Glades.
When consciousness and a restful sense of returning strength came at last Keela was bending anxiously over him.
“You have been quiet so long,” she said gravely, “that I grew afraid. Drink.” She held forth a cup of woven leaves, and the glance of her great black eyes was very soft and gentle.