The native stepped to the river, washed the blood from the weapon and then turned about to resume his advance toward the wood.
As he did so, he found himself face to face with a white man, who, stepping from the shadow, held his Winchester leveled at him in an exceedingly suggestive fashion.
If Fred Ashman had been astonished before, what words shall describe his amazement when the dusky Hercules, calmly staring at him for a moment, said in unmistakable English, “I surrender.”
Fred Ashman was so startled by hearing the giant native utter his submission in unmistakable English, that he came near dropping his leveled Winchester to the earth in sheer amazement.
He had not dreamed that the savage understood a word of that tongue, but judged from his own posture, with his weapon pointed at him, that the other knew when an enemy had “the drop” on him. Even if such were the fact, he counted upon a desperate resistance, and was prepared to give the fellow his quietus by a shot from his rifle.
The savage held his ponderous javelin in his hand, but made no effort to use it. His black eyes were fixed on the face of the handsome American, and he could not have failed to note the expression of bewilderment and wonder caused by the words that had just dropped from his dusky lips. Indeed, Ashman fancied he detected something akin to a smile lighting up the forbidding countenance.
It may be said that the young explorer for the moment felt himself in the position of the man who drew an elephant in a lottery—he didn’t know what to do with his prize. It had come to him so unexpectedly that he was bewildered.
But he was quick to rally from his dazed condition. The fact that the giant had shown such a knowledge of the English tongue suggested the possibility not only of obtaining important information, but of making a friend of this personage, who must possess great influence among his people.
True, the events of the afternoon and evening were against anything in the nature of comity or good will, but no harm could come from an attempt to bring about an understanding between the people and the explorers that had become involved in such fierce conflicts with them.
“Drop that spear!” commanded Ashman.
“I have surrendered,” said the savage, in a low, coarse voice; “and Ziffak does not lie.”
Nevertheless, while the words were passing his lips, he unclosed his right hand and allowed the implement to fall to the ground.
“Is your weapon poisoned?” asked Ashman, still mystified by the extraordinary situation and hardly knowing what to say.
“Your man in the wood was pierced by one of our spears; ask him.”
“Such a warrior as Ziffak does not need to tip his weapons with poison,” said Ashman, glancing significantly at the carcass of the puma. “It is cowardly to use such means against your enemies.”