It was growing dark, when he stepped outside of the building. There was no light visible in any direction, though there would be plenty of it later on. The natives appeared to be moving aimlessly about, and one or two near at hand scrutinized him curiously, but they neither spoke nor made any movement to annoy him. They had not yet forgotten the lesson given by Ziffak some hours before.
To escape attention, he walked toward the river, passing down the long sloping bank, until he reached the open, cleared space which has been referred to as caused by the overflow of the water. Here the walking was easy, and, turning his face up stream, he walked slowly as a man does who is in deep thought.
A man who is revelling in the first dream of love is not the one to pay close attention to his surroundings. He is so apt to be rapt in his own sweet meditations, that he fails in the most ordinary observation.
Reaching the bottom of the slope, Ashman glanced behind and on his right. He caught glimpses of several figures moving about like shadows, but so far as he could judge, none of them was interested in him. Dismissing them from his mind, he moved on.
He had walked less than one-third of the length of the village front, when the form of a man slipped softly down the incline, following in his footsteps and moving as silently as a Murhapa warrior tracking his foe through the forest.
He was dressed similarly to the American, having the same style of Panama hat, shirt and boots, and he carried a rifle in his hand. Being of the same race, he ought to have been a friend, but when the bright moonlight fell upon his face, it showed the countenance of a demon.
He was Burkhardt, an escaped convict, who had lived for five years among the Murhapas, and he was seeking the life of Fred Ashman, who, in his enchanting visions of love, never dreamed of the awful shadow stealing upon him.
YOUNG LOVE’S DREAM.
What in all the world so sweet as young love’s dream? It is the old, old story, and yet it is as new and fresh and blissful to the soul as it will be to the end of time, or until these natures of ours are changed by the same Hand that framed them.
What more bewitching romance could cast its halo about the divine passion than that which enshrined the affection of Fred Ashman for the wonderful Ariel, the only child of the grim Haffgo, king of the Murhapas?
He had met and chatted and exchanged glances with the beauties of his own clime, and yet his heart remained unscathed. He reverenced the sex to which his adored mother and sister belonged, and yet never had he felt the thrill that stirred his nature to the profoundest depths, when his eyes met those of the barbarian princess and the two smiled without either uttering a word.
“What care I for the gold and the diamonds and the precious stones of the Matto Grosso?” the ardent lover asked himself; “is not she the Koh-i-noor of them all?—the one gem whose preciousness is worth more than all the world?”