“Let’s open again,” suggested the New Englander.
“Better wait awhile; they can be stampeded easier then than now,” was the reply of the Professor.
During this lull, when it may be said the defenders were becoming accustomed to the siege, they had time to give a few minutes’ thought to their absent friends, Fred Ashman and Ziffak, regarding whom it was natural to feel great curiosity.
They believed themselves warranted in hoping for the best, so far as Ashman was concerned. He had probably strolled some distance, and must have been warned by the firing of the Professor’s Winchester from the front, of the serious danger in which his friends were involved. If all had gone well with the youth up to that time, he ought to be wise enough to get away without an instant’s delay. What was feared was, that in his anxiety to help his comrades, he would run into a peril from which he could not extricate himself.
The real hope for the youth was centered on Ziffak. Believing he had gone forth to look after Ashman, they were confident he would speedily get upon his track. If so, he would not permit him to return to the village.
From what the reader has been told, it will be seen that the defenders were not far off in their conjectures.
But, when they came to speculate upon the part that the head chieftain was likely to take, affecting Grimcke and Long, they were all at sea. It would ever be a source of wonder that he had been transformed from a relentless enemy into the strongest of friends, but they fully realized that such friendship must have its bounds.
Ziffak might not shrink from using very plain speech when talking face to face with his brother, but it was hardly to be supposed that he would raise his arm against his authority. At the time Ziffak made known the probability that the explorers might be compelled to take their departure that evening, he gave no intimation of any purpose of helping them to resist such an order.
Accustomed as he was to lead the warlike Murhapas in battle, he might well hesitate to ask them to turn their weapons against the king, and if he should presume on such treason, all the probabilities were that such weapons would be turned against the head chieftain himself.
ACROSS THE LAKE.
A few minutes after passing the bend in the stream, which hid the rock and the sleeping sentinel from sight, Fred Ashman observed that the smooth current broadened into a lake, forming the extraordinary sheet of water of which he had heard such strange accounts.
He held the paddle suspended, and looked around.
The surface was as calm as the face of a mirror, and in the strong moonlight, as he looked down he could see that it was of crystalline clearness—so much so, indeed, that a boat or any floating object looked as if suspended in mid-air.