The opening above, through which all this vapor and gas effected its escape into the clear atmosphere outside, was of irregular outline and no more than twenty feet across. It was at a great height above the spectators, and ought to have been visible many miles in every direction.
Now and then Ashman caught the odor of the sulphurous fumes rising from the naming depth, and he could not help reflecting that if the ascending vapors should swerve toward them only for a minute or two, they would be asphyxiated before they could get away; but he could not shrink, when his lovely companion stood so boldly by his side, unmoved by the impressive scene.
When he had become accustomed in a degree to the sight, the like of which he had never viewed before, he recalled that they could not occupy a more conspicuous position, in the event of being pursued by their enemies to the underground lake.
As we have explained, they were standing on the highest portion of the rocky wall, separating the burning mountain from the subterranean portion of the enchanted lake. In this situation, they were in sight from every portion of the shore; any one entering by the tunnel, as they had done, would descry them almost at once, because of the vivid background against which their figures were thrown.
This fact led Ashman to turn to his love and suggest that they should leave the spot. She nodded her head in acquiescence, and, still clasping hands, they began picking their way down among the bowlders to the spot where they had left their canoe a short time before.
Haffgo, king of the Murhapas, intended to keep his promise to Ziffak, so far as permitting the explorers to remain in his village until the morrow, at which time he intended that the men should be allowed to go in safety.
But the barbarian was very similar to some of us whose resentment grows with reflection. When he recalled the admiring glances of the handsome young member of the company towards his beloved Ariel, his anger became intense, fanned by the strong suspicion that the princess herself felt some interest in the stranger.
At this critical time, Waggaman put in an appearance. The ruffian was shrewd enough to see his opportunity, and it took him but a few minutes to rouse him to the exploding point. He determined that every one of the whites should die, and he ordered the assault which has already been described.
As has been explained, the king kept within his home, while the attack was under way; but since he resided adjoining the structure which was assaulted, he was aware of every phase of the progress.