Then, with one word in his own tongue, he bade the horse bear her southward, and, as swiftly as a spear launched from his hand, the animal obeyed him and flew across the plains. He looked after a while, through the dim, tremulous darkness that seemed cleft by the rush of the gallop as the clouds are cleft by lightning, while his tribe sat silent on their horses in moody, unwilling consent; savage in that they had been deprived of prey, moved in that they were sensible of this martyrdom which had been offered to them.
“Verily the courage of a woman has put the best among us unto shame,” he said, rather to himself than them, as he mounted the stallion brought him from the rear and rode slowly northward; unconscious that the thing he had done was great, because conscious only that it was just.
And, borne by the fleetness of the desert-bred beast, she went away through the heavy, bronze-hued dullness of the night. Her brain had no sense, her hands had no feeling, her eyes had no sight; the rushing of waters was loud on her ears, the giddiness of fasting and of fatigue sent the gloom eddying round and round like a whirlpool of shadow. Yet she had remembrance enough left to ride on, and on, and on without once flinching from the agonies that racked her cramped limbs and throbbed in her beating temples; she had remembrance enough to strain her blind eyes toward the east and murmur, in her terror of that white dawn, that must soon break, the only prayer that had been ever uttered by the lips no mother’s kiss had ever touched:
“O God! keep the day back!”
In the midst of her army.
There was a line of light in the eastern sky. The camp was very still. It was the hour for the mounting of the guard, and, as the light spread higher and higher, whiter and whiter, as the morning came, a score of men advanced slowly and in silence to a broad strip of land screened from the great encampment by the rise and fall of the ground, and stretching far and even, with only here and there a single palm to break its surface, over which the immense arc of the sky bent, gray and serene, with only the one colorless gleam eastward that was changing imperceptibly into the warm, red flush of opening day.
Sunrise and solitude: they were alike chosen, lest the army that honored, the comrades that loved him, should rise to his rescue; casting off the yoke of discipline, and remembering only that tyranny and that wretchedness under which they had seen him patient and unmoved throughout so many years of servitude.
He stood tranquil beside the coffin within which his broken limbs and shot-pierced corpse would so soon be laid forever. There was a deep sadness on his face, but it was perfectly serene. To the words of the priest who approached him he listened with respect, though he gently declined the services of the Church. He had spoken but very little since his arrest; he was led out of the camp in silence and waited in silence now, looking across the plains to where the dawn was growing richer and brighter with every moment that the numbered seconds of his life drifted slowly and surely away.