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|King Solomon's Mines||H. Rider Haggard|
|Page 5 of 9||
"Surely," I said to Infadoos, "the whole army is here?"
"Nay, Macumazahn," he answered, "but a third of it. One third is present at this dance each year, another third is mustered outside in case there should be trouble when the killing begins, ten thousand more garrison the outposts round Loo, and the rest watch at the kraals in the country. Thou seest it is a great people."
"They are very silent," said Good; and indeed the intense stillness among such a vast concourse of living men was almost overpowering.
"What says Bougwan?" asked Infadoos.
"Those over whom the shadow of Death is hovering are silent," he answered grimly.
"Will many be killed?"
"It seems," I said to the others, "that we are going to assist at a gladiatorial show arranged regardless of expense."
Sir Henry shivered, and Good said he wished that we could get out of it.
"Tell me," I asked Infadoos, "are we in danger?"
"I know not, my lords, I trust not; but do not seem afraid. If ye live through the night all may go well with you. The soldiers murmur against the king."
All this while we had been advancing steadily towards the centre of the open space, in the midst of which were placed some stools. As we proceeded we perceived another small party coming from the direction of the royal hut.
"It is the king Twala, Scragga his son, and Gagool the old; and see, with them are those who slay," said Infadoos, pointing to a little group of about a dozen gigantic and savage-looking men, armed with spears in one hand and heavy kerries in the other.
The king seated himself upon the centre stool, Gagool crouched at his feet, and the others stood behind him.
"Greeting, white lords," Twala cried, as we came up; "be seated, waste not precious time--the night is all too short for the deeds that must be done. Ye come in a good hour, and shall see a glorious show. Look round, white lords; look round," and he rolled his one wicked eye from regiment to regiment. "Can the Stars show you such a sight as this? See how they shake in their wickedness, all those who have evil in their hearts and fear the judgment of 'Heaven above.'"
"Begin! begin!" piped Gagool, in her thin piercing voice; "the hyaenas are hungry, they howl for food. Begin! begin!"
Then for a moment there was intense stillness, made horrible by a presage of what was to come.
The king lifted his spear, and suddenly twenty thousand feet were raised, as though they belonged to one man, and brought down with a stamp upon the earth. This was repeated three times, causing the solid ground to shake and tremble. Then from a far point of the circle a solitary voice began a wailing song, of which the refrain ran something as follows:--
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|King Solomon's Mines
H. Rider Haggard
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