The January afternoon was passing into night, the air was cold and still, so still that not a single twig of the naked beech-trees stirred; on the grass of the meadows lay a thin white rime, half frost, half snow; the firs stood out blackly against a steel-hued sky, and over the tallest of them hung a single star. Past these bordering firs there ran a road, on which, in this evening of the opening of our story, a young man stood irresolute, glancing now to the right and now to the left.
Then they marched on for two hours or more, till at length they came to a spot where the trail ran to the edge of the water and stopped."What now, Otter?" said Leonard."Here the slaves are put on boats, Baas," the dwarf answered. "The boats should be hidden yonder," and he pointed to some thick reeds. "There too they 'weed the corn,' killing out the weakly ones, that they may not be burdened with them. Let us go and look."They went, Otter leading the way. Presently he halted. "The boats are gone," he said, "all except one canoe; but the 'weeds' lie in a heap as of old."He was right. Piled in a little open space lay the bodies of some thirty men, women, and children recently dead. In other spaces close by were similar heaps, but these were of bleached bones on which the moonlight shone brightly--mementoes of former sacrifices.Quite close to the first pile of dead was a mooring-place where at least a dozen flat-bottomed boats had been secured, for their impress could yet be seen in the sand. Now they were gone with the exception of the canoe, which was kept there, evidently to facilitate the loading and launching of the large boats.Nobody made any comment. The sight was beyond comment, but a fierce desire rose in Leonard's heart to come face to face with this "Yellow Devil" who fattened on the blood and agony of helpless human beings, and to avenge them if he might.