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THAT night we encamped beside a spring, which flowed fresh and bright from the tender grass it watered, and was most acceptable to our tired horses. The spot was surrounded by bushes and trees which enabled us to have a fire without its being seen at a great distance. Two sentinels were stationed by the chief to watch, and everything seemed to insure our safety as we sat around the fire, sheltered from the cool night wind by the bushes.
It was our custom in the pueblo to sit and talk after supper, and we did so to-night. In the course of the conversation Intschu-Tschuna said that we should not resume our journey in the morning until mid-day, and when Sam Hawkins asked why this was he was answered with a frankness which I profoundly regretted later: "That should be a secret, but I can trust it to my white brothers, if they will promise not to try to know more than I tell them."
We all gave the promise, and he continued: "We need gold, so tomorrow morning early I will go with my children to get nuggets, and shall return at midday."
Stone and Parker uttered an exclamation of wonder, and Sam, no less amazed, asked: "Is there gold near here?"
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"Yes," replied Intschu-Tschuna. "No one suspects it; even my braves do not know it. I learned it from my father, who in turn had the secret from his father. Such secrets are always handed down from father to son, and considered sacred; they are not shared even with one's dearest friends. It is true I have now spoken of it, but I would not tell any man the place, nor show it to him, and I would shoot down any one who dared follow us to discover it."
"Would you kill even us?"
"Even you. I have trusted you, and if you betrayed that trust you would deserve to die. But I know you will not leave this spot till we have returned."
With this he ended the subject abruptly, and the conversation took another turn. Intschu-Tschuna, Winnetou, Nscho-Tschi and I sat with our backs toward the bushes; Sam, Dick and Will on the opposite side of the fire facing us. In the midst of our pleasant talk Hawkins suddenly uttered a cry, snatched his gun, and fired between us into the thicket. Of course his shot alarmed the entire camp. The Indians rushed over to us, and we jumped up, demanding of Sam why he had fired.
"I saw two eyes shining out of the bushes behind Intschu-Tschuna," he declared. Instantly the Indians snatched brands from the fire, and rushed into the shrubbery. Their search was vain. We quieted down at last, and seated ourselves as before. "Sam Hawkins must have been mistaken," said Intschu-Tschuna. "Such mistakes are easily made in the flickering fire's light."
"I don't see how I could be," said Sam. "I felt perfectly sure I saw two eyes there."
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The wind turned the leaves; my brother saw the light side, and took them for eyes."
"That's possible, and in that case I must have killed the leaves."
He laughed in his silent way, but Winnetou did not look at the matter in the light of a jest; he said gravely: "In any case my brother Sam has made a great mistake, for which we may pay later."
"A mistake? How so?"
"The shot was dangerous for us," said Winnetou.. "Either Sam saw no eyes, and then it was unnecessary, and would attract our enemies who might be about, or, if he really saw a man, the shot was foolish, for it could not hit him possibly."
"Oh, but Sam Hawkins is sure of his aim; I don't miss my mark."
"I too can shoot, but in such a case I certainly should not have hit. The spy would have seen you take your gun, and would move out of your range."
Though the others were satisfied with the search that had been made Winnetou did not accept it as final. Once more he rose, and went out to go over the ground again himself, and make sure all was well. He was gone over an hour, and when he came back he said: "There is no man there; Sam Hawkins must certainly have been mistaken."
Nevertheless he doubled the sentinels, bidding them be more than usually vigilant, and patrol the circle of our camp more frequently. Then we lay down to rest. My sleep was not quiet; I waked often, and during my naps had brief, turbulent dreams in which Santer and his comrades played the chief parts. That was the natural consequence of our meeting him, and the alarm
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of the evening, but I could not shake off the impression of dread these dreams left.
After a breakfast of dried meat, and a porridge of meal and water, Intschu-Tschuna with his son and daughter started away. Before they went I implored them to let me accompany them, at least part of the way, and lest they should suspect me of wanting to discover the hiding-place of the gold, I told them that I could not get rid of the thought of Santer. I wondered at myself, for unlikely as it was, I felt that he had come back. "My brother need not be anxious for us," answered Winnetou. "In order to satisfy him I will look again at the trail. We know that he does not think of the gold, but if he came with us part of the way he would suspect where it lay, and he would catch the fever for the deadly dust that never leaves a pale-face till soul and body are destroyed. We beg him not to go with us, not because we distrust him, but because of our love and foresight."
After this I had to be silent. Winnetou looked again for a trace of other feet than ours, discovered nothing, and they went away. They were not mounted, so I knew the spot where they were going could not be far.
I lay down in the grass and smoked, and tried to talk with my comrades, but I could not rest. At last I sprang up, took my gun, and wandered forth, thinking I might find some game which would serve for our dinner, and help divert my thoughts. Intschu-Tschuna had gone southward from the camp, so I went northward, that he might not think I was searching for the forbidden path. After I had walked a quarter of an hour I came, to my surprise, on a trail, the fresh footprints of three persons. They wore moccasins, and I
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distinguished two large, two medium sized, and two little feet. It must be Intschu-Tschuna, Winnetou, and Nscho-Tschi. They had gone southward to mislead us, and had then gone due north. Dared I go further? No. It was possible that they saw me, it was certain that on their return they would discover my footprints, and might think I had followed them secretly. Still I could not go back to camp, so I wandered easterly a short distance further. Suddenly I stopped short, for I had come upon another trail. Examination showed it to be the footprints of men with spurs, and I instantly thought of Santer. The trail ran in the direction where the two chiefs must be, and seemed to come from some shrubbery a little further on. I went there. I was right; the trail did come from these bushes, and there I found tied the four horses which had been ridden by Santer and his companions the day before. Evidently the wretches had hidden here all night, and Sam Hawkins had not been mistaken, but had really seen a pair of eyes. We had been spied upon, and -- Ah, heavens! What a thought came to me now! What had we been talking of just before Sam fired? Of Intschu-Tschuna and his children going today to get the gold. This had been heard, and now, the rascals were following my friends. Winnetou in danger! And Nscho-Tschi and her father! Instantly I mounted, and rode for life and death on the trail. There was no time to go back and alarm the camp; if only I could be in time! I tried to guess where the hiding-place of the gold might be, in case I lost the trail. Winnetou had spoken of a mountain called Nugget-tsil, or Nugget Mountain, so the place was a hill. I looked over the scene through which I was flying and
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north of me, directly in my path, saw a considerable elevation crowned by woods. This then must be Nugget Mountain. The old nag under me was not swift enough, so as I passed I pulled a branch from a bush and belabored him with it. He did his best, and the plain disappeared behind me; the hills rose before my eyes. The trail led between two of them, and was lost in the stones which covered their sides, but I did not dismount, for I knew those I sought had gone farther into the valley. At last I was forced to get down, and try to discover the trail. It was not easy to do, but at last I succeeded; it led into the ravine. The horse could only hinder me here, so I tied him to a tree, and hurried on afoot, impelled by fear to a haste that took away my breath. I had to pause a moment for breath on a cliff, and saw the trail plunge to the left into the woods. I ran under the trees which grew farther apart as I advanced, and spied an opening ahead of me. I had not quite reached it when I heard several shots. In an instant a cry arose that pierced my very flesh like a sword. It was the death cry of the Apaches. I not only ran, I sprang forward in long leaps like a wild beast. Again a shot, then another. That was Winnetou's rifle. Thank God, then he was not dead. I had but one more spring to make to be in the clearing, but for an instant I stood petrified by what I saw. The light was dim, but directly before me lay Intschu-Tschuna and his daughter; I could not tell whether they were alive or dead. A little way beyond was a small crag behind which stood Winnetou reloading his rifle. To my left, protected by trees, were two men with guns aimed at Winnetou, while a third crept cautiously under the trees to get behind him. The fourth lay at my feet,
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shot through the head. For the moment the young chief was in greater danger from the two, than the third. I took my bear-killer and shot them both down. Then without taking time to re-load I sprang behind the third man. He saw me coming, and aimed at me. I leaped aside; the shot did not touch me. He saw his game was up, and ran into the woods. I rushed after him, for it was Santer, and I wanted to capture him. But the distance between us was too great; he disappeared in the darkness of the thick forest, and I saw him no more.
I turned back to my poor Winnetou, who needed me. I found him kneeling beside his father and his sister, anxiously searching for a trace of life. When he saw me coming he rose for an instant, and looked at me with an expression in his eyes I can never forget, so full of pain and wrath were they. "My brother sees what has happened. Nscho-Tschi, the fairest and best of the daughters of the Apaches, will never go to the states of the pale-faces. She still breathes, but she will never rise again."
I could not speak; I could say nothing, ask nothing. There was nothing to ask; I saw only too plainly the whole wretched truth. They lay in a pool of blood, Intschu-Tschuna shot through the head, Fair Day through the breast. He had been killed instantly; she still breathed with difficulty, and with a rattling sound, while the beautiful bronze of her face grew paler and paler. Her soft lips were drawn, and death was stamped on the dear features. She moved a little, turned her head to where her father lay, and slowly opened her eyes. She saw Intschu-Tschuna lying in his blood, and shrank at the sight, but was too weak to feel the shock keenly. She seemed to gather her thoughts together,
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and remember what had happened, for she pressed her little hands against her heart. She felt the warm blood flowing from her breast and sighed. "Nscho-Tschi, my dear, my only sister," moaned Winnetou, with a note in his trembling voice no words could convey. She raised her eyes to him. "Winnetou my brother," she whispered. "Avenge -- me." Then she saw me, and a glad smile played over her white lips. "Shatterhand," she gasped. "You -- are -- there. Now -- I -- die -- in --" We heard no more, for death closed her lips forever. I felt as though I was suffocating; I must have air. I sprang up, for we had knelt down by her, and uttered a loud cry which echoed down the side of the mountain. Winnetou also rose, slowly, as if a heavy weight dragged him down. He threw both arms around me, and said: "Now they are dead; the greatest, noblest chief of the Apaches, and Nscho-Tschi, my sister, who loved you so. She died with your name on her lips. Never, never forget it, my dear brother."
"I will not forget it," I said hoarsely.
Then his expression changed, and he said in a voice that rang like a trumpet: "Did you hear her last words to me?"
"Revenge! She shall be avenged, and as no murder was ever avenged before. Do you know who the murderers are? You saw them. Pale-face, to whom we had done no wrong. So it has ever been, so will it ever be till the last red man is dead. For if he died a natural death, still it would be a murder, for his people are slain. We were going to the States of these accursed pale-faces. Nscho-Tschi wished to learn to be like the white squaws; she has paid for it with her life.
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Whether we love them, or whether we hate them, it is the same. Wherever a pale-face sets his foot, destruction to us follows after him. A lament will ring through all the tribes of the Apaches, and a cry of vengeance will echo in every place where there is a son of our nation. The eyes of all the Apaches will be turned on Winnetou to see how he will avenge the death of his father and sister. My brother, Old Shatterhand, shall hear the promise I make here beside these two bodies. I swear by the Great Spirit, and by all my brave ancestors in the Happy Hunting Grounds, that with the gun which has fallen from my dead father's hand I will shoot down each and every white man I meet, or --"
"Stop!" I interrupted him, for I knew how binding and unalterable this oath would be to him. "Stop! My brother Winnetou must not swear now, not now."
"Why not?" he asked angrily.
"An oath must be spoken calmly."
"Ugh! My soul is calm now, as calm as the grave in which I shall lay my dear dead. As it will never give them back to me, so I will never take back a syllable of my oath--."
"Say no more," I interrupted him again.
His eyes flashed on me almost threateningly, and he cried: "Will Old Shatterhand hinder me doing my duty? Shall the old wives spit upon me, and shall I be driven from my people because I have not the courage to avenge today's crime?"
"It is far from my thoughts to ask this of you. I too would have the murderers punished. Three have already received their reward; the fourth has fled, but he shall not escape us."
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"How can he escape?" Winnetou asked. "But it is not a question of him alone. He has acted like a true son of that white race which brings us ruin. It is responsible for what he has learned, and I will hold it responsible, I Winnetou now the chief of all the tribes of the Apaches."
He stood erect and proud before me, a man who, in spite of his youth, was the king of his people. Yes, he was the man to carry out whatever he undertook. He could unite the warriors of all the red nations under him, and begin a warfare on the whites which, although the end was certain, would bathe the West in the blood of a hundred thousand victims.
I took his hand, and said: "You shall do what you will, but first hear the request I make, which may be the last your white friend and brother can ask of you. Here lies Nscho-Tschi. You said that she loved me, and died with my name on her lips. And she loved you; me as friend, and you as brother, and you returned her love richly. By this our love I beg you not to take any oath as to what you will do till the stones are sealed over the grave of this worthiest daughter of the Apaches."
He looked at me earnestly, even severely, then his eyes fell, and his face softened, till at last he raised his eyes again, and said: "My brother, Old Shatterhand, has great power over all hearts around him. Nscho-Tschi would certainly do what he asked, and so will I. Not until my eyes no longer look upon these two whom we loved shall it be decided whether the Mississippi and its tributaries shall flow down to the sea red with the blood of the red and white races. I have spoken. How!"
Thank God! At least for a time I had succeeded
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in averting this great disaster. I pressed his hand gratefully, and said: "My brother shall see that I will ask no mercy from him for the guilty man; he may make his punishment as heavy as he deserves. We must take care he has no time to escape."
"My feet are bound," answered Winnetou, once more sad and quiet. "The customs of my people bid me remain with my dead until they are buried, because they were so closely related to me. Not until then may I seek for revenge."
"And when will they be buried?"
"I must consult my warriors whether we shall bury them here where they died, or take them back to Rio Pecos. But even if we lay them here several days must pass to celebrate fitly the burial of such a great chief."
''Then the murderer will escape."
"No, for though Winnetou cannot follow him, others can take his place. Old Shatterhand shall undertake this; he will surely find the trail of the fugitive. He shall take ten braves with him; the other twenty warriors he will send here to me to chant the death song."
"It shall be as you say, and I hope to be worthy the trust my red brother gives me.''
"I know that Old Shatterhand will act exactly as if I were in his place. How!"
He gave me his hand; I pressed it in both of mine, bent once more over the faces of the dead, and went away. At the edge of the clearing I turned back. At that moment Winnetou covered his head, and uttered the dull, wailing note with which the Indians begin their death chant. Ah, how sad, how heavy-hearted that note of woe made me! But I had to act, and hastened back by the way I had come.