A cry of dismay rose from the Buffaloes as our hero's broad axe-head fell to the ground; and Twala, again raising his weapon, flew at him with a shout. I shut my eyes. When I opened them again, it was to see Sir Henry's shield lying on the ground, and Sir Henry himself with his great arms twined round Twala's middle. To and fro they swung, hugging each other like bears, straining with all their mighty muscles for dear life and dearer honor. With a supreme effort Twala swung the Englishman clean off his feet, and down they came together, rolling over and over on the lime paving, Twala striking out at Curtis's head with the battle-axe, and Sir Henry trying to drive the tolla he had drawn from his belt through Twala's armor.
It was a mighty struggle and an awful thing to see.
"Get his axe!" yelled Good; and perhaps our champion heard him.
At any rate, dropping the tolla, he made a grab at the axe, which was fastened to Twala's wrist by a strip of buffalo-hide, and, still rolling over and over, they fought for it like wildcats, drawing their breath in heavy gasps. Suddenly the hide string burst, and then, with a great effort, Sir Henry freed himself, the weapon remaining in his grasp. Another second and he was up on his feet, the red blood streaming from the wound in his face, and so was Twala. Drawing the heavy tolla from his belt, he staggered straight at Curtis and struck him upon the breast. The blow came home true and strong, but whoever it was made that chain armor understood his art, for it withstood the steel. Again Twala struck out with a savage yell, and again the heavy knife rebounded and Sir Henry went staggering back. Once more Twala came on, and as he came our great Englishman gathered himself together, and, swinging the heavy axe round his head, hit at him with all his force. There was a shriek of excitement from a thousand throats, and behold! Twala's head seemed to spring from his shoulders, and then fell and came rolling and bounding along the ground towards Ignosi, stopping just at his feet. For a second the corpse stood upright, the blood spouting in fountains from the severed arteries; then with a dull crash it fell to the earth, and the gold torque from the neck went rolling away across the pavement. As it did so Sir Henry, overpowered by faintness and loss of blood, fell heavily across it.
In a second he was lifted up, and eager hands were pouring water on his face. Another minute, and the great gray eyes opened wide. He was not dead.
Then I, just as the sun sank, stepping to where Twala's head lay in the dust, unloosed the diamond from the dead brows and handed it to Ignosi.
"Take it," I said, "lawful king of the Kukuanas."
Ignosi bound the diadem upon his brows, and then advancing placed his foot upon the broad chest of his headless foe and broke out into a chant, or rather a paean of victory, so beautiful, and yet so utterly savage, that I despair of being able to give an adequate idea of it. I once heard a scholar with a fine voice read aloud from the Greek poet Homer, and I remember that the sound of the rolling lines seemed to make my blood stand still. Ignosi's chant, uttered as it was in a language as beautiful and sonorous as the old Greek, produced exactly the same effect on me, although I was exhausted with toil and many emotions.