"My lord, that is so," said Infadoos; "the spring cannot supply the wants of so great a multitude, and is failing rapidly. Before night we shall all be thirsty. Listen, Macumazahn - Thou art wise, and hast doubtless seen many wars in the lands from whence thou camest - that is if, indeed, - they make wars in the stars. Now tell us, what shall we do? Twala has brought up many fresh men to take the place of those who have fallen. But Twala has learned a lesson; the hawk did not think to find the heron ready; but our beak has pierced his breast; he will not strike at us again. We, too, are wounded, and he will wait for us to die; he will wind himself round us like a snake round a buck, and fight the fight of sit down."
"So, Macumazahn, thou seest we have no water here, and but a little food, and we must choose between these three things - to languish like a starving lion in his den, or to strive to break away towards the north, or" - and here he rose and pointed towards the dense mass of our foes - "to launch ourselves straight at Twala's throat. Incubu, the great warrior - for to-day he fought like a buffalo in a net, and Twala's soldiers went down before his axe like corn before the hail; with these eyes I saw it - Incubu says `charge'; but the Elephant is ever prone to charge. Now what says Macumazahn, the wily old fox, who has seen much and loves to bite his enemy from behind? The last word is in Ignosi, the king, for it is a king's right to speak of war; but let us hear thy voice, O Macumazahn, who watchest by night, and the voice too of him of the transparent eye."
"What sayest thou, Ignosi?"' I asked.
"Nay, my father," answered our quondam servant, who now, clad as he was in the full panoply of savage war, looked every inch a warrior king, "do thou speak, and let me, who am but a child in wisdom beside thee, hearken to thy words."
Thus abjured, I, after taking hasty counsel with Good and Sir Henry, delivered my opinion briefly to the effect that, being trapped, our best chance, especially in view of the failure of our water supply, was to initiate an attack upon Twala's forces, and then I recommended that the attack should be delivered at once, "before our wounds grew stiff," and also before the sight of Twala's overpowering force caused the hearts of our soldiers "to wax small like fat before a fire." Otherwise, I pointed out, some of the captains might change their minds, and, making peace with Twala, desert to him, or even betray us into his hands.
This expression of opinion seemed, on the whole, to be favorably received; indeed, among the Kukuanas my utterances met with a respect which has never been accorded to them before or since. But the real decision as to our course lay with Ignosi, who, since he had been recognized as rightful king, could exercise the almost unbounded rights of sovereignty, including, of course, the final decision on matters of generalship, and it was to him that all eyes were now turned.
At length, after a pause, during which he appeared to be thinking deeply, he spoke:
"Incubu, Macumazahn, and Bougwan, brave white men, and my friends; Infadoos, my uncle, and chiefs; my heart is fixed. I will strike at Twala this day, and set my fortunes on the blow, ay, and my life; my life and your lives also. Listen: thus will I strike. Ye see how the hill curves round like the half-moon, and how the plain runs like a green tongue towards us within the curve?"