MUVIRO and the Waziri came to the end of the forest. Before them stretched a narrow plain that lay at the foot of a lone mountain.
One of the warriors pointed. “There is a village built at the foot of that high cliff. I see the palisade.”
Muviro shaded his eyes with his hand. He nodded. “It must be the village of Kavuru. We have found it at last. Perhaps we shall not find Buira, but we will punish the Kavuru. We will teach them to leave the daughters of the Waziri alone.”
The other warriors assented with savage growls; for they were Waziri, known for ages as mighty warriors. Who might dare encroach upon their rights? Who might steal their women with impunity? None.
Other tribes suffered similar losses. They made big noise with tom-toms and shouting. They danced their war dances. And then, when there was little chance of overtaking their enemy, they set out in pursuit; but always they abandoned the chase before they overhauled the quarry. Not so the Waziri. What they undertook, they pursued relentlessly whether it brought victory or defeat.
“Come!” said Muviro, and led his warriors out upon the plain toward the village of the Kavuru. Suddenly he halted. “What is that?” he demanded.
The Waziri listened. A low droning sound that at first barely commanded the attention of their ears was growing steadily in volume. The warriors, standing in silence, looked up toward the heavens.
“There it is,” said one, pointing. “It is a canoe that flies. I saw one pass low over the country of the Waziri. It made the same sound.”
The ship came rapidly into view, flying at an altitude of three or four thousand feet. It passed over the plain and the Waziri; then it banked steeply and turned back. With motor throttled, the ship descended gracefully in wide spirals. At a few hundred feet from the ground the pilot gave it the gun, but still he continued to circle low over the plain. He was searching for a landing place. For two hours he had been searching for one, almost hopelessly.
Lost, and with only a little fuel remaining in his tanks, he welcomed the sight of this open plain and the village with heartfelt thanks. He knew that he couldn’t get fuel here, but he could get his position, and at least he was saved from making a forced landing over the forest.
Flying low, he saw the Waziri, white plumed savages evidently coming from the forest; and he saw natives emerging from the village, too. He saw that these were different in a most surprising way, and he dropped lower and circled twice more to make sure.
His companion, in the front cockpit, scribbled a note and handed it back to him; “What do you make of them? They look white to me.”
“They are white,” wrote the pilot.
Owing to the washes and boulders there were not many safe landing places available on the plain. One of the best, or perhaps it would be truer to say least impossible, was directly in front of the village; another, and perhaps a better one, lay across the plain, near the forest. Muviro and his Waziri stood near the edge of it, a band of primitive savages; and the sight of these and the implications their presence suggested determined the pilot to set his ship down nearer the village and its white inhabitants. Tragic error.
Once again the ship circled the plain, rising to an altitude of a thousand feet; then the pilot cut his motor and glided toward a landing.
Muviro resumed his advance upon the village; and as the way led him and his men down into a deep wash they did not see the actual landing of the ship, but when they again reached higher ground they saw two men climbing from the cockpits of the plane, while advancing from the open gates of the Kavura village was a swarm of savage, white warriors, whose hostile intent was all too apparent to Muviro.
They were white! No longer was there any doubt in the mind of the Waziri chieftain; now he knew that these were indeed the Kavuru. They were shouting and brandishing their spears as they ran toward the two aviators. Apparently they had not as yet discovered the presence of the Waziri; or, if they had, they ignored them.
Muviro spoke to his men in low tones, and they spread out in a thin line and moved silently forward at a trot. They did not yell and prance as do many native warriors, and because they did not they seemed always to inspire greater fear in the hearts of their enemies. There were only ten of them, yet they charged the savage Kavuru, who out-numbered them ten to one, with all the assurance that they might have been expected to have had the odds been reversed.
The fliers, seeing that the natives were hostile, fell back toward their ship. One of them fired a shot over the heads of the advancing Kavuru; but as it had no deterrent effect, the man fired again; and this time a Kavuru fell. Still the savage white warriors came on.
Now both the fliers opened fire, yet on came the Kavuru. Soon they would be within spear range of their victims. The men glanced behind them as though seeking temporary shelter, but what they saw must have been disheartening—a thin line of black warriors trotting silently toward them from the rear.
They did not know that these would have been friends and allies; so one of them raised his pistol and fired at Muviro. The bullet missed its mark; and the Waziri chieftain sought cover behind a boulder, ordering his men to do likewise; for he knew better than the Kavuru the deadly effectiveness of firearms.
Then he called to the two fliers in English, telling them that the Waziri were friendly; but the harm had already been done—the delay permitted the Kavuru to close in upon the two men before the Waziri could join forces with them to repel the enemy. Perhaps it would have done no good, so greatly did the Kavuru out-number them all.
With savage yells they bore down upon the fliers, though several of their number dropped before the fire that the two poured into their ranks. Now they were close; but close too were the Waziri, who were moving forward again, now at a run.
Presently the Kavuru spears began to fly. One of the strangers fell with a weapon through his heart. Now a volley of spears leaped from the hands of the Waziri, momentarily checking the advance of the Kavuru, who seemed to fear spears more than they did firearms.
They did not retreat, but merely paused a moment; then they launched another flight of spears; and this time the second flier fell, and with him three Waziri. A moment later the Kavuru and Waziri closed in hand-to-hand struggle.
Now there were but seven of the latter; and though they fought valiantly, they were no match for the hundred Kavuru warriors that overwhelmed them.
Fighting close to the bodies of the slain fliers, Muviro and one of his warriors, Balando, salvaged the pistols and ammunition of the dead men. At close quarters the firearms had a more definite effect on the morale of the Kavuru, stopping them temporarily and permitting Muviro and his remaining warriors to fall back in search of shelter. Now there were but four of them, Muviro, Balando, and two others.
The Waziri chief sought to reach a pile of granite rising spire-like from the plain; and at last he was successful, but now only Balando remained alive to carry on the unequal struggle with him. Together they fell back to the rocky sanctuary Muviro had chosen, and while Muviro held the Kavuru at bay Balando clambered to the summit safely out of effective spear range; then he fired down upon the enemy while Muviro climbed to his side.
Again and again the Kavuru hurled their spears aloft; but the height was too great for any but the most powerful muscles, and even the weapons of these had lost so much speed and momentum by the time they reached the level at which their targets stood that they ceased to constitute a menace. The revolvers and bows of the two Waziri, however, still did effective work—so effective that the Kavuru fell back toward their village; and with the coming of the swift equatorial twilight Muviro saw them definitely give up the attack and file back toward the village gate.
As they passed the grounded ship, Muviro saw that they avoided it and guessed that they were afraid of it as of something supernatural; then night fell, blotting out the scene.
Sorrowfully Muviro and Balando descended from the rock that had afforded them sanctuary. They sought shelter and a place to sleep in the forest, the unpenetrable gloom of which seemed no darker than their future. But they made no plans; they were too exhausted, too overcome by grief and disappointment to think clearly.
“If only the Big Bwana would come,” sighed Balando.
“Yes,” agreed Muviro. “If he had been here, this would not have happened.”