The spot seemed wild and desolate, there being no evidence of
cultivation or of human habitation. On one side extended numerous deep
ravines, which gave an air of solemnity to the scene. The narrow,
seldom-used path turned sharply to the left in a direction away from
their destination.
A halt was called upon a natural platform overgrown with brambles. Sumo,
who had some knowledge of woodcraft, leaped from his horse and examined
the brush.
“They have passed here, masters,” he announced. “I find little threads
hanging to the thorns; and the grass is trampled in places.”
“We must proceed with caution,” said Mori, restraining Nattie, who had
already started. “Remember, Ralph has a number of men with him, and he
is liable to ambuscade us.”
“I will go on ahead,” volunteered the giant porter, swinging his massive
sword vindictively. “You follow slowly. If I see anything I will make
the sound of a wild crow.”
“Don’t lose any time in your scouting,” said Nattie, impatiently.
“Confound them, they’ll get away from us yet.”
Leaving his horse in charge of one of the coolies, Sumo slipped through
the brush and disappeared down one of the ravines. After looking to
their weapons, the rest silently followed. They had barely traveled a
hundred yards when the harsh cry of a wild crow came to their ears; then
before the echoes had died away, the fierce clashing of steel thrilled
the air.
“He has been attacked,” shouted Nattie, putting his horse to the bushes.
“Quick, we have them now!”
With the rest at his back, he dashed down a gentle slope into the head
of the ravine. Passing a large clump of trees they came upon a most
thrilling scene. Two hundred yards from the hill the valley narrowed to
a space not wider than a city sidewalk.
The “gut” was formed by a huge mass of earth, which had fallen from the
heights overhead. The bottom was evidently the dry bed of a mountain
stream, and innumerable bowlders and jagged pieces of flint were
scattered here and there, rendering walking difficult.
The scenery was an afterthought. That which instantly attracted the
attention of Nattie and Mori was the figure of a native almost as large
as Sumo standing at the beginning of the narrow passage. The fellow was
armed with a sword, which he shook vindictively at the party.
Several feet away stood the giant porter, calmly whetting the huge
weapon given him by Mori. Farther up the ravine stood the Irishman,
Patrick Cronin. The man grinned impudently on seeing the newcomers, then
he turned and disappeared behind a mass of underbrush.
“After him!’ shouted Nattie, riding headlong into the valley.
The abrupt warning came from Sumo. He had strode in the way with one
hand raised.
“What do you mean?” demanded Mori. And as he spoke he leveled his
revolver at the challenging figure standing in the middle of the “gut.”
“Don’t shoot him, excellency,” exclaimed Sumo, imploringly. “That is
Raiko, the thug. I knew him in Yokohama. He did me an injury once. Now,
I claim satisfaction.”
“What nonsense is this?” shouted Nattie. “Would you delay us, man?”
“It will not take long,” replied Sumo, with a scowl directed toward
Raiko. “I’ll promise you his head in the song of a stork. See! I
He sprang forward, and with great agility threw himself upon Raiko. The
latter uttered a shrill cry, seemingly of exultation and defiance, and
in the twinkling of an eye the ancient enemies were engaged in what
evidently promised to be mortal combat.
Human nature is not proof against the thrill and excitement of war. Much
as we deplore fighting, there is something in the clash of arms that
fascinates us. From the glorious spectacle of marshaled armies to the
duel between individuals, there is a charm not to be resisted by mankind
of any degree.
Nattie and Mori were not different in that respect from other lads. They
were both truthful, honest, manly boys, with a just knowledge of right
and wrong, but deep down in their hearts was a little of the old leaven
with which we are still afflicted more or less.
For the moment they forgot their quest and watched the fight with eager
eyes. The two combatants were equally matched. If anything, Sumo was
slightly taller, but Raiko made up for the discrepancy in a greater
breadth of shoulders.
Both were armed with the heavy two-edged sword formerly used by the
ancient _daimios_, and they were fairly skilled in the practice. Raiko
had the advantage in position. Where he had taken his stand was a spot
elevated a foot or more above the rest of the ravine. Sumo, however,
had greater room in which to swing his weapon, and in case of pressure
he had the ravine at his back.

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At the first onslaught the play was furious, and the rocks rang with the
clash of steel. Cut, slash, went the swords. Backward and forward sprang
the antagonists. Now to the right, now to the left, dodging, leaping,
advancing, and retreating.
In the midst of it all came the hissing murmur of strained voices.
Tongues were going as well as arms–words keen with venom; phrases
sharpened with hate played their part in the fierce duel.
Presently the fury of the combat had slackened. Nature was calling a
halt. Of the two, Raiko had suffered the most. He was bleeding in a
dozen places. But Sumo had not entirely escaped. A broad, raw wound on
his right thigh showed where his antagonist’s sword had tasted blood.
Like two bucks weary with strife, the twain backed away from one another
and, leaning upon their weapons, glared with unabated hatred. The
respite was momentary. Ere Nattie and Mori could speak they were at it
“Dog! Robber of the lame!” shouted Sumo, aiming a shrewd blow at his
enemy. “Your career is ended. Now for a taste of revenge. Remember the
night at the _matsura_? Remember the cowardly thrust thou gavest my
“Yes; and I have one such for thee, worm!” retorted Raiko. “Thou bulk of
nothingness, I’ll send thee to the offal heap to-day, and–ugh! ugh!”
With a harsh cry, almost inhuman in its intensity, he fell against the
side of the ravine, sent there by a terrible downward blow from Sumo’s
triumphant sword. Leaping upon his prostrate enemy, the giant porter
gave a sweep of the weapon, then he stood erect with Raiko’s gory head
in his grasp!