Death Shot, The

Death Shot, The
Catalog # SKU3715
Publisher Texas National Press
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Captain Mayne Reid
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


The Death Shot

A Story Retold
A Texas Tale

Captain Mayne Reid

Long time since this hand hath penned a preface. Now only to say, that this romance, as originally published, was written when the author was suffering severe affliction, both physically and mentally-the result of a gun-wound that brought him as near to death as Darke's bullet did Clancy.

Larger Print, 12 point font



Plain, treeless, shrubless, smooth as a sleeping sea. Grass upon it; this so short, that the smallest quadruped could not cross over without being seen. Even the crawling reptile would not be concealed among its tufts.

Objects are upon it-sufficiently visible to be distinguished at some distance. They are of a character scarce deserving a glance from the passing traveller. He would deem it little worth while to turn his eyes towards a pack of prairie wolves, much less go in chase of them.

With vultures soaring above, he might be more disposed to hesitate, and reflect. The foul birds and filthy beasts seen consorting together, would be proof of prey-that some quarry had fallen upon the plain. Perhaps, a stricken stag, a prong-horn antelope, or a wild horse crippled by some mischance due to his headlong nature?

Believing it any of these, the traveller would reloosen his rein, and ride onward,-leaving the beasts and birds to their banquet.

There is no traveller passing over the prairie in question-no human being upon it. Nothing like life, save the coyotes grouped over the ground, and the buzzards swooping above.

They are not unseen by human eye. There is one sees-one who has reason to fear them.

Their eager excited movements tell them to be anticipating a repast; at the same time, that they have not yet commenced it.

Something appears in their midst. At intervals they approach it: the birds swoopingly from heaven, the beasts crouchingly along the earth. Both go close, almost to touching it; then suddenly withdraw, starting back as in affright!

Soon again to return; but only to be frayed as before. And so on, in a series of approaches, and recessions.

What can be the thing thus attracting, at the same time repelling them? Surely no common quarry, as the carcase of elk, antelope, or mustang? It seems not a thing that is dead. Nor yet looks it like anything alive. Seen from a distance it resembles a human head. Nearer, the resemblance is stronger. Close up, it becomes complete. Certainly, it is a human head-the head of a man!

Not much in this to cause surprise-a man's head lying upon a Texan prairie! Nothing, whatever, if scalpless. It would only prove that some ill-starred individual-traveller, trapper, or hunter of wild horses-has been struck down by Comanches; afterwards beheaded, and scalped.

But this head-if head it be-is not scalped. It still carries its hair-a fine chevelure, waving and profuse. Nor is it lying upon the ground, as it naturally should, after being severed from the body, and abandoned. On the contrary, it stands erect, and square, as if still on the shoulders from which it has been separated; the neck underneath, the chin just touching the surface. With cheeks pallid, or blood spotted, and eyes closed or glassy, the attitude could not fail to cause surprise. And yet more to note, that there is neither pallor, nor stain on the cheeks; and the eyes are neither shut, nor glassed. On the contrary, they are glancing-glaring-rolling. By Heavens the head is alive!

No wonder the wolves start back in affright; no wonder the vultures, after stooping low, ply their wings in quick nervous stroke, and soar up again! The odd thing seems to puzzle both beasts and birds; baffles their instinct, and keeps them at bay.

Still know they, or seem to believe, 'tis flesh and blood. Sight and scent tell them so. By both they cannot be deceived.

And living flesh it must be? A Death's head could neither flash its eyes, nor cause them to revolve in their sockets. Besides, the predatory creatures have other evidence of its being alive. At intervals they see opened a mouth, disclosing two rows of white teeth; from which come cries that, startling, send them afar.

These are only put forth, when they approach too threateningly near-evidently intended to drive them to a distance. They have done so for the greater part of a day.

Strange spectacle! The head of a man, without any body; with eyes in it that scintillate and see; a mouth that opens, and shows teeth; a throat from which issue sounds of human intonation; around this object of weird supernatural aspect, a group of wolves, and over it a flock of vultures!

Twilight approaching, spreads a purple tint over the prairie. But it brings no change in the attitude of assailed, or assailants. There is still light enough for the latter to perceive the flash of those fiery eyes, whose glances of menace master their voracious instincts, warning them back.

On a Texan prairie twilight is short. There are no mountains, or high hills intervening, no obliquity in the sun's diurnal course, to lengthen out the day. When the golden orb sinks below the horizon, a brief crepusculous light succeeds; then darkness, sudden as though a curtain of crape were dropped over the earth.

Night descending causes some change in the tableau described. The buzzards, obedient to their customary habit-not nocturnal-take departure from the spot, and wing their way to their usual roosting place. Different do the coyotes. These stay. Night is the time best suited to their ravening instincts. The darkness may give them a better opportunity to assail that thing of spherical shape, which by shouts, and scowling glances, has so long kept them aloof.

To their discomfiture, the twilight is succeeded by a magnificent moon, whose silvery effulgence falling over the plain almost equals the light of day. They see the head still erect, the eyes angrily glancing; while in the nocturnal stillness that cry, proceeding from the parted lips, affrights them as ever.

And now, that night is on, more than ever does the tableau appear strange-more than ever unlike reality, and more nearly allied to the spectral. For, under the moonlight, shimmering through a film that has spread over the plain, the head seems magnified to the dimensions of the Sphinx; while the coyotes-mere jackals of terrier size-look large as Canadian stags!

In truth, a perplexing spectacle-full of wild, weird mystery.

472 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover

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