TWO years had the tiger, whose shape was that of a sinister man,|
Been out since the night of escape—two years under horror and ban.
In a time full of thunder and rain, when hurricanes hackled the tree,
He slipt through the sludge of a drain, and swam a fierce fork of the sea.
Through the roar of the storm, and the ring and the wild savage whistle of hail,
Did this naked, whipt, desperate thing break loose from the guards of the gaol.
And breasting the foam of the bay, and facing the fangs of the bight,
With a great cruel cry on his way, he dashed through the darkness of night.
But foiled was the terror of fin, and baffled the strength of the tide,
For a devil supported his chin and a fiend kept a watch at his side.
And hands of iniquity drest the hellish hyena, and gave
Him food in the hills of the west—in cells of indefinite cave.
Then, strengthened and weaponed, this peer of the brute, on the track of its prey,
Sprang out, and shed sorrow and fear through the beautiful fields of the day.
And pillage and murder, and worse, swept peace from the face of the land—
The black, bitter work of this curse with the blood on his infamous hand.
But wolf of the hills at the end—chased back to the depths of his lair—
Had horror for neighbour and friend—he supped in the dark with despair.
A whisper of leaf or a breath of the wind in the watch of the night
Was ever as message of death to this devil bent double with fright.
For now were the hunters abroad; and the fiend like an adder at bay,
Cast out of the sight of the Lord, in the folds of his fastnesses lay.
Yea, skulking in pits of the slime—in venomous dens of eclipse—
He cowered and bided his time, with the white malice set on his lips.
Two years had his shadow been cast in forest, on highway, and run;
But Nemesis tracked him at last, and swept him from under the sun.
Foul felons in chains were ashamed to speak of the bloodthirsty thing
Who lived, like a panther inflamed, the life that no singer can sing—
Who butchered one night in the wild three women, a lad, and a maid,
And cut the sweet throat of a child—its mother’s pure blood on his blade!
But over the plains and away by the range and the forested lake,
Rode hard, for a week and a day, the terrible tracker, Dick Blake.
Dick Blake had the scent of a hound, the eye of a lynx, and could track
Where never a sign on the ground or the rock could be seen by the black.
A rascal at large, when he heard that Blake was out hard at his heels,
Felt just as the wilderness bird, in the snare fettered hopelessly, feels.
And, hence, when the wolf with the brand of Cain written thrice on his face,
Knew terrible Dick was at hand, he slunk like a snake to his place—
To the depths of his kennel he crept, far back in the passages dim;
But Blake and his mates never slept; they hunted and listened for him.
The mountains were many, but he who had captured big Terrigal Bill,
The slayer of Hawkins and Lee, found tracks by a conical hill.
There were three in the party—no more: Dick Blake and his brother, and one
Who came from a far-away shore, called here by the blood of his son.
Two nights and two days did they wait on the trail of the curst of all men;
But on the third morning a fate led Dick to the door of the den;
And a thunder ran up from the south and smote all the woods into sound;
And Blake, with an oath on his mouth, called out for the fiend underground.
But the answer was blue, bitter lead, and the brother of Dick, with a cry,
Fell back, and the storm overhead set night like a seal on the sky;
And the strength of the hurricane tore asunder hill-turrets uphurled;
And a rushing of rain and a roar made wan the green widths of the world.
The flame, and the roll, and the ring, and the hiss of the thunder and hail
Set fear on the face of the Spring laid bare to the arrow of gale.
But here in the flash and the din, in the cry of the mountain and wave,
Dick Blake, through the shadow, dashed in and strangled the wolf in his cave.