They carried me to where their horses were tied up in a glade, and presently we were galloping towards the hills, myself an inert bundle strapped across an Indian saddle. The pain of the motion was great, but I had a kind of grim comfort in bearing it. After a time I think my senses left me, and I slipped into a stupor, from which I woke with a fiery ache at every joint and eyes distended with a blinding heat. Some one tossed me on the ground, where I lay with my cheek in a cool, wet patch of earth. Then I felt my bonds being unloosed, and a strong arm pulled me to my feet. When it let go I dropped again, and not till many hands had raised me and set me on a log could I look round at my whereabouts.
I was in a crook of a hill glen, lit with a great radiance of moonlight. Fires dotted the flat, and Indian tents, and there seemed to me hundreds of savages crowding in on me. I do not suppose that I showed any fear, for my bodily weakness had made me as impassive as any Indian.
Presently a voice spoke to me, but I could not understand the words. I shook my head feebly, and another spoke. This time I knew that the tongue was Cherokee, a speech I could recognize but could not follow. Again I shook my head, and a third took up the parable. This one spoke the Powhatan language, which I knew, and I replied in the same tongue.
There was a tall man wearing in his hair a single great feather, whom I took to be the chief. He spoke to me through the interpreter, and asked me whence I came.
I told him I was a hunter who had strayed in the hills. He asked where the other was.
“He is dead,” I said, “dead of your knives. But five of your braves atoned for him.”
“You speak truth,” he said gravely. “But the Children of the West Wind do not suffer the death of, their sons to go unrewarded. For each one of the five, three Palefaces shall eat the dust in the day of our triumph.”
“Be it so,” said I stoutly, though I felt a dreadful nausea coming over me. I was determined to keep my head high, if only my frail body would not fail me.
“The Sons of the West Wind,” he spoke again, “have need of warriors. You can atone for the slaughter you have caused, and the blood feud will be forgotten. In the space of five suns we shall sweep the Palefaces into the sea, and rule all the land to the Eastern waters. My brother is a man of his hands, and valour is dear to the heart of Onotawah. If he casts in his lot with the Children of the West Wind a wigwam shall be his, and a daughter of our race to wife, and six of our young men shall follow his commands. Will my brother march with us against those whom God has delivered to us for our prey?”
“Does the eagle make terms with the kite?” I asked, “and fly with them to raid his own eyrie? Yes, I will join with you, and march with you till I have delivered you to, perhaps, a score of the warriors of my own people. Then I will aid them in making carrion of you.”