EVENTS ON THE HILL-SIDE.
My body was too sore to suffer me to sleep dreamlessly, but my dreams were pleasant. I thought I was in a sunny place with Elspeth, and that she had braided a coronet of wild flowers for her hair. They were simple flowers, such as I had known in childhood and had not found in Virginia—yarrow, and queen of the meadow, and bluebells, and the little eyebright. A great peace filled me, and Ringan came presently to us and spoke in his old happy speech. ’Twas to the accompaniment of Elspeth’s merry laughter that I wakened, to find myself in a dark, strange-smelling place, with a buffalo robe laid over me, and no stitch of clothing on my frame.
That wakening was bitter indeed. I opened my eyes to another day of pain and peril, with no hope of deliverance. For usual I am one of those who rise with a glad heart and a great zest for whatever the light may bring. Now, as I moved my limbs, I found aches everywhere, and but little strength in my bones. Slowly the events of the last day came back to me—the journey in the dripping woods, the fight in the ravine, the death of my comrade, the long horror of the hours of torture. No man can be a hero at such an awakening. I had not the courage of a chicken in my soul, and could have wept with weakness and terror.
I felt my body over, and made out that I had taken no very desperate hurt. My joints were swollen with the bonds, and every sinew seemed as stiff as wire. The skin had been scorched on my shins and feet, and was peeling off in patches, but the ointment which had been rubbed on it had taken the worst ache out of the wounds. I tottered to my feet, and found that I could stand, and even move slowly like an old man. My clothes had been brought back and laid beside me, and with much difficulty I got into them; but I gave up the effort to get my stockings and boots over my scorched legs. My pistols, too, had been restored, and Ringan’s sword, and the gold amulet he had entrusted to me. Somehow, in the handling of me, my store of cartouches had disappeared from my pockets. My pistols were loaded and ready for use, but that was the extent of my defences, for I was no more good with Ringan’s sword than with an Indian bow.
A young lad brought me some maize porridge and a skin of water. I could eat little of the food, but I drank the water to the last drop, for my throat was as dry as the nether pit. After that I lay down on my couch again, for it seemed to me that I would need to treasure every atom of my strength. The meal had put a little heart in me—heart enough to wait dismally on the next happening.
Presently the chief whom they called Onotawah stood at the tent door, and with him a man who spoke the Powhatan tongue.
“Greeting, brother,” he said.
“Greeting,” I answered, in the stoutest tone I could muster.