They stooped all four among the brushwood, peeping out between the tree trunks at a little glade towards which Amos was looking. For a long time the sound which the quick ears of the woodsman had detected was inaudible to the others, but at last they too heard the sharp snapping of twigs as some one forced his passage through the undergrowth. A moment later a man pushed his way into the open, whose appearance was so strange and so ill-suited to the spot, that even Amos gazed upon him with amazement.
He was a very small man, so dark and weather-stained that he might have passed for an Indian were it not that he walked and was clad as no Indian had ever been. He wore a broad-brimmed hat, frayed at the edges, and so discoloured that it was hard to say what its original tint had been. His dress was of skins, rudely cut and dangling loosely from his body, and he wore the high boots of a dragoon, as tattered and stained as the rest of his raiment. On his back he bore a huge bundle of canvas with two long sticks projecting from it, and under each arm he carried what appeared to be a large square painting.
“He’s no Injun,” whispered Amos, “and he’s no Woodsman either. Blessed if I ever saw the match of him!”
“He’s neither voyageur, nor soldier, nor coureur-de-bois,” said De Catinat.
“’Pears to me to have a jurymast rigged upon his back, and fore and main staysails set under each of his arms,” said Captain Ephraim.
“Well, he seems to have no consorts, so we may hail him without fear.”
They rose from their ambush, and as they did so the stranger caught sight of them. Instead of showing the uneasiness which any man might be expected to feel at suddenly finding himself in the presence of strangers in such a country, he promptly altered his course and came towards them. As he crossed the glade, however, the sounds of the distant bell fell upon his ears, and he instantly whipped off his hat and sunk his head in prayer. A cry of horror rose, not only from Adele but from everyone of the party, at the sight which met their eyes.
The top of the man’s head was gone. Not a vestige of hair or of white skin remained, but in place of it was a dreadful crinkled discoloured surface with a sharp red line running across his brow and round over his ears.
“By the eternal!” cried Amos, “the man has lost his scalp!”
“My God!” said De Catinat. “Look at his hands!”
He had raised them in prayer. Two or three little stumps projecting upwards showed where the fingers had been.
“I’ve seen some queer figure-heads in my life, but never one like that,” said Captain Ephraim.