Then into the crazed orgie leaped the Toad-woman like a gigantic scarlet spider, screaming prophecy and performing the inconceivable and nameless rites of Ak-e, Ne-ke, and Ge-zis, until, in her frenzy, she went stark mad, and the devil worship began with the awful sacrifice of Leshee in Biskoonah.
Horror-stricken, nauseated, I caught Mount’s arm, whispering: “Enough, in God’s name! Come away!”
My ears rang with the distracted yelping of the Toad-woman, who was strangling a dog. Faint, almost reeling, I saw an iris-girl fall in convulsions; the stupefying smoke blew into my face, choking me. I staggered back into the darkness, feeling my way among the unseen trees, gasping for fresh air. Behind me, Mount and Sir George came creeping, groping like blind men along the cliffs.
“This way,” whispered Mount.
Like a pursued man hunted through a dream, I labored on, leaden-limbed, trembling; and it seemed hours and hours ere the blue starlight broke overhead and Beacraft’s dark house loomed stark and empty on the stony hill.
Suddenly the ghostly call of a whippoorwill broke out from the willows. Mount answered; Elerson appeared in the path, making a sign for silence.
“Magdalen Brant entered the house an hour since,” he whispered. “She sits yonder on the door-step. I think she has fallen asleep.”
We stole forward through the dusk towards the silent figure on the door-step. She sat there, her head fallen back against the closed door, her small hands lying half open in her lap. Under her closed eyes the dark circles of fatigue lay; a faint trace of rose paint still clung to her lips; and from the ragged skirt of her thorn-rent gown one small foot was thrust, showing a silken shoe and ankle stained with mud.
There she lay, sleeping, this maid who, with her frail strength, had split forever the most powerful and ancient confederacy the world had ever known.
Her superb sacrifice of self, her proud indifference to delicacy and shame, her splendid acceptance of the degradation, her instant and fearless execution of the only plan which could save the land from war with a united confederacy, had left us stunned with admiration and helpless gratitude.
Had she gone to them as a white woman, using the arts of civilized persuasion, she could have roused them to war, but she could not have soothed them to peace. She knew it—even I knew that among the Iroquois the Ruler of the Heavens can never speak to an Indian through the mouth of a white woman.
As an Oneida, and a seeress of the False-Faces, she had answered their appeal. Using every symbol, every ceremony, every art taught her as a child, she had swayed them, vanquishing with mystery, conquering, triumphing, as an Oneida, where a single false step, a single slip, a moment’s faltering in her sweet and serene authority might have brought out the appalling cry of accusation: