Almost dead from the saddle-pommel which knocked the breath from my body, suffocated and strangled with dust, I hung dangling there in a storm of flying sticks and pebbles. Twice consciousness fled, only to return with the blood pounding in my ears. A third time my senses left me, and when they returned I lay in a cleared space in the woods beside Sir George, the sun shining full in my face, flung on the ground near a fire, over which a kettle was boiling. And on every side of us moved McCraw’s riders, feeding their horses, smoking, laughing, playing at cards, or coming up to sniff the camp-kettle and poke the boiling meat with pointed sticks.
Behind them, squatted in rows, sat two dozen Indians, watching us in ferocious silence.
For a while I lay there stupefied, limp-limbed, lifeless, closing my aching eyes under the glittering red rays of the westering sun.
My parched throat throbbed and throbbed; I could scarcely stir, even to close my swollen hands where they had tied my wrists, although somebody had cut the cords that bound me.
“Sir George,” I said, in a low voice.
“Yes, I am here,” he replied, instantly.
“Are you hurt?”
“No, Ormond. Are you?”
“No; very tired; that is all.”
I rolled over; my head reeled and I held it in my benumbed hands, looking at Sir George, who lay on his side, cheek pillowed on his arms.
“This is a miserable end of it all,” he said, with calm bitterness. “But that it involves you, I should not dare blame fortune for the fool I acted. I have my deserts; but it’s cruel for you.”
The sickening whirling in my head became unendurable. I lay down, facing him, eyes closed.
“It was not your fault,” I said, dully.
“There is no profit in discussing that,” he muttered. “They took us alive instead of scalping us; while there’s life there’s hope, ... a little hope.... But I’d sooner they’d finish me here than rot in their stinking prison-ships.... Ormond, are you awake?”
“Yes, Sir George.”
“If they—if the Indians get us, and—and begin their—you know—”
“Yes; I know.”
“If they begin ... that ... insult them, taunt them, sneer at them, laugh at them!—yes, laugh at them! Do anything to enrage them, so they’ll—they’ll finish quickly.... Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I muttered; and my voice sounded miles away.
He lay brooding for a while; when I opened my eyes he broke out fretfully: “How was I to dream that McCraw could be so near!—that he dared raid us within a mile of the house! Oh, I could die of shame, Ormond! die of shame!... But I won’t die that way; oh no,” he added, with a frightful smile that left his face distorted and white.
He raised himself on one elbow.