The Maid-At-Arms eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 283 pages of information about The Maid-At-Arms.

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.

XXI

THE CRISIS

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.

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The Maid-At-Arms from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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