Jim hurried Nell toward the bushes where Wingenund’s tall form could dimly be seen. Mr. Wells followed them. On the edge of the clearing Jim and Nell turned to look back.
They saw a black mass of yelling, struggling, fighting savages crowding around the church.
“Oh! Jim, look back! Look back!” cried Nell, holding hard to his hand. “Look back! See if Girty is coming!”
At last the fugitives breathed free under the gold and red cover of the woods. Never speaking, never looking back, the guide hurried eastward with long strides. His followers were almost forced to run in order to keep him in sight. He had waited at the edge of the clearing for them, and, relieving Jim of the heavy pack, which he swung slightly over his shoulder, he set a pace that was most difficult to maintain. The young missionary half led, half carried Nell over the stones and rough places. Mr. Wells labored in the rear.
“Oh! Jim! Look back! Look back! See if we are pursued!” cried Nell frequently, with many a earful glance into the dense thickets.
The Indian took a straight course through the woods. He leaped the brooks, climbed the rough ridges, and swiftly trod the glades that were free of windfalls. His hurry and utter disregard for the plain trail left behind, proved his belief in the necessity of placing many miles between the fugitives and the Village of Peace. Evidently they would be followed, and it would be a waste of valuable time to try to conceal their trail. Gradually the ground began to rise, the way become more difficult, but Wingenund never slackened his pace. Nell was strong, supple, and light of foot. She held her own with Jim, but time and time again they were obliged to wait for her uncle. Once he was far behind. Wingenund halted for them at the height of a ridge where the forest was open.
“Ugh!” exclaimed the chieftain, as they finished the ascent. He stretched a long arm toward the sun; his falcon eye gleamed.
Far in the west a great black and yellow cloud of smoke rolled heavenward. It seemed to rise from out the forest, and to hang low over the trees; then it soared aloft and grew thinner until it lost its distinct line far in the clouds. The setting sun stood yet an hour high over a distant hill, and burned dark red through the great pall of smoke.
“Is it a forest fire?” asked Nell, fearfully.
“Fire, of course, but—–” Jim did not voice his fear; he looked closely at Wingenund.
The chieftain stood silent a moment as was his wont when addressed. The dull glow of the sun was reflected in the dark eyes that gazed far away over forest and field.
“Fire,” said Wingenund, and it seemed that as he spoke a sterner shadow flitted across his bronzed face. “The sun sets to-night over the ashes of the Village of Peace.”