Wetzel rose to his feet clutching the renegade. With his left arm, which had been bared in the fight, he held Girty by the front of his buckskin shirt, and dragged him to that tree which stood alone in the glade. He pushed him against it, and held him there.
The white dog leaped and snarled around the prisoner.
Girty’s hands pulled and tore at the powerful arm which forced him hard against the beech. It was a brown arm, and huge with its bulging, knotted, rigid muscles. A mighty arm, strong as the justice which ruled it.
“Girty, thy race is run!” Wetzel’s voice cut the silence like a steel whip.
The terrible, ruthless smile, the glittering eyes of doom seemed literally to petrify the renegade.
The hunter’s right arm rose slowly. The knife in his hand quivered as if with eagerness. The long blade, dripping with Deering’s blood, pointed toward the hilltop.
“Look thar! See ’em! Thar’s yer friends!” cried Wetzel.
On the dead branches of trees standing far above the hilltop, were many great, dark birds. They sat motionless as if waiting.
“Buzzards! Buzzards!” hissed Wetzel.
Girty’s ghastly face became an awful thing to look upon. No living countenance ever before expressed such fear, such horror, such agony. He foamed at the mouth, he struggled, he writhed. With a terrible fascination he watched that quivering, dripping blade, now poised high.
Wetzel’s arm swung with the speed of a shooting star. He drove the blade into Girty’s groin, through flesh and bone, hard and fast into the tree. He nailed the renegade to the beech, there to await his lingering doom.
“Ah-h! Ah-h! Ah-h!” shrieked Girty, in cries of agony. He fumbled and pulled at the haft of the knife, but could not loosen it. He beat his breast, he tore his hair. His screams were echoed from the hilltop as if in mockery.
The white dog stood near, his hair bristling, his teeth snapping.
The dark birds sat on the dead branches above the hilltop, as if waiting for their feast.
Zane turned and cut the young missionary’s bonds. Jim ran to where Nell was lying on the ground, and tenderly raised her head, calling to her that they were saved. Zane bathed the girl’s pale face. Presently she sighed and opened her eyes.
Then Zane looked from the statuelike form of Wingenund to the motionless figure of Wetzel. The chief stood erect with his eyes on the distant hills. Wetzel remained with folded arms, his cold eyes fixed upon the writhing, moaning renegade.
“Lew, look here,” said Zane, unhesitatingly, and pointed toward the chief.
Wetzel quivered as if sharply stung; the cold glitter in his eyes changed to lurid fire. With upraised tomahawk he bounded across the brook.
“Lew, wait a minute!” yelled Zane.