Wetzel sank back into the ferns to still the furious exultations which almost consumed him during the moment when he marked his victim. He lay there breathing hard, gripping tightly his rifle, slowly mastering the passion that alone of all things might render his aim futile.
For him it was the third great moment of his life, the last of three moments in which the Indian’s life had belonged to him. Once before he had seen that dark, powerful face over the sights of his rifle, and he could not shoot because his one shot must be for another. Again had that lofty, haughty figure stood before him, calm, disdainful, arrogant, and he yielded to a woman’s prayer.
The Delaware’s life was his to take, and he swore he would have it! He trembled in the ecstasy of his triumphant passion; his great muscles rippled and quivered, for the moment was entirely beyond his control. Then his passion calmed. Such power for vengeance had he that he could almost still the very beats of his heart to make sure and deadly his fatal aim. Slowly he raised himself; his eyes of cold fire glittered; slowly he raised the black rifle.
Wingenund stood erect in his old, grand pose, with folded arms, but his eyes, instead of being fixed on the distant hills, were lowered to the ground.
An Indian girl, cold as marble, lay at his feet. Her garments were wet, and clung to her slender form. Her sad face was frozen into an eternal rigidity.
By her side was a newly dug grave.
The bead on the front sight of the rifle had hardly covered the chief’s dark face when Wetzel’s eye took in these other details. He had been so absorbed in his purpose that he did not dream of the Delaware’s reason for returning to the Beautiful Spring.
Slowly Wetzel’s forefinger stiffened; slowly he lowered the black rifle.
Wingenund had returned to bury Whispering Winds.
Wetzel’s teethe clenched, an awful struggle tore his heart. Slowly the rifle rose, wavered and fell. It rose again, wavered and fell. Something terrible was wrong with him; something awful was awakening in his soul.
Wingenund had not made a fool of him. The Delaware had led him a long chase, had given him the slip in the forest, not to boast of it, but to hurry back to give his daughter Christian burial.
Wingenund was a Christian!
Had he not been, once having cast his daughter from him, he would never have looked upon her face again.
Wingenund was true to his race, but he was a Christian.
Suddenly Wetzel’s terrible temptation, his heart-racking struggle ceased. He lowered the long, black rifle. He took one last look at the chieftain’s dark, powerful face.
Then the Avenger fled like a shadow through the forest.
It was late afternoon at Fort Henry. The ruddy sun had already sunk behind the wooded hill, and the long shadows of the trees lengthened on the green square in front of the fort.