“Girty!” said Heckewelder, who had come in with his quiet step. “He looked in at the window. Calm yourself, Nellie. The renegade has gone.”
The incident worried them all at the time, and made Nell nervous for several days; but as Girty had disappeared, and nothing more was heard of him, gradually they forgot. Kate’s wedding day dawned with all the little party well and happy. Early in the afternoon Jim and Nell, accompanied by Kate and her lover, started out into the woods just beyond the clearing for the purpose of gathering wild flowers to decorate the cabin.
“We are both thinking of—him,” Jim said, after he and Nell had walked some little way in silence.
“Yes,” answered Nell, simply.
“I hope—I pray Joe comes back, but if he doesn’t—Nell—won’t you care a little for me?”
He received no answer. But Nell turned her face away.
“We both loved him. If he’s gone forever our very love for him should bring us together. I know—I know he would have wished that.”
“Jim, don’t speak of love to me now,” she whispered. Then she turned to the others. “Come quickly; here are great clusters of wild clematis and goldenrod. How lovely! Let us gather a quantity.”
The young men had almost buried the girls under huge masses of the beautiful flowers, when the soft tread of moccasined feet caused them all to turn in surprise. Six savages stood waist-deep in the bushes, where they had lain concealed. Fierce, painted visages scowled from behind leveled rifles.
“Don’t yell!” cried a hoarse voice in English. Following the voice came a snapping of twigs, and then two other figures came into view. They were Girty and Silvertip.
“Don’t yell, er I’ll leave you layin’ here fer the buzzards,” said the renegade. He stepped forward and grasped Young, at the same time speaking in the Indian language and pointing to a nearby tree. Strange to relate, the renegade apparently wanted no bloodshed. While one of the savages began to tie Young to the tree, Girty turned his gaze on the girls. His little, yellow eyes glinted; he stroked his chin with a bony hand, and his dark, repulsive face was wreathed in a terrible, meaning smile.
“I’ve been layin’ fer you,” he croaked, eyeing Nell. “Ye’re the purtiest lass, ‘ceptin’ mebbe Bet Zane, I ever seed on the border. I got cheated outen her, but I’ve got you; arter I feed yer Injun preacher to ther buzzards mebbe ye’ll larn to love me.”
Nell gazed one instant into the monster’s face. Her terror-stricken eyes were piteous to behold. She tried to speak; but her voice failed. Then, like stricken bird, she fell on the grass.
Not many miles from the Village of Peace rose an irregular chain of hills, the first faint indications of the grand Appalachian Mountain system. These ridges were thickly wooded with white oak, poplar and hickory, among which a sentinel pine reared here and there its evergreen head. There were clefts in the hills, passes lined by gray-stoned cliffs, below which ran clear brooks, tumbling over rocks in a hurry to meet their majestic father, the Ohio.