“Margit,” said he, pointing to the toen, “I believe that in this scoundrel here God has provided a way out of all our troubles. We caught him last night, and have brought him along as ransom for you. But stand close to the water and be ready to jump for the boat if they mean treachery. Edom and I will see that you come to no harm.”
“My dear husband,” she answered, very quiet and slow, “I think you are wasting your time. I am sorry, but I shall not go with you.”
Obed turned a dazed look on me, and then, supposing he had not heard aright, began again—
“Stand close by the water, and jump when I give the word. All may depend on your quickness—only be bold, my dear. I will explain after.”
“But it is I that must explain. I am not going with you: really I am not.”
Obed turned again to me, this time with wide eyes. “God of mercy!” he cried hoarsely; “her troubles have driven her mad!”
Margit heard. “Oh no,” she said; “I am not mad. The chief here has taken me: he seems to be the most powerful man in this tribe, and at least he is kind. I should be mad, rather, to wander with you through the forests, and in the end fall into worse hands, or perhaps die of starvation or cold. I do not want to be frozen—again. Go away now, when you have bartered the man there for food. You have been very good to me, but this cannot be helped.”
Obed lifted his gun: then lowered it. “Dom,” he muttered, “can you shoot her? I cannot!”
I was using all my strength, just then, to keep paddling the canoe against the current. I caught a glimpse of our comrades on the further bank: and then exactly what happened I know not. Perhaps Margit, having given her answer, turned back towards the house. At any rate, shrilly crying her name, Obed sprang up and discharged his musket. The shot went wide. With a second furious cry he stooped, caught up the helpless toen, and held him high in air. The canoe lurched heavily, and the next instant I was in the water.
I never saw Obed again: and the toen must have gone down like a stone. For me, I struck out for the far shore, but the current swept me down on the sandy spit where we had nearly come to shipwreck, the day before. Several Indians had gathered there. One ran into the water, waist-high, lifting a club. I turned and made a last effort to swim from him, but he flung himself on my back and bore me under.
I recovered to find myself in an Indian hut. Margit had persuaded them to spare me, and I was now, in name at least, a slave in Yootramaki’s possession. As a matter of fact, however, I was allowed to do pretty much as I liked; and my employment (absurd as it may sound) for the most part consisted in designing kites and other toys for the natives, who in mind and disposition resemble children rather than grown people—sullen and rather vicious children, I should say.