When the soldier recovered his senses, it was to wonder again at the change that had come over the scene. The loud yells, the bitter taunts, the mocking laughs, were heard no more; and nothing broke the silence of the wilderness save the stir of the leaf in the breeze, and the ripple of the river against its pebbly banks below. He glanced a moment from the bush in which he was lying, in search of the barbarians who had lately covered the slope of the hill, but all had vanished; captor and captive had alike fled; and the sparrow twittering among the stunted bushes, and the grasshopper singing in the grass, were the only living objects to be seen. The thong was still upon his wrists, and as he felt it rankling in his flesh, he almost believed that his savage captors, with a refinement in cruelty the more remarkable as it must have robbed them of the sight of his dying agonies, had left him thus bound and wounded, to perish miserably in the wilderness alone.
This suspicion was, however, soon driven from his mind; for making an effort to rise to his feet, he found himself suddenly withheld by a powerful grasp, while a guttural voice muttered in his ear from behind, with accents half angry, half exultant,—“Long-knife no move;—see how Piankeshaw kill Long-knife’s brudders!—Piankeshaw great fighting-man!” He turned his face with difficulty, and saw, crouching among the leaves behind him, a grim old warrior plentifully bedaubed over head and breast with the scarlet clay of his native Wabash, his dark shining eyes bent now upon his rifle which he held extended over Roland’s body, now turned upon Roland himself, whom he seemed to watch over with a miser’s, or a wild-cat’s, affection, and now wandering away up the stony path along the hill-side, as if in expectation of the coming of an object dearer even than rifle or captive to his imagination.
In the confused and distracted state of his mind, Roland was as little able to understand the expressions of the warrior as to account for the disappearance of his murderous associates; and he would have marvelled for what purpose he was thus concealed, among the bushes with his grim companion, had not his whole soul been too busily and painfully occupied with the thoughts of his vanished Edith. He strove to ask the wild barbarian of her fate, but the latter motioned him fiercely to keep silence; and the motion and the savage