In this ignominious manner the unhappy Forrester passed the river, to do which had, for twenty-four hours, been the chief object of his wishes. The ford was wide, deep, and rocky, and the current strong, so that he was several times swept from his feet, and being unable to rise would have perished,—happy could he have thus escaped his tormentors—had not the young warriors been nigh to give him assistance. Assistance, in such cases, was indeed always rendered; but his embarrassments and perils only afforded food for mirth to his savage attendants, who, at every fall and dip in the tide, made the hills resound with their vociferous laughter. It is only among children (we mean, of course, bad ones) and savages, who are but grown children, after all, that we find malice and mirth go hand in hand,—the will to create misery and the power to see it invested in ludicrous colours.
The river was at last crossed, and the bank being ascended, the three warriors paused a moment to send their last greeting across to their allies, who were seen climbing the hill, taking their own departure from the battle-ground. Even Roland was stirred from his stupefaction, as he beheld the train, some on foot, some on the captured horses, winding up the narrow road to the hill-top. He looked among them for his Edith, and saw her,—or fancied he saw her, for the distance was considerable,—supported on one of the animals, grasped in the arms of a tall savage, the guard of the grove, whose scarlet turban glittering in the sunshine, and his ample white blanket flowing over the flanks of the horse, made the most conspicuous objects in the train. But while he looked, barbarian and captive vanished together behind the hill, for they were at the head of the train. There remained a throng of footmen, who paused an instant on the crest of the ridge to return the farewell whoop of the three Piankeshaws. This being done, they likewise disappeared; and the Piankeshaws, turning their faces towards the west, dragging the prisoner after them, resumed their journey.
The agony which Roland suffered from the thong so tightly secured upon his wrists, was so far advantageous as it distracted his mind from the subject which had been at first the chief source of his distress: for it was impossible to think long even of his kinswoman, while enduring tortures that were aggravated by every jerk of the rope, by which he was dragged along; these growing more insupportable every moment. His sufferings, however, seemed to engage little of the thoughts of his conductors; who, leaving the buffalo road, and striking into the pathless forest, pushed onward at a rapid pace, compelling him to keep up with them; and it was not until he had twice fainted from pain and exhaustion, that, after some discussion, they thought fit to loosen the thong, which they afterwards removed altogether. Then, whether it was that