In this frightful condition Roland was left, shocked, although relieved from fear, by the savage’s death, crying in vain to his unknown auxiliary for assistance. He exerted his voice, until the woods rang with his shouts; but hollow echoes were the only replies: neither voice nor returning footstep was to be heard; and it seemed as if he had been rescued from the Indians’ hands, only to be left, bound and helpless, to perish piecemeal among their bodies. The fear of a fate so dreadful, with the weight of the old Piankeshaw, a man of almost gigantic proportions, lying upon his bosom, was more than his agonised spirits and exhausted strength could endure; and his wounds suddenly bursting out afresh, he lapsed into a state of insensibility, in which, however, it was happily his fate not long to remain.
When Roland recovered his consciousness, he was no longer a prisoner extended beneath the Indian cross. His limbs were unbound, and he himself lying across the knees of a man who was busily engaged sprinkling his head and breast with water from the little well, to which he had been borne while still insensible. He stared around him with eyes yet filmy and vacant. The first objects they fell on were two lifeless figures, the bodies of his late savage masters, stretched near the half-extinguished fire. He looked up to the face of his deliverer, which could be readily seen, for it was now broad day, and beheld, with such a thrill of pleasure as had not visited his bosom for many weary days, the features of his trusty guide and emissary, honest Nathan Slaughter, who was pursuing the work of resuscitation with great apparent zeal, while little dog Peter stood by wagging his tail, as if encouraging him to perseverance.
“What, Nathan!” he cried, grasping at his hand, and endeavouring, though vainly, to rise from his knee, “do I dream! is it you?”
“Verily, thee speaks the truth,” replied Nathan;—“it is me,—me and little Peter; and, truly, it is nobody else.”
“And I am free again? free, free!—And the savages? the vile, murdering Piankeshaws? Dead! surprised, killed,—every dog of them!”
“Thee speaks the truth a second time,” said Nathan Slaughter, snuffling and hesitating in his speech: “thee wicked enemies and captivators will never trouble thee more.”
“And who, who was it that rescued me? Hah! there is blood on your face! your hands are red with it! It was you, then, that saved me? you that killed the accursed cut-throats? Noble Nathan! brave Nathan! true Nathan! how shall I ever requite the act? how shall I ever forget it?” And as he spoke, the soldier, yet lying across Nathan’s knees, for his limbs refused to support him, grasped his preserver’s hands with a fervour of gratitude that gave new life and vigour to his exhausted spirits.