In the meanwhile, Edith, not less confounded, sat cowering with terror, until the victor, having completed his task, sprang to her side,—a movement, however, that only increased her dismay,—crying, with warning gestures, “Fear not and speak not;—up and away!” when, perceiving she recoiled from him with all her feeble strength, and was indeed unable to rise, he caught her in his arms, muttering, “Thee is safe—thee friends is nigh!” and bore her swiftly, yet noiselessly, from the tent.
The night was even darker than before, the fire of the Wyandotts on the square had burned so low as no longer to send even a ray to the hut of Wenonga, and the wind, though subsiding, still kept up a sufficient din to drown the ordinary sound of footsteps. Under such favourable circumstances, Nathan (for, as may be supposed, it was this faithful friend who had snatched the forlorn Edith from the grasp of the betrayer) stalked boldly from the hut, bearing the rescued maiden in his arms, and little doubting that, having thus so successfully accomplished the first and greatest step in the enterprise, he could now conclude it in safety, if not with ease.
But there were perils yet to be encountered, which the man of peace had not taken into anticipation, and which, indeed, would not have existed, had his foreboding doubts of the propriety of admitting either of his associates, and honest Stackpole especially, to a share of the exploit, been suffered to influence his counsels to the exclusion of that worthy but unlucky personage altogether. He had scarce stepped from the tent-door before there arose on the sudden, and at no great distance from the square over which he was hurrying his precious burden, a horrible din,—a stamping, snorting, galloping and neighing of horses, as if a dozen famished bears or wolves had suddenly made their way into the Indian pinfold, carrying death and distraction into the whole herd. And this alarming omen was almost instantly followed by an increase of all the uproar, as if the animals had broken loose from the pound, and were rushing, mad with terror, towards the centre of the village.
At the first outbreak of the tumult, Nathan had dropped immediately into the bushes before the wigwam; but perceiving that the sounds increased, and were actually drawing nigh, and that the sleepers were waking on the square, he sprang again to his feet, and, flinging his blanket around Edith, who was yet incapable of aiding herself, resolved to make a bold effort to escape, while darkness and the confusion of the enemy permitted. There was, in truth, not a moment to be lost. The slumbers of the barbarians, proverbially light at all times, and readily broken even when the stupor of intoxication has steeped their faculties, were not proof against sounds at once so unusual and so uproarious. A sudden yell of surprise, bursting from one point, was echoed by another, and another voice; and, in a moment, the square resounded with these signals of alarm, added to the wilder screams which some of them set up, of “Long-knives! Long-knives!” as if the savages supposed themselves suddenly beset by a whole army of charging Kentuckians.