With these words he advanced to the tree, and the others following, they beheld with horror the body of a savage, of vast and noble proportions, lying on its face across the roots of the tree, and glued, it might almost be said, to the earth by a mass of coagulated blood, that had issued from the scalp and axe-cloven skull. The fragments of a rifle shattered, as it seemed, by a violent blow against the tree under which he Jay, were scattered at his side, with a broken powder-horn, a splintered knife, the helve of a tomahawk, and other equipments of a warrior, all in like manner shivered to pieces by the unknown assassin. The warrior seemed to have perished only after a fearful struggle; the earth was torn where he lay, and his hands, yet grasping the soil, were dyed a double red in the blood of his antagonist, or perhaps in his own.
While Roland gazed upon the spectacle, amazed, and wondering in what manner the wretched being had met his death, which must have happened very recently, and whilst his party was within the sound of a rifle-shot, he observed a shudder to creep over the apparently lifeless frame; the fingers relaxed their grasp of the earth, and then clutched it again with violence; a broken, strangling rattle came from the throat; and a spasm of convulsion seizing upon every limb, it was suddenly raised a little upon one arm, so as to display the countenance, covered with blood, the eyes retroverted into their orbits, and glaring with the sightless whites. It was a horrible spectacle,—the last convulsion of many that had shaken the wretched and insensible, yet still suffering clay, since it had received the death-stroke. The spasm was the last, and but momentary; yet it sufficed to raise the body of the mangled barbarian, so far that, when the pang that excited it suddenly ceased, and, with it, the life of the sufferer, the body rolled over on the back, and thus lay, exposing to the eyes of the lookers-on two gashes, wide and gory, on the breast, traced by a sharp knife and a powerful hand, and, as it seemed, in the mere wantonness of a malice and lust of blood which even death could not satisfy. The sight of these gashes answered the question Roland had asked of his own imagination; they were in the form of a cross; and as the legend, so long derided, of the forest-fiend recurred to his memory, he responded, almost with a feeling of superstitious awe, to the trembling cry of Telie Doe:—
“It is the Jibbenainosay!” she exclaimed, staring upon the corse with mingled horror and wonder:—“Nick of the Woods is up again in the forest!”