We were busy at this, both of us greasy and bloody to our elbows, when all at once we stopped and looked at each other in silence. We had heard a sound. To me it sounded like a rifle shot. We listened. It came again, with others. There was a volley of several shots, sounds certain beyond any manner of question.
My heart stopped. She looked at me, some strange thought written upon her face. It was not joy, nor exultation, nor relief. Her eyes were large and startled. There was no smile on her face. These things I noted. I caught her bloody hand in my bloody one, and for an instant I believed we both meditated flight deeper into the wilderness. Yet I reasoned that since these shots were fired on our trail, we must be in all likelihood found in any case, even were these chance hunters coming into our valley, and not a party searching for us.
“It may not be any one we know,” I said. “It may be Indians.”
“No,” said she, “it is my father. They have found us. We must go! John”—she turned toward me and put her hands on my breast—“John!” I saw terror, and regret, and resolve look out of her eyes, but not joy at this deliverance. No, it was not joy that shone in her eyes. None the less, the ancient yoke of society being offered, we bowed our necks again, fools and slaves, surrendering freedom, joy, content, as though that were our duty.
THE LOSS OF PARADISE
Silently we made our way toward the edge of the thicket where it faced upon the open valley. All about me I could hear the tinkling and crashing of fairy crystal walls, the ruins of that vision house I had builded in my soul. At the edge of the thicket we crouched low, waiting and looking out over the valley, two savages, laired, suspicious.
Almost as we paused I saw coming forward the stooping figure of an Indian trailer, half naked, beleggined, moccasined, following our fresh tracks at a trot. I covered him with the little silver bead, minded to end his quest. But before I could estimate his errand, or prepare to receive him, closely in case he proved an enemy, I saw approaching around a little point of timber other men, white men, a half dozen of them, one a tall man in dusty garments, with boots, and hat, and gloves.
And then I saw her, my promised wife, leave my side, and limp and stagger forward, her arms outstretched. I saw the yoke of submission, the covenant of society, once more accepted.
“Father!” she cried.
They gathered about us. I saw him look down at her with half horror on his face. Then I noticed that she was, clad in fringed skins, that her head covering was a bit of hide, that her hair was burned yellow at the ends, that her foot coverings were uncouth, that her hands and arms were brown, where not stained red by the blood in which they had dabbled. I looked down also at myself, and saw then that I was tall, brown, gaunt, bearded, ragged, my clothing of wool well-nigh gone, my limbs wound in puttee bands of hide, my hands large, horny, blackened, rough. I reeked with grime. I was a savage new drawn from my cave. I dragged behind me the great grizzled hide of the dead bear, clutched in one hairy hand. And somber and sullen as any savage, brutal and silent in resentment at being disturbed, I stared at them.