“No, no, no!” exclaimed Ella, with vehemence, laying her hand upon his arm, as he was about starting forward, her own features now growing very pale. “If you go, Algernon, you go not alone! If there is danger, I will share it with you.”
Algernon turned towards her a face that, one moment crimsoned with animation and the next became deadly pale; while his whole frame quivered with intense emotion, and he seemed vainly struggling to command contending feelings. Suddenly clasping her hand in his, he pressed it warmly, raised it to his lips, and in a trembling tone said:
“Ella—dear Ella—God bless you! If ever—but—no—no—no;” and covering his face with his hands, he wept convulsively; while she, no less deeply affected, could scarcely sit her horse.
At length Algernon withdrew his hands, and exhibited features pale but calm. Drawing forth his pistols, he carefully examined their priming, and then replaced them in his belt. During this proceeding, he failed not to urge Ella to alter her design and remain, while he went forward; but finding her determined on keeping him company, he signified his readiness to proceed, and both started slowly down the hill together. They reached the ravine in safety, and advanced some twenty yards further, when suddenly there arose a terrific Indian yell, followed instantly by the sharp report of several fire-arms, a wild, piercing shriek, some two or three heavy groans, a rustling among the trees, and then by a stillness as deep and awfully solemn as that which pervades the narrow house appointed for all living.
The old woodsman and his dog.
The sun was perhaps an hour above the mountain tops, when a solitary hunter, in the direction of the cane-brake, might have been seen shaping his course toward the hill whereon Algernon and Ella had so lately paused to contemplate the dawning day. Upon his shoulder rested a long rifle, and a dog of the Newfoundland species followed in his steps or trotted along by his side. In a few minutes he reached the place referred to; when the snuffling of his canine companion causing him to look down, his attention instantly became fixed upon the foot-prints of the horses which had passed there the day before, and particularly on the two that had repassed there so lately.
“What is it, Caesar?” said he, addressing the brute. “Nothing wrong here, I reckon.” Caesar, as if conscious of his master’s language, raised his head, and looking down into the ravine, appeared to snuff the air; then darting forward, he was quickly lost among the branching cedars. Scarcely thirty seconds elapsed, ere a long, low howl came up from the valley; and starting like one suddenly surprised by some disagreeable occurrence, the hunter, with a cheek slightly blanched, hurried down the crooked path, muttering as he went, “Thar’s something wrong, for sartin—for Caesar never lies.”