Close on his heels followed the indomitable Jo Bumpus, who panted vehemently and perspired profusely from his unwonted exertions.
“Wot an object you are!” exclaimed Corrie, gazing at the hot giant with a look of mingled surprise and glee; for the boy’s spirit was of that nature which cannot repress a dash of fun, even in the midst of anxiety and sorrow. We would not have it understood that the boy ever deliberately mingled the two things—joy and sorrow—at one and the same time; but he was so irresistibly alive to the ludicrous, that a touch of it was sufficient at any time to cause him to forget, for a brief space, his anxieties, whatever these might be.
Jo Bumpus smiled benignantly, and said that he “was glad to hear it.” For Jo had conceived for the boy that species of fondness which large dogs are frequently known to entertain for small ones—permitting them to take outrageous liberties with their persons which they would resent furiously were they attempted by other dogs.
Presently the warm visage of Bumpus elongated, and his eyes opened uncommonly wide, as he stared at a particular spot in the ground; insomuch that Corrie burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
“O Grampus! you’ll kill me if you go on like that,” said he; “I can’t stand it,—indeed I can’t. Sich a face! D’ye know what it’s like?”
Jo expressed no desire to become enlightened on this point, but continued to gaze so earnestly that Corrie started up and exclaimed:
“What is it, Jo?”
“A fut,” replied Jo.
“A footprint, I declare!” shouted the boy, springing forward and examining the print, which was pretty clearly defined in a little patch of soft sand that lay on the bare rock. “Why, Jo! it’s Poopy’s. I’d know it anywhere, by the bigness of the little toe. How can she have come up here?”
“I say, lad, hist!” said Bumpus, in a hoarse whisper; “here’s another fut that don’t belong to—what’s her name,—Puppy, did ye say?”
“Why! it’s Alice’s,” whispered the boy, his face becoming instantly grave, while an unwonted expression of anxiety crossed it; “and here’s that of a savage beside it. He must have changed his intention; or, perhaps, he came this way to throw the people who were chasing them off the scent.”
Corrie was right. Finding that he was hotly pursued, Keona had taken advantage of the first rocky ground he reached to diverge abruptly from the route he had hitherto followed in his flight; and, the further to confuse his pursuers, he had taken the almost exhausted child up in his arms and carried her a considerable distance, so that if his enemies should fall again on his track the absence of the little footprints might induce them to fancy they were following up a wrong scent.
In this he was so far successful; for the native settlers, as we have seen, soon gave up the chase, and returned with one of the child’s shoes, which had fallen off unobserved by the savage.