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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 536 pages of information about Pathfinder; or, the inland sea.

The thoughts are active in a moment so fearful.  At first Mabel fancied that her uncle had entered the blockhouse, and she was about to descend the ladder and throw herself into his arms; then the idea that it might be an Indian, who had barred the door to shut out intruders while he plundered at leisure, arrested the movement.  The profound stillness below was unlike the bold, restless movements of Cap, and it seemed to savor more of the artifices of an enemy.  If a friend at all, it could only be her uncle or the Quartermaster; for the horrible conviction now presented itself to our heroine that to these two and herself were the whole party suddenly reduced, if, indeed, the two latter survived.  This consideration held Mabel in check, and for full two minutes more a breathless silence reigned in the building.  During this time the girl stood at the foot of the upper ladder, the trap which led to the lower opening on the opposite side of the floor; the eyes of Mabel were riveted on this spot, for she now began to expect to see at each instant the horrible sight of a savage face at the hole.  This apprehension soon became so intense, that she looked about her for a place of concealment.  The procrastination of the catastrophe she now fully expected, though it were only for a moment, afforded a relief.  The room contained several barrels; and behind two of these Mabel crouched, placing her eyes at an opening by which she could still watch the trap.  She made another effort to pray; but the moment was too horrible for that relief.  She thought, too, that she heard a low rustling, as if one were ascending the lower ladder with an effort at caution so great as to betray itself by its own excess; then followed a creaking that she was certain came from one of the steps of the ladder, which had made the same noise under her own light weight as she ascended.  This was one of those instants into which are compressed the sensations of years of ordinary existence.  Life, death, eternity, and extreme bodily pain were all standing out in bold relief from the plane of every-day occurrences; and she might have been taken at that moment for a beautiful pallid representation of herself, equally without motion and without vitality.  But while such was the outward appearance of the form, never had there been a time in her brief career when Mabel heard more acutely, saw more clearly, or felt more vividly.  As yet, nothing was visible at the trap, but her ears, rendered exquisitely sensitive by intense feeling, distinctly acquainted her that some one was within a few inches of the opening in the floor.  Next followed the evidence of her eyes, which beheld the dark hair of an Indian rising so slowly through the passage that the movements of the head might be likened to that of the minute-hand of a clock; then came the dark skin and wild features, until the whole of the swarthy face had risen above the floor.  The human countenance seldom appears to advantage when partially concealed; and Mabel imagined many additional horrors as she first saw the black, roving eyes and the expression of wildness as the savage countenance was revealed, as it might be, inch by inch; but when the entire head was raised above the floor, a second and a better look assured our heroine that she saw the gentle, anxious, and even handsome face of June.

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