“Our worst fears are realized!” said Mabel, to whom the hurry and excitement of the last five minutes appeared to contain the emotions of a life. “My beloved father and all his party are slain or captured!”
“We don’t know that — morning will tell us all. I do not think the affair so settled as that, or we should hear the vagabond Mingos yelling out their triumph around the blockhouse. Of one thing we may be sartain; if the inimy has really got the better, he will not be long in calling upon us to surrender. The squaw will let him into the secret of our situation; and, as they well know the place cannot be fired by daylight, so long as Killdeer continues to desarve his reputation, you may depend on it that they will not be backward in making their attempt while darkness helps them.”
“Surely I hear a groan!”
“’Tis fancy, Mabel; when the mind gets to be skeary, especially a woman’s mind, she often concaits things that have no reality. I’ve known them that imagined there was truth in dreams.”
“Nay, I am not deceived; there is surely one below, and in pain.”
Pathfinder was compelled to own that the quick senses of Mabel had not deceived her. He cautioned her, however, to repress her feelings; and reminded her that the savages were in the practice of resorting to every artifice to attain their ends, and that nothing was more likely than that the groans were feigned with a view to lure them from the blockhouse, or, at least, to induce them to open the door.
“No, no, no!” said Mabel hurriedly; “there is no artifice in those sounds, and they come from anguish of body, if not of spirit. They are fearfully natural.”
“Well, we shall soon know whether a friend is there or not. Hide the light again, Mabel, and I will speak the person from a loop.”
Not a little precaution was necessary, according to Pathfinder’s judgment and experience, in performing even this simple act; for he had known the careless slain by their want of proper attention to what might have seemed to the ignorant supererogatory means of safety. He did not place his mouth to the loop itself, but so near it that he could be heard without raising his voice, and the same precaution was observed as regards his ear.
“Who is below?” Pathfinder demanded, when his arrangements were made to his mind. “Is any one in suffering? If a friend, speak boldly, and depend on our aid.”
“Pathfinder!” answered a voice that both Mabel and the person addressed at once knew to be the Sergeant’s, —“Pathfinder, in the name of God, tell me what has become of my daughter.”
“Father, I am here, unhurt, safe! and oh that I could think the same of you!”
The ejaculation of thanksgiving that followed was distinctly audible to the two, but it was clearly mingled with, a groan of pain.
“My worst forebodings are realized!” said Mabel with a sort of desperate calmness. “Pathfinder, my father must be brought within the block, though we hazard everything to do it.”