The fires of the Indians were nearly now extinct; but the faint light of the fast dawning day threw a ghastly, sickly, hue over the countenances of the savages, which rendered them even more terrific in their war paint. The chiefs grouped themselves immediately around their prisoner, while the inferior warriors, forming an outer circle, stood leaning their dark forms upon their rifles, and following, with keen and watchful eye, every movement of their captive. Hitherto the unfortunate officer had been too much engrossed by his despair to pay any immediate attention to the individual who had first discovered and seized him. It was sufficient for him to know all hope of the safety of the garrison had perished with his captivity: and, with that recklessness of life which often springs from the very consciousness of inability to preserve it, he now sullenly awaited the death which he expected at each moment would be inflicted. Suddenly his ear was startled by an interrogatory, in English, from one who stood behind him.
With a movement of surprise, Captain de Haldimar turned to examine his questioner. It was the dark and ferocious warrior who had exhibited the scalp of his ill-fated servant. For a moment the officer fixed his eyes firmly and unshrinkingly on those of the savage, seeking to reconcile the contradiction that existed between his dress and features and the purity of the English he had just spoken. The other saw his drift, and, impatient of the scrutiny, again repeated, as he fiercely pulled the strong leathern thong by which the prisoner now found himself secured to his girdle,—
“Who and what are you?—whence come you?—and for what purpose are you here?” Then, as if struck by some sudden recollection, he laid his hand upon the shoulder of his victim; and, while his eye grew upon his features, he pursued, in a tone of vehemence,—“Ha! by Heaven, I should know that face!—the cursed lines of the blood of De Haldimar are stamped upon that brow! But stay, one proof and I am satisfied.” While he yet spoke he dashed the menial hat of his captive to the earth, put aside his hair, and then, with fiendish exultation, pursued,—“It is even so. Do you recollect the battle of the plains of Abraham, Captain de Haldimar?—Recollect you the French officer who aimed so desperately at your life, and whose object was defeated by a soldier of your regiment? I am that officer: my victim escaped me then, but not for ever. The hour of vengeance is nearly now arrived, and your capture is the pledge of my success. Hark, how the death-cry of all his hated race will ring in madness on your father’s ear!”