Reluctantly they obeyed, sullenly, as if bound by a bond against their will.
In the sudden hush he spoke.
“What do ye here, my brothers?” he asked, and waited.
There was no reply from the mass before him.
“Wherefore is the spirit of my Father vexed that it disturbs my watch inside the death-lodge?”
The small rustling of the excited crowd ceased in every quarter.
They stilled themselves in a peculiar manner.
“Oh, ye sachems and Men of Wisdom,” he said, turning to the headmen gathered together, “come ye to the tepee of Negansahima and behold what ye have done!”
Slowly, as he had come, the chief trader of De Seviere turned about and passed out of the light. One by one, in utter silence, their faces changed in a moment into masks of uneasiness, the sachems and medicine men rose and followed. In the wavering shadows thrown by the central fire the big tepee stood in awesome majesty. Ridgar raised the flap and entered, dropping it as the savages filed in to the number of all it would hold.
“See!” he said dramatically.
Over the bier of piled skins which held the wrapped and smoke-dried figure of the dead chief there danced upon the darkness, eerie in pale-green living fire, the ghost of the crested and sweeping head-dress that he had worn in life.
There was never a word among them, but, with one accord, after one awe-struck look at the ghostly thing, they fled the lodge in a mass.
For several moments Ridgar stood in the darkness as those outside peered fearfully in, and, when the last moccasin had slipped silently away, he reached up and took down the fearsome thing, folding it beside the chief.
“We were wise together, old friend,” he said sadly; “would I had your knowledge and your power.”
Outside the word was spreading wildly.
“The spirit of Negansahima rests not in the lodge! The medicine men have not dreamed true! Silence in the camp while They who Dream repair to the forest fastnesses and seek true wisdom!”
And while the sachems and the headmen, the beaters of the tom-toms, and those who tended the Sacred fires of the Dreamers formed into procession and slowly filed out into the forest, Edmonton Ridgar drew a long breath of relief. Maren had postponed the sure culmination of the tests by her clever feat, he had postponed it a little longer by his own. Full well he knew that the girl could not go on forever after the manner of her beginning. She knew the hatchet, but would she know the spear, the arrow, and the Test of the Flaming Ring? .Sooner or later she would fail, and then would come the last orgy of the rites of a Skin for a Skin. He thought of the whimsical fate which so oddly gave the “Pro pelle cutem” of the H. B. C. to this unknown tribe of the North, and flayed one with the other.
This night was the last wherein there lay one chance of help for the two men and this woman who had so strangely followed from the post, and he lay in the darkness of the death-lodge watching the hushing of the camp, the loosing of the captives, the carrying of his factor, a limp figure, to the lodge of captives on the edge, the leading thither of De Courtenay and Maren.