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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 11. A Friend
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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 11. A Friend Post by :ByronCourt Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :May 2012 Read :2314

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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 11. A Friend


In a short time the whole body of Indians were awake and astir. The morning meal was soon prepared and hastily eaten, and they set forward. Leland found that his wound was much better, and he traveled without difficulty. The savages took a southerly direction, and appeared to be journeying toward the destination of those who held Rosalind.

Their march continued without interruption until noon, when they halted for a couple of hours for rest and food. For the first time, George partook of some, and felt in a more hopeful frame of mind. Zeb was as usual, and continued quarreling and abusing and threatening every one within his reach.

"If dis isn't shameful, treating a pusson like me in dis way. I's sorry dat I ever come wid you. I 'spects ebery bone in my body is broke in pieces."

"You said last night that they dare not touch you," interrupted Leland.

"Well, dat's a subject dat you can't understand, and I haven't time to 'splain it. Dey're perwoken, anyhow, and dey's agwine to cotch dar pay some ob dese days."

Consoled with this reflection, Zeb kept steadily upon his way, seemingly as happy as a person could be when laboring under a slight provocation. No further words passed between him and Leland for a considerable time. The latter was busy with his own thoughts, and began to feel the fatigues of their long-continued journey. They had set out at an early hour, and had halted only at noon. The traveling was very difficult at times, often leading through tangled underwood and swamps, where a person's weight bore him deep into the mire; and now and then some sluggish, poisonous serpent crawled from beneath their feet, or hissed at them from some decayed tree.

About the middle of the afternoon they paused upon the banks of a stream of considerable size, which was a tributary to the Big Sandy. Though broad, it was not deep, and could be easily forded. The water flowed quite swiftly, and being perfectly translucent, the bottom could be seen from either shore.

Here the Indians exhibited their usual cunning and foresight. During their journey, they had proceeded in "Indian file," permitting their prisoners, however, to walk after their usual manner. The reason for their adopting the caution mentioned with themselves, was more from habit than anything else. Although suspecting they might be pursued, yet they had little fear of an enemy, and omitted, as we have seen, to employ a sentinel at night.

One of the savages stepped into the water, and, taking a few steps, was followed by another, who placed his feet upon the stones, in the tracks that he had used and made. Thus each one did until Leland and Zeb were driven in and warned to do likewise. The former had no difficulty in obeying, but the latter, either through mistake or design, made several provoking blunders. He seemed to use his utmost endeavors to step into the tracks of those before him, but instead of succeeding, was sure to place his foot a good distance from it; and losing his foothold when about in the center of the stream, came down with an awkward splash into the water.

"Gorra!" he exclaimed, regaining his position, "dat fish pulled awful." The savages nearest cast threatening looks toward him, and he reached the shore without further mishap.

At about sundown the party came to a halt, and a fire was started. Leland and Zeb found themselves in the same condition as upon the preceding night, with the exception that a closer surveillance was kept upon their actions. George partook sparingly of supper, while Zeb's appetite was as insatiate as ever. A guard was stationed as soon as it was fully dark, and the Indians appeared disposed to amuse and enjoy themselves until a late hour. One of their number, with a hoarse, guttural "Ugh!" approached the negro.

"You needn't come here," ejaculated Zeb, divining his intention. The savage paid no attention to him, but continued approaching. Had the negro been free, he might have offered resistance and occasioned considerable trouble; but besides having his arms bound; his legs were joined at the ankles and he was thus rendered helpless.

"Plenty wool," said the savage, placing his hand upon his head. He made no answer, but glanced furtively and suspiciously at him. "Nice, good," he added; then closing his hand, gave a vigorous jerk.

"Lord help me!" screamed Zeb, rolling over in helpless agony.

"Poor fellow," repeated the Indian, approaching him and rubbing his back, after the manner which a celebrated horse-tamer advises. Then, watching his opportunity, he seized another quantity and pulled it forth. To his surprise, this elicited no remark from his victim, and he repeated it.

This time he succeeded no better than before.

Zeb was lying upon his back and staring at his tormentor in unspeakable fury. The Indian, still determined upon amusement, again approached. Zeb remained motionless until he stooped over him; then bending his knees to his chin, he gathered all his strength, and planted both feet in his chest, throwing him a dozen feet. The savage groaned and doubled up in his agony, and gasped spasmodically for breath.

"Dar, how does dat set on your stummich? Yah! yah! dat's fun!"

Although this for the moment amused the others, yet it likewise excited their anger, and there is no telling what the end would have been, had not their attention been suddenly called in another direction. This was occasioned by the arrival of a stranger among them.

Leland gazed at the new-comer, and saw a tall, powerfully-built and well-shaped savage stalk boldly forward toward the fire, and exchange salutations with those seated around. All regarded him suspiciously at first, yet his boldness and assurance seemed to disarm them, and room was made for him. The pipe was passed to him, and taking it, he smoked several minutes in silence, during which time he seemed unconscious that the eye of every one was bent upon him. Having finished, he turned and passed it to the one nearest him, then gazing thoughtfully for a few moments in the fire, commenced a conversation with the chief. He spoke their tongue as correctly and fluently as any of them, which served to disarm them still more. He stated that he had been out with a couple of Indians, scouring the country for prey, when they were set upon and pursued by two hunters, who at the first shot killed his companion. He succeeded in effecting his escape after a hot pursuit of nearly a day, and encountering a trail which he supposed to be his friends', he followed it up and found that he was not mistaken.

On hearing this recital, several of the savages appeared to suspect that Kent and Leland were the two to whom he referred, and directed his attention toward their captives. The savage stared wonderingly toward them for a moment, and slowly shook his head. He had never seen either before.

Although none of the Indians could show any reason for suspecting their visitor, except his strange arrival among them, still they were not reckless and foolish enough to leave him to himself, or to permit him to depart. Besides the two who were stationed at a distance as sentinels, one remained awake to keep an eye upon his movements. Yet this precaution was useless; for to all appearances, he slept as deeply as any of them, and was among the latest who awoke in the morning.

Leland fell asleep about midnight, and gained a few hours of undisturbed rest. In the morning he was considerably refreshed, and had it not been for the awful doom that threatened him, would have possessed a joyous fund of spirits. His wound, which had been only an ugly flesh one, had ceased to trouble him, and he experienced no pain except from the ligaments that bound him. As he increased in strength, these were increased in number and tightness, until his limbs swelled and pained him more than his hurt.

It is the same with the body as with the mind. The sorest affliction that can visit us will not occasion half the murmuring and discontent that the petty annoyances and grievances of every-day life do. Could the pain which harassed Leland, and in the end nearly drove him frantic, have been concentrated into a few moments, or even into a half-hour, he could have borne it without a murmur; but it was the continual, never-ceasing, monotonous length of it that troubled him.

Several times in the course of their journey, Leland was upon the point of beseeching his enemies to kill him at once, and end his misery; and had he reason to believe that they would have gratified him, he would not have hesitated a moment; but such a request would have been useless.

At noon, as usual, the party came to a halt, and a couple proceeded to bind Leland to a tree. During the proceeding he broke the cords that pained him so much, and they were replaced by others. The latter, however, were much more lax, and he felt greatly relieved when they were placed upon him.

As soon as he was secured to the body of the tree, the savage left him and joined his companions. Leland closed his eyes as if to shut out the terrible reality, and the dancing lights that flickered before him, together with the hum that filled his ears, told him that for a moment he had succeeded. But he was soon recalled to a sense of his situation by the _zip of a tomahawk within a few inches of his head. Opening his eyes, he soon comprehended the state of things. The savages were amusing themselves by ascertaining who could send his tomahawk nearest the body of their captive without touching him. The first weapon that had been sent had missed his head, as we have said, by a few inches; but the next was still closer, and Leland felt the wind of it, as it buried itself in the solid oak by his cheek. He again closed his eyes, and fervently prayed that one of their hatchets might sink into his skull instead of the tree; yet there was not much danger of such an occurrence; for the savages exercised perfect skill, and rarely failed of sending their weapons to the very point intended.

(Illustration: The savages were amusing themselves by ascertaining who could send his tomahawk nearest the body of their captive without touching him.)

Leland opened his eyes as a tomahawk came fearfully close to his forehead. He wished to see who had hurled it. He soon saw that it was the strange Indian, who was approaching to withdraw it. It was buried deeper than the others; and as the savage placed his hand upon it, it required considerable of an effort to extricate it. While doing so, Leland heard the following words whispered by the stranger:

"Don't be scart, George; it's Kent Whiteman that has got his eye upon you."

These words came near proving fatal to both. They so startled Leland that he could not prevent himself from betraying somewhat his emotion and excitement. This was observed by a savage near at hand, who approached to satisfy himself of the cause. Leland, suspecting his motive, repeated the action and accompanied it by a shudder, as though the scene which was being enacted had overcome him. This satisfied the wily Indian, who retreated and joined the others.

Hope was again awakened in Leland's breast--painful hope, that increased his doubts and fears--hope that drowned the torture that beset him--hope that sent the life-blood coursing rapidly and hotly through his veins, and increased the charms which life had held out to him.

Leland was shortly released from his unenviable situation, and Zeb put in his place. The negro made no threats or declaration, but submitted to the trying ordeal without a word. The scenes through which he had passed had evidently had some effect upon him. He seemed to possess a faint realization of the danger in which he and his companion were placed. And yet it could not be said that he was really frightened, for he evinced no fear of any of his enemies, and his silence had the appearance of being occasioned by sullenness and apathy. He did not tremble in the least, but gazed unflinchingly at the tomahawks, as they came revolving and seemingly directed toward his head, and struck beside him.

Finding that they had about lost their power over their captives, the Indians released Zeb, and permitted him and his master to lie down upon the ground.

Leland could not prevent his gaze from wandering toward Kent now and then, yet their eyes did not meet. The latter betrayed no interest whatever in either of the captives, and seemed as indifferent to their fate as any of the others.

The negro had no suspicion of the true state of things, and perhaps it was best that he had not. He might have unwittingly betrayed it, and Kent did not choose to warn him. The fact was, it could have done him but little good at any rate; for Kent had determined to rescue Leland, if possible, and leave Zeb for the present to shift for himself. The white _man was the first upon whom they would wreak their vengeance, and aside from the greater estimation in which his life was held, from the very nature of the case, he required the first attention.

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