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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 5. The Meeting On The River
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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 5. The Meeting On The River Post by :gefsmith Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :May 2012 Read :2904

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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 5. The Meeting On The River

CHAPTER V. THE MEETING ON THE RIVER

For some minutes after Zeb's disappearance, Leslie remained without moving, scarcely breathing for fear there might still be some Indians overhead; but as minute after minute wore by, and no sound above warned him that his enemies were in the vicinity, he managed to creep from his hiding-place and seat himself upon a rock near by.

Now that he was safe for the present, he began to examine his wounds. There being no strong emotion to occupy his mind, the pain again came upon him, and he feared that he might be dangerously hurt; but, upon examination he was gratified to see that he was only bruised in two or three places. In falling, he had first struck upon his feet; his side, from the force of the concussion, came rather violently in contact with the jagged, projecting rocks. This gave a few severe flesh-cuts, which, for the time being, were more painful and distressing than would have been a wound of a more serious character.

Still, he found that he was unable to walk without great labor and pain, and concluded to remain in his present position until morning. He crawled back into the hiding-place, and disposed of himself for the night. Little sleep, however, was gained, and the night seemed the longest that he had ever spent.

When morning dawned, he emerged from his hard resting-place, and, with great difficulty, made his way to the top. Then, shaping his course toward the river, he reached it in the course of an hour or so. Here, to his great joy, he found the boat that he and Kent had left. It was pulled high and dry upon the bank, yet he succeeded in getting it in the water, and, with a light heart, pushed out from the shore.

It was so much easier to propel the boat than to walk, that he had no difficulty in making good headway. He had determined upon no course to pursue, but continued moving forward with a sort of instinct, hardly caring in what direction he went. He was moving toward the spot where once the house of the Lelands stood; some impulse seemed drawing him thitherward.

The truth was, Roland Leslie was thinking of Rosalind and her situation. Although he had spoken to her but comparatively a few times, yet those occasions had awakened a feeling in his breast which he found could not be subdued; his love was growing day by day. He knew not whether she was aware of his passion, but his fluttering heart told him, at least, that she had not frowned upon him.

Young love rests upon the slightest foundation; thus Leslie was encouraged and made hopeful by the remembrance of the friendly meeting which he had with Rosalind. Then, as he awoke from this pleasant reverie into which he had fallen, the consciousness that she was now a captive among the Indians, the thought maddened him. He dipped his oars deep in the water, and moved swiftly along.

It occurred to him that perhaps it would be best to keep a watch of the shores ahead, to prevent running carelessly into danger. There might be Indians concealed or lurking in the vicinity, and he would be easily drawn into a decoy, should he be careless and thoughtless.

He turned around and scanned the shore more closely and searchingly. Seeing nothing suspicious, he was about to resume rowing again, when, from an overhanging cluster of bushes came the sharp crack of a rifle, and a bullet split one of the oars, a few inches below his hand. Seizing his rifle, he turned toward the point from which the shot had come, but could see no person. The thin wreath of smoke curling slowly up from the bushes showed the point from which it had been given; but whoever the person might be, he kept himself well concealed. In a moment another shot was given, which glanced over the water a few feet from the stern.

Leslie began to think that he was in rather a close situation, and clutching his rifle nervously, endeavored to ascertain the point from which the shot had come, determined to return one at all hazards. He did not dare to pass over to the opposite side, for he had a suspicion that they were intended for that purpose. He believed that his person had not been aimed at, but the balls had been intended to pass closely enough to alarm him and cause him to seek safety by pulling for the other shore, where, probably, a foe was waiting. While he sat undetermined what course to pursue, a form stepped out in full view upon the bank, and accosted him.

"Frightened any?"

"Well, I should think I ought to be. Why, is that you, George?"

"I believe so. Come in and take me aboard."

"What reason had you for firing upon me?" asked Leslie, approaching him.

"Well, not any. I saw you coming down-stream, and an idea seized me to learn if you were easily frightened."

"I felt rather nervous when that shot came," returned Leslie, pointing at the hole in his oar.

"It was a close rub; but, of course, I took good care not to make it too close."

"What is the news? What reason have you for being here?" asked Leslie, interrupting him.

"News enough," returned Leland, gloomily.

"Step in the boat and let me hear it."

As they passed down-stream, Leland narrated his story, and when he had finished, remarked:

"Roland, I have sought you for advice and assistance, and I trust both will be given."

"Gladly! Do you think, George, that I could rest as long as your sister is in the hands of those savages?"

"Pardon me," returned Leland, "if I at all doubted. This affliction weighs heavily upon me."

"I suspected this state of things," continued Leslie, "and it is the reason that I hurried down-stream. Yet the uncertainty of seeing you or any friend, deterred me from making haste to your place."

Here Leslie gave the circumstances of his encountering Zeb, and his subsequent misfortune, or, as he termed it, his fortune, of falling in the gorge.

"Then Kent is gone, is he?" asked George, when he had finished. "That is too bad, for we need his assistance greatly."

"In fact, I do not understand what we shall be able to do without him," added Leslie.

"Nor I; and here we are as helpless as if we were already in the hands of the Indians, so far as regards any assistance that we can give Rosalind," continued Leland.

"Oh, don't despair so soon. I trust that Kent will soon turn up, and we shall then have a good chance to recover her."

"Where do you suppose that Kent can be?"

"I can only guess."

"What reason have you then for thinking that we shall meet him?"

"This reason. He saw me fall, and was obliged to leave me for a time, as the pursuers were close at hand. I am certain that, as soon as he eluded and escaped them, he would return to the place for me."

"And find you gone and give you up."

"No; he would search the place, and seeing my trail, would follow it. I left a pretty plain one, and he will meet with no difficulty."

"But suppose the ranger is captured himself?"

"There is no supposition in the case," rejoined Leslie, with an air of assurance.

"Well, admitting what you say," continued Leland, "did you leave a trail after getting in the boat, that will be easy for him to follow?"

"Easy enough. He knows what course I would take, and, consequently, he knows what one to pursue."

"But, even then, can he overtake you?"

"I have not come very rapidly, and I think that he can. I believe that at this moment he is on the way."

"Well, Roland, we have probably speculated enough upon our chances of meeting him. In the meantime, what do you propose that we do with ourselves?"

"As to that, I am hardly decided. There is great danger in our remaining on the river, and yet I see no means which will be so apt to bring us in communication with Kent."

"This gliding down the Ohio in broad daylight, when we know the woods on both sides are full of our enemies, is rather dangerous business, although it may possess some advantages for us."

"I leave the matter with you," said Leslie. "The stream is very broad for a considerable distance, and both of us ought to understand enough of woodcraft to prevent running into danger."

"We _ought to understand enough," said Leland, significantly, "but the fact is, we do _not_. There are so many contrivances these cunning rascals devise for a white man's destruction, that one needs to have a schooling of years in their ways to understand them. However," he added, in a whisper, "I understand _that contrivance yonder."

"What is that?" inquired his companion, in some excitement.

"Take a careful look down-stream and tell me whether you see anything unusual."

"No--I don't know as I do," slowly repeated Leslie. "Hold on--yes, I do--yonder is a log, or more likely two or three of them--a raft. I suppose, Leland, it is for our benefit."

"Undoubtedly. It was constructed for the benefit of the white race generally; and, as we come first we are to be served first."

"Let us cut in to shore and give them the slip."

"It may be the very thing they wish us to do. The action of the savages, so far, shows that they are more anxious to take prisoners than to slay men. So keep quiet and don't allow yourself to become nervous."

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