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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 13. The Captive
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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 13. The Captive Post by :ByronCourt Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :May 2012 Read :2959

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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 13. The Captive

CHAPTER XIII. THE CAPTIVE

Leland and Leslie conversed and recounted to each other their adventures until those were exhausted, when they endeavored to keep off the chill by taking turns at the oars. Morning at length began to appear. In a short time darkness lifted from the water, and the bright rays of the morning sun pierced the foliage of the forest and rested upon the stream.

About the middle of the forenoon, Kent ran in under the bank and sprung ashore. The day was quite warm, and it was a pleasure for the three to step upon the land and stretch themselves in the genial sunshine. They had, however, halted for consultation, and to determine upon the plan to pursue in order to rescue Rosalind.

"One more job finished and we'll rest a while," said Kent.

"And as we have depended upon and been guided and saved by your wisdom," said Leslie, "of course, in this most important case your advice must be followed."

"Let's hear what you chaps have got to say first, 'cause p'raps you might accidentally say somethin' smart without knowin' it. I'll decide it after we all get through."

"What seems to me the most feasible is this," commenced Leland. "Let all three of us follow the savages which have taken my sister, and after reaching their vicinity, by stratagem recover her. If it be impossible to do it in this way, make a bold dash and venture among them, and take her at all events."

"Killin' first 'bout one hundred Injins, just to get 'em out the way, you know," said Kent, with mock gravity. "Come, Leslie, it's your turn; and bein' you're so much interested, I 'spects to hear somethin' awful grand."

Leslie, to save his life, could not prevent a blush at this allusion. As might be expected, he had thought of more than one plan, long before asked for it, and replied without hesitation:

"What I say is, _rescue her at all events, as George has said. Of course, it's out of the question to do it by force, and we must outwit the savages. This I think possible, for the good reason that it has so often been done. All three of us, or perhaps, what would be better, you and myself can follow them up and retake her. George, in his present state, could do but little to aid us, and in all probability, will endanger the safety of all concerned."

"I agrees with you there; and a little further. Mr. Leslie, 'in his present state,' _would do but little to aid us, and in all probability, endanger the safety of all concerned."

"There is no need of jesting, Kent. You know that it would be the best for you to have a companion, and who can you take but me?"

"Don't know but what it would. Now, s'posen an old feller that don't know nothin' says somethin'?" said Kent, good-humoredly; for he, as is generally the case with those of his class, had a habit of depreciating his own sagacity and foresight, when he really knew how much superior it was to his companion's.

"Don't know but what it would," he repeated. "S'pose if I's in your case, I'd feel the same; but you see, there's somethin' else to think of. S'posen we gets her, we hain't got any place to stick our heads in, and may be hunted forever after by the skunks. Now as soon as convenient, we'll paddle down to the place where Leland's house was burned, and drop him there; fur it won't do to take _you 'long, George. Leslie understands the Injins better than you, and it would just git us all into a muss, and like enough, make 'em knock her on the head, to save trouble. We'll take you up to your farm 'cause that'll be a place we can't miss very well; and if there's a shed or anything left, you can stow yourself away till we gets back. Keep a good lookout, and don't get into any trouble. I'll take Leslie along, for I s'pose he won't stay, and I've thought of a plan that'll take him to work with. There, you have my plan."

"Which you must admit, is the one that must be followed," said Leslie, turning toward Leland.

"I suppose," he returned, "that your advice should be taken, although I confess that I had hoped to accompany you; but as I said, Kent knows best, and the only proper course is to obey him."

"Well, let us not wait, now that we have decided what to do," said Leslie, rising to his feet.

"No; we ought to be movin', fur I opine we've a good tramp afore us."

Again the boat was shoved out, and shot onward. Nothing worthy of mention occurred on the way. The next day, at noon, they reached their destination. Leland's heart sunk within him, as he gazed up from the river and saw, where once his home had been, nothing but black and charred ruins. A portion of what had once been used as the barn remained entire, having escaped the flames.

"This is just the thing," said Kent, approaching it. "We'll fix it up a little and I'd advise you to go to sleep, and stay so until we get back."

The three set vigorously to work, and in a short time they had made it quite comfortable. It consisted of logs placed firmly and compactly together, and secured so that a single person well armed could offer effectual resistance to a formidable enemy. Being in a sort of clearing, it had the additional advantage of affording its inhabitant such a view that he could not be approached by any person without their being observed and thus giving him time to prepare for them.

"There!" said the hunter, retreating a short distance and gazing at it. "I wouldn't ax a better place. You might bring down a hundred Injins, and give me plenty powder and ball, I'd have the best fun in creation."

"Suppose they come upon all sides?" suggested Leland.

"All you got to do is to take the stock off your gun and shoot out of both ends of the barrel."

"You can go now as soon as you please; but first tell me what time to expect you back."

Kent folded both arms over the muzzle of his gun, and shutting one eye, remained for a few moments buried in earnest thought. Then he replied:

"Between five and eight days; probably on the sixth."

"All ready?" queried Leslie.

"All ready," returned Kent.

Both bade Leland good-by, and after a few unimportant words, started upon their journey. Leslie felt a wild, joyous thrill as he realized that he was really nearing Rosalind; that in a short time, as he firmly believed, he should see and be able to assist her to procure her liberty. He could hardly restrain his impatience, but vainly urged Kent to quicken his thoughtful, lagging steps. The sun had set, and darkness was slowly spreading over the great forest, when the two plunged into its depths and ventured upon their perilous, doubtful undertaking.

For a considerable time we have left Rosalind to herself, and with the reader's permission we will now return to her.

The Indians which held her, as was stated, journeyed far into the interior of Kentucky before making a final halt. Here they reached the village or headquarters of their tribe, and gave her to understand that her journey was at an end.

The village numbered several hundred, and considering her defenseless position, the savages allowed her considerable liberty. From the first, however, she was made a slave and a drudge, and compelled to toil with the hardy squaws of their tribe, bearing their insults and sometimes even their blows. The hope and prospect of a speedy relief and deliverance enabled her to bear this without murmuring. She had not much fear of death, as she judged by their actions that their intention was to make her a prisoner for life.

There is nothing in the animal creation but which is affected by kindness and obedience, and there is no race upon which it makes a more ready impression than the American. Rosalind's continual gentleness and pleasing manner melted the hearts of many of the warriors, and more than one rude epithet was restrained by the meek loveliness of her face.

Yet she was sometimes in greater danger than she ever dreamed. All did not act and feel thus toward her; more than one voice demanded her blood, and while she lay quietly dreaming of some loved one, there was many an angry discussion over her life. Deadly, baleful glances were given her, when in her musings she was unconscious of the notice of any one; and among the entire female portion there was not a squaw but what regarded her with feelings of jealousy and hatred. Had she remained a month, at the end of that time her life would no doubt have been sacrificed. To quiet the continual broiling and angry feelings, the Indians would have acted as they did in nearly a similar case some years before; she would have been tomahawked, as was the young Miss McCrea.

Rosalind often wondered who the person could be that had interrupted her conversation with Zeb upon the first night of her captivity. One day she was gratified with the knowledge. A savage approached her and commenced a conversation:

"How is the pale-faced maiden?"

She started at hearing her tongue spoken so well, and looking up recognized a middle-aged Indian, that had frequently visited her house during her father's life. She replied:

"Very well."

The savage was uneasy, and waited a few moments for her to speak further, but as she evinced no disposition to do so, he at length added:

"Does the maiden remember Pequanon?"

(Illustration: "Does the maiden remember Pequanon?")

"She does," she returned, looking him steadily in the face. "She remembers him as one who received kindness both from her father's hand and her own, and as one who shows his gratitude by treacherously burning her home, and carrying her into captivity. Yes, Pequanon," she continued, bursting into tears at the remembrance of the event, "she remembers you and can never forget your conduct."

"Pequanon saved your life," he returned, feelingly.

"And gave me a fate that is worse."

"He went with his brothers when they burned your home, but he did not help. He went to save your life, and did do it. When the tomahawk was lifted over your head, he caught the arm and turned it aside. When your blood was called for, Pequanon swore that it should not be had, and he has kept his word. Pequanon never forgets kindness, and will die for the maiden that clothed and fed him."

Rosalind felt her heart moved with pity toward the poor, untutored savage who had thus really been grateful, and no doubt had done all in his power for her good. She recalled many instances where she believed that he was the cause of the lenity upon the part of the captors, and where it seemed that some one had shown an interest in her welfare. She informed him that she believed he had done her all the good that was in his power, and expressed her heartfelt thanks for it. The Indian seemed gratified beyond measure, and after further conversation took his departure, promising eternal fidelity to her.

This circumstance, though trivial in itself, had a great influence upon Rosalind. It gave her a knowledge of the true position in which she stood. Although she doubted not but that she had friends among the savage beings around her, yet she well knew that there were many deadly enemies, who, when an opportunity offered, would not hesitate to take her life. Every night when she lay down, it was with the prayer that her life might be preserved until morning, and that, were it in the power of her friends to rescue her, they would do it speedily.

The lodge in which she slept was that of the chief. Besides his own wife, several squaws remained in it during the night. A young woman, her most bitter and hateful enemy, slept beside Rosalind most of the time, and the slightest movement on the part of the latter was sure to occasion some insulting word or command from her. She bore this without a word, hoping each night that it was the last she was to spend in this manner.

One night she suddenly awoke to a full state of consciousness--so suddenly that it startled and alarmed her. It seemed as though something had awakened her, and yet she could recall nothing. She turned her head and gazed at her companion, but she, to all appearances, was sound asleep, and could not have been the cause. She experienced no more of drowsiness or inclination to sleep, but concluded to feign it in the hope of satisfying herself of any danger that might be lurking near her.

She half closed her eyes, yet kept a close watch of everything around her. In a moment there was a rustling upon the outside; the next instant the point of a knife protruded through a gap in the skin of the lodge, and two eyes were seen gleaming like a tiger's; then the hand that held the knife was thrust forward, and it was held over her.

Rosalind tried to scream, but could not utter a sound. She seemed frozen with terror, and only made a spasmodic movement that awoke her companion. As soon as the latter moved, the hand was withdrawn and the rent closed of its own accord.

"Oh!" she murmured, "did you see it?"

Her companion, more angered on account of being awakened from her sleep, struck her a blow and commanded silence; but Rosalind could not remain in her position, and arising and stepping softly over the sleeping form beside her, seated herself in the center of the lodge. Here she remained until morning, when she made the inmates understand the nature of her nocturnal fright. All treated it lightly, and she began to entertain a suspicion that they knew more of it than she did herself.

In the course of the day she narrated the circumstance to Pequanon, showing him also the aperture that had been made in the lodge. He examined it carefully, and appeared troubled about it. The marks of a person's knee and moccasin could be seen upon the soft earth, and there was no doubt that her life had been sought. Pequanon informed her of something that surprised and alarmed her as much as this. Several of the warriors, since her first appearance among them, had shown a desire to obtain Rosalind for a wife; and although it may seem strange that she herself was not aware of the fact, Pequanon had noticed it from the commencement, and now for the first time warned her of it. One who suspected that he should be disappointed, had taken the means to procure the revenge that we have mentioned. Ever after this Pequanon remained in the lodge during the night, and Rosalind was careful to keep at a safe distance from the sides of it.

She saw in the fact that he had given her, the cause of the hatred upon the part of the females toward her. They had seen the favor with which she was regarded by numbers of the warriors, and were filled with jealousy at it. From them she had as much to fear as from the Indians who wished to obtain her.

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