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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 8. The Companion In Captivity
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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 8. The Companion In Captivity Post by :ByronCourt Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :May 2012 Read :3037

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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 8. The Companion In Captivity

CHAPTER VIII. THE COMPANION IN CAPTIVITY

When Leland left the boat, he wandered forward for a considerable distance, not noticing the direction in which he was going, only intent upon securing game of some sort or other. Still, he exercised considerable caution in his movements, and determined not to risk a shot unless he was certain of his success. Birds and quadrupeds were plenty, and he did not entertain any doubts of his ability to secure all that he wished. He permitted several good shots to pass, for the reason that he did not wish to fire until the hour was up. By this means he unconsciously increased the distance between himself and Leslie, until it occurred to him that the hour had nearly expired. A few minutes after, having a good opportunity, he improved it, and, securing his prize, turned to retrace his steps.

Then it flashed upon him, for the first time, that he was lost. As we said, he had failed to notice the direction, and had no idea of the course to pursue in order to reach the river. The only means left was to proceed by guess; contrary to what might be expected, he took the right course. His anxiety caused him to be somewhat heedless; and after proceeding a short distance, he again discharged his rifle. Then hearing the report of Leslie's rifle but a short distance away, he set joyously forward, confident of soon coming up to him. He had not gone far when he heard a suppressed, significant whistle. Hardly conscious of its meaning, he paused and listened. It was repeated, and becoming suspicious, he sprung behind a tree. While listening, the subdued voice of Kent reached him:

"Make for the river, George; the imps are on your trail."

He turned to obey this injunction, but had not taken a dozen steps when a rifle flamed from some concealment, and a twinge in his side told him that he was wounded. At the same instant several savages sprung toward him, setting up their demoniac howls. The pain of his wound maddened him, and, regardless of consequences, he raised his rifle and shot the foremost through the breast, when scarcely the length of his gun from him.

This act, though rash, and one which he would not have done in his cooler moments, was the means eventually of saving his life. The intention of the savages was to kill him on the spot; but the death of one of their number increased their fury and thirst for vengeance, and the chief or leader deterred the others from further violence, determined that his death should be at the stake.

"You shoot Indian, eh?" said one, through his closed teeth, brandishing his knife at the same time in the face of the young man.

(Illustration: "You shoot Indian, eh?" said one, brandishing his knife at the same time.)

He made no reply; but weakened by the loss of blood, sunk fainting to the ground. He was jerked to his feet, and although barely able to stand, was forced forward, and compelled to keep pace with the others.

The Indians who had thus captured Leland were the same band who had pursued him and Kent. The latter had taken a circuitous course, and, after placing a considerable distance between himself and his enemies, took the back track and reached the gorge where Leslie had fallen, hoping to find him there; but being disappointed, followed his trail to the river where he saw that he had embarked in the boat.

Kent knew that his own trail would be followed. In order to mislead the savages, he took to the water and swam about a half-mile down-stream before he landed upon the opposite side. But it seemed that fate was against him. The savages in pursuing him had separated somewhat. Kent's ruse one of them accidentally discovered, and apprised his companions. They collected and immediately took the right trail. The first intimation the ranger had of his danger was the whistling of a bullet a few inches from his head, as he was nearing the bank; and when his feet rested upon land, his unwearied and tenacious enemies were in the river, boldly crossing toward him.

When the Indians reached the bank, Kent was already at a great distance, yet they continued their pursuit, and had gone some distance, when the first report of Leland's rifle reached their ears. This they mistook for Kent's, and abandoning the trail, made directly toward it. The second discharge of the young man's gun occurred when he was but a short distance from them. Kent endeavored to warn him of his danger, but as we have seen, it was too late. He himself was discovered and hotly pursued to the boat, where he barely succeeded in making his escape.

Leland's captors took up their march toward the Ohio. Here, although their captive was suffering intense agony, they forced him into the water, and compelled him to swim across. Every stroke he thought would be his last, yet he reached the shore in safety. The band set forward at once. There were six savages, upon two of whom the duty of attending Leland devolved. Yet he required little watching or attention. The thought of escape was far from his mind; he was in a sad situation to rebel or offer resistance. Both hands were firmly secured behind him, and his strength was taxed to the utmost to keep up with his captors.

In the course of a couple of hours they came upon two of their companions, seated around and amusing themselves with a negro. Each appeared to enjoy himself prodigiously at the expense of the poor African, who was boiling over with furious rage.

"Get out, niggers!" he shouted, "my head's split wide open now, sure!"

Here one of the savages amused himself by letting the end of a weighty stick fall upon the head of the negro. The luxuriant wool caused it to re-bound again, to the infinite delight of the tormentors, who smiled horribly at it.

Leland recognized Zeb as he came up. It gave him a sort of pleasure, or rather served to lighten his pain, to know that they were to be companions in captivity. He could probably obtain information of Rosalind, while the conversation of the slave might assist to keep off the gloom which was settling over him.

"Gorra, ef dar ain't massa Leland," exclaimed the negro, turning toward the approaching Indians. "High! whar'd _you come from, George? What did you let 'em cotch _you fur?"

"Because I could not prevent it," returned he, with a faint smile.

"Well, now, if't had been dis pusson, you see, dey'd 've had some trouble."

"How is it that you are here, then?"

"Well, dat question requires considerable explanation. I know'd as how dey's agoin' to git _you_, and so I just come along to help you out de scrape."

Here the conversation ceased for the present. Leland had stretched himself upon the ground, and the pain of his wound increased. A savage noticing this, prepared a sort of poultice of pounded leaves and herbs, and placed it upon his side. Had this been done with a view to alleviate his suffering and not to preserve him for a great and awful torture, as it really was, Leland might have felt disposed to thank him for it.

It had now begun to grow dark. A fire was started, and in a short time a large quantity of meat was roasted. A piece of this was offered to Leland, but, though a short time before he had felt keenly the pangs of hunger, the sight of food now filled him with loathing.

"S'posen you offer dis pusson a few pounds, just to see if he'll take it," suggested Zeb, gazing wistfully toward the Indian who held it.

Several pieces were given him, all of which he devoured voraciously and demanded more. An Indian approached him, and holding a piece within a few inches of his mouth, jerked it away as he was about to seize it. This was repeated several times, until Zeb, losing all patience, became morose and sullen and refused to snap at it. The savage seemed disposed to humor him and held it still closer. Zeb, watching his opportunity, made a quick motion, and nearly severed the finger of his tormentor's hand, between his teeth. The savage dropped the meat with a howl, and furiously shaking his wounded member, fairly danced with pain. He would have undoubtedly killed the negro had not his companions prevented. They enjoyed the sport and encouraged Zeb, who devoured his food for some time in dignified silence.

"Wouldn't mind tryin' some more. S'posen you hold out yer other hand!"

No one noticed this remark, and the negro was obliged to rest satisfied with what he had obtained.

As night came on, the savages stretched themselves upon the earth and left the prisoners to themselves. Each was securely fastened. Leland was within a few feet of Zeb, yet he concluded to wait until all were asleep before he ventured to hold converse with him.

At length when the night had considerably advanced, and the heavy breathing of the savages showed that slumber had at last settled upon them, George turned his head so that he faced the negro, and abruptly asked:

"Zeb, what do you know of my sister?"

"Noffin'!" returned the negro, earnestly.

"Were you not taken off together?"

"At fust we was; but dey took her one way and me anoder." He then proceeded to narrate all the circumstances which had occurred to him, since the burning of the house, in his own characteristic way.

"I am afraid you will soon have your last adventure," said Leland.

"Gorra! does you s'pose dat dey'd dare to shake a stick at me when I's mad."

"I think they were engaged at that when I came up."

"Well, dat you see is a mistake."

"Have you heard anything hinted of the manner in which they intend to dispose of you?"

"Not much, but I consates dat I knows. Dey'll just make me dar chief, if I'll stay wid 'em, and I's bout 'cluded dat I would, just so dat I can pay 'em for dis trick."

"Have they made the proposition yet?" asked George, feeling a strange impulse to amuse himself.

"Well, 'bout as good. Dey axed me not to hurt 'em, and said somefin' 'bout tying somebody to a tree and roastin' 'em. S'pose dey's 'fraid I'll do it to all ob 'em one dese days, if dey isn't careful."

"Why do they misuse you, if they intend to elevate you?"

"Well, dat's hard to tell. They've gone and went and cut all my curls off."

"Never mind such things," said Leland, again feeling depressed. "In all probability neither you nor I will see many more days. Unless we are rescued pretty soon, we shall be past all human help. I advise you, Zeb, to let serious thoughts enter your mind. Think of the world which you are soon to enter, and try and make some preparation for it."

The negro gazed wonderingly at Leland, then turned his head without speaking. The words probably had some effect upon him, for he made no further observations. His silence seemed occasioned by the doom pending over him.

That night was one never to be forgotten by Leland. The pain of his wound, and the still greater pain of his thoughts, prevented a moment's sleep. Hour after hour he gazed into the smoldering embers before him, buried in deep meditation, and conjuring up fantastic figures in the glowing coals. Then he watched the few stars which were twinkling through the branches overhead, and the sighing of the solemn night-wind made music that chorded with the feelings of his soul.

Far in the small hours of the night, he lay still awake, sending up his prayer to the only eye that saw him, and to the only one that could assist him.

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CHAPTER VII. LOST AND FOUNDThe two young men slept soundly through the night. When Leslie awoke it was broad day, and his companion was still asleep. He suffered him to remain so until the day was well advanced. Then each felt the pangs of hunger. Leland proposed that one should land and go in quest of food, but Leslie answered: "If Kent appears, it will be in the course of a few hours. We had better wait and see what comes of patience." Another hour of silence wore away. Leland was about to speak when Leslie exclaimed, in a whisper: "Hush!"
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