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The Pathfınder - Chapter 10

 

The Pathfınder - Chapter 10
 
PART I
 
Mabel took one rapid look at the body of McNab at her feet, saw that it was no longer breathing, and ran. It took her but a few moments to reach the fort, where Jennie waited for her at the door. The noise of five or six rifles was next heard, frightening both women even more. Once inside the fort, how­ever, Mabel became somewhat calmer. She made Jennie stand by the door in case some of their friends should wish to enter, while she herself ran up to the second floor. From here, by look­ing out through one of the holes in the side of the building, she was able to get a good view of a large part of the island.
 
To her great surprise, Mabel could not see a single living person, friend or enemy. Neither Frenchmen nor Indians were to be seen anywhere, though a small cloud of white smoke float­ing before the wind told her where she should look for them. The rifles had been fired from the direction that June had come, though Mabel could not make out where the enemy was located. Going to another of the lookout openings which commanded a view of the spot where McNab lay, Mabel felt her blood grow cold at the sight of three of his soldiers lying apparently dead at his side. These men had rushed toward him at the first sound of a rifle, and had been shot down at once by the hidden enemies of whose fighting methods the corporal had earlier expressed such a low opinion.
 
Neither Cap nor Lieutenant Muir was to be seen, as Mabel moved from one opening to another on all sides of the fort, in order to get a view of the whole island. Nor was there any sign of action anywhere. The island was as quiet as the grave, the bodies of the dead soldiers making the scene as frightening as it was unusual.
 
“In the name of God, Miss Mabel,” called out Jennie from below, unable any longer to remain silent, “tell me if any of our friends are living. I hear nothing, and fear that they will all be tomahawked.”
 
Mabel now remembered that one of the soldiers was this woman’s husband, and she feared the immediate effect should his death become suddenly known to her.
 
“We must trust in God, Jennie,” she answered, “while, at the same time, we must do everything possible to protect our­selves. Be careful with the door and do not open it unless I tell you.”
 
“Oh tell me, Miss Mabel, if you can see Sandy anywhere. If I could only let him know that I am safe, the good man would be easier in his mind.”
 
Sandy was Jennie’s husband, and he lay in full view of the opening through which Mabel looked out.
 
“There are some of our people near the body of McNab,” was Mabel’s answer. It seemed impossible for her to tell a direct untruth, under the awful circumstances in which she was placed. “Is Sandy among them?”
 
“He may be. I see one, two, three, four—and all in the red coats of the regiment.”
 
“Sandy,” called out the woman loudly. “Why do you care for yourself? Come here this minute, Sandy, and stay with your wife. It’s no time to worry about the honor of the regiment.” 
 
Mabel heard the lock of the door turn, and the heavy door swing open. Then she saw Jennie rushing in the direction of the group of dead men. It took the woman but a moment to reach the spot. So sudden and unexpected had been the blow, that she seemed unable to understand the real meaning of what had happened. She apparently imagined that the men were playing with her fears, trying to confuse her. She took her hus­band’s \rm, which was still warm, in her own.
 
“Why will you fool your life away, Sandy?” she said, pulling at his arm. “You’ll all be murdered by these savage Indians. Come! Come—while there is still time.”
 
The woman kept pulling the body of her husband in such a way as to cause the head to turn completely around. Then the small hole in the forehead, caused by the bullet, and the blood which still flowed from it, showed her the real reason for his silence.
 
As the truth became clear to her, she gave a long cry that seemed to ring through the whole island, and then threw herself upon her husband’s body. Loud and heart-reaching as was her cry, however, it was as nothing to the series of cries that fol­lowed a moment or two later. For the awful war cries of some twenty Indians, all of them horrible in their warpaint, now rose out of all the covers of the island.
 
These savages rushed forward to where the dead soldiers lay, eager to get the scalps. Arrowhead was in the lead, and it was his tomahawk which fell on the head of Jennie. Her scalp, as well as others, soon hung at the belts of the hungry savages, while the dead soldiers no longer seemed to be sleeping quietly, but their butchered bodies lay in their own blood, presenting a sight which was at once awful and frightening.
 
All of this happened within a few minutes, and all of this Mabel witnessed. She stood as though chained to the spot, held by the horrible scene before her eyes. Nor did she think of her own immediate danger. Yet no sooner did she see this horrible , scene and hear the wild savages shouting, than she remembered that Jennie had left the door of the fort open. She hurried down and locked it tightly.
 
Yet, if she had any fears as to her own safety, these were apparently unnecessary, for the savages showed no interest in approaching the fort, or in finding out who might be within its protecting walls. Whether this was by accident, or whether the clever hand of Arrowhead was guiding them in another direction, Mabel did not know. It was also possible that the Indians supposed Cap and Lieutenant Muir to be in the fort and were helping to protect it. In any case, for the present at least, they seemed more concerned with other matters.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. What did Mabel do when she saw that McNab was dead?
2. What could she see when she first looked out of the fort?
3. What did she see from the next place she looked out?
4. Who couldn’t she see?
5. Who was Jennie’s husband? What had happened to him?
6. What did Jennie do? What did she think her husband was doing?
7. What did she see when she turned him over?
8. What cries answered Jennie’s cry?
9. What did the Indians do?
10. What did Mabel remember? What did she do?
11. Why did she think that the Indians wouldn’t attack the fort?
 
B. Use the following words and own:
flow                              grow cold   
horrible                         shoot down
forward                         let them know
eager                             worry about
hungry t                         in the lead
take a look                     find out
 
PART II
 
Having come upon the supplies that the English had stored in the various cabins, the Indians now seemed to be preparing to celebrate their victory with a great feast. All of this Mabel saw, when she later went back upstairs, and stood looking out again through one of the openings. A party of Indians had removed the dead bodies of the English soldiers and placed their rifles in a pile near where the feast was to be held. One Indian had also taken a position in a high tree, in order to give notice if a boat should approach. Since the English expedition had left so recently, however, its return was not expected for another day or two. The Indians therefore did not feel in immediate danger.
 
Long and worried hours now passed for Mabel, alone in the fort. At times she heard the wild cries of the savages as the
 
English whiskey, which they had found and had drunk so gener­ously, began to affect them. Late in the afternoon she imagined she saw on the island what seemed to be a white man. He was darkskinned, but neither his face nor his clothes were those of an Indian. She supposed, finally, that he was a Frenchman in command of the party of Indians. Mabel felt somewhat reassured by the fact that there was now another person of her own kind on the island. She little knew, however, how small was the influence of a white man over his savage companions, especially when they had begun to taste of blood, and were feeling the effects of whiskey.
 
While the light of the day lasted, Mabel’s situation was serious enough; but it was when night began to fall that she was even more frightened. By this time the Indians had drunk all the whiskey they could find, and their wild cries and dis­gusting actions were like those of men who had completely lost their reason.
 
The efforts of the French officer to control them were with­out effect. He tried to take away their guns and knives—but he had to leave them in disgust. Arrowhead had also left the group when he found that they were too wild, and had taken possession of one of the cabins. Here he fell into a deep sleep, having gone without rest for two days and two nights. It looked as though no one was left among the Indians to give a thought to Mabel.
 
However, one of the Indians now suggested that they storm the fort. Several of his companions took up the idea happily. Greatly excited by the whiskey, the savages came running and shouting toward the fort. They first threw themselves at the heavy door, but the solid logs of which it was built held up against their efforts. The rush of a hundred men with the same object would have been useless. Finally, even the Indians, drunk as they were, seemed to understand this.
 
Several among them now brought live coals from the fire they had used to prepare their feast. Adding some leaves and dry sticks of wood to the live coals, they next tried to set fire to the fort. The flames soon reached as high as the second floor, from where Mabel looked out. The moment seemed very danger­ous for Mabel. But the fort had been wholly built of green logs, chosen very carefully by the English against just such an
 
attack. Such logs do not bum readily.
 
As a result, though the building seemed to have caught fire, the flames died down again without any particular harm. A bar­rel of water stood in one corner of the room where Mabel watched. Acting more from fear than from reason, she caught up a pail, filled it with water, and poured it into what still re­mained of the fire. Not only did she put out the fire, but she also seemed to succeed in dampening the spirits of the Indians. One by one they went off into the darkness, and they did not return. Like children, they had tired of their fun. They seemed more eager now for rest and sleep.
 
In this way the day finally ended for Mabel. More hours passed. She was too nervous and excited to rest. Yet, somewhat later, nature took its course, and she was able to lie down and fall into a deep sleep. When she awoke, the sun had been stream­ing through the holes in the side of the fort for several hours, and it was already late in the morning.
 
On this, the second day, Mabel again looked out on the island scene. Everything seemed perfectly quiet and peaceful. There was no sign of a living person anywhere. Suddenly, her eyes fell on a group of three men, dressed in the red coats of the 55th Regiment, seated on the grass in a comfortable manner, as though talking with each other. They had been placed in this position by the Indians to give the appearance of being alive. But Mabel was close enough to see the glass-like expression of their eyes and the stiff, unnatural angle of their arms and legs. A fourth man was seated some distance away with his feet hanging over the water, his back fastened to a tree. He held a fishing rod in his hand. Here too the purpose was to give the impression that nothing at all had happened to interrupt the usual peace and quiet of the island. The heads of all of the dead soldiers had been covered with hats, and the blood care­fully washed from each face.
 
The sight almost caused Mabel to grow sick, and she turned away. As the morning w'ore on, she returned again and again to look out through the various openings in the fort. Now and then her overexcited senses imagined all sorts of frightening noises coming from the wind blowing through the trees.
The rest of the day passed in this way. Not a Frenchman
 
nor an Indian was seen at any time. Night came without any­thing happening. In fact, this second night was much more quiet than the first night. Mabel slept peacefully, as she now felt satisfied that her situation would not be affected until the return of her father. The sergeant and his party were expected the following day. When Mabel woke, she ran eagerly to look out again and discover the state of the weather and the condition of the island. The same awful group of dead soldiers sat peace­fully on the grass, and the man with his fishing rod hung over the water as though still interested in his fishing. Only the weather had changed. The wind blew fresh from the south as though a storm might arise at any minute.
 
Toward the middle of the day Mabel went up on the roof of the fort. She wanted to get a better view of the water ap­proaches to the island, through which her father would come. From this higher position she saw, at a distant and somewhat hidden part of the island, the whole party of Indians at dinner. Her uncle, Charles Cap, and Lieutenant Muir formed part of the group and seemed to be eating with pleasure, as though they had nothing to concern them. This made Mabel feel some­what better. She began to think about how she might escape, or, even better, how she could let her father know of the danger that waited for him on the island. The sergeant was expected to return that afternoon. She knew that a moment gained, or a moment lost, might well decide everything.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. When the Indians had found the English supplies, what did they prepare to do?
2. Why didn’t the Indians feel in immediate danger?
3. Who did Mabel see among the Indians?
4. Why did Mabel’s situation become more dangerous after dark?
5. What did the French officer and Arrowhead do?
6. Why couldn’t the Indians break into the fort on their first rush?
7. Why weren’t they able to set the fort on fire?
8. What did Mabel do with a pail of water?
9. What did Mabel see when she awoke the next morning?
10.How did the day and the next night pass?
11.How was the weather the next day?
12.Why did Mabel feel better when she saw her uncle and Lieutenant Muir?
13.What did Mabel begin to think about?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
feast             grass
affect             stiff
taste              seem to be
effort              therefore
dampen       feel the effects of
peaceful       take possession of
peace             set fire to
seat                tire of