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The Hidden Children

Chapter 18. The Rite Of The Hidden Children
My Indians and I stood watching our riflemen as they swung to the east and trotted out of
sight among the trees. Then, at a curt nod from me, the Indians lengthened their line,
extending it westward along the height of land, and so spreading out that they entirely
commanded the only outlet to the swamp below, by encircling both the trail and the
headwaters of the evil-looking little stream.
Through the unbroken thatch of matted foliage overhead no faintest ray of sunlight
filtered-- not even where the stream coiled its slimy way among the tamaracks and
spruces. But south of us, along the ascending trail by which we had come, the westering
sun glowed red across a ledge of rock, from which the hill fell sheer away, plunging into
profound green depths, where unseen waters flowed southward to the Susquehanna.
Around the massive elbow of this ledge, our back-trail, ascending into view, curved
under shouldering boulders. Blueberry scrub, already turning gold and crimson, grew
sparsely on the crag-- cover enough for any watcher of the trail. And thither I crept and
stretched me out flat in the bushes, where I could see the trail we had lately traversed, and
look along it far to our rear as clearly as one sees through a dim and pillared corridor.
West of me, a purplish ridge ran north, the sun shining low through a pine-clad notch.
Southwest of me, little blue peaks pricked the primrose sky; south-east lay endless
forests, their green already veiled in an ashy blue bloom. Far down, under me, wound the
narrow back-trail through the gulf below.
Presently, beside me came creeping the lithe Mohican, and lay down prone, smooth and
golden, and shining like a sleek panther in the sun.
"Is all well guarded, brother?" I whispered.
"Not even a wood-mouse could creep from the swamp unless our warriors see it."
"And when dark comes?"
"Our ears must be our eyes, Loskiel.... But neither the Cat-People nor the Andastes will
venture out of that morass, save only by the trail. And we shall have two watchers on it
through the night."
"There is no other outlet?"
"None, except by the ridge Boyd travels. He blocks that pass with his twenty men."
"Then we should have their egress blocked, except only in the north?"