The Spirit of the Border
Joe awoke as from a fearsome nightmare. Returning consciousness brought a vague idea
that he had been dreaming of clashing weapons, of yelling savages, of a conflict in which
he had been clutched by sinewy fingers. An acute pain pulsed through his temples; a
bloody mist glazed his eyes; a sore pressure cramped his arms and legs. Surely he
dreamed this distress, as well as the fight. The red film cleared from his eyes. His
wandering gaze showed the stern reality.
The bright sun, making the dewdrops glisten on the leaves, lighted up a tragedy. Near
him lay an Indian whose vacant, sightless eyes were fixed in death. Beyond lay four more
savages, the peculiar, inert position of whose limbs, the formlessness, as it were, as if
they had been thrown from a great height and never moved again, attested that here, too,
life had been extinguished. Joe took in only one detail--the cloven skull of the nearest--
when he turned away sickened. He remembered it all now. The advance, the rush, the
fight--all returned. He saw again Wetzel's shadowy form darting like a demon into the
whirl of conflict; he heard again that hoarse, booming roar with which the Avenger
accompanied his blows. Joe's gaze swept the glade, but found no trace of the hunter.
He saw Silvertip and another Indian bathing a wound on Girty's head. The renegade
groaned and writhed in pain. Near him lay Kate, with white face and closed eyes. She
was unconscious, or dead. Jim sat crouched under a tree to which he was tied.
"Joe, are you badly hurt?" asked the latter, in deep solicitude.
"No, I guess not; I don't know," answered Joe. "Is poor Kate dead?"
"No, she has fainted."
"Gone," replied Jim, lowering his voice, and glancing at the Indians. They were too busy
trying to bandage Girty's head to pay any attention to their prisoners. "That whirlwind
was Wetzel, wasn't it?"
"Yes; how'd you know?"
"I was awake last night. I had an oppressive feeling, perhaps a presentiment. Anyway, I
couldn't sleep. I heard that wind blow through the forest, and thought my blood would
freeze. The moan is the same as the night wind, the same soft sigh, only louder and
somehow pregnant with superhuman power. To speak of it in broad daylight one seems
superstitious, but to hear it in the darkness of this lonely forest, it is fearful! I hope I am
not a coward; I certainly know I was deathly frightened. No wonder I was scared! Look
at these dead Indians, all killed in a moment. I heard the moan; I saw Silvertip disappear,
and the other two savages rise. Then something huge dropped from the rock; a bright