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To Have and To Hold
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XXX. In Which We Start Upon A Journey
WHEN the dawn broke, it found us traveling through a narrow valley, beside a
stream of some width. Upon its banks grew trees of extraordinary height and
girth; cypress and oak and walnut, they towered into the air, their topmost
branches stark and black against the roseate heavens. Below that iron tracery
glowed the firebrands of the maples, and here and there a willow leaned a pale
green cloud above the stream. Mist closed the distances; we could hear, but not
see, the deer where they stood to drink in the shallow places, or couched in the
gray and dreamlike recesses of the forest.
Spectral, unreal, and hollow seems the world at dawn. Then, if ever, the heart
sickens and the will flags, and life becomes a pageant that hath ceased to
entertain. As I moved through the mist and the silence, and felt the tug of the
thong that bound me to the wrist of the savage who stalked before me, I cared
not how soon they made an end, seeing how stale and unprofitable were all
things under the sun.
Diccon, walking behind me, stumbled over a root and fell upon his knees,
dragging down with him the Indian to whom he was tied. In a sudden access of
fury, aggravated by the jeers with which his fellows greeted his mishap, the
savage turned upon his prisoner and would have stuck a knife into him, bound
and helpless as he was, had not the werowance interfered. The momentary
altercation over, and the knife restored to its owner's belt, the Indians relapsed
into their usual menacing silence, and the sullen march was resumed. Presently
the stream made a sharp bend across our path, and we forded it as best we
might. It ran dark and swift, and the water was of icy coldness. Beyond, the
woods had been burnt, the trees rising from the red ground like charred and
blackened stakes, with the ghostlike mist between. We left this dismal tract
behind, and entered a wood of mighty oaks, standing well apart, and with the
earth below carpeted with moss and early wild flowers. The sun rose, the mist
vanished, and there set in the March day of keen wind and brilliant sunshine.
Farther on, an Indian bent his bow against a bear shambling across a little sunny
glade. The arrow did its errand, and where the creature fell, there we sat down
and feasted beside a fire kindled by rubbing two sticks together. According to
their wont the Indians ate ravenously, and when the meal was ended began to
smoke, each warrior first throwing into the air, as thankoffering to Kiwassa, a
pinch of tobacco. They all stared at the fire around which we sat, and the silence
was unbroken. One by one, as the pipes were smoked, they laid themselves
down upon the brown leaves and went to sleep, only our two guardians and a
third Indian over against us remaining wide-eyed and watchful.
There was no hope of escape, and we entertained no thought of it. Diccon sat,
biting his nails, staring into the fire, and I stretched myself out, and burying my
head in my arms tried to sleep, but could not.
With the midday we were afoot again, and we went steadily on through the bright
afternoon. We met with no harsh treatment other than our bonds. Instead, when
our captors spoke to us, it was with words of amity and smiling lips. Who