The Spirit of the Border HTML version

Chapter 16.
When the waning moon rose high enough to shed a pale light over forest and field, two
dark figures, moving silently from the shade of the trees, crossed the moonlit patches of
ground, out to the open plain where low on the grass hung silver mists.
A timber wolf, gray and gaunt, came loping along with lowered nose. A new scent
brought the animal to a standstill. His nose went up, his fiery eyes scanned the plain. Two
men had invaded his domain, and, with a short, dismal bark, he dashed away.
Like spectres, gliding swiftly with noiseless tread, the two vanished. The long grass had
swallowed them.
Deserted once again seemed the plain. It became unutterably lonely. No stir, no sound, no
life; nothing but a wide expanse bathed in sad, gray light.
The moon shone steadily; the silver radiance mellowed; the stars paled before this
brighter glory.
Slowly the night hours wore away.
On the other side of the plain, near where the adjoining forest loomed darkling, the tall
grass parted to disclose a black form. Was it only a deceiving shade cast by a leafy
branch--only a shadow? Slowly it sank, and was lost. Once more the gray, unwavering
line of silver-crested grass tufts was unbroken.
Only the night breeze, wandering caressingly over the grass, might have told of two dark
forms gliding, gliding, gliding so softly, so surely, so surely toward the forest. Only the
moon and the pale stars had eyes to see these creeping figures.
Like avengers they moved, on a mission to slay and to save!
On over the dark line where plain merged into forest they crawled. No whispering, no
hesitating; but a silent, slow, certain progress showed their purpose. In single file they
slipped over the moss, the leader clearing the path. Inch by inch they advanced. Tedious
was this slow movement, difficult and painful this journey which must end in
lightninglike speed. They rustled no leaf, nor snapped a twig, nor shook a fern, but passed
onward slowly, like the approach of Death. The seconds passed as minutes; minutes as
hours; an entire hour was spent in advancing twenty feet!
At last the top of the knoll was reached. The Avenger placed his hand on his follower's
shoulder. The strong pressure was meant to remind, to warn, to reassure. Then, like a
huge snake, the first glided away.