Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. —Rom. 12:19
September 1, 1823
They were abandoning him. The wounded man knew it when he looked at the boy, who looked down, then away, unwilling to hold his gaze.
For days, the boy had argued with the man in the wolf-skin hat. Has it really been days? The wounded man had battled his fever and pain, never certain whether conversations he heard were real, or merely by-products of the delirious wanderings in his mind.
He looked up at the soaring rock formation above the clearing. A lone, twisted pine had managed somehow to grow from the sheer face of the stone. He had stared at it many times, yet it had never appeared to him as it did at that moment, when its perpendicular lines seemed clearly to form a cross. He accepted for the first time that he would die there in that clearing by the spring.
He accepted for the first time that he would die there in that clearing by the spring
The wounded man felt an odd detachment from the scene in which he played the central role. He wondered briefly what he would do in their position. If they stayed and the war party came up the creek, all of them would die. Would I die for them … if they were certain to die anyway?
“You sure they’re coming up the creek?” The boy’s voice cracked as he said it. He could effect a tenor most of the time, but his tone still broke at moments he could not control.
The man in the wolf skin stooped hurriedly by the small meat rack near the fire, stuffing strips of partially dried venison into his parfleche. “You want to stay and find out?”
The wounded man tried to speak. He felt again the piercing pain in his throat. Sound came forth, but he could not shape it into the one word he sought to articulate.
The man in the wolf skin ignored the sound as he continued to gather his few belongings, but the boy turned. “He’s trying to say something.”
The boy dropped on one knee next to the wounded man.Unable to speak, the man raised his working arm and pointed.
“He wants his rifle,” said the boy. “He wants us to set him up with his rifle.”
The man in the wolf skin covered the ground between them in quick, measured steps. He kicked the boy hard, square in the back. “Move, goddamn you!”
He strode quickly from the boy to the wounded man, who lay next to the meager pile of his possessions: a possibles bag, a knife in a beaded scabbard, a hatchet, a rifle, and a powder horn.As the wounded man watched helplessly, the man in the wolf skin stooped to pick up the possibles bag. He dug inside for the flint and steel, dropping them into the pocket on the front of his leather tunic. He grabbed the powder horn and slung it over his shoulder. The hatchet he tucked under his broad leather belt.
“What’re you doing?” asked the boy.
The man stooped again, picked up the knife, and tossed it to the boy.
“Take that.” The boy caught it, staring in horror at the scabbard in his hand. Only the rifle remained. The man in the wolf skin picked it up, checking quickly to ensure it was charged. “Sorry, old Glass. You ain’t got much more use for any of this.”
The boy appeared stunned. “We can’t leave him without his kit.” The man in the wolf skin looked up briefly, then disappeared into the woods.
The wounded man stared up at the boy, who stood there for a long moment with the knife—his knife. Finally, the boy raised his eyes. At first it appeared that he might say something.Instead, he spun around and fled into the pines.
The wounded man stared at the gap in the trees where they had disappeared. His rage was complete, consuming him as fire envelops the needles of a pine. He wanted nothing in the world except to place his hands around their necks and choke the life from them.
Instinctively he started to yell out, forgetting again that his throat produced no words, only pain. He raised himself on his left elbow. He could bend his right arm slightly, but it would support no weight. The movement sent agonizing bolts through his neck and back. He felt the strain of his skin against the crude sutures. He looked down at his leg, where the bloody remnants of an old shirt were tightly wrapped. He could not flex his thigh to make the leg work.
Marshaling his strength, he rolled heavily to his stomach. He felt the snap of a suture breaking and the warm wetness of new blood on his back. The pain diluted to nothing against the tide of his rage.
Hugh Glass began to crawl.