Meanwhile a powerful and commanding voice was heard in the darkness:
"Hey, there! Strike a fire!"
In a moment sparks sprang out, and soon a blaze flashed up from the dry reeds and pitch-pine which wayfarers through the Wild Lands always carried with them.
A staff for a hanging-lamp was immediately driven into the earth, and the glare from above illuminated clearly a number of men bending over a figure laying motionless on the ground.
These men were soldiers dressed in red court uniforms and wolf-skin caps. Of these, one who sat on a valiant steed appeared to be the leader. Dismounting, he approached the prostrate figure and inquired:
"Well, Sergeant Major, is he alive or dead?"
"He lives, Lieutenant, but there is a rattling in his throat; the lariat choked him."
"Who is he?"
"He is not a Tartar; some man of distinction."
"Then we should praise God."
The lieutenant looked carefully at the prostrate man.
"He appears to be a hetman."
"His horse is of splendid Tartar breed; the Khan has no better," said the sergeant major. "See, they're holding him there."
The lieutenant took a look and his face brightened. Two soldiers held a splendid steed indeed, who, moving his ears and distending his nostrils, pushed forward his head and looked with frightened eyes at his master.
"The horse will be ours, Lieutenant?" put in, with an inquiring tone, the sergeant major.
"Ah, you unbeliever, would you deprive a Christian of his horse in the steppe?"
"It's booty, after all...."
Further conversation was interrupted by the stronger breathing from the suffocated man.