There is something curiously soothing about it, this place in her mind that she's retreated to. It's so quiet and calm. Nothing can hurt her here, no one can find her here; the fear doesn't touch her. There is no never ending rush of dark, red blood, there are no screams and moans of men, or the awful rending of flesh. There is no coppery stench of death.
The overwhelming terror is gone. She doesn't feel as if she's drowning in it anymore. She couldn't think for it before, couldn't breathe because of it.
She doesn't want anyone asking if she is all right, doesn't want Cora's inevitable concern, so she quietly slips away.
All she wants to do, she decides, is watch the water that sparkles so prettily in the waning sunlight, and relish the peace and quiet, It beckons, the waterfall does. She stares, hypnotized by its beauty. There could be a whole other world behind its cascade, a better world than this one, she thinks, and she takes a step forward.
Alice never sees Uncas, stationed at the mouth of their small, hidden cave, taking the first watch. His hand closes over her arm, and he pulls her down into his embrace.
"Get back!" he hisses, alarmed.
At first, she stays in the cocoon of the world she's built in her mind. She wants to remain lost there.
But, slowly, Uncas begins to pull her back. Reluctantly, she follows him. She follows the strength of his arms around her. She follows the brush of his lips against her forehead, the touch of his hand as he threads his fingers through the damp tendrils of her hair. She follows his voice, whispering nonsensical words of comfort, slipping from his easy English into Mohegan, and back again.
She follows the beat of his heart, slow and steady, under her ear.
And she begins to feel it all again, that dark, dark terror. She starts to shake, and Uncas' arms tighten their hold, as she wraps her own convulsively around his waist. Her breathing becomes harsh, as she struggles to take in enough air.
"Don't let go," she thinks. "Uncas, don't let me go."
She knows that he won't. She knows that she can trust him, always.
She didn't want him to, but she understands that he needed to ... he brought her back from the edge.