“’Tarnal death to me,” said Ralph, “thar’s a boiling-pot above and a boiling pot below; but ar’n’t I the crittur to shake old Salt by the fo’-paw? Can take anngelliferous down ’ar a shoot that war ever seed!”
“And why, in Heaven’s name,” cried the Virginian, “did you not say so before, and relieve her from this horrible situation?”
“’Tarnal death to me, ar’nt I to do her fighting first?” demanded the honest Ralph. “Jist let’s have another crack at the villians, jist for madam’s satisfaction; and then, sodger, if you’re for taking the shoot, I’m jist the salmon to show you the way. But I say, sodger, I won’t lie,” he continued, finding Roland was bent upon instant escape, while the savages were yet unaware of their flight from the hovel,—“I wont lie, sodger;—thar’s rather a small trough to hold madam and the gal, and me and you and the nigger and the white man” (for Stackpole was already acquainted with the number of the party); “and as for the hosses, ’twill be all crucifixion to get ’em through old Salt’s fingers.”
“Think not of horses, nor of us,” said Roland. “Save but the women, and it will be enough. For the rest of us, we will do our best. We can keep the hollow till we are relieved; for, if Nathan be alive, relief must be now on the way.” And in a few hurried words, he acquainted Stackpole with his having despatched the man of peace to seek assistance.
“Thar’s no trusting the crittur, Tiger Nathan,” said Ralph; “though at a close hug, a squeeze on the small ribs, or a kick up of heels, he’s all splendiferous. Afore you see his ugly pictur’ ag’in, ’tarnal death to me, strannger, you’ll be devoured; the red niggurs thar won’t make two bites at you. No, sodger,—if we run, we run,—thar’s the principle; we takes the water, the whole herd together, niggurs, hosses, and all, particularly the hosses; for, ’tarnal death to me, it’s ag’in my conscience to leave so much as a hoof. And so, sodger, if you conscientiously thinks thar has been walloping enough done on both sides, I’m jist the man to help you all out of the bobbery;—though, cuss me, you might as well have cut me out of the beech without so much hard axing!”
These words of the worthy horse-thief, uttered as hurriedly as his own, but far more coolly, animated the spirits of the young soldier with double hope; and taking advantage of the busy intentness with which the enemy still poured their fire into the ruin, he despatched Ralph down the ravine, to prepare the canoe for the women, while he himself summoned Dodge and Emperor to make an effort for their own deliverance.