That the Yankee had indeed found his death among the roaring waters, Roland could well believe, the wonder only being how the rest had escaped in safety. Of the five horses, three only had reached the bank, Briareus and the palfrey, which had fortunately followed Roland down the middle of the chasm, and the horse of the unlucky Pardon. The others had been either drowned among the logs, or swept down the stream.
A few moments sufficed to acquaint Roland with several losses; but he took little time to lament them. The deliverance of his party was not yet wholly effected, and every moment was to be improved, to put it, before daylight, beyond the reach of pursuit. The captain of horse-thieves avouched himself able to lead the way from the wilderness, to conduct the travellers to a safe ford below, and thence through the woods, to the rendezvous of the emigrants.
“Let it be anywhere,” said Roland, “where there is safety; and let us not delay a moment longer. Our remaining here can avail nothing to poor Dodge.”
With these words, he assisted his kinswoman upon her palfrey, placed Telie Doe upon the horse of the unfortunate Yankee, and giving up his own Briareus to the exhausted negro, prepared to resume his ill-starred journey on foot. Then, taking post on the rear, he gave the signal to his new guide; and once more the travellers were buried in the intricacies of the forest.
It was at a critical period when the travellers effected their escape from the scene of their late sufferings. The morning was already drawing nigh, and might, but for the heavy clouds that prolonged the night of terror, have been seen shooting its first streaks through the eastern skies. Another half hour, if for that half hour they could have maintained their position in the ravine, would have seen them exposed in all their helplessness to the gaze, and to the fire of the determined foe. It became them to improve the few remaining moments of darkness, and to make such exertions as might get them, before dawn, beyond the reach of discovery or pursuit.
Exertions were, accordingly, made; and, although man and horse were alike exhausted, and the thick brakes and oozy swamps through which Roaring Ralph led the way, opposed a thousand obstructions to rapid motion, they had left the fatal ruin at least two miles behind them, or so honest Stackpole averred, when the day at last broke over the forest. To add to the satisfaction of the fugitives, it broke in unexpected splendour. The clouds parted, and, as the floating masses rolled lazily away before a pleasant morning breeze, they were seen lighted up and tinted with a thousand glorious dyes of sunshine.