These things concluded, the dead covered over with boughs and brambles, and nothing left in the vale to attract a passing and unobservant eye, he gave the signal to resume the march, and with Roland and Captain Ralph, stole from the field of battle.
The twilight was darkening in the west, when the three adventurers, stealing through tangled thickets, and along lonely ridges, carefully avoiding all frequented paths, looked out at last, from a distant hill, upon the valley in which lay the village of the Black-Vulture. The ruddy light of evening, bursting from clouds of crimson and purple, and shooting down through gaps of the hills in cascades of fire, fell brightly and sweetly on the little prairies, or natural meadow-lands; which, dotted over with clumps of trees, and watered by a fairy river, a tributary of the rapid Miami, winding along from side to side, now hiding beneath the shadow of the hills, now glancing into light, gave an air of tender beauty to the scene better befitting, as it might have seemed, the retreat of the innocent and peaceful sons of Oberon, than the wild and warlike children of the wilderness. Looking further up the vale, the eye fell upon patches of ripening maize, waving along the river; and beyond these, just where the valley winded away behind the hills, at the distance of a mile or more, thin wreaths of smoke creeping from roofs of bark and skins, indicated the presence of the Indian village.
Thus arrived at the goal and haven of their hopes, the theatre in which was to be acted the last scene in the drama of their enterprise, the travellers surveyed it for awhile from their concealment, in deep silence, each speculating in his own mind upon the exploits still to be achieved, the perils yet to be encountered, ere success should crown their exertions, already so arduous and so daring. Then creeping back again into a deep hollow, convenient for their purpose, they held their last consultation, and made their final preparations for entering the village. This Nathan at first proposed to do entirely alone, to spy out the condition of the village, and to discover, if possible, in what quarter the marauders had bestowed the unhappy Edith; and this being a duty requiring the utmost secrecy and circumspection, he insisted it could not be safely committed to more than one person.
“In that case,” said valiant Ralph, “I’m your gentleman! Do you think, old Tiger Nathan (and, ’tarnal death to me, I do think you’re ‘ginnin’ to be a peeler of the rale ring-tail specie,—I do, old Rusty, and thar’s my fo’paw on it: you’ve got to be a man at last, a feller for close locks and fighting Injuns that’s quite cu’rous to think on, and I’ll lick any man that says a word agin you, I will, ’tarnal death to me): But I say, do you think I’m come so far atter madam, to gin up the holping her out of bondage to any mortal two-legg’d crittur whatsomever? I’m the person what knows this h’yar town better nor ar another feller in all Kentucky; and that I stick on,—for, cuss me, I’ve stole hosses in it!”