“Strannger,” replied Ralph, with a lengthened visage and a gravity somewhat surprising for him, “I seed the Jibbenainosay! ’tarnal death to me, but I seed him as plain as ever I seed old Salt! I war a-hanging thar, and squeaking and cussing, and talking soft nonsense to the pony, to keep him out of his tantrums, when what should I see but a great crittur come tramping through the forest, right off yander by the fallen oak, with a big b’ar before him—”
“Pish!” said the soldier, “what has this to do with danger?”
“Beca’se and because,” said Ralph, “when you see the Jibbenainosay, thar’s always abbregynes in the cover. I never seed the crittur before, but I reckon it war he, for thar’s nothing like him in natur’. And so I’m for cutting out of the forest jist on the track of a streak of lightning,—now hy’yar, now thar, but on a full run without stopping. And so, if anngeliferous madam is willing, thump me round the ’arth with a crab-apple, if I don’t holp her out of the bushes, and do all her fighting into the bargain,—I will, ’tarnal death to me!”
[Footnote 4: Abbregynes—aborigines.]
“You may go about your business,” said Roland, with as much sternness as contempt. “We will have none of your base company.”
“Whoop! whoo, whoo, whoo! don’t rifle me, for I’m danngerous!” yelled the demibarbarian, springing on his stolen horse, and riding up to Edith. “Say the word, marm,” he cried; “for I’ll fight for you, or run for you, take scalp or cut stick, shake fist or show leg, anything in reason or out of reason. Strannger thar’s as brash as a new hound in a b’ar fight, or a young boss in a corn-field, and no safe friend in a forest. Say the word, marm,—or if you think it ar’nt manners to speak to a strannger, jist shake your little finger, and I’ll follow like a dog, and do you dog’s sarvice. Or, if you don’t like me, say the word, or shake t’other finger, and ’tarnal death to me, but I’ll be off like an elk of the prairies!”
[Footnote 5: To rifle—to ruffle.]
[Footnote 6: Brash—rash, head-strong, over-valiant.]
“You may go,” said Edith, not at all solicitous to retain a follower of Mr. Stackpole’s character and conversation: “we have no occasion for your assistance.”
“Farewell!” said Ralph; and turning, and giving his pony a thump with his fist and a kick with each heel, and uttering a shrill whoop, he darted away through the forest, and was soon out of sight.
The course of Stackpole was through the woods, in a direction immediately opposite to that by which Roland had ridden to his assistance.
“He is going to the Lower Ford,” said Telie, anxiously. “It is not too late for us to follow him. If there are Indians in the wood, it is the only way to escape them!”
“And why should we believe there are Indians in the wood?” demanded Roland; “because that half-mad rogue, made still madder by his terrors, saw something which his fancy converted into the imaginary Nick of the Woods? You must give me a better reason than that, my good Telie, if you would have me desert the road. I have no faith in your Jibbenainosays.”